Tips & Tricks: Open 17.5

The last CrossFit Open WOD of 2017 is upon us.  17.5 is here!  I’m feeling a mix of relief, anxiety, and excitement – it’s a weird feeling I assure you, although for those doing the Open, I’m sure many can relate.

17.1 brought us dumbbell snatches and burpee box jump overs.

17.2 featured dumbbells again (cleans and walking lunges), plus toes-to-bar and muscle-ups.

17.3 was snatches and chest-to-bar pull-ups.

17.4 was 16.4!  Deadlifts, wall balls, rowing for cals, and handstand push-ups.

I’m sure the majority of us were anticipating thrusters for 17.5, as they’ve been known to pop up in the last Open workout the past couple years.  And surprise! (See Alex Parker’s reaction here):

17.5

I actually am surprised that the thrusters are with a barbell, not dumbbells.  And I had heard internet whispers about double-unders (DU), which would make sense given that we hadn’t seen them yet in the 2017 Open, but I was also praying that they wouldn’t show their face.

pike meme

I digress.

I can do double-unders, but they sure as hell aren’t pretty.  Worse yet, my parents are down visiting this weekend so I’ve got to perform (just kidding… kind of).

440 reps.  The thruster part I’m reasonably happy about due to my short stature and quadzilla legs.  The double-unders are the liability portion of the workout.  Once my heart rate gets uncomfortable, I have no stamina for double-unders and the dreaded piking/tripping/swearing starts.

Some mantras I will be focusing on during the double-unders:

  • Breath
  • Relax
  • Toes <– mentally, this cue helps me stay upright (not piked)

Since the pros took just under 7 minutes-ish, I’m not sure what to aim for.  Goal: keep heart rate under control.  Finish in under 20 minutes. 

I’m going to try a 5/4 rep scheme for the thrusters with the aim to keep my heart rate manageable.  And for the DU, perhaps a 18/17 split?  We shall see if it’s a good or bad double-under day when I get there (which may change my strategy).

Nagging Reminders (from the 17.5 Standards):

  • Your skipping rope has to stay on the ground while you do thrusters.  Not on an elevated box.  Not hanging from the rig.  Not handed to you by a friend.
  • The official time cap is 40:00.

Advice from the Wise Gurus of the Internets

For the athlete who is [much] stronger and faster than me, you might appreciate CrossFit Games’ Nicole Carroll’s tips:

  • Main strategy: find a pace that allows you to do the thrusters and DU unbroken.
  • Don’t waste time transitioning.

Note from Kait… that was basically the least helpful advice ever.  Okay, moving on…

Actual constructive advice:

  • From the hilarious and wise Coach Eric of CrossFit Currie Barracks/CrossFit Sunalta (check the link for an extensive warm-up and tips): spend time in your warm-up actually getting warm and super mobilized, breath, have a work:rest plan, and know your capabilities.
  • From the very thorough WOD Superstore blog: “YOU DECIDE WHEN TO BREAK… DON’T LET THE WORKOUT DECIDE FOR YOU.” And have a backup plan for if things go sideways.  Don’t wear your lifters.
  • From Breaking Muscle: focus on a very reasonable pace for the first five rounds – this will ensure you have the gas in the tank to survive the next five rounds.  Don’t let missed DU reps get in your head: take a breath, and get back at it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these “Tips & Tricks” posts the past five weeks – thanks for checking in!  Keep it on the DL, but I might attempt 17.5 tonight after work… I’ll be back with a recap next week!

Enjoy 17.5 and let me know how it goes for you!

17.4 Accomplished

Thanks to CrossFit Sunalta for the pics this week!

Finally! An Open workout where I feel very pleased about my finish.  17.2 and 17.3 were not my jam; however, 17.4 (16.4) was definitely well-suited to my abilities and short stature.

Although I’m anticipating DB thrusters and double-unders for 17.5, I’m taking a moment to enjoy the feeling 17.4 provided.

Dana, Megs, and I went in the first heat. Carol kindly judged for me (thanks Carol!).  Before I started, I asked a few friends to keep an eye on me, and to come yell if they saw me pausing on the rower.  Laura made especially good on that promise.

My warm-up felt a little frenzied – I could have used another 5 minutes – but 10:55 arrived and it was go time.

With my belt on, I stuck to my sets of 5/5 seconds rest strategy for 7 rounds for the deadlifts. Then I hit the wall, and elected to do quick singles to finish up.  I kept reminding myself to breath because I could tell my nerves were kicking in.

I popped off my belt and headed to my wallball. I think I managed two sets of 10 before I did a whole bunch of smaller sets.  My focus was to keep moving and keep breathing.

Somehow I was on the rower before I knew it. When I was warming up, I had done :30 easy, :30 hard for four rounds and coincidentally rowed 55 calories.

