2012 Reebok CrossFit Games: Review

This review is primarily related to the Individual Competitors, not the Master's/Team's Competitors. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this my own opinion, no one else's. As well, I thought this was the best Games yet, as far as legitimate testing goes.

Pendleton 1 and 2
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Endurance
Main Traits: Mental Fortitude, Sustainability, Pacing
- Awesome!
- I was so happy to see this event included, as it is definitely a necessary test to be included as part of a competition to assess an individual's true fitness. 
- This energy system is at the opposite end of the spectrum as the Creatine Phosphate system (i.e. maximal strength/power/speed). So, this event partially balanced out other events (abundantly strength based) as it was worth 200 points.
- Scoring the event as 2 separate events was also good, as the running portion requires a different competency than the swim/bike portion.
- I think they did it right by having this event on the Wednesday, and then having a day off afterwards, as this event took it's toll on many competitors I am sure.
- However, this event is the exact reason why you need to have people know what will be happening well ahead of time, not 1 day's notice. How many athletes had issues with goggles and fins during the swim portion? How many athletes fell off their bikes? How many athletes cramped up during the run event, or developed shin splints? If you allow people to know that there will be an event that will last over 1 hour including swimming, biking, and running, than some of this can be avoided. What if a highly publicized athlete had injured their hip, back, or knees during the down hill running portion of the event due to the quads being severely fatigued from the bike portion and not being able to withstand/respond to the pounding of downhill running? I know that is merely a possibility, but it does not need to be a possibility is all I am saying.
- I did not participate, nor did I see the event up close and I am not sure exactly how difficult the biking was, but I know it would have had an impact on the running ability of the athletes.  A larger athlete would find this event more difficult.  This is why seeing Chad McKay do so well on this event as a monster of a man was quite pleasing (that dude has some serious capacity/engine).

Obstacle Course
Energy System Tested: I don't really know (I did not see this event up close), probably Aerobic Power based on what I saw from the footage.
Main Traits: Agility, Speed 
- A nice change of events.
- This type of event can get at the true athleticism of the individual with the multitude of qualities required to perform this event well (assuming what is included in the course does not have too large of a performance curve, meaning that it takes most who attempt it several weeks/months to attain proficiency at the skill).
- I am still not sure how this fits into my philosophy of fitness testing, but it was an interesting choice of events none the less.

Broad Jump
Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Potential
Main Trait: Leg Power and Speed
- Great event. Great assessment. Very measurable, very repeatable, and very valid.
- I don't know why this wasn't released as the first event of the day on Wednesday or just placed elsewhere in the weekend? When I saw that this event was scheduled to be the last event of the day on Wednesday I was kind of shocked. Luckily, it was moved from Wednesday night to Friday morning before the Med Ball Toss event. Why was the event moved? Because people were messed up from the Tri-athalon. Performing max effort jumps on legs that have just been hammered from biking and uphill/downhill running is not a recipe for good testing, but one for injury and poor performances.
- The scores on this event were quite poor across the board (sorry, but it is true). We regularly do standing broad jumps as part of training in our facility in Calgary, and many of us are able to jump close to and greater than 120" on a regular basis, and I am by no means a powerful person. Some people in the many professional sports such as football can easily perform jumps that exceed 140" in distance (that nearly doubles some of the athletes). The highest score of the event was from Nate Schrader which I believe was 117". Nate and Joey Warren both said that the landing strip was quite narrow which did impede their performances, so you can probably round up 2-5" on everyones score for this part. It was really surprising for me to see such a deficiency in jumping ability across the board in what I would consider a basic athletic skill. Clearly, this needs work from all involved, and can add extra pounds to your Olympic lifts if you train jumping/plyometrics appropriately.

Med Ball Toss
Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate/Alactic
Main Traits: Anterior Chain Power/Speed
- Pretty cool event actually, but I thought it lameO.
- I did not like that it was based on getting maximum points with up to 10 balls, I believe this left too much up to chance, like the balls moving around excessively and slowing you down, which DID happen, giving the judges too much say in the event which DID happen, and what not. I would have liked to see it be done as a different variation of throwing a ball, but this was still good as a test. I would rather the event be scored for maximum distance using the landing point as the scoring, but that probably would have taken too long to gather the distances from the athletes attempts, even if they were limited to less than 5 attempts. 
- Also, why not set a long time limit like 30 seconds so that everyone has a fair chance at throwing the balls (all of the balls)? I know speed is relevant here for who gets most of the balls thrown, but speed is what is being tested via the distance thrown. What is more important? How far the ball is thrown? Or, how fast you can retreat back to get the ball and throw it? 
- There is a lot of technique involved in this. I quickly gathered this from a few attempts on my own. When watching some of the athletes perform this, it was easy to see who got it and who did not. Again, I believe true maximum distance is more relevant to this test as opposed to maximum distance + maximum reps.

