ParaWOD 16.2: The struggle is real

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Over the last few years, I have avidly watched the CrossFit Games with my wife. I think because you’re literally watching the best of the best during the final competition, it is easy to miss the level of ‘elite’ that is on constant display. It is only until you try it for yourself where you begin to see the chasm between your own abilities and those athletes who are vying to contend for the championship. For example, you watch a guy like Dan Bailey roll through 16.2 and it gives you a radically superficial belief in yourself that, “Hey, I think getting into round 5 is a realistic goal for me.”

And then you start the workout.

The CrossFit Open is perhaps the only thing I’ve encountered in life that is both empowering and humbling at the same time, and 16.2 was no different.

For your recollection, the official 16.2 workout is thus:

  1. 25 toes-to-bars
  2. 50 double-unders
  3. 15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb

Time cap: 4 minutes.

If you finish that round, you get another 4 minutes to do the same number of T2B and DU’s, then your squat clean weight goes up while the reps go down.

The Rx adaptation by WheelWOD is thus:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 12 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 55lbs (Male) /35lbs (Female)

If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 10 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 65lbs (Male) /40lbs (Female)

If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 8 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 75lbs (Male) /45lbs (Female)

And the weight keeps going up while the reps go down, all the way up to 20 minutes.

As I watched the WheelWOD demo, two things occurred to me.

  1. I’ve never done two of those movements (hanging chair raise, barbell cleans from floor);
  2. I can totally get into the 3rd round of this.

Why my confidence was so high, I have no idea. The hanging chair raise requires a group of muscles that I simply don’t have – abdominal and hip control. Furthermore, the barbell clean started at the weight I usually finish at – 55 lbs. Why I thought I could not only do 12 reps of that, but also include 2 more rounds afterward, well, chalk it up to the adrenaline and/or lack of sleep. Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t worry about too much was the battle ropes.

Which brings us to the workout.

Let’s start with the positives. After practicing the movement one time, I discovered that I can actually do the hanging chair raise. Thanks to Impavidus Gym and their amazing gymnastics coach Tracey Kloes, over the past few weeks I’ve acquired much greater shoulder and torso movement, which allowed me to create a kipping motion that enabled me to do this movement.

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My ability to do this movement is a 100% victory for this workout. As a paraplegic with somewhere around a T5 or T6 injury, I shouldn’t be able to do this. Yet with the focus on gymnastic movement and shoulder mobility, this turned into the easiest movement for me during the workout. Things were looking up.

Until the battle ropes. Oh my.

Perhaps it was my own hubris, but I wasn’t worried about those. It may be only because I had actually done them before, so I knew what was expected. Well, I was wrong on both counts, because I hadn’t done them to the degree that this workout requires, nor did I really understand what to expect. The battle ropes were my undoing.
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Sometimes, you have to deal with your equipment limitations. Our gym has plenty of climbing ropes, but no actual ‘battle ropes.’ So I have no idea whether the gear I was using were appropriate for the movement or not. What I do know is, in order to meet the 20′ rope requirement, I had to tie two ropes together, and this made the movement incredibly difficult and fatiguing, as the knot in the rope added additional weight to the movement as well as affected the physics transfer of energy. The result was not only that too much time was taken, but I had little energy left for the clean movement.

As I mentioned, the starting weight of 55lbs is usually the weight I stop at during normal CrossFit classes. The reason why is that I have no muscle control over my lower back or any hip extension. The movement is purely a pull from my lap and the hope to get the barbell high enough to bring my elbows underneath.
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With the energy and time I had left, I only got 4 reps on this final round.

Afterward, my coaches talked to me a bit about the purpose of the Open – for the vast majority of us, its purpose is to test us. How can we handle a workout going in cold? With no preparation? For new and different movements? How can it test us in the areas where we aren’t prepared? Where will we surprise ourselves?

With that in mind, as frustrating as the latter two movements were for me in 16.2, the first one is a revelation. Not only that, but all three movements will change my workouts going forward. The toe-to-bar will become the chair raise, double-unders will become battle ropes, and the clean will always start from the floor.

Much thanks to Impavidus Gym and Coaches Doug Naquin, Jason Kitchens, and the dashing Brad Bunde for all of their help.

On to 16.3!