So you made it to Regionals…
Kudos first. Every year making it to regionals becomes an increasingly impressive feat. The number of competitors in each region keeps rising year-on-year and the standard required to crack into those qualifying spots is always increasing.
Regionals however are a different beast entirely compared to the Open; out of the comfort of their home gym, with only one shot, live judging and a huge audience, Regionals can make or break athletes.
It’s arguable that the difference in environment could be why we rarely see the top Open qualifiers translate to the top finishers after Regional competition and why some Regionals scrap-ins end up excelling at this level of the Crossfit Games competition.
The nature of programming in the Regionals events also feels different to what we see in the Open. Open workouts separate athletes based on raw capacity to keep going, accumulating reps or rounds. Regionals workouts however appear to be accomplishable for all competitors in the event – the deciding factor becomes efficiency and speed.
This is where the strategy element of Regionals becomes all the more important. Red lining early and hanging on may not be so much an option as it was in Open workouts. Athletes can seriously up there positioning at Regionals by coming in with a clear strategy and sticking to it.
Just think back to Chris Spealler’s performance in Event 6 of the 2014 Regional (a there and back chipper of 50 cal row, 50 box jump over, 50 wall balls and 50 ring dips). Spealler could be seen regularly checking his watch in the workout as he closely followed a pre-planned strategy. In an interview after the event Spealler admitted it was a Tabata scheme he followed (20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest) for all the movements except the row.
Spealler’s 2014 performance also highlighted the importance of standards at the Regionals. Live judging means athletes have to be honest in their movements. But, as Spealler’s box jump over technique from Event 6 reminds us – as long as you work within the standard, you can still find more efficient ways of completing movements.
One thing always exciting about Regionals is seeing athletes go heavy. Regionals workouts tend to see weights some 20-30% above the typical Open weights. One rep max tests are also not atypical of Regionals competition and are an opportunity to separate those who made it thus far based on aerobic capacity but neglected strength from those more well rounded athletes.
More recent Regionals have also seen increasingly demanded gymnastics movements for volume. A notable example was Event 2 (Regionals Nate) from 2016 where athletes had to complete strict handstand push-ups alongside strict muscle-ups. While some, including event winner Cody Anderson, excelled here, other, larger athletes struggled.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in the Regionals though, for both mind and body, is the sheer number of workouts athletes must complete. Getting through multiple competitive workouts in a day with all the added pressure of judges and the crowd can take its toll on athletes heads, let alone their bodies. A strong will is a must for those wanting to place highly at Regionals as even from the outside it looks a gruelling affair.
Making predictions for the Regionals seems futile given the surprises that Dave Castro, Director of the Crossfit Games, brings every year. Maybe we’ll see a swim, maybe something like the infamous “pig” that has come up in the Games recently – it’s anyone’s guess!
Good luck to all competing in the Regionals this year. We’ll be watching avidly!