‘Tis the season.
The 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games season is upon us all as we eagerly await the unveiling of 17.1 this Thursday night, each of us with our own hopes and expectations for ourselves. To many, the Reebok CrossFit Open is a time to challenge ourselves and our previous abilities in which we can objectively measure the progress made over the past year. To others, like Alex Anderson, this is the start of a long, exciting, yet arduous journey to Madison, Wisconsin, host of the 2017 CrossFit Games.
I had the opportunity to connect with Alex late last year and felt compelled to share his journey to the Games and what it takes to be a repeat competitor in such a demanding, competitive, and evolving sport. In this interview, Alex and I discussed:
- Mental and physical preparation strategies geared for the CrossFit Open athletes
- Lifestyle factors that can influence performance during intense WODs and The Open.
- Tips and advice for beginner, intermediate, and CrossFit Regionals hopefuls
Meet Alex Anderson
Alex Anderson knows what it takes to get to the big stage, placing 11th and 13th overall (respectively) in the 2016 and 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Alex, a Knoxville native, started CrossFit in 2012 after his father Steve Anderson won the Masters Men’s 55-59 Division in 2011. Alex’s two brothers, ZA and Jacob, have also made it to the Games (ZA Anderson took 10th in 2012 and Jacob Anderson took 29th in 2016), making the Anderson family one of, if not the, fittest family on earth.
Alex Anderson is a professional fitness athlete who trains out of CrossFit KTown, who devotes hours per day to his mental and physical preparation and performance so that he can make his stake in fitness history. When not training 2-3 times per day (weightlifting, strength, conditioning sessions, accessory and activation work), Alex finds himself outdoors hiking, hunting, fishing, and enjoying life.
This is a great video, “A Day in the Life of Alex Anderson”, showcasing what it takes to be an elite athlete who also strikes balance in his training, recovery, and life.
How do you mentally prepare before an Open WOD?
When it comes to important workouts, such as those in the Open, when the workout is released, I immediately begin to visualize myself doing it. I go through the movements in my head. I visualize my desired intensity and pace. And of course I visualize success.
What tip can you give people who mentally struggle through an Open WOD?
Think about the bigger picture. Think about why it is you are doing the workout to begin with. Some people want to compete, some are trying to lose weight, and some are trying to get stronger. Everyone’s goals are different, but you have to remember your “why”.
What foods/lifestyle habits should people become more aware of before Open WODs?
Everyone’s nutrition will vary. You shouldn’t make any drastic changes with this right before the open. Eat and drink what you know works. And then of course sleep, chiropractic care, physical therapy, mobility, and whatever other remedies work for you.
What tips do you have to keep heart rate and breathing rates from soaring during Open WODs?
A lot of people just need to relax. They may come out of the gates too fast, or just forget to breathe in general. A lot of the movements we do in CrossFit are high intensity and very technical, and it’s easy to forget to really breathe.
If you find yourself in the middle of the workout with your heart rate jacked through the roof, try to take a couple deep breaths and just relax, and then of course get back to business. Another very important way to help you breathe during workouts is moving as efficiently as possible throughout all movements.
What tip would you give someone doing their first Open?
Relax, breathe, and move efficiently.
How do you gauge your intensity/pacing during an Open WOD?
I have never been huge on game planning and strategist workouts; I usually just figure it out as I go. I am definitely not saying this is what everyone should do, this is just what works for me.
Any other tips/insight on how to generally crush WODs like a Pro?
My last tip would be to just leave everything you have on the floor. Walk away from the workout knowing you put your best foot forward. Nothing annoys me more than people talking about how they could have done better on a workout; if you can do better, do it.