How to taper for the CrossFit Games Open workouts (with less than a week to go)

As a CrossFit athlete who has prepared for and competed in 4 CrossFit Open competitions, 5 Regional competitions and the 2014 CrossFit Games, I have learned tapering for a competition is as much an art as it is a science. I’m a firm believer that tapering is a bit like nutrition: While there are general guidelines we should all follow, when it comes to the smaller details, we need to figure out what works for our individual needs. 

Over the years, I have learned I need a long, aggressive taper for a three-day competition. Other athletes are more conservative. One time at a 2014 Live Open Announcement, I witnessed the demo athletes Scott Panchik and Josh Bridges working out—like legitimately working out—just hours before doing 14.4. My mind was blown. Similarly, at the 2014 CrossFit Games, while I was hanging out watching a movie in my room resting up for the swim event, some athletes were sweating in the gym the day before the competition.

And while the Open is just a single workout each week, as opposed to a three or four-day competition like Regionals or the Games, most of us still want to be as fresh as possible on game day. This usually requires at least a mini taper to be at your best!

5 general tapering rule I suggest:

5. Avoid huge volume within three days of an Open workout: Generally speaking, high reps is often what leads to sore muscles—also known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) - which also means reduced muscle power output. If you know doing 50 pull-ups or high-rep deadlifts will make you sore for three days, don’t log that kind of volume on Wednesday if you’re hitting the Open workout on Friday. If nothing else, it’s hard to feel confident in your abilities when your body has been taken over by DOMS. 

4. Don’t spend too much time under tension: Spending a lot of time under tension (this could mean cycling a barbell, doing a max set of pull-ups or a 20-rep back squat) is incredibly fatiguing and takes a toll on your body, especially your nervous system. This doesn’t mean you can’t condition in and around your Open workouts. It just means if you’re conditioning one, two or three days before hitting an Open workout, consider breaking up your reps a bit more than you normally would and taking it a little easier, especially when it comes to things like cycling a barbell.

3. Keep Your Core Fresh: When your core is fried, it’s hard to perform as well as you know you can. This doesn’t mean you should avoid all midline accessory work during the Open. It just means maybe doing 100 Glute-ham sit-ups the week of an Open test might be a bad idea. 

2. Stick with What’s Familiar: If you don’t generally run 15 km or haven’t run stairs in a while, during the Open weeks isn’t the time to start. You might just find yourself with overly tight hips or calves. When your body isn’t used to something—when it hasn’t adapted to a certain stimulus—even if it doesn’t seem that difficult in the moment, it's more likely to cause the dreaded DOMs, or at least require a little more recovery than more familiar movements.

1. Staying Fresh for a Redo: There’s no question, if you’re planning on redo-ing a workout you’re probably not going to be quite as fresh the second time. While this doesn’t mean you can’t do better on your second effort, it just means you should do everything you can do to get your body as fresh as possible between workouts. Best case scenario, wait until Monday—the last day—to repeat the workout, and apply all of the above in the days between your first attempt and your redo. This means if you did the workout Thursday and plan to do it again on Monday, avoid the following on Friday, Saturday and Sunday: High-rep workouts, time under tension, Core-crushing work and unfamiliar movements! 

You have a few more days to get your body as fresh as possible: Good luck in 16.1!


Barbell Efficiency

If the last five years of the CrossFit Games Open are any indication of what we should expect this season, we're just under two weeks away from having to cycle light barbells likely in more than just one workout.
Sean Brown, Irish national weightlifter, the head coach at HD Barbell and Blonyx educator, offers up some tips to help you become more effective at cycling a light barbell. Why? - because small adjustments in efficiency not only save you time, but also save you energy. 

