Recapping the Open – Moving Forward
Today I’m doing what everyone outside the top 50 in the Open is doing – I’m making a list, a plan, getting my head right. I’ve always believed in having a plan, running in head first isn’t the way I do anything. At this point you’re probably recalling the Mike Tyson quote which goes something like, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Of course this is true, there’s a difference between having a plan, and latching onto a sinking ship. I believe it’s good to have a plan, regardless of what happens to it, but before you start, at least have a mental vision of the course you want, the journey ahead. You can adapt along the way, figure things out, change them, there’s nothing inherently wrong with change; the point is to put in a little ground work. This year’s Open was surprising to a lot of people, especially when you consider it compared to the 2014 Open, which I felt was really well done.
Where the 2014 Open seemed very balanced, the 2015 felt less balanced. I won’t go all the way to saying it was unbalanced, cause I think that would be unfair, and if your strength is gymnastics, you probably didn’t feel it was unbalanced at all. They were making a point this year, Regionals is no longer the place where skills are tested, the Open isn’t just about engine, and strength is a byproduct of those first 3 things. Last year there seemed to be a larger emphasis on engine and strength, and less on skillful movements. Workouts rarely hinged on one specific movement. This year, many of the workouts hinged on your ability to move through a specific movement, typically gymnastics, but also wall balls and thrusters in the other two cases. It just so happens that this year more of my weaknesses were exploited and fewer of my strengths were allowed to shine. As compared to last year where I was able to carry myself much higher based almost solely on 15.3 (the deadlift one). But that’s good, I knew this year would be a struggle, I knew I wasn’t as prepared, and it was as true a test of my current fitness as I could get. There was no deloading, there was no peaking, I wasn’t in top shape like 2014, the best of my best. So to be where I am right now at the end of it all, in the 94th percentile of all men in my region, I can feel nothing but pride in that.
So I sat down this morning, after finishing a rather gross problem set of course (school first mom!), and wrote a list, primary, secondary, and tertiary focus points, and specific points of performance to test/re-test with at points throughout the year. The list probably won’t be that surprising, and probably looks a lot like most people’s. The primary column is filled with gymnastics technique and volume, squat endurance, and movement quality. The secondary column is, well secondary, grip strength, overall strength, weightlifting technique, aerobic capacity, the basic tenants of strength and conditioning. The final column is things I’m already decent at, and just need to hold onto, aerobic power, creatine-phosphate battery, mentality, training quality, and life quality (sleep, food etc). The specific tests are largely irrelevant, but mostly consist of Open workouts from the last two years, as well as some Regional workouts, and the obligatory squat, deadlift, clean and snatch numbers I would like to see. The most surprising one would probably be a pistol, I can’t do them yet, but I feel like I’m close and with some focused effort I could see those happening soon. So that’s my list.
“We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it. When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.”
I also wanted to take a minute to appreciate the last year, I’m 2 semester deep in a Master’s degree that is far more challenging than I ever conceived, I sprained my back and took a 2 and a half week trip to Italy, and in all of that, still managed to improve beyond statistical significance. Last year I finished 664/6,330, roughly the 89th-90th percentile, this year I finished 659/11,123, roughly the 94th percentile. Assuming no improvement on my part, and an even distribution of added athletes, I would’ve expected to fall into the 1,000’s in my ranking. My point here is, the numbers aren’t everything, framed correctly I am very proud of what I’ve made of this year and that’s something to latch onto. Whatever goes on, whatever difficulties we face, it’s on our shoulders to make the most of these things, to put 100% into the time we’re given. If I only get an hour a day, so be it, I’m going to train as hard as I can for that hour, and I’ll get something for that. Appreciate the time you’re given, there’s a limit circumscribed to it, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
I’m taking a break from the gym for most of this week, not because I’m tired, or beat up (though I am both of those) but mostly to remind myself what I want from this year. To remind myself why I get up at 5:15 every day, and what that is worth to me. I really want to make this year about myself, and try to remove the distractions implicit in things like the Open, the comparisons, the longing to be something you’re not, to walk a path other than our own. I want this year to be about the opportunities I’m given, about my successes and my failures, about being the best version of myself. In this desire, I’ve realized competitive exercise might not be the best fit, I don’t think there is implicit conflict, I think we make it ourselves, so it will take no small measure of mental fortitude to realize this vision – but you know how I like to set the bar high. I’m back in the gym tomorrow, first day of 2016, the year of Pooh.