Retesting Workouts in the CrossFit Open

I find the “retest” to be an interesting, yet common, phenomenon. Let’s explore the philosophy behind it.

Before CrossFit, I was an avid runner—10ks, marathons, ultras, and even a few triathlons. Upon finishing almost every race, the inevitable question is, “What’s next?”

“Are you going to do another one?” “Have you signed up for XYZ yet?”

Retesting Open workouts happens in much the same way.

Upon finishing the workout, the sequence of events goes a little something like this:

  1. pass out, in fetal position, in a pool of your own sweat
  2. reach up to fist bump your buddy, only to find out your arms are not working at the moment
  3. ‘Fran cough’ a few times
  4. Get asked if you’re going to redo the workout

Why Retest?

As with most decisions we make, there is typically a reason for it. Retesting workouts should be no different.

I’d like to explore the philosophy behind retesting, as it pertains to everyday CrossFitters. There are obvious reasons for Regional & Games level athletes to retest, so we won’t be discussing that here.

Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons why someone would want to redo an Open workout.

I can do better

Of course you could. So could a lot of people.

The fact of the matter is that you don’t really know how your body will respond to a workout until you’ve done that workout.

  • You might have a strategy, but until you execute it at least once, you won’t know if that strategy was on point.
  • If you still have something left at the end, maybe you didn’t push hard enough.
  • If you’re getting no-repped because of muscle failure at the halfway point, you probably went out too fast.

All these things can be adjusted & improved upon during a retest.

CrossFit is huge on benchmark workouts. They like to repeat workouts (from previous years) to gauge the overall community’s fitness levels compared to X years ago.

But does your fitness really change from Friday to Sunday? No. You just approached the workout differently. Perhaps you got more rest, ate better that day, or your cell phone DJ played your favorite workout jam.

If you’re redoing a workout to try and prove that you are more fit, ask yourself how much your score is an accurate representation of your fitness. And do those 5 extra reps really mean you’re more fit than you were 48 hours ago?

I want to beat so-and-so

First, I should tell you that I retested 16.1, in large part because of this reason.

The very nature of CrossFit encourages competition, and thus it attracts competitive people. And for some of these people, the Open is their only competition of the year. They want to beat others in their gym. I totally get it. I wanted to beat Matt, and that was a big motivator for me to retest 16.1.

But… you could go back & forth 2-3 times with your fellow competitor, trading scores. You beat him the first time around, he got you with the first retest, so you retest again and beat his score. When is enough enough?

It’s OK to Lose

CrossFit is non-stop competition. It’s part of its DNA. It’s infused into every class, every workout, every day. That’s why we workout in groups; to push each other, and to compete.

There will always be another workout. Beat them in the next one.

Losing is a Win-Win

In friendly competition, losing can be a good thing. Think about it for a second. If the same person always wins, a few things might happen:

  • the winner might start to build up a little ego
  • the loser could start to get down on themselves
  • the competition fizzles out because who wants to lose 100% of the time

I’m not saying you should ever intentionally let someone beat you, but if two athletes with comparable fitness are battling it out, I believe that both athletes will benefit greatly from losing on occasion.

Losing identifies weakness. CrossFit is all about working on your weaknesses.

“Retesting” in Other Sports

I realize this could be heavily debated, but for the sake of this article, let’s agree that, when talking about competitions, CrossFit is a sport.

Think back to every sport you’ve ever played. When you lost, did you get a retest the very next day? Even when you won, if you feel your performance didn’t meet your expectations, did you get to try again right away, under the exact same circumstances?

Of course not. You had to wait until later in the season before you faced that same opponent again. And depending on the circumstances, maybe you never got another shot.

If you miss the game-winning shot, you can’t walk up to the official and say, “Hey, could you put 10 seconds back on the clock and let me take that shot again. I’ve hit it a thousand times in practice, with my eyes closed. I know I can make it.”

Isn’t retesting an Open workout kinda the same thing?

I’d compare the CrossFit Open to a 5-game playoff series in baseball, basketball or hockey. It’s best out of 5. First one to 3, wins. Your “retest” is the next game, the next workout. But you never get to go back and change the outcome of a game you already played.

No other competitive sport allows you to “retest.”

The Spirit of The Open

For those of us whom will probably never make it to Regionals or The Games, CrossFit is mostly about challenging ourselves. The Open is one of the best ways to push our limits.

Yes, there’s a leaderboard. It contains numbers. And technically, those numbers put people in an order. And we all know that being #1 is better than being #3287.

But the numbers can’t tell stories like the ones we witnessed during 16.1, 16.2 or 16.3. Hard work, dedication, passion, and friendship tell those stories. Brief moments of grit & determination tell those stories. Chalk, sweat, and calloused hands tell those stories.

So please, don’t get caught up in the numbers.

Let the workouts challenge you. Let the people inspire you. But don’t let the numbers define you.

Patience & Virtuosity

If there’s one thing that CrossFit has taught me, above all else, it’s patience. It takes years to excel at the various skills & movements of CrossFit.

A few weeks ago, Patty & I attended the CrossFit Level 1 Certification course. One of the final points that Nicole left us with was the concept of virtuosity—doing the common, uncommonly well. The very fiber of our being prevents us from being perfect, but we should all strive to become masters of our craft.

And it takes years—a lifetime, even—to reach virtuosity.

Be patient. You’ve got the rest of your life to retest.

2 thoughts on “Retesting Workouts in the CrossFit Open”

  1. Good read! I wished that I had seen this before 16.4. I have been tempted to retest, but that is all. Given that the box does not encourage retesting, I have a proposal. What if all those registered (this is specifically for the non-podium/regional qualifiers) from the box were given a ‘golden ticket’ for a retest during the Open? It could be used once with no questions asked. Strategy would come into play since this is a game, after all. For those who wanted to retest more than once, they could barter for another’s ticket; one ticket could be worth 50 burpees, wall balls, etc. Once the supply of tickets are depleted, that’s it, no more retests…until next year.

    1. Interesting idea, Kelly. I think giving everyone one retest could be something to explore for next year.

      I’m a little hesitant to let people trade/barter tickets. Because of the number of folks we have registered (~75), and the percentage that would almost never retest (I’m guessing around 40-50%), that leaves a lot of tickets floating around. It’s feasible that a person (or several people) would end up with 5 tickets, and be able to retest everyone workout. I’m not sure that fits in with the spirit of the Open.

      Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll chat with the other coaches about it.

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