Lessons from The CrossFit Games 2016

So that’s another season of The Games wrapped up, and I’m always a little sad this week. Have to wait until next February for the excitement to begin again.

I LOVE The Games, CrossFit, and The Sport of Fitness. So everything in this blog will be taken with that in mind. Also, here’s a review of The Open for those that want to do background reading. Funny, I thought I’d reviewed Regionals, but I didn’t. One sin for Colm.

So some thoughts, and some lessons we can learn from it.

Each year, The smoothness and the production of The Games steps up a notch. I recall one year lamenting how the lanes weren’t easily distinguishable. Now they are. Also, there’s cooler fans on the soccer field and tennis stadium, alongside copious amounts of water too. From watching Regionals, there was something brilliant about how they changed the arena between events. From the simplicity of switching over the banners between events 3 and 4, to changing the number plates on the floor. It was like ballet.

The return to The Ranch was pretty awesome in fairness. They kept a big operation in which EVERYONE wants to know the tests under wraps as far as I can tell. This alone is not an easy feat and requires a lot of people with trust and faith in the mission. Surprise surprise a SEAL would pull that off.

Man, why didn't I go here back in 2007 :(

Man, why didn’t I go here back in 2007 :(


Facebook Live was a masterstroke I think. The main target demographic of The Games is America. Out of the 7 Regionals, all but 2 are in America. And regions were decided by box density (Phrasing!). To watch The Games there you need ESPN. So having events live on Facebook added to the exposure for one. Hell, they’ve built such a furore around The Sport of Fitness that ten thousand people watched a bunch of nervous athletes queue in an airport for God’s sakes.

The FB feed brought it back to the early days, which for the die hard fans made them feel a connection to “where it all began”, grassroots, bootstrapped, visceral, real. In today’s modern polished productions, this was decidedly (and I’d wager deliberately) not so. A fresh perspective on the whole athletic competition.


One thing that’s standing out early for me as I write this passage is how different the athletes’ mindsets tend to be from the norm. They’re not looking for easy. When Katrin heard about it being the toughest Games yet, she said ‘I’ve worked hard. This is what I’ve worked for. … I don’t work hard to do easy things.

Josh Bridges, upon completion of Individual Event 3 said “that was fun” and he wasn’t alone. He enjoyed the challenge of ignoring that lactic acid build up in the legs as he sprinted up a rough uneven hill carrying an unwieldy heavy medicine ball. They’re not looking for an easy path, they’re looking to challenge themselves and grow. They’re seeking out discomfort instead of comfort. Perhaps that’s why they’re champions?

Props to Dominic for picking Fitkowski as an athlete to watch.

Props to Dominic for picking Fitkowski as an athlete to watch.

Bill Grundler’s IG

This. Go Hard or Go Home.

I am an athlete. I am a competitor. I don't live or compete to be safe or to be conservative. I compete to test myself, to see what I can do, to push the limit. Today was not a good day for me. I was tied for 1st going into event 4 and 5. I was planning on lifting big in the cleans (mostly because I needed to after event 4). I hit 300 in warm up so felt good. In event 5 I went for 275 to open. I stood it up easy. But I got "no repped". I decided to go up anyways since I got that so easy. I went to 305. Missed it twice. Went down to 295. Missed it twice. Time ran out. I got a zero on the board. And because of not hitting a successful lift I didn't complete the min work requirement and was withdrawn from the rest of the competition. I'm not gunna lie. It's sucks and it hurts bad…….but that's sports. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. You have to go for it when you are an athlete. I did. It didn't work this time. I could very easily get pissed and blame the judge or whoever else. But what does that do? Nothing. I'm not saying it's easy but after thinking about it, I would have done the same thing again. I'm proud of the job I did, I'm proud of the training I did, I'm proud of @crossfitgames @cfceo @thedavecastro and the rest of of the people that make the sport I love happen, I'm proud that I got to compete with my brother @jamesgrundler , I'm proud that I had the honor to compete with some great athletes, I'm proud that my parents and oldest daughter got to watch me compete, and I'm proud to be part of the 10th CrossFit Games. I want to thank my parents, my brothers, my family, my gym @crossfitinferno , my coach @mtromello , my friends and supporters, my sponsors @atpmechanix @rxsmartgear @sfh @forgedclothing @skins_usa @romwod @resiliencyproject @killcliff for all the help and support. Good luck to the rest of the athletes this week!