Track Triplet
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power (Creatine Phosphate capacity/stamina for some competitors that had to take several breaks during the Snatches or Bar Muscle-ups)
Main Traits: Sustainability, Movement Efficiency 
- My favourite event of the weekend by far.
- It was a great triplet event (Split Snatch, Bar Muscle-up, and Running).
- Great multiple modality test of aerobic power, as for the most part it was sustainable for the top guys/girls. But, most girls and some males were not able to complete all the bar muscle-ups unbroken, making the event a Creatine Phosophate capacity/stamina test for those having trouble with the bar muscle-ups (i.e. slowing them down). Making the number of Bar Muscle-ups in a row smaller would have cured this, but it is hard to know what the limit is on these types of movements. Or, the females could have had a different movement instead of the bar muscle-ups, one that required less upper body strength/power for sustainability - maybe chin-ups or C2B chin-ups? (why is generally only weight that is the difference between male female design, why are movements not changed based on gender?). Or you could have told them this would be a movement in the competition and this would have improved the event somewhat. 
- I don't get the point in doing a split snatch. It only slowed people down, and the standards were grey at best. Why not just have a typical power snatch? This would have removed judging requirements, and would have sped up the event (i.e. increased power output/aerobic power). 
- I also did not get why individuals had to move to a different bar each time? I imagine this was only for spectator ease. But, there were many athletes that went to the wrong bars after round 1 or 2...Joey even did 1 split snatch at the wrong bar in the second round (which did not count) then was told to move on to the "correct bar", costing him 10-15 seconds on the event.

Med Ball Clean/Carry and HSPU
Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Stamina
Main Trait: Overhead Pressing Strength/Stamina
- Was this merely a way to get people to think that cleaning med balls is cool? Seriously though?
- The HSPU's were basically the entire event as that is what decided if you were going to do really well or not.
- The fact that Annie Thorisdottir beat all the men and women is what was most impressive to me.
- One movement (Depth HSPU's) dictated the event, even though 2 modalities were included.
- Learn to kip your HSPU's, pronto! 

Shuttle Sprint
Energy System Tested: Anaerobic Lactate Power (Hooray!)
Main Trait: Speed
- Finally!
- This was another one of my favourite events. Testing this energy system is a necessity if you are truly going for fitness.
- Should have been worth more points.
- Very easy to see who possesses speed relative to their own body. 7-8 second from 1st place to last place spread over 300 yards is significant (think like 300lb snatch vs. 225lb snatch).
- Some people just cannot run/sprint!
- What system was used to collect the times? As far as I saw, it was stop watches. Maybe I am wrong. In a tight event like this, something more sophisticated/accurate needs to be used.

Energy System Tested: Alactic Power/Endurance, Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Stamina
Main Trait: Leg Power/Drive
- Spectator - Visually slow. Competitor - Physically painful.
- For me, watching Marcus Hendren tackle the sled was the best part of the entire event, he took about 3-5 full strides before driving into that He would work for about 6-9 seconds each time, then rest for about 20-35 seconds before trying again.
- Walking speed between the sled/rope was a determining factor (i.e. not that cool).
- There was more resting/walking in the event than there was work being done, like many the Regionals were (i.e. Alactic/CP fatigue capacity/stamina). There was definitely some lactate in the blood by the end, but that may have come mainly from the Shuttle Sprint event 1 minute prior (i.e. lactate buffering/removal efficiency - how do you train for that?). But, fatigued Alactic repeats can bring about this effect as well. Try it for yourself, hop on an Airdyne or just Run, and go as hard as possible for 10 seconds, rest 20-30 seconds and do that 3-6 times, and see how you feel. If you feel fine, good, then you likely are not powerful enough to bring about the desired response. If you feel ill, good, then you likely did bring about the desired response, but you may need to re-assess your training to improve your recovery abilities in events like these. How do you train this?
- Some of the athletes said that the outside lanes were harder to push the sled than the middle lanes. I wouldn't know as I did not partake, but some individuals that I would have expected to beat others in an event like this did not (was this because of their lanes? Or just a fact of the test?).

