Week 2 of the Reebok CrossFit Open qualifiers at CrossFit Legacy

As the clock neared the start of the second week of qualifying for the CrossFit Open (13.2), the atmosphere inside CrossFit Legacy was buzzing with nervous excitement. Athletes were busy stretching and massaging muscles, taping wrists and fingers, and walking out the nervous energy. There was no less excitement in the air than there is in an NBA locker room before a game or in the pits of a NASCAR race before the green flag drops. These elite athletes have trained for months to compete in the Open, and they take it seriously.

One athlete I talked with, a former SWAT Team member on the Akron Police Department, compared getting ready to compete in a CrossFit qualifier to getting geared up and armed right before jumping out of a SWAT van and going into a raid. “The feeling in your stomach is the same feeling. You get butterflies and your head buzzes.”

"I like to push myself, and that's exactly what CrossFit does"

“I like to push myself, and that’s exactly what CrossFit does” – Jessica Whitehead

CrossFit Legacy athlete Jessica Whitehead said “I always get butterflies when it’s nearing my turn. I’m anxious, nervous, and excited all at the same time”. The intensity of the workouts they are facing along with the drive to be the best puts CrossFit Legacy athletes a step ahead of most other gyms.

Announced on Wednesday, this week’s workout (13.2) consisted of three distinct steps to be repeated as many times as possible over a period of 10 minutes. Men were given barbells weighing 115LBS, and women were given barbells weighing 75LBS. They were required to lift the weights over their head 5 times, then put the barbell on the ground. The athlete had to do 10 deadlifts in a row with the same barbell. A deadlift is when an athlete lifts a barbell from the ground to a standing position with the weight at waist level, then places it back on the ground without dropping it. Thirdly the athlete had to do 15 box jumps or steps, which is when the athlete jumps or steps up and down from a box 24″ tall. The individual is scored based on how many times they could work their way through the workout in a 10 minute time span.

A box jump being perfectly executed

A box jump being perfectly executed

From all accounts, the box jump was the most difficult part of the 13.2 workout.  When asked about which part of the workout she found most challenging, Jessica Whitehead said “The box jump was the most difficult part, they took the air right out of you. I felt my legs already getting fatigued on the second round of box jumps.”

This workout differed from last week’s (13.1) in a number of ways. Firstly, this was more of an endurance test. The athlete had to pace themselves carefully from the start. One of the challenges with this specific workout was to start the workout at pace that was fast enough to complete a high number of steps, but make sure they have enough gas in the tank at the end of the workout as to not hit the wall. The 13.2 workout also tended to wear down an athlete by requiring stamina as much as strength. The 13.1 workout was heavier on brute strength. The officials for the CrossFit Open have made sure to design workouts that will level the playing field across all athletes, and not just favor ones with more strength or ones with higher stamina.

Pushing an athlete to their fullest potential

With over 20 athletes competing at Saturday morning’s qualifier, the gym was filled to capacity with athletes and supporting friends and family. Gym owner Brian Yoak started the morning off at 9:15 by going over the week 2 (13.2) workout and explaining what will be and won’t be allowed. He then went over which athletes will be competing in each of the 6 heats scheduled for that morning. When the starting time arrived, Brian hit the throbbing music on the gym’s stereo and started the bright red LED 10 minute timer on the back wall. The first heat had only 2 athletes competing so the rest of the athletes got a good look at what was ahead of them. Most athletes began the workout with a snap to their lifts and by jumping up on each box jump, but by the 2-minute mark when muscles begin to burn and knees begin to weaken, many of them opt for a quick step up on to the box. When the 10-minute mark is approaching and the athletes have spent much of their fuel, Brian tirelessly goes from athlete to athlete exhorting and encouraging each one of them to move faster and give it their all.

Talking to the athletes, they describe such a focus that they block out nearly everything except for their coach’s words.

Brian Yoak reaching deep

Brian Yoak reaching deep

“The end of the workout is when you need the most encouragement. It feels great to hear your fellow athletes screaming your name or telling you to pick up the bar – it’s the extra push you need to finish strong”.

CrossFit Legacy prides itself in building athletes that are determined to be the best the can possibly be. Even other CrossFit gyms realize the intensity that CrossFit Legacy athletes bring to the table. However, unlike most typical gyms where everything is about the self, CrossFit Legacy athletes compete as a team and are constantly praising and encouraging each other and helping one another to be the very best they can be. At no time is any condescending or snobbish attitude present. The newest and most green athlete is praised and cheered as loudly and vigorously as the gym owner himself is. In the last heat of the day, Brian Yoak turned in his qualification for the week and went home just a tired as all the other athletes to rest until next week’s (13.3) workout.

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