Last weekend was the 2016 Western Canadian Weightlifting Championships, and my third time representing Team BC as a 63kg lifter. Every competition I do – Weightlifting or CrossFit – is a learning experience, but one thing I love about attending the same competition across several years is the ability to look back and see how far I’ve come. And I’m not talking about improvement just in terms of placement*I’m talking about growth as an athlete, how I mentally approach the competition and how I allow the stress/pressure of competing to affect me.
I first competed at Westerns in 2014, and despite taking home the bronze medal*, I was pretty disappointed in how I performed – I went 3 for 6, opened quite a bit lighter than planned, and totalled significantly less than I’d been hoping for. However, it was a good learning experience for me, and it made me realize just how easy it was to allow things like – an unfamiliar venue, changes in time zone, and not having my regular coach – to affect my performance.
*Initially I took home Bronze, but the girl who won was disqualified I got bumped up to Silver
In 2015 I competed at Westerns for a second time, this time on my “home turf” and with a bit more competition experience under my belt. In terms of ‘lifts made’, 2015 was pretty similar to 2014 – I went 3 for 6 again, and totalled less than anticipated – however, I felt a lot less nervous overall and even went for a 4kg Clean PR on my third attempt. I made the clean, but missed the jerk, and ended up finishing 3rd in my weight category.
*If I’d made that lift I would have taken home Gold.
This past weekend was my third time Competing at Westerns and while there are definitely some things I’d change if I could – not missing my 2nd Snatch and 3rd clean – as a whole I’m happy with how the weekend.
I went 4 for 6 on my lifts,
PRd both my Total as a 63kg Lifter and my Sinclair*, and
Took home Silver
*I’ve totalled in the 69kg division, but when I take body-weight into account I actually lifter ‘better’ last weekend.
So what’s changed over the past few years?
Physical strength has gone up – my 2016 openers are heavier than last years PRs – but more importantly my mental strength has improved, and I’ve gotten a lot better at using my nerves/adrenaline to fuel my lifts (rather than letting it throw them off). Part of this stems naturally from more competition experience/more time under the barbell; but another part is because I realized that “in the end, it doesn’t matter”.
I don’t mean “it doesn’t matter” in the sense that I don’t care about how I do, or that lifting isn’t important to me; what I mean is that I realized that if I mess up and miss a lift (or all my lifts) no one is going to think any less or any more of me. A ‘bad’ competition doesn’t mean I’m a failure as a lifter (or a person) it just means I had a bad day on the platform; and chances are that shitty performance will actually make me a better lifter in the long run, IF I choose to learn from it. This realization was probably one of the biggest turning points for me, because it took a lot of ‘perceived pressure’ off; which allowed me to have more fun (both in training and on the platform) and then in turn usually corresponds with my best performances. Because I’m having fun, and doing something I love.
For a lot of CrossFitters, the Open is one of the most exciting parts of the year ‘CrossFit Year’, regardless of what level they’re at. For recreational CrossFitters it’s a chance to throw down against the rest of the (CrossFit) world and see how you stack up; and for the more competitive athletes it’s the first step on the way to Super Regionals, the Masters Qualifier and possibly the CrossFit Games.
Because it’s such an exciting 5 weeks however, it can be easy to get a little ‘carried away’ with the Open, and fall into the trap of doing “whatever it takes” – let our technique go, push through injuries, redo workouts multiple times – to get just a few more reps. In the end however, what matters more than our score(s), and where we place, is what we learn from the Open and how we apply that to our training to become better athletes down the line.
So on that note, let’s talk about “redos”, and some questions you should ask yourself (or your clients) before making the decision to redo
How does my body feel (honest answer), and
Why am I redoing/what do I hope to achieve?
Because if your body is feeling wrecked from your first attempt at an Open Workout and/or there is no chance of you advancing to the next stage (Super Regionals, Masters Qualifier) is a redo really worth it?
Rather than placing emphasis on short-term improvement (a few more reps in a workout) why not take what you learned from the workout
E.g. “I can’t double under when fatigued”, or “I need to strengthen my midline”
and apply that knowledge to your training, so that you can come back stronger/more well-rounded next year. For 99% of CrossFitters, there is no “next step” after the 16.5 – it’s back to regular training until next year – and in most cases people would benefit more from hitting the workout once and getting back to training, rather than redoing it.
