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  • Writer's pictureLex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA

The Gateway of the Open

I write a monthly blog post for Pallas Fitness about the intersection of yoga and CrossFit. I repost the blog entries here.

Has it been really another year of the CrossFit Open? We sit now; bodies still sore and the experience of the open is now somewhat behind us. We reflect, we rejoice and we set out for another year of fitness.

I have been at Pallas since “the old gym” a topic for another blog entry, and I recently sat down and put together that my first Open must have been in 2014. I joined the gym in 2013 and that March was the first Open. Hard to believe it has been a decade of fitness. More on that as well—later. But the Open has a special place in my heart due to the many memories I have had in fitness and the community that helps make the memories.

The Open, has always struck me as an audacious concept. The whole world—all of it— does the same number of workouts over the course of 3 (used to be 5) weeks. The event started in 2007 with just 30 athletes. That really does blow my mind. Today, an estimated 325k athletes (down from 500k pre-COvid) it remains the biggest fitness competition on earth.

But the truly wild part: we all do the same workout, every week, across the globe! Not only is this a logistical nightmare of translating movements (did you know muscle up in spanish is musculatura hacia arriba?!) but coordination of prop motion and gym but in. But even more impressive is the equity among the top athletes and everyone else. Even the big names in the field? Richard Froning, Brooke Wells and our very own Tim Paulson. All of them get down and we’re doing those same movements. They actually did this same wall walks in 23.1! Wild! That I find beautiful and elegant as a measure of fitness. It’s the sort of radical thinking, and sort of lofty libertarian wonder, that makes CrossFit surprisingly mindful. Knowing that these stars of fitness, do not get to skip the events and have to show up to get to the advanced stages shows equity and a sort of leveling of all egos which is powerful as a sport.

It is fair to say, I am a “fan” of the Open. I was not always this way. I found the sense of competition particularly challenging for the ego of an aging body. I found it so jarring my first Open and unusual to someone who had not competed in something physically since high school in 2014. When Tim and Eamon first explained it to me, I was so stunned, I had to go home and read about it. That first Open in 2014, when the movements were all Rx, I thought—well— the open is a very short workout! Things did help when after my second Open, 2015, they introduced scaling options for the likes of us who wished to “compete” but not at the caliber of the mightiest of athletes. So now, the competition itself has become a marker of who I am and what I can accomplish in a set of weeks. I appreciate it, know where I’m at, and do my single-unders with an easy breath.

I want to say though—that as someone who was not an athlete in high school or college (ok, I ran long distance track) the idea of a Friday night competition called, “Friday Night Lights” strikes me the final plug for the Open. To hear a crowd chant your name, as you are lifting or jumping and huffing and puffing, it’s thrilling. It is at the depth of your fear of embarrassment and joy that you participate in the evening of the Open. I have gotten to see athletes walk away with tears in their eyes over what was met out. And I admit; it often leaves me with my eyes glistening as well. That. Just. Rocks.

There are memories like my first Open, when Tim Pasto encouraged me to lift much more than my body weight. Or another year watching Sue Dozoretz hit her first muscle up. Of Joe Rogan’s top score of the year he went to regionals. Sarah Acker comes to mind. Huge lifts. Athletes getting their firsts. First year Crossfitters bonding with old timers and having sips of Lucky Hare. There are memories locked of many members, some have moved away, some still in the area. All missed and thought of fondly. This year, the Open has inspired costumes and meme-worthy hilarious shots. I hope Lauree posts many in this article. It is a time to reflect, gawk, laugh and cheer. But most of all be thankful for our bodies and community.

Alas, the open of 2023 is now closed. It makes me feel that it is a doorway or a gateway to the year that comes. To the thawing of our land and to the journey ahead. Without this community though—without our friendships—what do we have? Until I see you next, here’s to training to a fitter 2024!

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