Brown's Tips

5. Use a Hook Grip: The hook grip is a way to use your thumb a little like a lifting strap by wrapping it around the bar. Using a good hook grip will enable you to keep your forearms as relaxed as possible while maintaining a solid grip on the bar. If you have to do pull-ups or toes-to-bar in the same workout, the hook grip becomes even more important. If you don't know how to hook grip, start practicing now (here's how). You'll have mastered it on light barbell cycling by the time you reach the open.... feel free to thank us after.
4. Breathing: High-rep barbell movements are GASSING at the best of times, so it's important to remember to breathe. Brown suggests breathing at the top of the movement, in between reps. "If you're snatching, for example, pause with the bar overhead for a split second, to breathe, and then go again," he suggested. This keeps a rhythm and also reduces the risk of a no-rep as you must lock out at the top. Start working on this technique now so that it becomes second nature by the start of the open. 
3. Learn to choose wisely between muscle and power movements: Brown said: "Muscle snatching is faster for high-rep workouts like 'Randy,' but you'll fatigue much faster with your grip and lower back (in a longer workout), so power snatching might be the way to go from the start to save time later on in the WOD." Know the trade off before you head into the open by testing out movements now. Can you sustain rounds of 10 quick muscle snatches at 75lb, or should you power snatch to preserve energy? Get testing!
2. Shoes: Brown suggested wearing softer, lighter shoes like Nanos or Metcons, as opposed to lifting shoes, if the barbell is light. They aren't going to be too advantageous and add weight. If you aren't used to wearing them when spending time on the bar, now is time to test out a few past open wods with them on. Note that if mobility is still an issue after trying this out, stick with lifting shoes - now is not the time to work on that mobility and make a difference for the open.
1. Watch Sean's video to pick up some quick cycling technique tips:

Brown has two simple but very effective tips for cycling efficiency that you should start practicing now:

a). Get your elbows over the bar as quickly as possible as you bring the bar down
b). Keep the bar as close to your body as possible
Check out his demo, and good luck!

Sean Brown Version 2 from Blonyx on Vimeo.

Tune back in for next week's Open Tip: TAPER so you're FRESH for 16.1!

Learning Your Pace

Learning how to pace many CrossFit workouts can be difficult, especially for inexperienced athletes, because the constant variability of movements—and combination of movements—is incredibly vast. In other words, most people would instinctively know not to sprint the first 100 meters of a 1-mile run the way they would tackle a 100-meter dash. However, CrossFit workouts aren't usually this simple, and it's hard to know exactly what your body will feel like after doing (for example) 50 pull-ups after 50 burpees. 

The interesting thing about a perfectly-paced workout is it usually hurts less than a poorly-paced workout—because it normally means holding back at the start more than you think you should—and almost always results in a better score!

Gymnastics coach Louise Eberts offered two tips to help learn your pace:

1. Practicing movements outside of conditioning workouts:

When it comes to a movement like a chest-to-bar pull-up, Eberts suggests picking a number below your maximum capacity—let's say 10—and hold that number four times in a row with 30 seconds rest.  If that's achievable, then try 4 sets of 12 the next time with 25 seconds rest. Then the following week, try adding 6 burpees before the set of 12 pull-ups, since you need to discover how a bit of fatigue will affect your pull-ups, too, she said. 

Although Eberts' expertise is in the area of gymnastics, the same concept can be applied to barbell movements, as well as wall balls and even rowing. For example, if 60 unbroken wall balls gasses you, try doing 4 sets of 15 with a 30 second break. The following week, try 3 sets of 20 with 25 seconds rest. This will not only help you get to know how to best break up, for example 150 wall balls, should they show up in this year's Open, it will also help you build your capacity and your confidence before 16.1.

2. Practicing old Open workouts:

Doing this will let you know what your limiting factors are in any given workout. For example, if you practice the overhead squat and chest-to-bar pull-up workout that was introduced in 2014 and repeated last year during 15.2, you need to pay attention to what breaks down first, Eberts said. If grip is your limiting factor, then you might want to think about doing smaller sets of pull-ups to save your grip.

In a recent Ript Skins Systems article, Eberts added this: “It depends on your capacity...If the OHS feels light and you have good grip strength, then you can probably hold your numbers a bit higher, or even unbroken. But if you’re doing regular pull-ups and aren’t doing butterflies, then you probably want to keep it to smaller sets. I have seen girls get through way further in (15.2) by doing their pull-ups one at a time (than when they did bigger sets).”

In order to maximize your Open scores this year, the important thing is to discover exactly where you’re at between now and 16.1, she reiterated.

Other Tips for Pacing:

1. This Breaking Muscle Story offered some more easy pacing tips, including:

4. Listen to your body, pay attention to your breathing and rest BEFORE you feel you need to—not when you feel like you're going to pass out if you keep going. 

3. Pay attention to your heartrate! As a general rule, if you're heartrate is above 155 b/m you might be too close to redlining to achieve your best result. Check your heartrate and get to know how high is too high. Slow down and rest as needed to bring your heartrate down to a sustainable place.

