2011 CrossFit Games

The CrossFit Impulse Open

Jeff Barnett Experiments with an Open CrossFit Competition

Jeff Barnett, a trainer at Crossfit Impulse, recently ran a 13 week Affiliate team try-out that was similar to the CrossFit Games Open. He sent in this report of his results:

In mid-November 2010 the leadership team at CrossFit Impulse began planning how to select our affiliate team for the 2011 CrossFit Games. Assuming the same format as the 2010 CrossFit Games, we decided to select our team through a competitive process. This would not only ensure that the fittest men and women made the team, but the process would be completely fair and transparent. The rules for the 2011 CrossFit Games Open have now changed that plan, but we found our competitive process was incredibly valuable. Most notably, its structure was very similar to the 2011 CrossFit Games Open. By examining lessons learned from the perspective of athletes and event coordinators, we may get a glimpse of how to best prepare ourselves for the Open.

The Competition

Athletes voluntarily competed for spots on the team over the course of 13 weeks and 13 workouts. Workouts were announced on our website on Sunday evenings. Athletes were allowed to perform the “affiliate WOD” during any class during the week and were responsible for reporting their results on our website by the following Sunday. Additionally, the affiliate WOD was offered as our regular WOD on one day during that week in order to give athletes a chance to perform in a competitive atmosphere.

The intent of our competition was to find the fittest men and women at our affiliate. We also wanted to maximize inclusion by gradually ramping up the programming towards skill-intensive WODs in later weeks. This allowed almost any athlete to take part in the competition, and many of our beginners enthusiastically accepted. A trainer was required to be present during an athlete’s WOD, but each athlete did not receive an individual judge. Athletes were extensively briefed on standards and ranges of motion prior to the WOD, and those standards were enforced rigorously. Scoring used the 2010 CrossFit Games format of accruing points based on your placement in each event, with the winner receiving the lowest total points at the end of the competition. We tracked results using a spreadsheet on Google Docs, and all athletes could view their placement online at any time. You can view the final men’s results here and the women’s results here.

Multi-Week Format

            A multi-week competition with one WOD per week was a much different beast than a single weekend of multiple WODs per day. The length of the competition was double-edged. A 13-week competition makes consistency and dedication two additional skills to be tested, which we explicitly desired in selecting a team. We decided consistent, well-rounded athletes would work better on an affiliate team than firebreathers who show up sporadically. However, the length also made life difficult for competitors with work and travel obligations.

            To combat this we created a video submission system very similar to the CrossFit Games Open. By coordinating with a trainer ahead of time and receiving a WOD brief over the phone, athletes were allowed to submit videos of the WOD performed remotely. Camera angles would have to show relevant body positions for judging. We emphasized that video submissions would be scrutinized and face the full standard for every rep. We chose a time penalty of 10 seconds per missed rep. A maximum of 10 missed reps would be allowed in any WOD before the entire WOD would be disqualified. Only two athletes attempted this, and neither had good results. The first athlete attempted our 1RM clean and jerk WOD in a Globo Gym and was quickly told to stop dropping weights. The other athlete didn't fully test his cell phone's recording capability, and it stopped recording about 2/3 through his conduct of Fran. Yeah…ouch. For all the thought we put into video submission, no athlete successfully used it. The learning point is that 3,2,1 Go! is not the right time to test your camera. Test, re-test, and examine the video before you perform the WOD.

            The length of the competition also meant that some athletes missed WODs due to injury. Zan Hamilton injured her ankle coming off a rope climb and was not able to complete the final two WODs. I broke my right clavicle snowboarding and also missed the final two WODs.

            Conversely, one bonus of the long duration was that competitors could build leads that buffered them against bad days or even missed WODs altogether. Because of her performance in previous weeks, Zan's ankle injury did not prevent her from finishing 3rd overall. Similarly, I was still able to win the men's competition despite my clavicle fracture and two DNFs. Tyler Dalrymple and Lisa Fink both missed WODs at the beginning of the competition but were able to work back to top 6 placement by the end. This format seems to ensure that the most well-rounded athletes rise to the top. All things considered, a multi-week format has many advantages. However, a competition of 6-10 weeks would be an adequate test, and we'll shorten our next competition.

The Affiliate Experience

            Events like this weren't new to our staff. All of our trainers participated as judges or competitors in the 2010 CrossFit Games Deep South Sectional and Dirty South Regional. However, over 13 weeks we still learned much about judging, programming, and administering a competition.

  • A long competition like this made consistency between trainers and classes a challenge. We learned to mitigate this by conducting trainer conference calls on Sunday evening after the Affiliate WOD was announced. Christina Barnett, our general manager who programmed the WODs, took us through the workout in extreme detail and tried to anticipate any problems and how we would address them. These judges’ briefs were critical. We also used a free group text messaging app called “GroupMe” to quickly and easily clarify questions discovered later.
  • If a slip-up occurred and a trainer allowed something outside the intent of the WOD, then this was always discovered early in the week. If something was allowed for even one athlete then we allowed it for all competing athletes to ensure fairness.
  • Athletes were briefed on the WOD and its standards immediately prior to execution. This seems obvious, but if left undone it could have disastrous consequences.
  • Large classes create a challenge for a single trainer and judge. In a more formal competition, a judge for each athlete is a necessity.

The Athlete Experience

            I solicited feedback from our athletes that participated in the competition until the end. They had some interesting thoughts on how the competition changed their approach to CrossFit.

