CORRALES, N.M.—“(The Open) is the Super Bowl event for our box,” CrossFit Hunger owner Adrian Reyes said. “This is the big event for us for the year.”
It wasn’t always this way. A year ago, the affiliate owner wasn’t sure how he would get all of his members excited about the Open.
“Competition is really where (athletes) see their potential, where they kind of blossom,” he said. “I thought, ‘How can we get them involved so that they can really see what the CrossFit community is all about?’”
Reyes brought the question to his mentor Chris Cooper, owner of CrossFit Catalyst in Canada. Cooper told Reyes about the intramural Open he hosts at his affiliate, dividing athletes into teams and awarding points and prizes for participation.
“He gave us a seed,” Reyes said. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we kind of combine his idea with what we’ve done in the past and turn it into a huge event?’”
Calling it an intramural Open, Reyes divided his 22 registered athletes and six coaches into seven teams. After choosing team captains based on their positivity and enthusiasm, he held a drafting party for captains to draw straws for coaches and pluck teammates from a hat. Captains then led their teams in devising team names, costumes, cheers and workout strategies each week via Facebook.
When it came time to compete, Reyes borrowed the point system he learned from Cooper:
1 point for showing up.
1 point if all teammates earn an official score on the workout.
1 point per athlete that finishes in the top three in the gym.
5 points for the team with the best spirit.
The spirit award went to the team with the craziest costumes or that showed the most heart, as voted by spectators. It quickly became the most sought after prize, to the benefit of everyone in attendance.
After the Open, the team with the most points won a prize package filled with goodies from local sponsors.
“I was very excited by how the coaches made it into such a fun event,” said Jim Douglas, a first-time Open competitor at 53 years old and member of an intramural team called the Paleozoic Lunge Monkeys.
Though Douglas had been reluctant to compete, he was sold on the Open after his young daughters cheered him through the final minute of double-unders and snatches in Workout 14.1.
“I was busting with pride,” he said. “I can't think of a better way to celebrate the culture and importance of CrossFit in my life.”
With a new 9,000-square-foot box—a 7,900-square-foot improvement over their first space—Reyes plans on making the event even wilder, inviting nearby affiliates to join the fun and providing specialists like chiropractors and massage therapists.
The challenge, he said, is keeping people excited for all five weeks of the Open.
“Keeping the fun up, that’s what’s tough,” he said.
To keep things interesting, he plans to add more point categories, prizes and vendors, making each week different from the last. The five weeks will culminate with a grand awards ceremony at a local brewery.
“Last year, it was all kind of the same thing, which just got a little boring,” he said. “It was really exciting at first … but it kind of fizzled in the third week.”
After the workouts are announced each Thursday night, Reyes and his wife, Renee, will draw floor plans for workout lanes, organize heat schedules and practice walk-throughs of the workout with the equipment laid out.
But much of the work takes place weeks prior, with Reyes finding sponsors and volunteer judges, designing graphics for T-shirts, and posting updates to social media.
The success of the event, he said, depends on teamwork. Though Reyes takes the helm, he delegates responsibilities to his coaching staff and the participating affiliates. Any gym that joins in is expected to bring judges and share equipment.
“You’ve got to have a team behind you to support it,” Reyes said. “I think, ‘Who has what strength?’
It adds up to 10 additional hours of work per week for weeks, but Reyes says it’s worth it.
“Ever since we opened our affiliate, it’s been very much about community,” he said. “We, like most gyms, do not have Games-bound or even regionals-bound athletes. For our athletes this is it … it’s the Super Bowl event of the year for what they do and love, so we want them to truly feel like it’s something special.”
In just a few weeks, CrossFit Hunger will host its second intramural Open, bigger and better than they did last year. Still, Reyes is quick to point out that sponsors and prizes aren’t the point.
“It’s (about) people finding their potential and realizing that it’s higher than they think,” he said. “It may even be the spark to light that competitive fire that transforms them from just exercising for better health to becoming a competitor and surpassing all former goals thought to be just out of reach.”