“Last year, I would say our skill was our biggest strength. This year we have a strong team. This year our strength is our strength,” says Brandon Couden of CrossFit Gahanna.
The night after qualifying for the CrossFit Games at the Central East Regional, team Rogue Gahanna met to celebrate. Not only was the team going to the Games, but two individuals from the affiliate – Heather Welsh and Graham Holmberg – also qualified.
That Sunday night, they celebrated. Monday morning, they got to work.
Changing the plan
For the past three years, Couden, co-owner of CrossFit Gahanna in Columbus, Ohio, along with partner and 2010 CrossFit Games champion Graham Holmberg, have developed a valuable team of CrossFit competitors. Not to mention, they learned a lot along the way. “Every year competition gets a little more serious,” Couden says. “Last year was the first year it really felt like a professional sport.”
CrossFit competitions are the epitome of “learn by doing.” Even if you leave the victor, you often walk away with a list of weaknesses to work on, skills to practice, and what you can improve. In an ever changing sport, adjustments are like breathing.
“Before the 2011 Games, we did lots of team workouts to get ready,” Couden says. “We were so heavy on met-cons last year that by the time we got to the Games we were fried out. This year, we have focused more on individual strengths. This year, everyone knows each other so well, they know the nuances of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Yet even after a third place Regional finish, Couden was not satisfied. Before leaving the Central East arena, he would turn to longtime CrossFit coach Doug Chapman of CrossFit Ann Arbor for that extra edge.
Prior to Chapman’s arrival, team Rogue Gahanna followed several Wendler-like cycles, followed by short met-cons with admittedly good results, Couden says. However, the team was left wanting. “It seemed like we were getting sluggish after strength training. Then we would shy away from traditional CrossFit, and suffer.”
Since Regionals, Chapman and Couden have been tinkering with all the working parts on team Rogue Gahanna. Focus has been driven to managing what the projected competition loads may be. The team may alternate an every minute on the minute design to kick up volume, while adding in competition-style movements and standards to each workout.
Changing the roster
The world will learn soon enough if the calculated changes Rogue Gahanna has made to their post Regional plan will pay off. The effects of their changed roster will be seen. How will they fair in California after losing the third fittest women in the Central East, Welsh.
“Losing Heather was a kick in the nuts,” Couden says.
In 2011, Welsh’s assistance proved vital in sending the team to the Games. In 2012, Welsh competed on the same floor as her team at the Regional, but no longer as a member. This year, Welsh fought as an individual.
“You can’t replace her,” he says. “When you lose someone like her, it’s like losing seconds.”
While Rogue Gahanna could never replace Welsh, they can still breed other beasts as they have done to fill every role a missing teammate may have filled in the past.
The team will look to Holmberg and Welsh as inspiration on its path to the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“Graham pushes the limits on what can be done in workouts, which is awesome to see on a daily basis,” Couden says. “Heather pushes Graham, which pushes the team even more.”
Rogue Gahanna will set up events specifically to pit each team member against each other. After all, it is said, “to be the best, one must train with the best.”
“Graham is one of the first CrossFit professionals,” Couden says, describing the method at which Holmberg trains. “Today, Graham is doing the stuff that only the monsters like Orlando were doing last year, and he stays just as competitive everywhere else.”
Welsh also provides motivation to the team.
“Heather is untapped. Heather will beat top males with the same or close to the same weight,” Couden says. “Heather brings up everyone’s game, especially the girls on the team. Heather is an inspiration.”
Team members have quite a bit to live up to when their time to shine arrives at the Games. “Anything can happen, but I think we are a top 10 team,” Couden says.
Team Rogue Gahanna may have high expectations, but they have earned them through a rare work ethic and the ability to adjust on the fly.
This time around, Couden believes they just may have what it takes to achieve victory.
“Like I said, anything can happen, but if we make the final event, then anything less than winning is unacceptable.”