  • Because there is no scaling in a competition, athletes were motivated to try loads and movements that they previously would not have considered without scaling. Many, many athletes found themselves much more capable than they had envisioned in their minds. Four ladies achieved their first kipping handstand pushups and ring dips during the competition. Two ladies achieved their first pullups and chest to bar pullups. It turns out that “do it or get left behind” is a stronger motivator than “do it or we’ll try again tomorrow.” Competitor Ginga Cox said, “The biggest benefit for me was challenging my perception of my own capabilities.  The competition was invitation and inspiration to try things I didn't believe myself to be capable of.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but even with the failures, the realm of possibility in my mind expanded - and that certainly is its own reward.”
  • On the flip side, when athletes were not able to complete a prescribed movement well, it painfully exposed that weakness and motivated them to improve. During the course of normal WODs, if you scale double unders to 3x singles then you still see yourself jumping rope and your time isn’t badly affected. You know the WOD was scaled, but the mental impact isn't substantial. However, if you have to trudge through double unders at a slow pace and get left behind in a competition WOD, then that’s a real motivator to improve. 
  • Athletes discovered they could push themselves to new levels of intensity. When you lose by 5 seconds or 2 reps you start rethinking those trips to the water fountain and chalk bucket.
  • Athletes planned cheat meals, rest days, and the week's training around when they planned to complete the Affiliate WOD. Top female finisher Jordan Pepe says, “One week I felt that my body would perform optimally on a specific day, given the WOD cycle that week, and I actually took off work at the fire department to come to CrossFit Impulse for the affiliate WOD.”
  • Fellow competitors helped one other to excel. Competitor Sarah Rankin observed, “We all gave each other tips or told each other things that we would have done differently during the WOD.”
  • Some competitors developed specific strategies about when to conduct their workouts and report their times. Specifically, some of our female competitors did not report their scores until Sunday afternoon even if they had performed the WOD much earlier in the week. This denied their competition a score to shoot for and beat. Overall I'm not sure this is healthy, but it's reality.
  • Many competitors cleaned up their diets in an effort to get ahead. Suddenly the loaf of pumpernickel at Outback became the difference between 2nd and 3rd place, and most athletes decided it wasn't worth it.
  • Another unexpected side effect was a highly contagious strain of CrossFit Irritable Bowel Syndrome (CFIBS) that spread throughout our competitors. CFIBS is a documented medical condition characterized by chronically loose stool caused by anxiety of an upcoming CrossFit workout. It seems that on the day you were to perform the Affiliate WOD for time, almost everyone would develop CFIBS.


            Perhaps the most common theme from all competitor feedback was the great camaraderie that developed among competitors and the improvements they made as athletes. To demonstrate this improvement in performance Christina programmed the same WOD for the final week as the first week, a mid-length chipper. Of 20 athletes that performed the WOD during both weeks, 17 PR'd from Week 1. Sarah Rankin PR'd by over 5 minutes. Mandy McDaniel was able to complete the WOD in a very competitive time while she had DNF'd in Week 1. Results across the board were astounding!

            Athletes also greatly enjoyed the competitive experience. Lori Bean writes, “The competition was always friendly, and I noticed how the trainers and athletes were always willing to help everyone with a weakness or challenge.” Sarah Rankin observed, “It was the definition of ‘friendly competition’ and I can't wait to do it again next time. I love my CrossFit Impulse family!” Alex Vlasse says, “I would not be where I am today in terms of physical and nutritional health without having such wonderful friends and competitors in the CrossFit Impulse family!” Jordan Pepe writes, “Competing with such great athletes at CrossFit Impulse has been an awesome experience. It’s truly inspiring to see everyone push themselves to the limit every week. Our competitive spirit has never been stronger.”

            In sum, while our competition occurred on a drastically different scale than the Open, many of our lessons learned still apply.

  • The experience is incredibly valuable to competitors in developing both fitness and relationships.
  • Kinks will always emerge in the conduct of a complex event, but thoughtful, transparent, and timely decisions can solve most problems.
  • Consistency in judging requires extreme amounts of communication and is very important to competitors. If you feel like you’re being very redundant and over-communicating, then you’re probably getting it right.
  • Longer competitions can allow athletes to have a bad day and still place well overall.
  • Competitors planning to submit video should test and re-test their setups before game time.
  • Competition motivates athletes to make positive changes that might take much longer or never happen at all in its absence.
Rogue Fitness Again Faster Equipment CrossFit Journal

Proudly supporting the 2010 CrossFit Games

Photo Gallery

Follow crossfitgames on Twitter

Follow the CrossFit Games on Twitter

The CrossFit/USA Weightlifting Open

The CrossFit/USA Weightlifting Open

2 comments on this entry

1. Howard Little wrote...

So there is a name to it... I thought it was the pregame sh*ts... CFIBS... dutifully noted.

2. Daigle wrote...

Nicely done, an excellent small scale experiment and food for thought!

The CFIBS thing, I like to refer as the "laxative effect of barbells" Here's a (slightly haha) humorous blog post I wrote on the topic in March of 2010. It's a universal problem.



The 2010 CrossFit Games Official Sponsors

For more information on how to sponsor the CrossFit Games, see the sponsorship page.

  • Under Armour
  • Rogue Fitness
  • Again Faster Equipment
  • MiR Pro Weighted Vest
  • Concept 2
  • WeightVest.com
  • Vibram Five Fingers
  • OMG*Omega3
  • Stud Bar
  • Regupol America
  • Mindbody Online
  • Forged Clothing
  • GarageGym
  • Gymboss Interval Timer
  • Inov-8
  • At Large Nutrition
  • LifeAsRx
  • LifeAsRx
  • Undefeated Sports Nutrition
  • Rage Fitness Supply: Leader in Functional Fitness Equipment
  • Stronger Faster Healthier
  • Watermans Applied Science
  • Rocktape
  • DeFeet
  • AquaHydrate