Coaching Roundtable: CrossFit Open 15.1 Tips & Advice

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Coaching Roundtable: CrossFit Open 15.1 Tips & Advice
Welcome to the 2015 CrossFit Open! If you thought there were would be a nice, egalitarian workout to build up everyone’s confidence, you are sorely mistaken. CrossFit Open 15.1 is a high-skill double workout, not for the faint of heart. Awesome.

We have a host of expert coaches gathered to share their wisdom on how to prepare for and tackle this workout. Make sure you take a few minutes to read their thoughts to help you strategize, and remember to breathe and have fun if you forget everything else. Where will we start? With proper nutrition and mental prep, of course — neither should be underestimated in their importance.

Steph Gaudreau|Stupid Easy Paleo

Okay crew, we’ve got a pretty classic metcon coupled with a max effort lift here, so let’s talk about nutrition strategy.

Realistically, you’re not going to have time to eat or drink anything during this 15 minute timeframe because you’ve got an AMRAP situation, so any fueling is going to happen beforehand with a refuel afterward. Since you have to roll immediately from the AMRAP triplet into the max effort clean and jerk, again, there’s no time to replen. Maybe have a bit of water with some electrolytes on hand or some coconut water plus a pinch of salt if you’re feeling dehydrated.

So let’s talk about fueling before: This workout will definitely demand glycogen, so being sure you’re properly topped up before the workout is important.

You’ll probably be pretty gassed after this one, so relax for a few minutes and let your body come down out of that sympathetic state where you’re sweating and drooling all over yourself before trying to shove down a post-workout shake or meal.
The day before you attempt the workout, make sure to pay attention to your post-workout refuel, getting enough protein and carbohydrate to kickstart recovery. A good ratio to play around with is 2:1 (carb:protein), so if you’re taking down 30 grams of lean protein, double it and have about 60 grams of starchy carbohydrate.

If you’re topped up from the day before, and you’re attempting this workout around mid-day or in the evening, you may want to toss in some carbs at breakfast or lunch, respectively, but don’t go crazy and think you need to carb-load. If you’re attempting 15.1 in the morning, decide whether or not you’re going in fasted. Since this is primarily a metcon, that could work well for you, but if you’re not used to training fasted, I’d take down a snack-sized portion of protein and fat or something like butter coffee with some protein powder mixed in.

Do you need to do a pre-workout? Totally depends. If it’s been 3-6 hours since you last ate and you’re feeling hungry (or what I like to describe as hollow), you may want to eat some protein and fat about 30-60 minutes beforehand. This might be a protein shake with a bit of coconut milk, a hardboiled egg, or at the least, 5 to 10 grams BCAAs. Considering the time domain is pretty short, if you’ve eaten some good meals in the day leading up to 15.1, you should be fine.

What about post-workout? You’re definitely going to want to refuel with protein and carbs in that 2:1 ratio I mentioned above. Think of things like a recovery protein shake that has carbs added into it; a protein shake with something starchy on the side; or a serving of lean protein like chicken or tuna with potatoes, white rice, etc.

You’ll probably be pretty gassed after this one, so relax for a few minutes and let your body come down out of that sympathetic state where you’re sweating and drooling all over yourself before trying to shove down a post-workout shake or meal. Ideally, try to eat your post-workout within 15-30 minutes of completing 15.1, so if that means bringing it to the gym with you, plan ahead. Eat your next full meal as planned.

Steph is the author of the newly released, award-winning The Performance Paleo Cookbook and The Paleo Athlete. She’s the nutritionist and recipe writer behind StupidEasyPaleo.com. Steph qualified for the 2014 American Open in Olympic weightlifting, competed at CrossFit Regionals in 2013, and used to race mountain bikes and Xterra.

Dr. Allison Belger|Licensed Psychologist, PsychologyWOD, TJ’s Gym, and Juggling for Jude

Dr. Allison Belger|Licensed Psychologist, PsychologyWOD, TJ's Gym, and Juggling for Jude

Your mental “cue” will be one you call upon in the heat of the moment, when the going gets tough. It’s a simple, one-word call-to-action to reel in your focus when physical fatigue threatens to derail your mental game.
As a psychologist, my focus for these round table discussions will be the mental game and psychological components of competing or otherwise participating in the Open. This year’s week-one heads up is to be sure to educate yourself about the many aspects of the competition setting that can make completion of Open workouts different from completion of workouts in class or as part of your regular training. It’s not too late to cram in some knowledge!

Never underestimate the power of hormones and the physiological effects of anxiety and the competition drive. Read up on the physical manifestations of adrenaline and the potential symptoms of performance anxiety with which you might grapple. If you haven’t already, come to understand and appreciate the Yerkes-Dodson law of arousal and optimal performance so you gain perspective on the importance of being jazzed enough to perform well while being calm enough to make sure that happens. Learn to appreciate the ways your body fires itself up for competition, and learn how to get a sense of when you need to dial things back through some calming techniques. This kind of knowledge will apply to performance scenarios in your life outside of CrossFit, so it’s absolutely worth the time and effort to increase your knowledge in these areas. (See my recent article here for elaboration of this and other performance anxiety strategies.)

As I mentioned last year when discussing 14.1, mental cuing is a helpful strategy for sports performance that is important to keep in mind as you tackle 15.1, the first true competition workout of the season. Your mental “cue” will be one you call upon in the heat of the moment, when the going gets tough. It’s a simple, one-word call-to-action to reel in your focus when physical fatigue threatens to derail your mental game.

