The CrossFit Open is awesome. Most crossfitters would claim than the open is foremost an international fitness competition where everybody with some basic equipment and a video camera can compete for the chance to be a world champion. Perhaps secondly, and realistically for most people, the open gives a chance for people who've become fit to compare themselves to other folks working on their own fitness. And we shouldn't forget about the exposure the open gives to CrossFit. If you're like me, you at least told your closest circle of coworkers and frends what you've been up to in the last few weeks.
For me, the Open also represent a fantastic opportunity to collect a great data set. It's not only the numbers - something close to 13500 participants for week 1, but the type of data and the quality of it. Let me try and explain further - quite rarely can you get large fitness data on 'normal' individuals, across may different fitness modalities, and also expect it to be accurate and reflective of a person's true fitness.
I say 'normal' here, in the sense that most people participating in the Open have other lives and don't do this in a professional sense, or for a living. Clearly the average Open participant has above average fitness relative to the general population. I think it's possible, though, with a little training for most healthy individuals to at least perform close to the average Open performace level.
It's rare to get information on different fitness modalities for one individual. The Open measures performance across broad categories - endurance, strength, power, coordination, just as we would expect from the Open. While we have enormous population data for run times like the mile, 5K, etc..., and probably equal amount of data for certain track and field events, usually individuals only train for one particular event and cannot be compared directly with other events. The closest thing in track and field that resembles the Open is the decathalon, which is hardly accessible to the average individual.
Hypothetically, in order to get a dataset like the Open, one would have to ask 10000 volunteers to perform a set of defined exercises to their best ability, and do so in the exact same same manner. Sound familiar? Actually the only thing that comes to mind is the ol' Presidential Fitness Award test back in school. Back a couple decades ago, the US measured and published the performance of children across many different ages on some basic exercises like the mile run, pullups, situps, shuttle run, and sit-and-reach. What about WODclub.com you ask? Their website is great and they do have statistics on some of the more popular workouts, but there's no oversight to how people do exercises and whether they are bumping their scores a bit. The Open workouts are meticulously described, and submission requires video evidence or submission through an authorized CrossFit affiliate.
Well, that's the idea why the data is pretty cool. Some graphs to follow soon.