As an athlete, the feelings before a competition can vary with each person, and with each game/match/event that an individual competes in.
Some get prepped calmly and actually relish in the pressure of competition, while others have certain nervous habits or even anxiety-driven superstitions that become ritualistic. Take a professional sport like baseball for example. Ridiculous, at times.
In the CrossFit world, more and more competitions are popping up that test fitness. In some cases it's for the better, and in other cases maybe that's not so true. I mean, how did we take exercise and make it a sport? Is that even possible? In any event, it seems that the "sport of fitness" is growing, so we might as well address it.
First, many of us were drawn to CrossFit because it fit the bill-- it filled our competitive edge as current or former athletes, or else it intrigued us because it contained that competitive fun. And at the same time simultaneously involving support and team camaraderie that prove we're the social animals we are. Sure, a lot of people simply enjoy the variety and intensity (and the results) of CrossFit workouts, but many others thrive on the focus of measurable fitness. One with some backing research and numbers-based strength progressions, and one that also defines power output in time domains.
Me, I tend to get competitive with something as simple as board games with the kids. Maybe you don't sink your daughter's battleship like I do, but even if you're a little like me, CrossFit workouts fulfill that competitive itch quite nicely. And with less tears. (Debatable.)
So let's examine the pros and cons of competition in CrossFit, both in the weekly workouts and in the fundraisers and competitive events that pop up-- from smaller ones in your area to the worldwide stage of the CrossFit Games.
To start, CrossFit did not have yearly competitions until the all-call of the first CrossFit Games at Dave Castro’s ranch in Aromas, California. After its inception in 2000, CrossFit founder Greg Glassman was finally open to the idea of a fitness competition after discussing the possibility leading up to the first Games in 2007. Find more info on the history of the CrossFit Games here. You can also read a little more about the history and some of my own thoughts on the CrossFit Games (with a focus on 2012) in the Words of the Week archives.
If we leave the main event out, including not just the Games in Carson, California, but also the Regional events and the Open that lead up to it, there are still many ways to be competitive with CrossFit.
It was just in the last couple years that competitions really started to sprout up in CrossFit affiliates. Now it's seemingly monthly, and if you look hard enough, nearly every weekend if you're willing to travel a bit. It used to be more of the fundraiser that got CrossFitters together. They were and still are great ways to get together with mutliple CrossFit boxes nearby for a little friendly competition in the name of a good cause. Now, the competitive side of local fitness is booming. Amplify has joined right in by hosting a few that have included Garage Games and Power Athlete series events.
Does this mean it's a good idea to compete each weekend?
Well, the first answer is no. The second answer is, basically, you already are.
Being involved in a multi-event CrossFit competition means putting the body through often 3-4 different workouts a day. Sometimes two days in a row. Even if these events are relatively short (10 minutes or under), this is a lot. Pushing to bring out the best in a test of your fitness can only have you peak and recover once in a while. Depending on your recovery (age, nutrition, sleep, and weekly workouts that follow), the magnitude of a CrossFit competition means a typical body won't be able to withhold that type of stress more than twice a month. If that.
Look at the CrossFit Open. One competitive workout a week for 5 weeks. Some CrossFitters tried the WODs multiple times and it helped. But in interviews many of the Regional advancements did not come from athletes going through each Open workout more than once or twice. They hit it hard, then kept on course with their weekly training.
Likely, if you're not an elite CrossFit competitor, a competition to test yourself is just a fun and challenging thing-- like a runner or triathlete might get in a race, or an active athlete would play a game. I'll argue that a two day CrossFit competition has potential to be more grueling than a baseball or basketball or soccer game; several games a week are possible in those sports. Even so, this test can be a good thing... a positive trial of assessment. And fun.
CrossFit athletes can also compete in powerlifting or weightlifting competitions, again through local gyms or held in sanctioned events through USAPL, USAW, and other organizations. A quick Google search can help you with those. These are slightly different in that yes, it may be a difficult test of fitness, but in general it's not quite as tough on the body as a 6-8 event weekend.
Here's the other side of the coin: CrossFit workouts are mini competitions in themselves. Keep this in mind. Particularly if you look at a good week of workout programming, your quality MetCon days are a smaller scale competition. So in this case, yes, a weekly competition is okay-- in a way you're already there. In fact, it's that intensity and tests in strength that keep your body on track to a stronger, faster you. This is good. This competition is necessary.
Think about it... if your gym posts your workout scores on a white board like so many CrossFit gyms do, then competition is inevitable. But please, please, for the sake of all things Glassman, do not let yourself chase the almighty clock. Do not let yourself chase a number on the wall by sacrificing form, ROM, or safety. This is always a competition with yourself, first and foremost, so have the integrity to check your ego at the door and see this for what it's worth: a fitness program. Then after that, maybe, just maybe, it's a competitive event.
1. Set your sights on important competitions that seem worth your time, money, and energy.
- These things can get costly, and not just on your bank account. Payouts can be great but only if you're a top tier athlete in your area. Otherwise the cost of potential injury or overtraining is too high for it to be a smart thing to hit up too many competitions each year.
2. Hone in on what preparation you need.
- Do you get nervous before competitions? Use that nervous energy and related adrenaline to fuel your performance. Warning: being too amped up before an event can backfire quickly. An already elevated heartrate can sabotage a CrossFit workout almost before it starts... especially in longer events.
- Do you get nervous before workouts? Awesome. As along as it's a healthy fear of upcoming work, not dread. Don't be mistaken-- a little goes a long way.
- Take care of common sense items: Plan nutrition for the day, recovery in between workouts, clothing/shoes/equipment needs, etc.
- Think strategy, but don't overthink strategy. You'll psych yourself out.
- Taper or don't taper, depending on what your body responds to. Oftentimes taking a day before competition completely off means going in "stale." Sometimes it's what works for who you are. Learn this and keep track of when and how you compete at your best in regards to the week leading up to it.
3. Learn how to lose.
- Unless you're one of the 2013 Games winners, you can take away valuable knowledge from competitions. And actually, even they do the same. They're learning experiences. If you won, good on you. Take something away from it on how to continue that streak. If you lost, well, was it fun anyway? Did you hit a good workout/score/lift/PR or maybe something else positive? Otherwise, evaluate the experience and move on.
- Other athletes have insight too. Tap into that, and not just because meeting others in your sport or hobby can be cool. "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't," as Bill Nye explains simply.
It's a competitive world, and CrossFit dives head first into that notion ocean. It's up to you to keep the intensity alive in your workouts but be smart in your choices of the many competitions abound.
Good luck! Have fun, stay safe, and be strong. I'll be there cheering you on to beat everyone but me.
- Scott, 7.15.2013