Make the CrossFit Open Work For You (OPINION)

Oct 4, 2019 by

Our Intramural Open has always been huge at Rocket CrossFit. But we didn’t use to push people to register online because, like many people, we mistakenly believed that the point of the Open was to qualify for the Games, and we knew we weren’t going to do that. The last Open was the first one that we encouraged online registration. That was a game-changer.  

Charla, a 62-year-old member who doesn’t have a history of athletics at all, registered for the Open for the first time last year. She wound up ranked #26 in her scaled division, which blew her mind.

“I went to bed many times, laughing and feeling the warmth of all the good cheer from my fellow Rocketeers – that is the afterglow of the Open,” Charla said.

I know people are grumbling that we just did it, and that it’s football season, and … People just grumble. At Rocket CrossFit, we’re ready. Although we literally have 100% participation in the Open, it requires little or no extra effort on our part. Really. 

How do we have 100% participation? We just run it as a class, but with bonus costumes. We also run it as intramural teams, but members still just work out on their own schedule, which fills the classes with costumes and friendly competition, so everyone feels the energy. That, more than anything, creates excitement all day long and increases participation for the next time.

“I went to bed many times, laughing and feeling the warmth of all the good cheer from my fellow Rocketeers – that is the afterglow of the Open.”

Charla, Rocket CrossFit

Every class is run in heats so that every person, whether they’re registered or not, is judged. This is a great opportunity for us to enforce standards in a friendly and loving way. Being judged seems to push people to do things they didn’t know they could do, and we see loads of PRs and “firsts” during the Open.

As one of our long-time members, Clare, says, “I have had so many breakthroughs in the open: first toes-to-bar, first double-unders in a workout, many a weight PR! I love watching people try things they thought they couldn’t do, and be successful.” 

Yup, we love it too. So here’s how – and why – we do it. We make it easy on us, and fun for everyone. 

“I have had so many breakthroughs in the open: first toes-to-bar, first double-unders in a workout, many a weight PR! I love watching people try things they thought they couldn’t do, and be successful.” 

Clare, Rocket CrossFit

Create teams, with team captains

We create six teams from those who register. Each team has a team captain who manages the team and makes sure everyone participates. People register at the gym, then the captains all get together and select people. We have an eye towards mixing up people who aren’t already friends, so that people can make new connections, which is great for the community. Bonus? The captains do most of the “work,” not us, so we can stay focused on day-to-day gym operations.

Weekly themes
Each week has a theme, and members earn points for their team by coming dressed as that theme. My favorites in the last one were animals and favorite characters. This time, I’m really looking forward to Disco vs. Grunge. 

It’s about participation, not workout scores.
None of us are going to the Games, nor were we going to the regionals, RIP. But we want everyone to push hard and participate, so for us, it’s not about workout scores. It’s about participation. You earn points for your team by participating. You earn points for: 

  1. Doing the WOD in Friday’s class or during the weekend session.
  2. Coming dressed for the theme OR in your team colors. 
  3. Pushing to do more than you thought you could. A little more weight, a little faster, a little harder than you thought you could do. You know it when you do it, choose the harder path and get a point. 
  4. Come and cheer for a class other than your own. 
  5. Share a photo of you and your crew loving the Open on your social media. Tag Rocket CrossFit in the post so that other people can find it and comment. This, right here, is how you effectively use social media to market your gym. The organic spread of personal content works better than anything else. Nothing gets more attention than people having fun in costumes or posting how proud they are that they just got their first pull-up. (Okay, babies and cute pets get more, but still, in terms of spreading the word, these are gold.) 

Each of these five points is in Sugar WOD as a “yes / no” and you mark down whether you did them or not. 

Tracking scores

We pull scores from SugarWOD, into a spreadsheet, on Monday at 5:00 pm. Bonus points are awarded by coaches, for things like over the top costumes, or pushing yourself in a way that moves us, or cheering like a pro. One member of the orange team got extra points every single week for bringing in orange-colored snacks to share with the gym. 

Bonus Social Activities

We always make reservations at a local restaurant for Friday night. You don’t have to be part of a team, or even do the WOD to join. This works really well because we don’t have to organize or clean, local businesses get the business, and people hang out together. 

As far as Intramurals go, this formula has been a real winner for us. People love it, they get involved, we see many perks. It’s a great celebration of everything that we love and value about CrossFit. 

That is why we also do encourage people to register for the Games leaderboard. We know that none of us are going to the Games, except as spectators. But then, getting to the Games was never really the purpose of the Open. It’s always been about celebrating this thing that we all do together, around the world. 

By moving Games qualification to Sanctionals, CrossFit made it more clear than ever that the Open is for the rest of us. This is our party. We encourage our members to spend that $20 for that little bit of accountability, that excitement. It’s paid off in spades and PRs.

That’s cool. 

It’s also the perfect metaphor for what we’ve finally learned: The Open is for everyone. The Games is for competition, but the Open is for the rest of us to celebrate the best of what CrossFit is. 

Game on, folks. Costumes, ready. It’s Open season. 


CrossFit Open



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