Reflecting on the 2015 CrossFit Games

Another season of the CrossFit Games has concluded, and we find ourselves with the new fittest people on Earth!

  • Ben Smith brings home the Gold, taking first place in the Individual Men’s Rx Division. Smith is a Games veteran, competing in the last 7 Games against athletes like Rich Froning, but never taking the top spot until this year. He won the Open for his division this year and came in 4th in his Regional event.
  • Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir shows us yet again that Iceland can produce the fittest woman on the planet, winning first place in the Individual Women’s Rx Division. Katrin is a third-time Games verteran who took 4th in her Open division, 2nd in her Regional event, and finally sealed her win at the Games with a strong finish in the last events.
  • Last but not least, team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom took home first in the Teams Rx Division, and it’s no surprise that four time Games champion Rich Froning was their team captain. This dream team set a precedent of excellence, taking first place in their division in all three of the Open, their Regional event, and the Games itself.

Congrats to all the winners and those who put out such tremendous efforts throughout the week long 2015 CrossFit Games

Now that we’ve covered the Games results, here’s a quick disclaimer for the rest of the article:

The following is my professional opinion on the Games, based on my knowledge and experience. It is written nearly stream of consciousness (with some editing) and I do not pull any punches on language or opinion if I feel like they support the conversation.If you are offended by strong language, then now would be the time to stop reading. Seriously, go look at some bunnies or something. It’s fine. Otherwise, let’s do it!

Now, to preface this, I am not going to spend time dissecting the events of the Games. Maybe that’ll be next week. Today I want to talk about the Spirit of the Games and a little bit about philosophy.

Still with me? Good!

Holy shit! Did you see the Games this year? The workouts were awesome and completely awful! I want to grow up and be as amazevil (amazingly evil in an impressive way) as Dave Castro one day. Trust me when I say that I hold this opinion both hating and loving this man. He tortured me during the Open and tested me better than any workout I’ve ever done. I trusted him to bring that same diabolical programming to the Games, and he delivered in spades. The Games this year had some of the most challenging events we’ve seen so far. We actually watched the best in the sport failing to complete workouts and it was awesome. It’s tough to find something reasonable that challenges most of these people, and not everyone is capable of programming an entire competition like this with a balanced hand. Castro did well in that regard: the workouts were devastating but enough competitors were able to do well enough to show that they were reasonable…just very difficult.

“But wait”, some might say, “people were failing at events! Clearly that means it was too hard and things should have been scaled!”

Hmm, you’re right. There were a fair few DNF’s (“Did Not Finish”) on the board this year and in at least one event (Peg Board, anyone?) we actually had athletes – some of the best on the planet – unable to finish ONE rep. ONE! That’s a really disappointing result for a great many competitors, male and female. And you know what?

GOOD.

Let me tell you why I watch the CrossFit Games, and why I’ve immersed myself into the CrossFit community so heavily over these past years:

CrossFit has the power to turn normal, every day people into fucking beasts. We have a training methodology and, more importantly, training philosophy that says the only limit is the work we’re willing to put in. As coaches and box owners, we tell our athletes that we are going to challenge them until we find something they can’t do, and then we’re going to find a way to help them do it.

Our philosophy says that limits are made to be broken, not gawked at and whined about. Our philosophy says that your current self should always be weaker than your self from tomorrow.

We are Kaizen: the practice of continuous improvement. That’s what CrossFit is, at it’s core.

So, why is it good that so many athletes had such issues with some of the events this year? Because these are people who need to be challenged in order to grow. I’m not watching the Games to see demigods do pull-ups faster than other demigods. I’m watching the Games to see people bust their asses to complete challenges that they aren’t always sure they can meet, and to see if they’re better at it than other people. When every person who comes to the Games is able to do everything, able to excel at everything…those people go from people to demigods right there in front of our eyes. They’re no longer people to us; they’re Icons. They’re above us.

Until they fail.

When the most elite fitness athletes in the world get to a skill and then can’t do a single rep, they become people again. We can relate to them again. I don’t watch the Games to feel inferior to a force of nature, I watch them so that I can be humbled by what people are capable of, and to feel like at least some of that prowess is within my grasp. You know what made me feel that way this year? People who deadlift small cars and who can finish “Murph” in half my time, not being able to get as high on a Peg Wall as I can. Now I know that there isn’t any challenge they can meet right away and with seeming perfection; they’re just really, really good at what they do.

CrossFit isn’t about being perfect, because no person will ever be perfect. It’s about striving to get as close to perfect as possible, physically and mentally. It’s about looking at a mountain and saying, “I don’t know if I can make it to the top, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to start climbing.” And once you make it, you find a bigger mountain and you start climbing again. Kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement.

I keep hearing all these people complain that the events weren’t all fair, that they were too hard for the athletes (or for the women especially, which is really insulting to those tough-as-nails ladies), that they shouldn’t have had the Peg Board or Murph or as heavy of weights as they had. I mean, seriously? It was hard? Oh no! Heaven save us from seeing athletes not finish a hard workout; we may never recover! How about we use this as a way to make all of us better and stronger? How about we use this as a way to learn and grow?

How about the people complaining that it was super hard and should have been easier, go shut the hell up somewhere the rest of us can’t hear them bitch?

For the last 30 years, only small niche groups of people – power athletes, ultra marathoners, Olympians, triathletes, etc. – have been pushing the human condition day to day, and most “normal people” assume they can only do that because they have just the right combination of factors to make them great. Find a “normal” person in the early 90’s that really thought they could perform like Arnold Schwarzenegger if they trained hard enough, and now start filling gyms with people like that who are also so passionate that they can’t help but talk about it. It sounds crazy, but that’s what CrossFit has been doing for a decade now. We turned the belief that everyone can be great into something that we all not just believe, but actively work towards. The biggest step you can take towards being the best You, is to fail!

The one thing we’ve learned from CrossFit that trumps everything else is that people have the same fundamental needs in their training and development. In the gym, we take this to mean that the same workout can benefit a Navy SEAL and a soccer mom/dad, the only difference is in intensity (weight, speed, etc). So too every person needs Failure to make them stronger and show them their weaknesses. Period. Even, and maybe especially, the elite athletes among us.

The best of the best went on ESPN and sucked at a workout. Sucked so hard that some actually stopped trying. They found a limit, a weakness, and they gave in. That’s the mental game. That’s why failure is necessary for us to grow. If those athletes take this as a lesson they will come back stronger than they were this year. If they take it as “CrossFit just isn’t fair” then either they won’t grow…or they won’t come back at all. And you know what?

GOOD.

When I watch the Games next year, I want to see people that improved and got better. I don’t want to see pouty wannabe demigods who can’t handle failing when people are watching.

Suck it up, buttercup, and lift the fucking weights.