Clean Ladder
Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Potential
Main Trait: Speed @ Relatively High Load, Squatting Strength
- Exciting to watch.
- I like how they have added an element to separate competitors so there are not so many ties.
- Why is strength (Clean Ladder) more greatly valued than speed (Shuttle Sprint/Broad Jump)? CrossFit competitors are not great at either discipline (Olympic Weightlifting, Sprinting, Jumping) when considered amongst the best in the world, which is to be expected and is not an issue. Which I find to be an issue is how do certain events receive more points than others? Clearly, certain traits from the "10 components of fitness" are more important than others OR is this not taught anymore? I honestly don't know.

Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Stamina for most (add in some Aerobic Power for the top athletes that were really consistent with less rest time)
Main Trait: Pacing, Upper Body Stamina, Movement Efficiency 
- It was originally described as a sprint, but this was far from a sprint.
- Relatively same time duration as the Track Triplet, but no where near the same feeling as the Track Triplet (i.e. not very aerobic power based).
- Who thinks of the layout of these events? 10 Toes to Bar vs. 10 Power Cleans @ 205lb? Someone likes the number 10.
- I did like the burpee between each rep of the muscle-ups as it kind of made up for some of the weight differences between athletes as you could not do consecutive reps, and had to reset each time. This was especially helpful for females, where muscle-ups separate female competitors every competition. Why do Muscle-ups separate the females to a greater extent than the males?

Double Banger
Energy System Tested: Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Stamina
Main Trait: Co-ordination, rotational power
- Why call the event "Double Banger"? Was this to follow-up the "CrossFit, making 7's into 10's commercial?" Unnecessary.
- Rotational speed/power was tested last year during the Soft Ball throw...good to see it back again.
- Some people are not co-ordinated with rotational activity and therefore are not able to produce power from such motions.
- Would have been cool to have a max swing attempt for force or whatever measure possible. You would need quite the equipment set-up to measure the amount of force from a single hit. You would also see who has the most power in rotational events, not who has the most rotational stamina.
- I like the 3 different variations of the hammer stroke (i.e. the 3 different required positions). This required even more adaptability.
- Why were double unders included? Why not just go from one position to the next?
- What does this event tell you? What does it say about someone's fitness? How would it guide your training plan to improve the necessary qualities in such a task without simply performing the same task over and over again? 

The Finale - Power Elizabeth, Isabel, Fran
Energy System Tested: Slower competitors - Creatine Phosphate Capacity/Stamina vs. Faster competitors - Anaerobic Lactate Endurance
Main Trait: Upper Body Pressing/Pulling Strength/Stamina
- May have been a bit of over kill by this point, but whatever, that is not important...
- This event burnt my legs, literally. I was sitting in my seat next to Max and James for about 2.5 hours, and I got a nice sun burn. 
- Having the 3 high power output events back to back created a lactate endurance/fatigue repeatability portion, which I have realized in the last year is a must have in fitness testing. What I mean by lactate endurance/fatigue repeatability; think, for total time Row 1000m x 3 sets, resting 10 minutes between each set. This was awesome to see tested. 
- The choices of movements could have been more sustainability based given the time of weekend, and trying to elicit the same response from all individuals, or at least the large majority. But, this was not too bad. 
- This event is why you have to train lactate endurance throughout the year, but more intensely closer to competitions. If you do, you will perform better than if you hadn't. 

The Athletes
- Awesome, awesome, awesome performances, regardless of the testing.
- Annie and Rich were heads and tails above the rest of the field, in my opinion.
- Great to see repeat winners - it is good for the sport. Repeat winners brings more legitimacy to the testing utilized.

- Awesome equipment development, and a lot of it as well.
- The set-up of equipment this year was unreal.
- Great job.

The Event
- The last time I was at the Games was in 2010 as a individual competitor. This time I attended as a spectator and Coach (Joey Warren - finished 27th in the Individual Male category and Michelle Savard - finished 14th in the 45-49 Female Masters category). This time the experience was much better. The athletes must have found the experience more enjoyable than 2010 as well, as the athlete tents were well set-up and equipped. There were no athlete tents in 2009/2010. 
- The thousands of fans that were enjoying the events from the sidelines/seating areas also made the event much better as there was tons of cheering and chanting to be heard. This only added to the experience.  
- Will I go again next year? Yes. Hopefully I will have athletes to Coach once again. Maybe 4 total athletes next year?

- From where I sat in the Home Depot Center, most things seemed to be fine. It looked as though the repetitions and standards were being upheld for the most part. I only saw one real issue with any of the standards, and once again it was the kettlebell swings in the Master's Competition. I absolutely hate the movement standard of having to go directly overhead with the precision of a Ninja and the requirement of your judge to be a geometry PhD (who the hell can judge when that thing is directly overhead in the middle of a competition, especially when the other judges are letting everything go).
- I firmly believe that judging should be taken out of the picture as much as possible via proper testing design (think about Pendleton 1 and 2 judging requirements versus the Chipper Event).

