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How Six Miserable Minutes Made Me a Better Athlete

ByKelley LaxtonMarch 7, 2023

The Friday after an Open announcement has always been one of my favorite days. Despite being an avid sleep enthusiast, when my alarm goes off bright and early, I am actually excited to get out of bed, knowing a grueling workout is in my future. 

On Friday, March 3, during the final week of the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games Open, I put on my favorite matching blue workout set and hopped in my car, ready to take on Open Test 23.3

While warming up the wall-walk standard, I struggled to get my hands to the tape but shrugged it off, blaming it on performance anxiety. I thought once the adrenaline kicked in, I’d be fine. 

23.3 at Deo Volente CrossFit

23.3 at Deo Volente CrossFit | Photo by Adam Bow

As the clock counted down from three, my heart hammered with anticipation. At the sound of the buzzer, I flopped to the floor, launched my legs onto the wall, and began to walk my hands to the tape. But it felt as if I were glued to the ground. I managed to get the edge of my left palm to the line, but my right hand lagged behind. It was only a centimeter away, and as I attempted to shift it back, my arms began to shake, and my body crumpled to the ground. 

This happened about 20 more times. 

Over a span of six minutes, I managed to fall on my face, start crying in frustration in front of a gym full of people, and accumulate a mere 16 reps in the Rx’d division.

I could use the excuse that I broke my foot … over six months ago. Or that I had just moved to a different country and was not acclimated to the Canadian winters. 

But the truth was I hadn’t consistently practiced the wall walk since its Open debut in 2021. I’ve always turned my nose up to the movement, siding with my safety net of snatches and double-unders during my after-class skill work.

So, as I mastered my already-strong (and favorite) CrossFit movements, my wall walks just got worse. 

When 23.3 was announced, I knew I was going to try it as prescribed. Double-unders and snatches were finally in my wheelhouse. How bad could a few wall walks be (famous last words)?

Although Mal O’Brien and Danielle Brandon made walking backward, upside down, and up a wall seem easy, the brutal truth was the opposite — especially when you don’t practice the skill regularly.

Danielle Brandon and Mal O’Brien during the live announcement of Open Test 23.3

Danielle Brandon and Mal O’Brien during the live announcement of Open Test 23.3 | Photo by Charlotte Foerschler

In CrossFit, nothing comes easy. It requires consistent hard work and a focus on the movements you are bad at. And once we master those movements, we’re challenged with something else just as hard. 

So after I finished sobbing on the drive home, I reflected on my emotions. Although incredibly frustrated, I only had myself to blame. 

Instead of crumpling up my scorecard and throwing out my 16 reps, ending the Open on a low, I returned on Monday to retry 23.3. But I wasn’t going to do it Rx’d again. I already made that mistake once (and the thought of falling on my face for six minutes was kind of traumatizing).

I needed to do the scaled version. It was the best test for my current fitness ability — and what would ultimately bring me closer to having the skill as prescribed.

This time, I finished Open Test 23.3 with a score of 211 reps and a smile on my face. 

Failing my first attempt at 23.3 forced me to take a step back and evaluate my progress. I have never felt so many different emotions in a matter of hours, from frustration to embarrassment to determination to improve. 

But if the Open hadn’t challenged me in a way that put a spotlight on my flaws, I wouldn’t have been motivated to work on them. So, yes, I am thankful for those miserable six minutes. They made me a better athlete. 


Cover photo by flsportsguy photography