2. Similar to Eberts' advice, the article suggested avoiding maxing out on bodyweight movements like pull-ups or toes-to-bar. Don't work beyond 40% of your capacity, meaning if the most pull-ups you can do unbroken is 20, you're probably not going to do more than 8 in a row during a high-rep metabolic conditioning workout. And often the number will be closer to 20%, the article explained. 

1. Don't go out too hard! Consider the entire workout. If you're not going to do the last round unbroken, it's probably not a good idea to do the first round unbroken. 

Tune back in next week for barbell efficiency tips!

In a recent post by Ript Skin Systems, the esteemed gymnastics coach and past Regionals athlete Louise Eberts explained it's not too late to improve your pull ups before this year's CrossFit Games Open. Louse, who has experience coaching a plethora of past and current Games athletes including Blonyx athlete Emily Abbott suggests adopting a progressive plan leading up to Go time. 

With just 4 weeks to go until the Open starts, we think it's the perfect time to adopt Louise's advice - and apply it to at least the following movements:

-Pull ups

-Chest to bar pull ups

-Toes to bar

-Muscle ups

(we also suggest burpees and box jumps if you have the time)


1. Dial in your techniques, don't attempt to learn new ones

As an example, decide what type of pull-up or toes-to-bar technique you'll be employing and focus on that until the Open. In other words, now is not the time to try to learn a butterfly chest-to-bar pull-up if you don't have them down already. 

2. Do a coach check to see if there are any technique tweaks that could benefit you

Don't be afraid to ask for some coaching - regardless of your level. A coach might be able to help you with some easy technical changes to help you be more efficient with your gymnastics movements. Remember, only adopt them if they are small changes. Too much to adjust means you won't graduate to step 3 quick enough to benefit...

3. Build muscular endurance around your chosen technique

Doing more reps and recovering quicker [from repeated gymnastics movements] is one of the keys to a better Open performance. To build muscular endurance, log some volume outside of your conditioning workouts from now until the Open starts. Aim to progress that volume each week. For example, maybe that's 5 sets of 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups with 30 seconds rest this week, and 5 sets of 10 with 25 seconds rest next week.

Another good way to build your capacity is to practice when slightly-fatigued. In the Ript article, Eberts suggested doing 5 burpees before each set of pull-ups. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat. Give it a try... but with muscle ups. I dare you. 

4. The next step is to begin working on pacing... but that's for next week. Good luck!



5 Weeks Until The Open: Now is the time to make nutrition and supplement changes!

With just 28 days until 16.1, now is the time to start dialling in your nutrition and supplements (in case you haven't started already), as opposed to the week of the announcement.

Three Nutrition and Supplement Tips from Blonyx:

3. Nutrition isn't about the DAY OF: Registered Dietician, Canada East regional athlete and owner of NutritionRx Jennifer Broxterman offered some nutrition tips for the Open in this piece from SweatWorks, where she reiterated: "Focus on eating especially well in the 48 hours leading up to when you are doing your Open WOD. A lot of athletes narrow in too much on what they will eat right before they exercise (last meal or snack), but in reality, it’s what you’ve been eating in the days [weeks] leading up to a competition that will most greatly impact performance.” -Broxterman via SweatWorks Broxterman also warns going strict Paleo isn't ideal for the competitive athlete. In other words, don't be afraid of carbohydrates. You'll need them to replenish your glycogen energy stores.

2. Alcohol: It goes without saying, if you're looking to maximize your performance, getting off the booze NOW is probably more important than simply avoiding booze the night or week before an Open workout. In fact, I know I have PR'ed Fran hungover, but could I PR Fran after one month of drinking? Broxterman says during the Open it's especially important to avoid post-workout celebratory drinks, as tempting as they may be, as alcohol hugely impacts the body's ability to restore glycogen, and ultimately recovery. So if you're planning on redo-ing an Open workout within two or three days, this is especially important.

3. Supplements: When you start taking supplements, including creatine and HMB, it usually takes about three weeks for your body to start seeing the beneficial effects. So if you're looking to adjust and fine tune your supplement intake, sit down and plan it NOW.— Click here to read more about HMB and check out our recent 5-part series about creatine: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. 

Tune in Next week for 4 Weeks Until the Open Dial in your Gymnastics Tips!



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