Unknown and Unknowable 
- In order to avoid poor performances and drop-outs during a competition, we should be allowing these athletes to know what is going to happen. Some may say that I am being "soft" or that my definition of fitness needs improvement, or what have you. I say that if we are going to have individuals train all year round only to have one event ruin their weekend, or potentially ruin their weekend, merely due to one aspect being out of their current comfort zone (i.e. Rich not knowing how to climb a rope in 2010) or being more volume than you can handle on that given day (i.e. Chris Spealler's issue on the run portion of the Triathalon event), or having your flippers fall off your feet during the swim (i.e. Joey Warren), or whatever. The more often you leave things up to a persons ability to adapt to said task, the more often you are going to miss who may potentially be best at that task, if given time to excel at it or to prepare for it.
- None of the events have to be released before hand, in keeping with the Unknown and Unknowable theme that CrossFit holds so dear. Simply let the athletes know that these movements/skills will be included as part of the Games weekend. I have moved past the "training for life" answer as to why everything must be unknown and unknowable. Personally, I think that is a very poor answer. I would love to find people doing muscle-ups on rings as part of activities of daily living, or doing handstand push-ups on paralettes, or overhead squats. If you look around at people in day to day life (where I live at least in North America), bicep curls are probably more relevant in day to day life than chin-ups are. For the athlere, are bicep curls a better exercise for conditioning or developing athleticism or power output? Absolutely not, but I hope you are getting the message. "Training for life" is a very lower order explanation of why things need to be unknown and unknowable. Life's requirements are quite minimal based on the population we live amongst, and these people may still live to be close to 80 years old. I know my life and your life will hopefully be a much greater quality due to the choices we make in and out of the gym, but we are not training for life, we are training for a fitness competition...and these are very different. 
- I do believe in the adaptability component that comes with unknown and unknowable based events, but how much should this one component determine the outcome of deciding who is fittest on earth? Is Overhead Pressing  and Deadlifting strength less important in fitness testing than than ability to adapt to random tasks? I say this because Overhead Pressing strength was NOT tested this year at the games, nor was Deadlifting strength (remember, multiple repetitions are not the same as 1 rep maximum's). This is simply one example.
- If CrossFit is going to call the Games the "Proving Grounds" for training methods, then it would be prudent to give people and coaches a heads up to train towards something. For the most part, we as Coaches and Athletes do know what will be involved in the Games each year. The exact layout and certain aspects remain a mystery. That being said, to actually determine what the best training methodology is you would have to give some idea of what you are training for. Let me explain. The Olympics are now going on in London, England. These athletes train for years and years to compete in a known event, against competitors who also know the event, and all the rules that accompany the event. The value of the training methodology or the Coach can be determined by how much improvement an athlete gains from year to year in his or her event, or how many athletes medal under this Coach. Another way to explain this would be how science would determine what program is most valuable at improving a given test (let's use bench press - the dependent variable). You have a few groups (group A, group B, and group C) of people following a certain training program for a given period of time, then you re-test these groups at the end. If there is a statistically significant difference between the groups (let's say that group A had the best improvement, while group C actually got worse), then something must have caused the difference in outcomes between the groups. If you knew what the independent variable was, then you would have your answer of which method was most successful for improving the administered test. If they did not test the people initially, or never tested them at the end, how can you say for certain which method was most successful? You cannot. 
- The above 2 examples are of specialist events/tests. I do love the fact that CrossFit will never become a sport like those in the Olympics, and has more diversity than these sports, which is why it is so intriguing. But, much can be and should be learned from Olympic events and the training that goes into them. It will only help the future for our sport of choice, that being fitness.
- What is going to have to happen to change the unknown and unknowable theme is 1) an injury to a top athlete due to a poor event design, or 2) a call for change from the athletes. Maybe next year they will have virtual shovelling as part of the event (i.e. a terrible movement for fitness assessment) and follow it up with high rep chin-ups - let's see how many athletes are unable to straighten their elbows on the following day or have a muscle/tendon/joint trauma of some sort. Maybe we could do 250 Box Jumps to 24" as part of one event after the tri-athalon event and a shuttle sprint, and just see how many achilles tears there are.
- I will predict that the only thing that will change if you allow athletes to prepare for known movements/exercises is that 1) there will be less injuries during the event, 2) their performances will be better during those events (i.e. their true potential will be better tested, and 3) the standings would not change much, if at all. So, what is so important with the unknown and unknowable theme?

Comments are welcomed.

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