The Open Workouts are good tests of fitness – they push us to to our limits and reveal where our weaknesses lie – but a lot of the time our limting factor(s) aren’t things we can fix in a few days.
E.g. weak posterior chain, lack of muscular endurance
And if this is the case, our odds of seeing any significant improvement on a redo is minimal. On top of that, there is often a higher risk of injury when we redo, because we are taking an already weakened system/muscle group(s) and placing it under a lot of stress.
That being said, sometimes the issue isn’t our strength or cardio, its our pacing; and in that cases it is possible to ‘get better’ in only a few days. Keep in mind however, this improvement doesn’t mean we have become “fitter”; it just means we have gotten better at taking the test. Which isn’t in itself bad – the ability to “test well” is important both in life and in crossfit – however, going 100% on a workout and/or hitting maxes is only one piece of what it takes to become a good athlete. Behind all the PRs and impressive performances there is a lot of hard work that must be put in – much of which is not exciting/fun – if we’re too busy testing and retesting ourselves we won’t have time for the “grunt work”.
That being said, for that top 1% of CrossFitters the Open is a stepping stone to the next step – Super Regionals, the Games – and depending on how you stack up in your Region, a redo may be the difference between moving on to the next stage and not. But even here, I would recommend using discretion when deciding whether or not to redo, and taking certain factors into account.
1. Can you Qualify without A Redo?
For those athletes who are consistently at the very top of the leaderboard,redo’s often aren’t necessary (although they may do better) because their initial score is more than enough to qualifty them for the next stage. And many of these athletes may choose not to ‘redo’, so they can focus their time and energy on training for the next stage – Super Regionals, Masters Qualifiers and/or The Games.
2. What can you gain (points/spots on the leaderboard) vs. what do you risk losing
For the ‘Fringe Athletes’ – the ones sitting right on the bubble of qualifying – there is a good possibility that you’ll need to redo at least one workout (if not more) in order to secure your ticket to Super Regionals. However, if you find yourself in this scenario, its important to be smart about your redos and honest with yourself with regards to
how many more reps you think you can get (and how important each rep is on the leaderboard), and
What sort of state your body is in
Because if a redo only gets you one more rep, and it fucks your back up – it wasn’t worth it. Pick your battles, and if there is a workout you don’t think you can safely redo and/or improve upon, then move on and focus on the next week.
Ultimately, the decision to redo (or not) is up to you and your coaches to make. However, if you are planning to redo, at least take what I have said into consideration and don’t just make the decision blindly. It’s easy to get caught up in the “craziness” of the CrossFit Open, but in the end it’s just another workout (well 5 workouts) and it’s not worth injuring yourself for a few reps/spots on the leaderboard.
1. Combine banana, eggs, protein powder, oats, baking powder and baking soda in a blender or magic bullet and blend until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, and cook until small bubbles appear and pancakes have lost their “shine”. Flip pancakes and cook for 1min on the other side, before removing gently from pan. Continue until all batter is gone.
3. While the pancakes are cooking, warm the blueberries (stove-top or microwave) and blend to form a “syrup”.
4. Top pancakes with blueberry sauce (or your choice of topping) an enjoy. Best served hot.
The 2016 CrossFit Open is about to start, which means an intense/exciting/potentially exhausting 5 weeks for those who are taking part. So, before we dive headfirst into the Craziness that is the CrossFit Open, here are a couple of reminders to help keep you healthy, sane and having fun.
1. Make sure you’re eating (and drinking) enough During the Week
Unlike most weekend throwdowns and challenges, the CrossFit Open requires athletes to be in “go mode” for 5 weeks. And 5 weeks is a long time; which means, proper nutrition and hydration becomes even more important. If we’re not eating and hydrating well, not only will we lack the energy necessary to excel at the workouts; our bodies won’t be able to repair and recover properly for lack of fuel.
As far as hydration goes, we need to make sure we’re enough drinking water throughout the day (even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty); and one the easiest way to do that is simply by carrying a water bottle with us at all times. It only takes a dehydration of 1-2% body weight for our performance to start declining and past 3% we start increase our risk getting heat cramps, heat exhaustion, fatigue) increases greatly.
