“I tell myself to treat the Open like the Regional where you only get one shot at it. I know I can’t have anything left in the tank at the end.”
In 2011, Justin Allen narrowly missed the CrossFit Games with a fifth-place finish at the 2011 North Central Regional. The Games slipped through his fingers, leaving him with the same sting he had felt years prior when he was playing football at NEO.
When Division I NCAA scouts were in the stands, he suffered a severe break to his tibia and fibula.
"I already had a couple of touchdown passes and one rushing. I scrambled up the middle and I stopped my feet to avoid another tackler and a guy hit my leg from the side. I landed on my stomach and knew something was broken," he says.
"The tibia came out of my skin about the middle of my shin, and my leg was almost out at a right angle. They said I may never play football again ... not even run or walk the same."
The injury stole his chance to impress the scouts, and demanded he spend months in painful rehabilitation. Yet, eventually, his leg did heal. As soon as he could, he returned to the field more determined to prove that he belonged on a D-1 team. Soon, he caught the attention of a scout, and went on to play for Southern Illinois University.
In the same way, he used the sting of his fifth place finish at the 2011 North Central Regional to motivate him for 2012.
“(I) used that setback to motivate me even more to make it to the 2012 (CrossFit) Games,” Allen says.
And that’s exactly what he did. By the end of the three-day Regional competition, Allen had taken the last place on the podium from 2011 Games competitor, Brandon Pastorek. Later, he distinguished himself from the other faces in the crowd by taking 26th at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif.
This year, he's taking nothing for granted. He's putting in the work so that he'll get a second shot at the Games.
First step? Get a coach.
Allen has been working with remote coach, Dennis Berry, of CrossFit Huntsville.
Berry, a retired Major in the Army Special Forces, works with him via email and phone.
“We stay in tight communication everyday on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling,” Allen says.
His main contribution has been programming. He gets Allen to work on his weaknesses, and programs strength and skill-work, as well.
“(Berry) has me doing things that I never would have even thought of,” Allen says.
The programming is pure CrossFit mixed with periodization, Berry says.
“To be honest, our first approach is to use the CrossFit paradigm as our primary training platform. I do program via an overarching macro-cycle up to the CrossFit Games with meso-cycles for the Open, and a major focus on Regionals, as this is a time to battle and earn a top-three position,” Berry says.
Berry varies the programming according to the stage of the Games season. Berry makes sure Allen’s workouts include various time domains and incorporate weaknesses.
Unlike some veteran Games competitors, Allen isn’t taking the Open lightly. He’s using it as a test to see how he stacks up against the competition, and since he wants to do well at the Games, he’s pushing himself to do well in the Open, too.
“At the end of the Open, I would like to see myself number one in the region and top-10 worldwide,” Allen says. “But if that doesn’t happen, I am not going to beat myself up over it. Main goal is to get to Regionals and be ready to go by then.”
To use the Open Workouts as Regional-prep, he’s only giving himself one attempt.
“I tell myself to treat the Open like the Regional where you only get one shot at it,” Allen says. “I know I can’t have anything left in the tank at the end.”
With the first week in the books, Allen and Berry are eager to achieve more over the next four weeks.
“There are still four more to go, so we have only completed one lap of a five-lap race,” Allen says.
Allen turned in a score of 181 on Open Workout 13.1, placing him in 11th prior to 13.2. Although he didn’t achieve his goal of No. 1 in the region on the first week, he says he enjoyed the workout.
He went into the workout with no plan, he admits, except to move through it the best he could.
“I just planned on getting a shot at 210, but that didn’t happen.”
With burpees done, his least favorite movement is out of the way and he’s looking forward to what Dave Castro may announce next.
“I’m usually not good at predictions, but I am thinking maybe a squat clean and maybe a shorter time domain, probably some kind of a couplet or triplet,” Allen guesses.
Whatever comes up, Berry is confident Allen will be able to handle it.
“Justin has been blessed with great genetics, admirable athleticism, but most importantly an exceptional work ethic to do what it takes to continually strive for elite fitness and success,” he says.