written by alison

I walked into the gym defeated. The clock hadn’t even started it’s 3 second countdown but my mind was already made up — score of 10, that’s it.

Every year since trying CrossFit, I have participated in the Open. It’s a sort of pre-playoffs where anyone with $20 to spare and a friend to judge their workouts can measure up to hundreds of thousands of CrossFit athletes. The workouts are the same for everyone and they have the same handful of days to learn what the workout is, complete it and then post their score for the official scoreboard.

While I never intend on making it beyond the Open, participating is fun thanks to the camaraderie and ability to see how you compare to athletes around the world.

But this year, I was going to skip the Open entirely.

I was feeling more than a little down in the dumps over how little I had progressed over the last year — thanks in combination to my on-going health issues but also a lack of consistency in the gym on my part. Some of my lifts had gotten maybe 5 pounds better but some of them had also gotten lighter.

My coach asked if I was signing up, to which I explained that while I know I haven’t been working hard on them, the thought of yet another year without an unassisted pull-up had me pretty bummed.

Registration for the Open starts weeks before the first workout is announced. I watched the posts on social media without an inkling of wanting to sign up. I was happy for my friends that got giddy about it, but knew that I needed to listen to my gut and sit this one out.

The night of the first workout announcement — which was about 2 weeks ago — my friend and coach asked me to join her for an upcoming workout announcement in Chicago (this is a big deal for CrossFit fans.) I agreed, duh, and planned on watching 15.1 after class so I could prep for how to make my audience debut.

Minutes into watching the announcement, I opened up a new tab and signed myself up for the Open.

Fuck those damn pull-ups.

This year they were including a scaled version of each workout, for those that couldn’t do the movements posted for more elite athletes. I figured while I may not be able to compare myself to last year, at least I would have a great time doing workouts with my CrossFit community.

Fast forward to last Thursday when 15.2 was announced — featuring pull-ups in the scaled version. Fuck. This workout was a repeat of last year’s 14.2 in which I scored a 10 — the highest score you can get without doing a pull-up. That’s when I knew I wasn’t going to be improving from last year’s score.

14-2workoutlast year’s workout results

My gym does the workouts every Friday so that folks can cheer, suffer and judge in a group, which makes this whole thing much better. But a wave of depression hit me so hard on Thursday night (not related to those damn pull-ups) that I was a pretty worthless human on Friday and skipped the workout.

So Sunday morning, I got myself ready to makeup the workout at the gym. But instead of being pumped, I thought about how I missed a workout because of being sad (I’m so lame*), how I just weighed in at over 150 pounds which is more than I have ever weighed in my life, how I’ll never get a pull-up…ever and how what isn’t supposed to be a 3 minute workout will take me less than 1 minute to get the first movement in and then I’ll be done (because again, I’m so lame.)

I walked into the gym already defeated. I jokingly asked “who wants to count to 10 for me” knowing that my score was going to be 10 and no higher. I bitched to my coach about how the scaled programming was so stupid because they expected us to do pull-ups. And then I set my bar up to do my 10 overhead squats.

My coach, being awesome as usual, encouraged me to try scaled.

“Imagine how you’ll feel walking out of here having gotten your first bandless pull-up?” was enough to get me to try. She gave me a couple quick pointers on the pull-up bar but told me to save my energy for the workout when it mattered.

The clock counted down 3…2…1…. and I got to my lifts. Because I was doing scaled this year, the OHS weight wasn’t that tough for me. I purposefully slowed them down because my coach told me to save my energy for the pull-ups. After putting down the bar, chalking up my hands, taking more than a few deep breaths, I hopped up on the bar, swung my legs like I was instructed 15 minutes earlier and nailed my very first unassisted pull-up. What?!

I dropped down from the bar and screamed out in a combo of shock, joy and overwhelm. I wanted to celebrate the shit out of what had just happened, but my coach and judge reminded me the workout wasn’t over. The next pull-up came with such gumption that I hit the bar with my chin. There was going to be no doubt about whether these were legit pull-ups or not.

I did them one at a time, with breaks in-between each, but when the clock ran out, I had successfully done 7 unassisted pull-ups!

That is 7 more than I have ever done in my life, in the span of 3 minutes.

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty geeked about the whole thing. Which is a far cry from how I felt after the workout was announced. And with 3 more workouts in this year’s Open to go, I can’t wait to see what else I surprise myself with. Especailly if I walk into the gym open to possibilities instead of counting myself out before I start.

This is one of the many reasons why I dig CrossFit.


*Note: depression and sadness does not make a person lame, this is just what the mean voice in my head was saying at the time.