What is a Crossfit Competitor? A very well-known Crossfit Coach and Seminar Staff Leader once said….
”Unless you are doing Fran in under 2:30 and Elizabeth in under 4:00, don’t call yourself a competitor”.
Because I have a lot of respect for the person that said this, I sort of agreed with it. Then about 15 seconds later, I thought the statement was absolutely ludicrous. If you participate at a competition, whether it be the Crossfit Games or a local level scaled comp, you ARE a competitor.
Now that makes this a VERY broad group of people that should read this. A VERY broad group of ability and skill levels and that means, just like our workouts, what is said here is relative to the different goals and approaches you have with competing. So yes, not everything in here is for the “casual” competitor but there are still things to take from it. That leads to a ton of gray area but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to focus; gray does not always mean blurry. What works for this guy won’t work for that girl and vice versa. There is no designed template for competitors but I do think, no matter the ability or experience level, a few things need to be considered.
1 – BE HUMBLE
I’m putting this first because, naturally, I care about it the most. Since Crossfit and Instagram have crossed paths, I believe the amount of self-gloating has gotten out of hand. You can talk to me about sponsors all day and my views won’t change. If you want to compete so that you look good on social media, so that you get attention from other people, your days are numbered. I truly do wonder if some of you would tangibly be closer to your goals if social media didn’t exist. The time you spend on camera angles, hashtagging, thinking of captions, and looking at muscle-friendly filters could be much better spent on you becoming a better athlete and person (yes the two are tied together). Look, competing is very much about being rewarded but I think the best do it out of passion. If there was no such thing as a crowd watching competitions….if there were ZERO likes to be had on instagram, would you still do it? Honestly, ask yourself that question. Being humble will bring you, and others, things you probably never think about.
I feel very strongly about this: If your daily workout routine includes a post about you working hard. You aren’t working that hard.
2 – Determine your level of “Commitment”
Getting this out of the way ASAP will be a huge help and benefit to you and everyone around you. Like I said before, a competitor can mean several different things. I’ll try to make this easy for you. Determine which one of the 5 levels fit you best. Being a mix of 3 different levels is going to drive you, and everyone around you, nuts. Be an adult. Pick one.
A) – Regionals/Games Athlete. Ah yes…the top .0001% of Crossfitters worldwide. I’ll never tell someone they can’t get to this level. But know this….almost your entire life is going to have to revolve around your quest. Almost every day…20 out of 24 hours need to be about you getting there. I pulled that number out of thin air but it is my way of saying…it’s at or near the top of your priority list every day. It is….a job.
B) – Qualifying Competitor. The Wodapalooza, Granite Games, East Coast Championship type competitions…where you can’t just sign up and go. You are going to be competing against hundreds, even thousands, of people around the world just so you can compete on a big stage. This also means you are not satisfied with being option C…below.
C) – Winning/Podium Local Level RX Competitions. It seems like every other weekend now, some box in the area is running a competition. You’ll have your options to choose from. Some are more reputable than others, some are more competitive than others. But you fit in to this area if you are someone that wants to sign up a few months in advance with the aspirations of getting in the top 3 overall. Whether you do or not…. is not what I am talking about. It’s about YOUR goal, YOUR intentions.
D) – RX Competitor: Very simple. You want to be able to participate in an RX competition. This means you are productive/comfortable/confident with almost every movement we see in Crossfit and can hit minimum strength requirements.
E) – Casual/Need a Way to Stay Motivated: It’s hard to stay on fire for fitness 24/7/365. Signing up for one or two comps per year keeps you coming to the gym to maintain and maybe even improve your fitness level over time. RX or scaled….doesn’t matter.
*NOTE…none of these are considered better than the other…this is more about what level of commitment you are looking for and what your end goal is.
3 – What are you going to sacrifice?
Anyone that has approached me and stated that they want to take it to the next level or get to the highest possible level of competing, my first question is this: What are you going to give up? What are you going to sacrifice? If the answer is anything remotely close to “nothing”, the conversation is over.
Disclaimer: If you’re entering a competition merely for fun and have no cares how well you place, then this may not apply to you as much. But if you have any goal included, you too, need to think about this.
If you want to get to a high level of competing, there will be things you need to give up. Video games, TV, nights out with your friends, crappy eating habits, quality time with the significant other. Do you need to go all cold turkey on those? Absolutely not. But if you want to get, you have to give. Ambitious, high-end goals are great but getting there isn’t always pretty. In fact, it rarely is.
4 – Do you need special programming?
In short, you probably don’t unless you are in option A or B above. The amount of skills, movements, strengths, energy systems that need to be trained for you to become your best possible competitor are countless. And you probably don’t have the time to do them all (stop thinking about leaving your job to compete in Crossfit).
