Every year, more and more CrossFitters attend. Every year, more and more attendees become CrossFitters.
In one weekend, I was trampled by a crowd of hungry bodybuilders on their way to a free protein bar stand, tempted by half-naked women to buy a supplement they couldn’t pronounce, and asked by a 6’7” 350-pound mountain of a man in a Russian accent, “Can move please?” Apparently I was crowding his 733-pound back squat warm-up area. Welcome to the Arnold Sports Festival.
Held every year in Columbus, Ohio, the Arnold is a bucket list spectacle every human should attend at least once in his or her lives.
However, now that CrossFit has firmly established it presence three years in a row, it becomes much more addiction than spectacle. The amazing things that happen at the Arnold, especially with CrossFit as an addition, last a lifetime
The Arnold Sports festival is located within the Columbus Convention Center, which resembles LAX. The Expo is front and center spanning multiple football field, stages, demonstrations, and, of course, salesman.
Thankfully, CrossFit is considered a specialty exhibit and requires more room. CrossFit, Olympic Weightlifting, Fencing, and more are located on the outskirts, providing destination locations you have to be aware of to find.
“CrossFit at the Arnold is selling nothing. It’s for CrossFitters”, says Bill Henniger of Rogue Fitness, who has set the stage for three years running.
For those who know nothing of CrossFit, the massive rigs, clanging bars, and thousands of pounds of plates moving incredibly fast are foreign. To CrossFitters, it’s home.
With no advertising to speak of, CrossFit manages to entice the crowd. Every year more and more CrossFitters attend. Every year, more and more event attendees become CrossFitters.
“So are you guys competing?” a wide-eyed spectator asks me. “Yeah man, have you ever heard of CrossFit?” I say in return.
“No,” he says. Ten minutes and an elevator CrossFit explanation later, he says, “Where can I sign-up?” I love that.
Within the CrossFit confines, it’s business as usual. Unending positivity laced with massive effort. However, a veteran CrossFitter soon reminds me that the bubble CrossFitters live in is still small in comparison to the Arnold planet.
As he returns from his Arnold safari he says, “Man, its good to be back around normal people. It’s scary out there.”
“Why?” I ask. He replies, “Out there feels fake, in here feels honest.”
THE OPEN AT THE ARNOLD
Saturday at the Arnold Sports Festival is home to a staggering population. At one time, it felt as though that population was watching the world biggest online competition live.
CrossFitters from all over the world were invited to register and complete Open Workout 12.2. Equipment, judges, and everything a hungry Open competitor could dream of was provided throughout the course of 9-plus hours, and 400-plus athletes.
There is not a sport in the world that allows its fans and amateurs to take the stage with its champion except CrossFit. The Open @ The Arnold paired rookies with veterans, amateurs with experts. Pure CrossFit.
CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning squared up with new training partner Dan Bailey in a 12.2 rematch. With a thousand-yard stare, Froning and Bailey duplicated their 12.2 demo for a large crowd.
Imagine crowding one football field with two football fields full of screaming fans. This was the Open at the Arnold.
Bailey and Froning would not best their previous 12.2 scores, but they would prove to be the only males finding the last increment 12.2 allotted.
Simultaneously, 2010 CrossFit Games champion Kristan Clever fought rep for rep with Games competitor Julie Foucher. Clever’s strength would eventually win out leaving her with a 12.2 score of 102, besting Foucher’s 100 reps even. Overall, these women sit in 1st (Clever) and 2nd (Foucher) places in the worldwide Open rankings.
As the crowd aggressively continued to cheer for heats containing CrossFit greats like Christy Phillips, Nick Urankar, David Stowe, and many more, they became even more excited when an athlete attempted something foreign. Something epic.
In the true spirit of CrossFitter, strength is cheered for and strength of character is worshipped.
As David Sullenberger left the 10-minute cheering crowd behind him, he turned to me, smiled, and said, “I didn’t PR once. I PR’d twice.”
In no short measure the Open at the Arnold wrapped with a CrossFit Kids battle that pointed fingers toward the future, while smacking hands of the present. “The Gauntlet” was the expression of what it is to be a fit, well rounded kid.
Young teens were met with multiple workouts testing their resolve. The crowd was met with children stronger than them.
After demonstrating their efficacy for each and every movement in front of judges, each athlete was given a green light.
From impressive handstand walks, to big deadlifts “The CrossFit Kids Gauntlet” proved to be an addition the spectators loved. Astonished parents left with a new perspective of youthful fitness, along with directions to the nearest CrossFit Kids affiliate.
The Open at The Arnold was initially a CrossFit event for CrossFitters. By the close of the 2012 Arnold Sports Festival, The Open at The Arnold was a beacon inviting the world to join us and reap the CrossFit rewards.