I’m participating in the Crossfit Open again this year (scaled division). I’ve heard from others that their experience with doing the Open workout twice, once on Friday and once on Sunday, has mostly resulted in either the same results or slightly worse results. Occasionally, slightly better. I never tried doing that last year when I first participated in the Open. This year, so far, I’ve tried it twice, and, both times, I destroyed my first score by 20 reps or more.

I wondered if perhaps I simply wasn’t doing my best on Fridays. After all, on Fridays I tend to go to the 5:30am class (although one of the Fridays in question I went to the 9am). It’s first thing in the morning, and I’m not working out on a full stomach. Maybe I wasn’t able to give it my all in that time slot. Maybe I was unconsciously slacking, preparing to do better on Sunday.

But I don’t think that’s it. Unless I’m injured, I tend to go full throttle for Crossfit. Case in point, on Monday of this week, I was still very sore in my legs from 16.4, so I took it easy on the air squats. The sit ups, however, were another matter. I managed to get a mat burn on my butt from doing the sit ups faster than was, perhaps, strictly wise.

And so, what made the difference for me? How did I do so much better, even being sore from the first time? I think the answer lies in my hobby, backpacking.

When my husband and I were on the Wild Coast last summer, one of the other backpackers we encountered, a member of a group heading on a one way trip to Shi Shi, was shocked that we were doing an out and back trip. She said that she wouldn’t have wanted to go back over the hard terrain that she’d already been through. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to the chance to get to know the trail better.

The first time on a trail is a time for learning. You start noticing landmarks. You take note of where water is, and where it might not be later in the season. The trip takes forever, and seems to be all uphill.

But the second time, you know more of what to expect. You’ve gone back to the trail in your head and taken note of which parts were the hardest, and why. You’re mentally prepared to tackle them, and the trip doesn’t take nearly as long.

For 16.3 and 16.4, on the Saturday between my first try and my second try, I rehearsed the movements. That meant practicing jumping chest to bar pull ups for 16.3 and practicing deadlifts and rowing for 16.4. I didn’t practice wall balls, but I did remind myself that I needed to spend less time thinking about how much I hate them, and more time getting through them. I rehearsed in my mind how I would approach the workout the second time, knowing that I could do it, having experienced how it made me feel once already.

I also have to thank the people who judged for me on those Sundays – not that the ones judging me on Friday don’t deserve thanks of their own, but the Sunday judges had an advantage that helped me. I told them my goal, that I wanted to beat my Friday score, and they helped me achieve that.

And therein lies the other key. The first time on a trail, the experience is all about the newness of it. Everything is new, and the limits and challenges are unknown. Each subsequent journey allows you to drill down into different aspects of the trail, but more is known. You know you can make it to the top of that pass. You know it isn’t far from there to the campsite.

The method is rehearsal, preparation, knowledge, a goal and encouragement.

Not only encouragement from the judges that were watching me, but from the whole community watching and cheering, as we do on Sundays, from the high volume, high intensity music blasting from the DJ’s speakers. Of course, my sample size is small – only two workouts. If I can do it again this weekend, that’ll be the proof of my method’s efficacy.

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