6x CrossFit Games Athlete Marcus Filly on How to Prepare for Open WODs

Marcus Filly is more than a 6-Times Reebok CrossFit Games athlete (3x as a Affiliate cup team athlete, 3x as an Individual). He is the perfect combination of brains, brawn, and a mental capacity for elite physical performance.

Marcus Filly has been a seasoned CrossFit® athlete for nearly a decade, making his way closer and closer to the podium at the Reebok CrossFit Games, placing 37th, 25th, and most recently 12th overall as an individual in the 2016 Games (2013, 2014, and 2016, respectively). Additionally, Marcus placed 6th in the 2012 Games as a team athlete on TJs Gym Mill Valley. In this year’s 2017 Open and Games season, however, Marcus has opted to sit out due to family obligations (the birth of his newborn daughter, Noa). Nonetheless, Marcus is a seasoned Games athlete and has a great wealth of knowledge and experience to speak of regarding this interview, and we are excited to share it all with you!

A post shared by Marcus Filly (@marcusfilly) on

Marcus Filly, photo taken by @windowofcolor

I had the opportunity to catch up with Marcus to discuss what it takes to become better year after year, the mental stamina and resilience needed to succeed, and how to truly prepare for success during the 2017 Open season, and beyond.

Meet Marcus Filly

Academics and sports were very important to Marcus growing up. Born and raised in San Francisco, Marcus played many sports (golf, soccer, baseball), which led to a four-year Division 1 soccer career at University of California, Berkeley. In addition to playing soccer, Marcus devoted his time and efforts to his studies, earning a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Nutrition and Physiology. After graduation, Marcus spent one year studying Medicine at The Ohio State University.

Marcus started CrossFit in 2007, which was a seamless transition given his passion for human performance, fitness, and athletics. Below are some of Marcus’ most notable finishes and accolades:

  • 12th in 2016 Games (Individual)
  • 25th in 2014 Games (Individua)
  • 37th in 2013 Games (Individual)
  • 6th in 2012 Games (Team: TJs Gym Mill Valley)
  • Phoenix Rise Captain and Team Member: NPGL
  • 1st Team Honors 2016: All-GRID League
  • Leadership Excellence Award 2015: GRID League

Marcus is the third CrossFit Games athlete I have had the opportunity to talk with, and am very eager to get his tips and insight on how to train harder this Open season and beyond out there!

If you haven’t see the past two interviews, the first with Alex Anderson, and the second interview with Kari Pearce!

How do you mentally prepare for an Open workout?

Routine is always key for me when preparing for any competitive workout. I try to do things similarly each day I do the Open workouts. Everything from my breakfast, to the time of day I perform the workout, to how I warm myself up, and so on. These routines allow me to keep things as predictable as I can. This allows me to have more mental focus and energy for the task of trying to perform the workout to the best of my ability.

A post shared by Marcus Filly (@marcusfilly) on

Furthermore, I try to organize my thoughts around the beginning, middle, and end of the workout. I visualize how the whole workout will unfold in my mind. This helps me to prepare for where things will likely get difficult, both mentally and physically, and then not be surprised when it starts to get tough.

What tip can you give people who mentally struggle through and Open WOD?

Managing self doubt for me is a year long training process. Being consistent with my work and training for the entire year allows me to come into competitions with less self doubt. The truth is that just about everyone will experience self doubt. It happens to me every year during the Open. I feel it consistently week after week. I’ve come to recognize that this is more the rule than the exception for most people. Acknowledging that most people experience this, and that it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me, allows me to accept the thoughts, and then let them pass.

What foods/lifestyle habits should people become more aware of before Open WODs?

With open workouts as intense as they are, I always recommend that clients start to understand the importance of post workout carbohydrates. A lot of emphasis is placed on post workout protein and the importance of amino acids in recovery. Carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars, when consumed post workout, can really help to speed up recovery and decrease your stress response (which is massive during the Open).

What tips do you have to keep heart rate and breathing rates soaring during intense Open WODs?

I think this is a topic that is misunderstood greatly in our sport. Breathing and your heart rate are closely connected. Often times when an athlete find their heart rate spiking, it is the direct result of trying to move too fast without breathing. Breath holding is a great way to jack up your heart rate and trigger a panic response for athletes. The key is to start the process of rhythmic and even fast breathing from the beginning. When you heart rate and breathing rate both get elevated in a workout, so long as it happens mostly under your control, you will perform better.

A post shared by Marcus Filly (@marcusfilly) on

Heart beats send blood around the body. Breathing delivers more oxygen to that blood. Oxygenated blood to your body is what makes you move and continue to produce usable energy. This is all good. It only becomes bad when it fluctuates fast and you try to stop it by holding your breath.

What tips would you give someone doing their first Open?

Try not to get too caught up in the craziness that surrounds you. There are going to be lots of distractions at your gym with so many people trying to do the workout on the same day. Everyone is going to bombard you with strategies and ideas of how you should perform these workouts. Develop your own plan that makes sense for your abilities. Prepare with a proper warm up that is long. Don’t make the mistake of jumping into an open workout cold. You will regret that.  

How do you gauge your intensity/pacing during a WOD/open workout?

I try to think several steps ahead. I always keep an eye on the clock. My goal is to sustain a pace for the entirety of the open workout. So I try to think about how my pace at any given moment is going to hold up for the remainder of the time on the clock.

A post shared by Marcus Filly (@marcusfilly) on

With my experience in fitness I am usually a pretty good judge of whether or not I’m going to fast or too slow at any given moment.

Any other tips/insight on how to generally crush WODs like a pro?

There are a lot of great coaching resources out there and available to participants. Choose a trusted source of coaching information and check in with their thoughts on how to approach these workouts. Fitness cannot be gained overnight so hopefully everyone has been preparing all year for this. Strategy on the other hand can really make a big difference.

Follow Marcus’ Journey!

Follow Marcus through his training, mental and lifestyle preparation, and the entire 2017 CrossFit Games journey on his Instagram (@marcusfilly) and his website, MarcusFilly.com.

Featured Image: @marcusfilly via @windowofcolor