For 17.4, I decided to test out a different strategy than my usual “Get on rower.  Pull hard.  Get tired.  Stop rowing.” (patent pending).  Instead I rowed easy (~650 cals/hr) for :15, then hard (~900 cals/hr) for :30 or :45.


I probably looked like I was dogging it, but instead, my psychology change worked!  I could faintly hear Laura, amongst others, yelling at me to keep rowing, but the calories were adding up and I wasn’t dying!  Success!


I was off the rower in 4:10 (11:10 was my tie breaker time, compared to 16.4’s 12:59).

My only goal for 17.4 was to get to the wall for handstand push-ups (HSPU). AND I GOT THERE.  My heart was pounding pretty hard from the row, so my first HSPU was a failed attempt.  Carol clarified that I needed to keep both heels on the wall to complete a rep.  Then I got the hang of it and knocked out 7 kipping HSPU!


My momentum was a bit lost then, and I managed to only squeeze in 2 more reps before the 13:00 was up.  It’s hard to be upside down when your heart is racing!

My score for 17.4 was 174 reps!  (Yes, the number-loving accountant in me was happy for the symmetry of that score.)

Dana enjoyed 17.4 too. I mean, look at this row face:


As usual, I cooled down a tiny bit then judged a few heats after with friends.



I wrapped my day off with a relaxing float at Clear Float, and today my back only feels slightly tight (nothing compared to last year’s can’t-tie-my-shoes). I’ll take that!

Any last bets what 17.5 will be? I’m both terrified and excited for Thursday’s announcement. Thrusters and…?

Tips & Tricks: Open 17.4

Partly I jest, but as I remember from last year what my back felt like after 16.4, I’ll be making an appointment with my friend, fellow crossfitter, and chiropractor Shawn Rennick for next week.  Calgary friends, a good person to know!

Here we are at 17.4 already – March is flying by! 17.1 and 17.2 showcased dumbbells, and I think we were all crying tears of joy to see a barbell in 17.3.  Now 17.4 brings us… 16.4!

17.4 is 16.4

We meet again, 16.4

The great thing about 16.4 is that, as a repeat workout from 2016’s CrossFit Open, the internets are full of recaps and tips.

How do I feel about it?  To quote myself from last year’s blog post (is that vanity at its finest? #YOLO):

I really felt like it was my jam, despite the rowing.  My only regret is not getting to the wall – I know I could have done a few HSPU at least.  But I never would have guessed I would finish the row, so there’s that.

row row row no

Of all the Open workouts that could be repeated, 16.4 is definitely not my worst fear.  I think I’m most pleased that I’ll actually get a good workout in on Sunday, compared to the 17.2 and 17.3 (which due to my stubbornness RX-ing were pretty low-key).

Things that worked well for me in 2016/Plan of attack for 2017

  • Deadlifts – my current one rep max (RM) is about 260#.  My coach Eric advises not attempting RX unless 155# is ~60% of your 1 RM.  Last year I had success with sets of 5, with 5 second rests in between.  Protect your back at all costs!
  • Wall balls – last year I did small sets of 5-6.  I’m hoping to do sets of 10 this year.  My lungs are slightly bigger.  🙂
  • Rowing for calories – not my strongest skill then, and not my strongest skill now. My goal is to just keep moving (I’ve been known to stop outright… like the calories will appear magically without moving the rower… pray for me…).
  • Handstand push-ups (HSPU) – I didn’t get here last year as I rowed my 55th calorie just as the timer went.  My ultimate goal for 17.4 is to get some handstand push-ups!  I can do them… I just need to have time for them (AKA don’t row for eternity).

Tips & Tricks from People Smarter Than Me

Read the workout standards from the Games website (as always) – there are pretty specific rules for HSPU.

Nicole Carroll from the CrossFit Games website offers the following wisdom:

  • Doing smaller sets with designated rests ensures that you can maintain a decent pace for the deadlifts and wall balls.
  • Rowing: make every pull count.  * ahem Kait *
  • Read her post for HSPU tips for when your shoulders are too tired to function.

Coach Eric Barber from CrossFit Currie Barracks/my second home CrossFit Sunalta has a well-rounded post including a warm-up, pacing suggestions, and general science/math awesomeness.  The guy knows what he’s talking about.

  • Have structured work:rest sets in mind for the deadlifts and wall balls.  Know your strengths when picking rep quantities.
  • For the row, focus on keeping your heart rate stable (no redlining!), and towards the last few calories, ensure your breathing is in control for the handstand push-ups.
  • HSPU: small sets from the beginning.

Are you happy to see 16.4 again?  Any lessons learned you’ll be trying out this time around?  I’ll be back next week with a recap of 17.4!