How The CrossFit Open Taught Me “I Can”

Posted J. Miller III Spotlight

Jenny Ness is a CrossFit Open first timer, and you’ll have to dig deep to find her name on the leaderboard, but just two weeks in Jenny understood why the Open is great for everyone trying to better themselves…here it is in her own words –

I get it.

When my coaches started talking about The Open, they explained it as “The 5k of CrossFit.” You get a t-shirt, you push yourself a little harder, and you get to see yourself ranked alongside every CrossFitter on earth. And it’s only twenty bucks. John said they throw a little party on Saturday mornings and someone else counts your reps. They even have scaled workouts now. Since I’m always up for a party, and a competition, I was sold.

I started CrossFit about six months ago. You know that feeling when you’ve never really heard of something, and then everywhere you turn it starts showing up? I had heard of CrossFit, but always in the context of meaty guys pushing tires around. So when my neighbors started wearing My Town shirts, and an old co-worker said she was getting really into it, I decided the universe was telling me something. I did the bootcamp and loved it. By the start of The Open, I had come a long way from where I started. I had made some goals for 2016, like getting a push-up and pull-up, and to clean 95lbs. I hate cleans. (Actually, my goal was to clean 85lbs, but John erased it and put 95 with an encouraging “Shoot higher, Jenny!”) Going into The Open, I really felt like “A CrossFitter.”

When they announced the 16.1 workout, I checked the scaled version right away. My goal was to be able to do, or at least try, to do every scaled workout as they prescribed it. I was going to “RX the Scale”, so to speak. I got to the gym for my normal workout on Friday and told John I was glad to see it was something I could tackle. He did that thing where he looks at me a little sideways (see my goal story above) and said, “Jenny, you know you can do bar facing burpees. Do you think you can do ONE lunge with a 65lb bar?”

IMG_2746 (1)Huh. Maaaybe??? But why even try? Even IF I could manage the lunges, I can’t even do a pull-up, let alone a pull-up so forceful my chest touches the bar. Then John explained the scoring, and how even a score of 1 in the RX version beats every scaled score. He explained that as soon as I needed to, I could drop to the scaled to finish the workout, but to just give it a shot and see what happened. So the next morning I did just that. I completed 18 reps of 16.1, and it took me over 6 minutes. It was HARD. It was awesome. It was exhausting. It was downright fun.

Then the announcement for 16.2 came along and burst my bubble. The workout started with TTB, something I just couldn’t do. I wanted it to start with the double unders. I can do double unders. I could maybe even do 50 of them in 4 minutes. But a TTB? Darn. I resigned to doing the scaled workout. Saturday morning came along and during the wait to get started, a few people asked if I was attempting the RX again. “No, I can’t do a TTB.” I mean, I couldn’t, right? Maybe I could try it, though. So I did. Between the first and second heats I ran out to the bars and gave it a shot. Katie K was giving me tips, but after 5 or 6 attempts I was still pretty far from making it. Double darn. I watched the second group go with amazement. All those athletes were getting their feet up like it was no. big. deal. I noticed though, how much they were leaning back, getting their heads behind the bar. Was I doing that? No, I was trying to pull my legs and head in together. Hmm…

IMG_9281 b&w

It was my turn to get out there. Yun was my judge, and I told her I thought I’d be doing scaled, but… give me a second. I went back out to the bars. Michelle and Yun and Katie came over and as I flopped around, getting my kip, perfecting my “knees up and kick”, they encouraged me and gave me feedback. I was getting really, really close. Then, in a magical moment, my toes grazed the bar!! Holy crap I did it! I spent the next awesome four minutes getting three toes to bar for my RX score. Lots of failures in there, but three solid hits of the toes. I felt great.

Except, I felt great. And this is CrossFit. I just did something totally amazing but I didn’t really get a workout. There was one other person getting ready to go in the fourth heat, so I asked Katie to change out my weights so I could attempt the scaled workout. I didn’t need a judge since I wasn’t going to submit it, I just wanted to get a workout in. 3, 2, 1… GO! Knees up, single jumps, and 55lb squat cleans. I was at about 2:30 there so I went right into the next round. Knees up, single jumps and some more cleans. Wasn’t even sure on the weights there, I couldn’t remember the progression. Felt heavy, so I cleaned and then squat. That was working. Less than 8 minutes had passed so I kept going. Knees up, but this time had to break those up. Single jumps, no problem. Then back to the cleans. I really hate cleans. I think this was 85lbs. My previous PR for a single rep clean was 80lbs. I had hurt myself attempting 85lbs. But that was almost a month ago, and I had Michelle and Katie watching, and giving cues. “Strong back, Jenny. Don’t pull too soon! Keep

IMG_9503 b&wthose elbows up!” I pulled that bar as hard as I could and failed. I looked at the clock, and I was at about 10 minutes. I had two full minutes to keep trying. I tried again and got really close, but still failed. “Get under it!” they said. I set up, pulled the bar as hard as I could and got under it. I had caught it in the squat!! I just had to stand the thing up. We had just worked on front squats and I knew I could do 85lbs. It’s just a front squat, Jenny. Stand up. And then therIMG_9502 b&we I was, at the top, and I had done it! It was then that I heard the roar from the gym. So many people were watching me and cheering me on! I dropped the bar and tried again. And again. In the end I got 4
reps in before time ran out. Wow! That was great. I told Michelle that I had beat my previous PR and I was excited to get that 85lb clean. She looked at me and said, “Jenny, that was 95lbs!” I almost started IMG_9519 b&wcrying right there. Cleaning 95lbs wasn’t something I would have even attempted, had I known. And I had done it. Four times.  I walked over to our goal board and put a giant check mark next my (John’s) goal of cleaning 95lbs.

I get it. The Open isn’t about where you place. It isn’t about the t-shirt or the party. For me, submitting that ‘3’ was monumental. It meant that I am progressing. It meant that I spent 4 minutes trying something I wouldn’t have otherwise worked so hard to get. It meant that I had the support of the whole gym while I crushed my goal and my fears at the same time.


There are still three more workouts in the Open, and I’m waiting on baited breath for Thursday. Not because of what I can do, but because of what I might be able to do.

– Jenny Ness

53,800th fittest woman in the world

Husband, father, son, brother, coach, athlete, teacher, student. Trying to get better everyday.

One thought on “How The CrossFit Open Taught Me “I Can”

  • Jeff France says:

    I was there when Jenny was doing the 16.2 and she was really excited! I was impressed with her attitude and her determination to do the work.
    The support in the gym was tremendous.
    Exciting to see goals accomplished and support from fellow athletes.
    Many people there that day being supportive to the people competing!

Leave a Reply

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