Warm-ups may not be the most exciting part of training/competing but they are just as important as the actual workout. I know it can be tempting to skip/shorten the warm-up and jump right in; however, if we want to avoid injury, perform our best and ‘survive’ all 5 weeks, skipping the warm-up isn’t an option.
And the same goes for a cool-downs. I know that doing ‘more work’ is often the last thing we want to do after a really gross WOD, but its a ‘necessary evil’ if we want to optimize our recovery and minimize any long-lasting muscle soreness and fatigue.
3. Find a way to get some “down time”
The energy and excitement during the Open Season can be pretty incredible. But it can also become overwhelming, and draining, especially in the later weeks. Which is why its important to take a step back from CrossFit and find a way to have some down-time that doesn’t involve talking, strategizing or thinking about the Open.
For some people this may not be too much of a challenge, but if you’re one of those people whose entire day/week gets consumed by thinking about the Workout, try to find some way to take your mind off it (Even if its only for a short time).
Take walk and listen to music, hang out with friends who don’t do CrossFit, do something totally unrelated to CrossFit…whatever works for you.
Essentially, figure out something that will allow you to step back from all the excitement, calm your nerves and keep you from completely crashing before week 2 has even started.
4. One Workout at a Time
During the Open, only one workout gets released each week, and even though everyone (ok maybe not everyone) likes to play the guessing game
“I think 16.2 will have ‘X’ ‘Y’ and “Z’ in it|
However, its important to remember not to worry/stress about the ‘next one’; and try to focus on them as they come up, one at a time.
5. If You Shit the Bed…Don’t Dwell on it.
Maybe it was workout we “knew” was going to be struggle, or maybe it was one we though we were going to going to nail; either way once it’s over we can’t change it and dwelling on it will only make things worse. Once the 5 weeks are over, we can look back, try to figure out what went wrong, and learn from the experience; however, during the Open its important that we are able to set a bad performance aside, and focus on getting ready for the next workout.
6. Have a Strategy
As we head into the Open, hopefully everyone has an idea of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and as the workouts are released this can help us create a plan/strategy
i.e. where we will be able to make ‘make up ground’ vs and what movements we might struggle on/take extra time on
However, when making strategies there are a few things we should keep in mind. Because workouts often look easier on paper, sometimes our ‘perfect strategies’ don’t go as planned and we need to be ready to adapt if/when things fall apart.
7. Don’t Stress about what Everyone Else is doing
Use the energy of those around you to push harder than you normally would but don’t let yourself caught up in what they’re doing. You know yourself better than anyone else and a good pace for whoever is beside you may not be a good pace for you.
For example – if you know you’re not a particularly good on the erg, don’t try to kill yourself on the row keeping up with the best rower; go at a pace you can maintain and then see if you can catch them on the barbell or the pull-ups.
Competitions can bring up some pretty intense emotions, especially when we get close to our mental and physical limits, and sometimes it can be easy to get carried away. However, that isn’t an excuse to be a total jackass when we workout (even if things aren’t going our way) and whenever we compete we should strive to be the kind of athlete that we would want to judge if the roles were reversed….
Move with virtuosity (don’t try to “cheat reps”)
Don’t argue with or yell at your judge (If you don’t understand a “no-repped”, ask for clarification )
Respect the equipment (no spiking barbells, or kicking wallballs)
…essentially make their jobs (judging you) as easy as possible. And keep in mind that once you’re done, there is a good chance that you once you are done, you will have to turn around and judge them (or another athlete) for the same workout.
And sometimes, despite our best efforts, shit happens and we get frustrated/lose our tempers in a workout. If this happens, it’s not the end of the world; but if it does, make sure you talk to your judge afterwards, shake their hand/thank them and if necessary apologize.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst athlete at a competition if you’re a dick to your judge it reflects poorly on you, your gym and the sport. Yes, the Open Judging system is far from perfect, judges can make mistakes , and sometimes reps are given or withheld when they shouldn’t be. In the end however, it’s the judge’s call to make and the best way to avoid this type of situation is to make our reps as easy to judge as possible.
*If you truly feel as though you were unfairly judged, speak to the judge and/or gym owner after the workout to discuss what happened and look into options to redo.
And one Last Thing…
…remember to smile, have fun and don’t take it too seriously.