March 23, 2012
A Coach's Secret Goal
By Sam Radetsky

"I want to smash the misconception that CrossFit competition is only for beasts."
Cliff Hodges, co-owner of CrossFit West Santa Cruz

CrossFit West Santa Cruz co-owner Cliff Hodges is the 233rdth fittest man in the Northern California Region. Just ask him, he will be happy to remind you. His stated goal is to be in the top 200. It is a modest goal, but Hodges has a unique view on the Open. He also has a secret goal.

Hodges’s reasons for competing in the Open are many.  A veteran CrossFitter, he likes that the Open gives him something to shoot for outside of lifts or improving his times on the benchmark storms. The Open motivates him to “hit peaks” in his training – as a someone who has been CrossFitting for many years, Hodges is past the “rapid acceleration of beginner adaptation” and is always looking for fresh progress.

Hodges actively encourages his members to participate in the Open. That's what it’s all about. He knows he is not moving on to Regionals, as an individual or as part of the CrossFit West team, but he wants to “smash the misconception that CrossFit competition is only for beasts.”

His third reason for doing the Open is to prove to the efficacy of his gym’s programming. Unlike some of CrossFit West Santa Cruz’s more competitive members, Hodges has chosen not do any training outside of West’s regular group classes for the past six months, and he is on a mission to prove that it is enough for the average CrossFit client.

But there is also that secret goal. Hodges played it close to the chest on this goal, but he could not hide it in the end. His secret goal is to be the fittest male affiliate owner in Santa Cruz. And as the 233rd fittest man in NorCal, he is in the lead.

Contrary to what seems like the prevailing standard in the CrossFit world, Hodges encourages all his members to do the Open workouts twice. CrossFit West Santa Cruz is a team-oriented gym and thus only six members will be continuing to Regionals. Doing the workouts twice gives his members something to shoot for, an immediate goal to aim for. He works with each member in order to come up with an individual strategy based on the first attempt to tackle the workout again. So far he has had “100 percent success” – every member who has repeated a workout has improved.

Hodges will also pair members together for the second attempt based on the first score. This provides the athletes with a person of their own ability to pace off of and chase.  Although the two athletes are competing against each other, Hodges always stresses that the real competition is with the previous score. “Doing them twice,” Hodges says, “is even more exciting as everyone is so pumped to do better.”

CrossFit West has a very large emphasis on recovery. This helps Hodges recommend redoing the Open workouts to his members without worrying about overuse injuries. Repeating the highly intense Open Workouts, especially single movement ones like 12.1 and 12.2 or workouts with a large reoccurrence of a movement such as the box jumps on 12.3, can be potentially dangerous, but Hodges stresses good technique and believes that “once a year,” this kind of activity is safe.

Many members are also seeing a direct correlation of performance to their sleep and nutrition plans. Knowing they will be once again be tackling a tough Open workout, in front of friends, family and fellow members, is making many members pay real attention to their nutritional intact and food choices.

Like many affiliates, the CrossFit West community loves the Open. The workouts have spilled over into potlucks and barbeques. For an affiliate owner, “the Open is like free social capital.” For Hodges and CrossFit West Santa Cruz, “the Open is a springboard to a greater community. It can be used to make a larger pie. People are coming through the door because of the Open who might never have otherwise.”

Hodges plans to continue the enthusiasm and “social capital” into the Regionals and then the Games. He has T-shirts designed, carpools and vans organized, and gym trips planned. The Open has galvanized people to push harder and further, to cheer louder and longer, and take their training more seriously and to a higher level.

As for Hodges, it all comes down to the final workout, 12.5. Top 200 or not, top male Santa Cruz affiliate owner or not, Hodges has made big gains the past month, both personal and business, and that makes him the happiest.