People often ask for extra workouts and/or extra programming to help get them to the next level. In some ways it helps, but more important than that is the effort and intensity you put in to the normal WODs. You’ll see more progress as an athlete if you put actual 100% effort in to the 60-90 minutes you have at the gym than you putting 75% effort in to those 60-90 minutes in addition to 75% in to an extra 60-90 minutes. Strive for more intensity, not more volume.
5 – Accessory Work
While you don’t need a ton of extra WODs or programs, what you should hone in on are those 8-10 hours per month spent on building and refining your base strength and skill sets. Handstand walks, banded muscle ups, strict pull ups, core work…I could go on. You won’t see those movements in the daily WOD too often, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. In most cases, 5-10 minutes per day on one of those will likely have several spillover effects and make you a more well rounded athlete. Remember, you don’t always need to be gasping for air at the end of a workout for it to be effective. I bet if you did 5 rounds of max effort strict pull ups with a 1 minute rest between sets 2-3x per week would do more for your muscle ups than you swinging around on the rings for 15 minutes in the middle of a WOD.
6 – Train Smarter, Not Harder.
The Crossfit way, to most people, is “go hard or go home”. Sure, we strive for intensity and the environment of a typical Crossfit class can lead to people overdoing it. But if you want to get yourself to your own peak as a competitor, going all out while overlooking several details to your form, your approach, your strategy… can lead to a severe lack of progress. It can’t just be about being the fastest time of the day. You can’t just have the goal of getting more rounds than everyone else. Your shelf life will be short. Instead of basing your goals on other people, why not go in to a WOD with the mindset of doing all the wall balls unbroken so you can create awareness of what you’re capable of? Instead of trying to be the first one off the rower, put some thought in to what pace you can stick to on the rower without demolishing your engine for the rest of the workout. Remember, intensity has nothing to do with how hard you are breathing after the workout.
Intensity = Force x Distance/Time
Think about it from that perspective
7 – What Are You Doing the Other 22 hours?
Some of you workout multiple times per day. Some of you, once. Whichever the case…accept that the vast majority of your day is NOT spent training. If you spend 2 hours working out as hard as you can, doing everything right and just killing it…good for you. But the other 22 hours have as much, if not more to do with your progress. Nutrition, sleep, recovery stretching and rolling out, planning ahead…this is arguably the biggest separation between you and the people you are trying to emulate.
8 - Training Partners
The other thing most people are missing in comparison to some of the best competitors out there. You can be the most motivated individual out there. You can be a beast without the music on. You can be as diligent and consistent as it gets. But if you don’t have multiple outside beings pushing you during workouts, your output will be limited. My line I use for everyone that has a competitive streak….run with people faster and lift with people stronger. If you are always the best in the room…there is something wrong and that something needs to be addressed immediately. A group of people that can kick your butt here and there, maximizing your effort and intensity, is far greater than ANY program you’ll ever follow.
9 – Consistent Long Term Approach
Apologies for making one of these points extremely obvious but I’ll tell you this. This is where I’ve noticed the biggest shortcomings from myself and those that have discussed taking their game to the next level via competing. Training for such a broad sport that is evolving year by year is mentally and physically exhausting. There is SO much to try and cover. SO much to try and do. SO much to keep track of. And as a friend of mine recently said, “working really hard isn’t good enough anymore”. He’s right. A lot of people in our world work really, really hard. But I don’t know many people that work hard every day for a long time. A few months isn’t a long time. How long, is a long time? If that’s the question you are dying to know the answer to….your head is in the wrong place. There may be no end in sight and if you get discouraged by that, you’re like everyone else. And by everyone else, I mean inconsistent and short term greedy. Those people never last.
10 – How Will You Respond to Adversity?
It is coming. It could come in the form of injury. It may come in the form of a schedule overload outside of the gym. It may come in the form of a lack of training partners or equipment. You may be motivated now and maybe you can even run through a brick wall! (Don’t try). But this is a dogfight and you are going to wake up with a cold one of these days. You are going to have bad days at work that make you want to curl up under a blanket at home. You are gonna tweak muscles and joints. You are gonna have to train at a time you weren’t planning on, alone. Bad things happen to good, hard working people all the time because life isn’t fair. Be prepared for it and don’t be surprised. How you react to adversity is who you are. Who you are on those bad days is….well…who you are.
Remember this…..THERE IS NO BLUEPRINT for training like a competitor and over thinking it usually makes things worse. The worst thing you can do is be hot and cold with your desire because it will, again, drive you and everyone around you crazy.