A photo posted by Bill Grundler (@billgrundler) on

Fuming Fraser

What the fuck business has Mat Fraser doing winning a 7K trail run? He’s a weightlifter for fuck’s sake. As The Old Man pointed out, a lot of athletes could have taken it easy on that event, as it’s the first of the weekend (albeit the weekend lasts from Wednesday to Sunday!) Mat didn’t. He went for it. Another lesson I think we can take here is that we shouldn’t hold back because of something else that may be around the corner. Heck, we don’t know what’s coming. So we should push that little bit harder on the squats, and not think about the wall balls in the metcon. In fact, most of the time I’ve missed a lift is when I think “ok I’ll hit this and then go for X!” Instead, I should just focus on what’s in front of me.

Mat Fraser showed us what domination really was! But, by his own admission, he didn’t win any event after the 7K trial run. That’s something that’s going to burn him up. And he was angry! If for the last two years everyone had constantly said you were in 2nd place how would you be. He was angry at Regionals too. Fraser plays best while angry.

One thing he would need to work on is twice he’d words with his judges. Now, I don’t know what was happening but during the rope chipper Boz came over and they’d an exchange. After the event, as he’s signing his card, he says to his judge “I’m sorry about that.”

Dude, you're winning. Shut up!

Dude, you’re winning. Shut up!

We also know he’d words with his judge during The Separator. Now the reps looked as good as anyone else’s to me. As a comedic aside, here’s my attempt at them. DAMN!

Sad Looking Sara

Sara looked overtrained, and like she wasn’t enjoying herself? Did she just expect to show up and win? Did she not expect a tough test or the other girls to challenge her? I don’t know. Sara just looked… off. She cruised through Regionals, and it looked like she had another one or two gears in her.


My Spirt of The Games – Jen Smith

Jen Smith hurts her ankle in Aromas and can’t continue that day. Yet she’s a few hundred metres off completing Murph. You see her hobble about all weekend with nothing but a happy, determined smile on her face. And she still didn’t finish last!

Some would argue why continue with a damaged leg. Maybe you’re just doing more damage than good on it. This is your final. This is the event you’ve worked for for over a year! Not including the years working up to it. It may be your last Games (we never know what’s around the corner.) You’re headed into an off-season where you’ll take a few weeks off, can focus on upper body work anyway. Why not go for it?

No one understands The Sport of Fitness like Dave Castro.

And the haters and gonna hate hate hate. Cue Taylor Swift.

Each year someone comes out and says that The Games have gone too far. Or that it wasn’t really CrossFit. Or that it’s biased towards x.

Remember we have our opinion of what CrossFit should be, and what it actually is. Castro knows exactly how to incrementally increase the challenge of the sport each year for the fittest on earth. It’s right here – “CrossFit challenges the world’s fittest.” If we didn’t have events that stopped Games athletes in their tracks the test wouldn’t be sufficient. We have this in the Open, be it in the Bar Muscle Up, or just people unable to clean the weight, or get a chest to bar, or a double under. There’s a stumbling block for everyone at every point. Regionals everyone fixated on the strict muscle up. (You remember when just a muscle up was the shizzle?) And this year it’s the ring handstand push ups.

I genuinely think there’s a part of people who see the sport evolve past their level lament this, and that’s where the hate comes from. When you can complete Fran in 6-8 minutes it’s okay to see a Games athlete crush it in sub 3. When you can’t even clean the opening weight of the ladder or perform a legless rope climb these things are “too much”.

Each year the sport progresses. Some athletes can keep up with the evolution. Others can’t. Camille has fallen from the top spot (and Annie too to some extent.) One athlete who hasn’t, surprisingly, is Sam Briggs. There’s a smart competitor right there, apart from her inability to adhere to US Immigration rules!

Sure, it’ll top out at some point. The deadlift ladder they got right this year (only one guy cleared it) might be the limit you can be and still perform everything else. Or, in 10 years, they’ll be repping them out. Maybe everyone will hit a sub 30 unbroken Murph? Then the tests will involve more speed and less stumbling blocks. But “stumbling blocks”, I mean separators, are part of the sport. These are as much part of the sport as burpees are. We seem to have no problem when this is a max effort weight someone can’t complete on a ladder, but less so when the stumbling block is either a new skill *cough*pegboard*cough* or a high fatiguing gymnastic movement. (Remember rope climbs anyone?)

But this is too funny not to include:

bro 😐 too far.

A photo posted by Paul Castaneda (@kickasstaneda) on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *