Competition: Winning vs Losing

Winning is fun, and so is hitting a PR or destroying a WOD, but when it comes down to it thebest competitions‘ are  the ones where the WODs don’t play to our strengths, we miss our lifts or fall short of how we wanted to place because those are the ones we can really learn from.

Now obviously I am not using the word ‘best’ in reference to ‘most fun’ or ‘most memorable (at least not in a good way)’ I’m talking about ‘best’ as in ‘what will help us become better athletes.

Obviously success is important, if we always failed/did poorly it

  • a) wouldn’t be much fun
  • b) would probably result in us quitting/giving up and
  • c) we’d never reach a higher level (kinda hard to get to the next level of competition if you keep coming last)

However, there is a lot more to be learned from the competitions where we are out of our league, under-prepared or simply don’t perform as expected than there is from the ones where we ‘killed it’. When we want to get better at something what do we do? We train with/go up against people who are stronger, faster, and/or more experienced because they raise the bar and can help us realize that almost anything is possible if we’re willing to work for it.


Part-way through WOD 1 at the Crossfit Squamish Fall Challenge, about when I started to realize my metcon needs some work

Lessons from Losing

This is something I needed to remind myself of after last weekend (I competed on a team with my older sister Sally in the Crossfit Squamish Fall Challenge and I did a lot worse than I’d hoped) so I figured the best way would be to put into words the ideas that were bouncing around in my head.

Going into the competition I knew there was going to be some REALLY strong competitors and knowing Jesse Bifano and Chris Schaalo (the competition organizers) I was pretty sure the WODs were going to be rough, but  after training hard all summer and really focusing on my strength I was feeling…well…strong

And turns out I was pretty was strong. My partner and I came 3rd on WOD 2 Part t 1 (a 2min AMRAP of 135 Backsquats) which is by far the best I’ve ever placed in competition and it felt awesome (we high-fived when the results/rankings were posted). But the thing is I didn’t really learn anything from this  workout because I already knew my squats were good, I’d been squatting all summer.

Enter the WOD 3 … aka ‘The Most Uncomfortable WOD I’ve ever done’


WOD 3 = A 12 Minute AMRAP of 40 Yard unweighted Prowler Pushes

I died.

Going into this workout I thought we would do pretty well, I wasn’t expecting to win (especially as I’d never used a prowler before) but I figured we were both strong and would have an easier time pushing it right? Yea… that didn’t happen.

Sally was awesome, running the prowler out and back every round, but after round 2 I was having trouble keeping the damn thing moving, let alone being able to run with it. I’d spent all summer training my strength, BUT most of that was low volume high weights (think sets of 5 reps…or less) and I was not prepared for 12 minutes of death by prowler.

Technically speaking I ‘knew’ that by focusing almost purely on strength training over the summer would decrease my met-con and muscular endurance but I don’t think I really knew/realized it until last weekend. What was worse however, was the realization that my mental toughness and ability to just keep moving during those long gruelling WODs wasn’t what it should be because mental toughness, like any other skill, needs to be trained constantly and I clearly had not done so over the summer. Yes my legs did give out , but if I’m honest with myself  it was my brain that quit.

Pure Nastiness. The second picture is immediately post WOD and that is my lovely older sister (Sally) helping me up after I ass-planted into a puddle and tried not to cry (I'm a WOD cryer btw)

Pure Nastiness. The second picture is immediately post WOD and that is my lovely older sister (Sally) helping me up after I ass-planted into a puddle and tried not to cry (I’m a WOD cryer btw)

The Take-Away Lesson

I was pretty disappointed in myself for not being able to keep up and push through (we came 2nd to last out of all the teams for WOD 3), but I learned a lot more from getting my ass kicked in the prowler WOD  than I did from destroying the Squat workout because it showed me exactly what needed the most work.

  • Met-con
  • Muscular Endurance and
  • Mental Toughnes

I have about 6 weeks between now and my next competition (the Taranis Titan Challenge) and I intend to use that time to attack my weaknesses and be as prepared as I can be. I really hope I do a lot better at the next competition (who wouldn’t?), and that I manage to succesfully address my current weaknesses; however, chances are there will be another horrible WOD that reveals a different glaring weakness and as much as this constant ‘discovery’ of weaknesses and shortcomings can suck it is also how we become better athletes in the long run.

My sister and I just hanging out after the the Crossfit Squamish Fall Challenge

My sister and I just hanging out after the the Crossfit Squamish Fall Challenge

So 2 things to keep in mind 

1. A disappointing competition performance isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it can help us grow as athletes if we understand how to use/learn from the experience


2. Remember to have fun with it (even if a competition doesn’t go our way) because in the end if we aren’t enjoying ourselves it isn’t worth it.


Kelly · August 2, 2014 at 6:32 am

I boot camped for about year before starting crossfit 3 months ago. I have found that there comes a point in most WODs where my throat starts to tighten up and i think I’m going to cry. I thought it was just me being a pansy until I saw your comment in this blog about being a WOD cryer. Is this reaction what you are talking about? If so, how do you work through it without slowing down due to breathing restriction?

    taryn · August 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Hey Kelly,

    I don’t think it makes you (or any of us) a Pansy at all. When we’re working out that hard we’re pushing ourselves both mentally and physically and its hard to control how our bodies react. Some people get angry, other people feel sick, some of us cry. From what I’ve seen its just different ways for each of us to handle/react to stress. I usually start to feel like I’m going to cry when I get tired and slow down/start to struggle with things I think I “should be able to do” because I get frustrated and think I’m failing. The biggest thing for me going in to change that is trying to change my mindset and remind myself to have fun and learn from what happens. The WODs are almost always going to be harder than expected (no matter how long I keep doing Crossfit this always gets me lol) so I try to not freak out when it gets hard and just keep moving, cause I know the moment I do I start to feel teary and I have trouble breathing, then I do worse and its a downward spiral. Also, if/when I start to get frustrated I’ll take a step back and get a breath or quick drink of water and forget about what I think I’m “failing at” and just focus on what I need to do (Even if its literally one rep at a time).

    Hope this helps, and thanks for the comment/question :), been stuck/unable to write another blog post for the past week or so but you just gave me an idea.


Stress, The Athlete & 'Psyching Up' vs 'Psyching Out' - Go Hard Get Strong · October 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

[…] OK to give 100% and fail because we weren’t up to the challenge, that’s how we learn. We can’t always win, and sometimes the odds are stacked pretty high against us, but there is more to be gained by […]

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