Managing expectations. Managing disappointment.


The purpose of this post is to help you understand that we have enough stress in our lives.  We don’t need to add more to it by setting unrealistic goals for ourselves.  After all, Open workouts are physically stressful enough, we don’t need to add emotional stress on top of it.

Have you ever been disappointed by your result in an Open workout?  If so, take a moment and think about why.  Seriously, stop reading, close your eyes, dig deep into your memory bank and understand why you were disappointed before moving on.

Odds are, you didn’t achieve the number of reps or rounds, or lift the amount of weight you decided you should be able to do, and this was disappointing for you.  But how did you come to that conclusion? What led you to set that result as a line in the sand for self-satisfaction or disappointment? 

Do you know your wall ball cycle time? Do you know what pace you can keep on a rower for 15 min in cal/hour or m/hour or average watts?  Do you know how many chest to bar pull ups you can do in a row? Or how about how long can you maintain unbroken sets of 10 chest to bar when its coupled with burpees and power cleans?  Do you know how sets of 50 double under will effect your bar muscle ups and vice versa? You probably don’t, AND THAT’S OK most people don’t.  Even elite level CrossFit competitors might not know these answers, they often rely on their coaches to instruct them on pacing and expectations and/or go into a workout with a game plan simply to manage their fatigue.  So why then do you, a person who enjoys CrossFit as a training modality, not a profession, decide how many rounds you should do in an open workout? Honestly stop and think about how you come to your conclusions.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have goals, just understand that you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.  Understand The Open is a test of your physical and mental capabilities, not a measure of your self worth. Understand that you didn’t let down your coaches, your friends or your teammates by coming up short of your expectations.  You let yourself down by failing to attain an arbitrary goal that you came up with.

Moving forward, how do we get the most out of ourselves while managing disappointment?

  1. focus on the process: The Open is great way to learn to manage our emotions, our pacing, our expectations, and learn our limits.

  2. focus on our effort: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone do an open workout, writhe on the ground in a lactic acid bath for 5 min after, get up and say “I should have/could have done more”.  The fact is, you couldn’t have.  You were shot  You were laid out. You maximized your effort.  You should be happy with yourself.  You won the day.

  3. focus on moving forward: ask yourself what can I do in this next year to be better when that skill, weight, workout, couplet combo comes up again?  You are as prepared as you are for today.  If we want to do better in the future, we need to prepare better.

  4. be proud of where you are right now:  odds are you are fitter in some, if not all capacities than you were before.  And farther from a death from chronic disease.  You should be happy with that.

In summary, The Open is a litmus test to see where we stand.   At the end of a workout, if we don’t like where we stand, we shouldn’t get frustrated, stressed or down, we should get planning.  

Use The Open to focus on your pacing, focus on giving your best effort, learn from your efforts, be proud of what you were able to accomplish that day and make a plan to be better a year from now.  After all, you might see that same workout again, and how good will it feel to do even better being a year older?


- Dr Jeremy Todd