I’ve participated in nine CrossFit competitions in the last seven months – three of them in the last four weeks. This may be nothing to some athletes – while others may see it as complete overkill. I love to compete, and every since I started writing about the value of competition on this website – I’ve tried to lead by example.
I set out this year with a goal of doing 12 events. With the remaining competitions on my schedule – I will end up at 13 – and at this point I am having to force myself to stop signing up for more. If I did all the ones I want to do, I would easily eclipse 15 before the end of December.
Competing this often has taught me a lot – a lot about myself, what I am capable of, what my strengths are and what glaring weaknesses I still have. I have endured terrible workouts that pushed me far beyond any point I’ve ever been, experienced the rush of my first podium finish and my first event win – and had to deal with the frustration of one weakness keeping me off the podium. This year has been one of growth for me, both mentally and physically.
I want to share these experiences with you so you can hopefully make the decision to pull the trigger and go compete for the first time – or get back at it after a long layoff.
The best moments for me this year haven’t been the wins or the podium finish. It has been competing alongside athletes who are doing their first competition. I have gotten to do that twice now – and it has been far more rewarding than any personal achievements. Seeing those athletes experience that “push” – exceeding their own expectations – doing things they didn’t think they could do. That has been the greatest reward. My hope in writing and competing as much as I do, is that I encourage others to step outside their comfort zones and go sign up and compete. I have seen it my gym – men and women who were on the fence about signing up for an event – and I talk them into doing it. They always thank me afterwards – but I should be thanking them. Thanking them for giving me the chance to be a small part of such an awesome experience.
So here’s what I’ve learned during the ups and downs of this competition season. The good, the bad and the ugly (my chest to bar pullups).
1. I recover faster than ever before. I am sitting at my desk writing this and I feel fine. It’s the Monday after a competition for me. I’ve fielded text messages from my teammates talking about terribly sore they are. That used to be me for days after an event. Now, I rest, get up and move around on Sunday and by Monday – I feel fine. There may be some lingering soreness and fatigue, but nothing that keeps me out of the gym. My body and my CNS are used to being taxed to the extreme on a Saturday now. I focus on my recovery more than before, because I know I have to get ready for the next event. I have a competition in two weeks and I’ll be ready.
2. I focus on my weakness. Every event I ask myself what kept me off the podium or what kept me from performing better. I add it my list and I hit the gym and work on it. Competitions bring this out of me far more than just hitting a snag during a training session. Seeing exactly how far I fell on the leaderboard at the Colorado Open because my chest to bar pullups suck – is a real, measurable tool that slaps me in the face and forces me to work. Seeing my struggle on the sled push on Saturday at the Fossil Games – and seeing that it kept us out of the top 10 – motivates me to get more of this movement added to my training.
3. I go harder. Seeing the impact your weaknesses has on your leaderboard position, forces you to go harder when those weaknesses are NOT in the workout. I have really started to push myself in this area the last two or three competitions I have done. It should come as no surprise that I won my first event and had a top three finish during those events.
4. It really is a game of seconds. Looking over the leaderboard at the end of a weekend and seeing that if I had finished a workout five seconds faster, it would have moved me up six spots, or adding 5lbs to a lift, could have made a three spot difference – changes the way you workout. Running between movements becomes commonplace, where you may have walked in the past. Rowing the final 15m instead of letting it coast while you prepare to unstrap – these are the small things that separate the experienced competitor from the rookie.
5. Getting stronger has to take a backseat. If you are going to compete as much as I do – you cannot get frustrated when you go test your back squat or your deadlift or your Olympic lifts. Constantly preparing for competitions, tapering and resting before an event and then recovering afterwards – doesn’t allow you to participate in a full strength cycle. My gym is working through a squat cycle right now – and I think I have MAYBE squatted twice as part of that in three weeks. You have to understand your goals and then deal with the fallout. The first thing I am going to do when I finish my last competition of the year, is to start strength training in earnest.
6. Consistency is what makes a great athlete. You can’t go bomb out on workouts in a competition and expect to stand on the podium. My girlfriend is the perfect example of this. My finishes will range from a 30th to a 1st – and I’ll end up 18th on the weekend or worse. Hers will be a constant 10-14 or better – all the way across – and she qualifies for the final and finishes top 10. This is why working on those weaknesses is so important – you have to be consistent to perform well.
7. When the weekend is over, it’s over. List what you need to work on, celebrate your personal accomplishments and then let it go. Win or lose – it’s time to get ready for the next one. Hanging on to frustrations or accolades won’t help you the next time around. Get back in the gym and become a better version of yourself.
8. Free weekends are really fun. When every weekend is spent getting ready for or participating in a competition, you can forget how nice it is to have a weekend where you hit one workout on Saturday morning and have the rest of the time for yourself. If I had this year to do over – the only thing I would change is spacing the events out a little more than I have. I still look forward to every event – and competing is probably one of the things I enjoy the most – but giving yourself some free time is just as valuable.
9. You make a lot of new friends. When you compete in generally the same region, you see a lot the same people. Introduce yourself – the community is what makes this sport so great. I can’t count the number of people I now call my friends, who I first met as we stared each other down in the middle of an event, trying to bury one another on the leaderboard.
I hope these lessons help you decide to make the plunge and sign up for a competition. It truly is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have – and it will make you a better athlete and a better person.