Another year, another Open. The biggest fitness competition in the world has come to a close, and now is a time of reflection. What did we learn? What mistakes did we make? What could we have done better? Let’s look back on the last five weeks — because no matter what the results are, the Open always leaves us with new lessons to learn.

9 Things We Learned From the Open

1. There Really Are No Boundaries

Dave Castro has always said nothing was off-limits, and this year, as is the case every year, we saw this for ourselves.

Handstand push-ups, notoriously difficult to judge, came back with a vengeance — except this time they were strict. We also saw handstand walks for the second time, as well as bar muscle-ups.

We were reminded this year that the Open isn’t about being manageable enough for everyone to do it as prescribed. While it does take care to make sure everyone can participate in some capacity, the ultimate goal is simple: to find the fittest in the world.

2. The Open Will Probably Continue Getting Harder

Speaking of handstand walks, here’s another important lesson we had to learn this year: It’s likely the Open will get more challenging each year. This isn’t just because Castro likes to torture us (although he does). There’s a very logical reason behind it: Simply put, athletes are getting better. So, naturally, we have to raise the bar and make the competition harder.

If you’re having a hard time understanding this, all you have to do is rewind to Games of yore, when competitors couldn’t do muscle-ups and nobody knew how to snatch. These days, female Games competitors can snatch over 200 pounds, and everyone can string together muscle-ups until the cows come home.

3. Strategy Reigns Supreme

Being strong helps. Being fast is important. But if you don’t have strategy, you don’t have much. You couldn’t have successfully completed a single workout this year without considering breathing, pacing, when to break up reps, how to most efficiently load your weights, and how long to rest. You know what they say about this sport: it’s constantly varied, and being good at everything is better than being a master of one thing. The athletes who knew how to best manage strategy, strength, technique, and speed undoubtedly faired best.

4. If Scaling is Inevitable, Just Scale It

With such difficult movements in the Open this year — handstand walks, strict handstand push-ups, bar muscle-ups — scaling was unavoidable for many of us. We had to get a tough lesson through our thick heads this year. If you can’t do a strict handstand push-up because you don’t yet have the strength, spending even a second of your time trying to squeeze out a rep is pointless. Same with handstand walks.

While probably none of us were thrilled to do bear crawls, in this year’s Open, it was harder than ever to stubbornly do some of the workouts as prescribed, because we simply couldn’t. And you know what? That’s totally okay.

On that note…

5. Scaling is Still Way Harder Than it Looks

Mark our words: Scaled does not equal easy. It’s all relative. The scaled movements are just as challenging for those athletes as prescribed movements are for more advanced athletes – especially when you’re winded and fatigued and your grip is starting to go. Rest assured that even scaled, you’re getting one hell of a workout.

6. You are Your Biggest Competition

Competition has a bad reputation and for the wrong reasons. There’s nothing wrong with competing against others — it pushes us to be better. Ultimately, though, there’s but one person we should try to be better than: who we were yesterday. Constantly comparing yourself to others and determining your own self-worth based on what they have and you don’t is surely a recipe for disaster. Take baby steps to improve who you are, and remember: you’re already a winner.

7. There’s No Such Thing as Last-Minute Training

It never fails: Every year, some of us wait until the week before the Open to start practicing bar muscle-ups, thinking we’ll be able to master them with that much time left. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a marathon, not a sprint — meaning if you wanted to do bar muscle-ups in the Open this year, you should’ve started practicing them… a long time ago. Don’t wait. Start now.

8. This Sport is as Mental as it is Physical

You already knew this, but the Open is always a good reminder. If your mental game isn’t on point, it doesn’t matter how skilled you are as an athlete — you won’t make it. Plain and simple. Stay positive, have fun, remember why you’re doing this, and give it your all.

9. This Community is Everything

This year, the Open looked a lot different from previous years. HQ stripped it way down and got back to the sport’s roots: community. While the Open certainly brought out a lot of hate and criticism, there’s no denying it reminded us of why we love this sport so much in the first place — the camaraderie.

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