April 2, 2012
A Woman's Journey Through the Open
By Amna Al Haddad

This is just the beginning of my journey.

As the countdown began and the CrossFit Games Open had arrived, something felt so surreal to me. This was it. This was my first ever, big competition. One that I have put my life in overdrive for – trying to learn everything CrossFit.

I recall the moment when the Open Workouts were announced – it was 5 a.m. in the United Arab Emirates. The sense of anticipation kept me awake. It was partially the adrenaline rush and partially the uncertainty. Would my training for the past four months be enough to allow me to not only do the workouts RXd, but also allow me to achieve my initial goal and make it among the top 60 women in Asia?

Week after week, each workout posed a challenge – some physically, some mentally. I learned something from each Open Workout. However, Workout 12.2 is where I learned the most valuable lesson.

Just two weeks before the snatch workout was announced, I had a new personal record of a 70-pound snatch. Finding out the second weight on the ladder was 75 pounds was a big mental block for me – being 5’2 and 108 pounds, and having little experience with Olympic lifting didn’t work to my advantage. "What if" scenarios swam around in my head. I kept thinking, “Will I PR or not?”

I attempted this workout three times. And each time it was the same result: 30 reps. My reaction? The first two times I went into the workout with the wrong mentality, and left with the same attitude. However, I changed my mind-set in my final attempt – not because I expected a better result, although I wished for it, but I was seeking something deeper to the core. I was seeking repentance with myself.

To look back at it, four months ago I couldn’t even snatch 45 pounds for one repetition, let alone do 30 reps in less than three minutes! That week, I didn’t achieve a physical PR, but I achieved a mental PR.

As for 12.3, it was probably the most physically challenging workout during the Open. I finished with 123 reps, but knowing my 1-rep max push press was 88 pounds, I think I did very well given my physical ability and strength level. She finished with 123 reps, 3 complete rounds, plus 15 box jumps.

Open Workout 12.4 was slightly disappointing for me. When I found out there were double-unders, I was so excited for wanting to do them in a workout. Why? It took me eight months to get them, and another month to learn to string them together. However, I only completed 112 wall balls and didn’t have time to get to the double-unders.

Despite the hiccups during the Open workouts, Candice Howe (my coach) and I agreed that as long as I have done my best, that would mean we have achieved what we strived for – especially being able to do the workouts RXd.

During the first four weeks of the Open, I scored between 80 to 89 points, which gave me a rank of 92nd in the Asia Region by Week 4. At that point, I made peace with the fact I won’t make it to Regionals this year. The competition in Asia is fierce and bigger than it was last year.  

However, things took a sudden turn in the final week. Open Workout 12.5 was the same workout as last year’s 11.6. I was thrilled. Although I did not know what CrossFit was around this time last year, when I decided I wanted to compete in last October, Candice and I revisited last year’s Open Workouts to see where I would stack up.

When I did the workout at the end of November, it sucked. Sixty-five pounds was beyond heavy, and my chest-to-bar pull-ups were dead hang, as I did not have kipping. I ended up with 23 reps. Fast forward three months later, I almost doubled the number to 45 reps!

My score landed me with 51 points and and I ranked 77th at the end of the Open in Asia. But that’s it. My score was good enough to give a spot with the top three women in the CrossFit LifeSpark Team, as I was part of the team roster.

Since the team ranked 3rd in Asia, this meant one thing – Regionals, here I come! We are currently working on putting a team together and approaching possible sponsors to help us get to Seoul, South Korea, so we can compete.

In the face of all of the personal challenges during the Open, there is something bigger I had to deal with. Being the first and only UAE and GCC national female taking part in this worldwide competition, I had a lot to prove – to others and myself. Coming from my religious and cultural background, the concept of a covered Muslim woman lifting weights is still quite new. Although there is a shift in views among the younger generation, it’s still not widely accepted by some. Taking part in the competition did not just challenge me physically and mentally on an individual level – it challenged and dispelled a lot of misconceptions in my society.

This is just the beginning of my journey.

​Follow Amna's blog as she chronicles her CrossFit experiences. 


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