Choose a word that will bring you back to center when you’re breathing heavy and feeling like you’ve got nothing left in the tank. Make it a word that represents for you something positive. Perhaps it’s your way of keeping your eye on the prize for which you’ve trained all year (e.g., “Carson”). Perhaps it’s your child’s name or a reminder of personal inspiration. It should be one simple word you will utter in your mind as many times as you need to, when your body wants to quit and your mind threatens to get lost in a chain of negative thoughts (“I can’t do this”; “This is way harder than I thought”; “I just don’t have it today”; “Maybe this isn’t my year after all.”) Nip those in the bud with your cue, take a deep breath, and move on. This process needs to happen in split seconds. Remember that if you’re competing, it’s supposed to be a challenge. It’s not supposed to be easy.

Make a mental note of other things you have going for you and care about – aspects of yourself you value and enjoy. This may seem cheesy, but research suggests that entering a competition on the heels of some self-affirmation can prepare you for a positive journey…
As you prepare for 15.1a during the valuable seconds between completion of the 9-minute AMRAP and your first clean-and-jerk attempt, you will have plenty of time to grapple with your mental game. While you are setting up your barbell and catching your breath, you will be alone with your thoughts, and you’d better be sure you have a script and know they will be positive ones. Regardless of how you performed in 15.1, you need to move on and focus on the next task at hand. If you are pleased with your rep count for 15.1, it will, of course, be easier to enter 15.1a with a positive attitude. Regardless, be sure you remain laser focused and don’t take anything for granted. If 15.1 proved to be more challenging than anticipated, lock in your mantra and say it over and over in your mind as you load your barbell. Picture yourself making your lifts and inputting solid scores in the computer. Calm your breathing and relax into that rhythmic mantra before you ramp up and get yourself psyched for the lifts. If you know going into the workout that 15.1 will make you suffer but 15.1a is your wheelhouse, a good mantra might be “Now is my time to shine.” Even if you did well on part one, you don’t want to now approach the barbell with a frenzied demeanor fueled only by adrenaline and the high from 15.1. You now need to be poised and technical, not frantic.

Consistent with what I wrote last year regarding week one, be sure to consider the bigger picture. With this first workout marking the beginning of the Open and a new competition season, it’s important to take the opportunity to reflect on your training course, your goals, and the reasons behind your training. Before you take on 15.1 and 15.1a, take a few moments to think about who you are as a person outside of CrossFit and outside of your identity as an athlete. Make a mental note of other things you have going for you and care about – aspects of yourself you value and enjoy. This may seem cheesy, but research suggests that entering a competition on the heels of some self-affirmation can prepare you for a positive journey and one less likely to be derailed by moments of physical exhaustion or negative self-talk, both of which can easily creep in during both the AMRAP of 15.1 and the max lift (which always have somewhat of a do-or-die feel) of 15.1a.

On the eve of your first workout, I’d also like to remind you about warming up for your Open workouts. Experienced competitors will know how to warm up and will also have a transition routine that allows them to move from their warm-up mindset to their performance mindset. This transition signal can be a simple ritualized routine (e.g., 5 arm swings, 5 foot stomps, 5 deep breaths and a quiet utterance of a cue phrase, such as “Go time” or “I’ve got this”). Less experienced athletes may not have any idea how to go about warming up and getting in the performance mindset (which is very different from doing a workout with a group at your gym). Reach out to a coach for suggestions of how to warm up physically, and be sure to come to the gym with notes, so you don’t forget your plan when anxiety kicks in.

[The Open] can serve as a way of testing your mental fortitude, both during the workouts, themselves, and in general throughout the five-weeks – it takes quite a bit of mental stick-to-it-iveness to endure five weeks of obsessive focus on competitive exercising!
For the mental transition to the workout, be sure to take a minute to walk yourself through the first round in your mind. See yourself being successful and having fun. Then take some deep breaths, tell yourself you’re ready, state your cue phrase/mantra, and off you go. Again, this may sound corny or cheesy or unnecessary, especially if you’re not doing the Open as a competitive hopeful, but you can learn a lot about how to approach other challenges in your life by practicing focus and mental toughness strategies when doing something like the Open, even if it’s just for fun.

For many of you, the next five weeks offer a chance to immerse yourself in a physical contest that can provide both a measure of personal improvement and a psychological and emotional distraction from the monotony of everyday life. It can serve as a way of testing your mental fortitude, both during the workouts, themselves, and in general throughout the five-weeks – it takes quite a bit of mental stick-to-it-iveness to endure five weeks of obsessive focus on competitive exercising!

For those of you doing the Open with a legitimate shot at Regionals and even the Games, this kind of focus is likely part of your routine – the Open may be merely a notch up from your usual level of concentration. But for those of you doing the Open for fun, for community, and as a test of your progress and current level of fitness, the five-week focus can be a funny kind of blessing. It offers a forum for you to step out of your normal routine and put yourself – your concerns, your fears, your insecurities, your goals, and your drive – all into one experience and see how you come out at the end. Along the way, you’re likely to learn a whole bunch about how you tick – from how competitive you are, to how difficult it is for you to relish small victories and let go of perceived failures, to how able you are to focus on the big picture when the details seduce you. Embrace the learning opportunity and the big picture, and try not to get too caught up in the details. This will set you up for a positive and meaningful experience.

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