The 2013 CrossFit Open: Time to “Embrace the Suck”

The 2013 CrossFit Open is upon us. Today 100,000 athletes around the world are anxiously awaiting the announcement of the first of five workouts that will be released one at a time for the next five weeks.

At the end of the Open, the top forty-eight men, forty-eight women, and thirty teams from seventeen regions will be invited to compete at the second stage of the CrossFit Games Season, aka, “Regionals.”

Here’s one of my favorite athletes, Chris Spealler, conquering one of last year’s Regionals WODs, a benchmark workout called “Diane,” which is 21-15-9 repetitions, alternating between 225-pound deadlifts and handstand push-ups:

Granted, only the fittest of the fit will come close to making it to Regionals and then ultimately, to the Games this summer, but every CrossFitter with proven proficiency in the movements is encouraged to participate, no matter their fitness level.  Why? Because the Open is an opportunity to accept the challenge to push one’s limits. It’s a chance to dive into murky waters and leave the crystal-clear comfort of the shallows behind. It’s a time to take the strength and skills earned and accumulated over the past year and put them to the test.

comfort zone

Last year was my first time to compete in the Open. The first WOD released was seven minutes of burpees. That was it – short, simple, and maybe even sadistic, depending on whom you ask.  I performed sixty-four reps in that amount of time while some of the top finishers scored well over one-hundred. At the end of the grueling seven minutes, I had no care that my score was mediocre compared with the rest of the competitors. I gave it everything I had and wanted to pat myself on the back and hang a medal around my neck just for completing it! (If my arms were capable of moving, that is!)

The second workout was a snatch ladder. In ten minutes, the goal was to proceed as far as you could through this sequence [1]:

45 pound Snatch, 30 reps

75 pound Snatch, 30 reps

100 pound Snatch, 30 reps

120 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible

I hated doing snatches. Probably because I was terrible at them! But for ten minutes, my husband stood close by and coached me through all thirty of the forty-five-pound snatches. I even had four minutes left over to work on fifty, then fifty-five and sixty-pound snatches, all heavier than I’d ever done before. Before the WOD began, I was already feeling defeated. Upon finishing, I felt like a conqueror!

The third workout induced even more anxiety for me because it contained a 75-pound push-press as one of its elements, a weight which was barely manageable for me at the time. The workout was eighteen minutes of repeating this sequence:

15 twenty-inch box jumps

12 push-presses

9  toes-to-bar.[2]

Last year I got ninety-seven reps; I repeated the workout yesterday and PR’ed with 159![3]

I had plenty of excuses (I called them “reasons”) not to do the Open last year:

I have no aspirations to be a hard-core CrossFit competitor.

I haven’t been doing CrossFit long enough.

I’m not strong enough.

I haven’t been training hard enough.

I couldn’t be more thankful that despite my catalog of grievances, I participated. I competed…maybe not against the top athletes on the planet, but I competed against my own self-doubt, my complaints, my comfort zone.

And I won.


This verse is currently written on the whiteboard at our CrossFit box:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” –Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

This verse is true for every discipline in life, from studying for a college exam, waking up at the crack of dawn to work as an unpaid intern, to preparing healthy meals each day and pushing yourself to demolish your doubts, defeat your fears, and erase your excuses in a workout.

The 2010 CrossFit Games champion, Graham Holmberg, is known for coining this ubiquitous motivational phrase (and I apologize for the uncouth colloquialism!):

“Embrace the suck.”

“The suck” could easily be interpreted as the unpleasant, painful discipline described in Hebrews. But we embrace it because we know how very valuable it is, for it leads to peace and righteousness, all the way to victory.


Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di


[1] The weights listed are the women’s prescribed weights.

[2] An ab exercise in which you hang from a pull-up bar with arms fully extended and bring your legs upwards until your toes make contact with the bar.

[3] To “PR” means you achieved a Personal Record.


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