My approach to the CrossFit Games Open - by Emily Abbott

The 2015 8th Fittest Woman on Earth, and Blonyx athlete, Emily Abbott shares her thoughts, and offers some mental, physical and emotional tips, to help you (and her) get through this year's CrossFit Games Open.

Remember to watch Abbott in the live 16.1 announcement this evening, when she takes on Chyna Cho in front of the entire CrossFit world.

This will be my third CrossFit Games Open and this year will be no different than when I completed my first one in 2013...

Those who know Emily, also know this grin VERY well

...Although, seemingly, the stakes are higher: I am expected to qualify for Regionals, and then the 2016 CrossFit Games. Regardless, the Open remains the 5-week competition that hooked me on this crazy CrossFit journey to begin with so it has a soft spot in my heart.

My overall goal this year is similar to other years: Make it to Regionals. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious about what Castro will throw at us (like everyone else out there participating in the open) but through my relatively short competitive CrossFit career I have learned how to handle this anxiety. Ultimately, it all comes down to my approach, or in other words my attitude, towards to Open.

My Emotional Attitude 

I am a very emotional person. It's because I care. I care immensely. So when things aren’t going well I can sometimes let that affect my entire life.

As athletes, as employees, as mothers, fathers, as leaders, we become so involved in the task or goal at hand that sometimes we forget to look at the larger picture. The why.


Why am I doing the CrossFit Open?

...Why do I CrossFit?

(I ask myself this question on a weekly basis.)

As the Open rolls in, I cannot stop thinking about this question. I still haven’t found a clear answer. I have a few ambiguous ideas, though, such as:

1. Empowerment: I LOVE how Crossfit makes me feel. Like I can conquer the whole damn world. I also LOVE that I have totally embraced my body as a result. When someone calls my thighs big or thick, it now makes me smile. Yeah they are! They could crush you and I am so proud of that. I am a woman who is muscular and strong, inside and out. CrossFit has helped me develop that confidence, and I get so stoked to see that this confidence has also developed in other women (and men) who CrossFit too.

Everything turns red when Emily when Emily goes all out on the assault bike

2. Uncertainty: Yeah, I said it. I really like how CrossFit is so unexpected. No one knows what is going to happen. So when Castro unapollegitcally announces a disgusting workout, I better damn well accept it and move on. Not whine about my crappy muscle-up technique. Pull up your bootstraps and get it done to the best of your abilities Emily!  I am always a little unclear about the direction of my life, so I think I love this uncertainty. If I don’t embrace it I will get eaten alive. Buck up!

3. Opportunities: Competitive CrossFit has given me a lot of opportunities. I get to travel, do fitness and eat lots of food. I also get to meet interesting people and create new relationships. To me, the Open creates really special opportunities too - if I approach it with a fun-loving attitude. I get to workout competitively surrounded by family and friends, discover how much I have improved over the year, as well as learn where I still need to improve. Maybe I will make some new buds, maybe I will get a few PRs, maybe I’ll rock a workout, or maybe I’ll suck at it. Either way, I am going to have a good time because damn it all I WANT to have a good time.

Abbott's Number 1 Emotional Tip: Control what you can!

I plan to set no expectations. Go hard each week and do each workout to the best of my abilities. Control what I can control—me and my attitude.

My Physical Approach 

So I want to do each workout to the best of my abilities. I know you are probably saying, “Yeah no shit, Emily!”

But what does that really mean?

Well, throughout the week I am going to hit all my regular training (because I am looking at the bigger picture). I will lift, I will condition and do every element that crazy CrossFit requires, and hopefully more. I will hit high volume gymnastics, I will swim, I will run. I will focus, as I always do, on clean, purposeful movements. I will keep on track with my recovery (eat, sleep, Blonyx, get treatment). So come Thursday, I can just get another CrossFit Open WOD under my belt and move onto the next week.

(As I am writing this, I am realizing how helpful this has been to write this declaration down—like my own Crossfit Open affidavit...I digress)

The Open is always a challenge for me because I am a bigger athlete who likes lifting bigger weights. 75-lb. snatches coupled with a gymnastic movement makes me go to a very uncomfortable place. We all know that feeling and I really dislike it.

We all know that we are going to feel that way so, again, I am going to control what I can control. That is my breathing. During a workout where I am getting 'tomato-faced,' (usually any Open-style workout gets my face so red) I like to focus on my breathing. Controlling the tempo and the pace.

The official "Tomato-Face"

I recently discovered that during most of my gymnastics movements, I was holding my breath making my impending burnout happen that much sooner. Someone watching me told me to breathe, and suddenly my muscle-ups and handstand walking became so much easier. So leading up to the Open, I will practice steady breathing when the WOD starts to get hairy.

My Mental Approach

I think the hardest part of the Open is that we all know how we are going to feel during and after the WOD: Terrible!

That is where the nerves come from. Discussing it with your buddies before the workout, you can see the fear in their eyes and they can see the fear in yours. It's unnerving, to say the least. (Okay maybe that is dramatic but you get it).

The point is, we have to accept that each workout will present its own unique challenges. I can remember feeling incredibly nervous before 15.3 last year (muscle-ups, wall balls and double unders).

All day, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing. When I walked into the gym to do the workout, someone remarked on how nervous I looked. I ended up going into the pain cave earlier than expected and I didn’t do as well as I wanted to. Every other workout in the Open went well, but 15.3 in particular stands out as a struggle.

What I learned from that experience was that I was focussing on the wrong things. The self-doubt and fear became a mental focus instead of feeling courageous and confidence. I went internal.

Emily cruising through muscle ups at this year's Wodapalooza in Miami after "giving herself a little slap across the face and putting her big girl pants on".

How do you avoid becoming internal, you may ask?

Re-read the emotional approach section of this article to get some much needed perspective, then give yourself a little slap across the face and put on your big girl pants.

In hindsight, I should have been focussing on the community, and on smiling, because I get to do a tough workout with the support of my box around me. I get the chance to see how much my muscle-ups have developed over the past year and how I can make them better.

As my dad always says, I needed a major helmet adjustment. Similarly, something that Ben Bergeron said one time that has always stuck with me is: “Feed the courage dog, not the fear dog.”

So before the Open, I am going to make sure that my courage dog is real healthy getting all the tasty morsels of positive self-talk!

Final Thoughts

Although I am constantly looking at the bigger picture and the Why of CrossFit, the Why of my life, I am also trying to remain present and enjoy each experience as they happen.

How cool is it that we get to suffer through these workouts together in an old, stinky gym that feels like home on a Friday night? Or watch someone succeed at a skill or lift they have been working so hard on? Or share a few beers and laughs at the end of the 5 long, gruelling weeks?

We are a part of this very strange world called CrossFit, and it is a hell of a good time.

I would be remiss if I didn't include my favourite Braveheart quote, which for me, encapsulates the CrossFit experience, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives!” So I plan on living well and living hard during the Open. I am going to embrace every moment as much as I can.

Who is with me?

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Patti Lovecky

Patti Lovecky

Heh, Emily,
What an amazing powerhouse you are! Have been following your Crossfit career and
am so impressed and inspired by your strength, determination and love of life.
You have come a long way from lying with mono on my couch to competing in worldwide competitions. you go girl! Love you. Patti

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