They say a picture is worth 1000 words; and if I could sum up last weekend with a photo it would be this one…
But this is a blog, so let’s do a recap anyways.
Last weekend was the 2015 Winter Challenge and the first time I’ve competed as an individual in a year and a half*. To be completely honest, I expected to be more nervous than I was
“what if I can’t keep up?”
But apart from the usual pre-competition butterflies, I was excited more than anything else. I’ve always loved competing and performing, and I think competing is one of the best things we can do to grow as athletes. Regardless of how well we do, we can learn (or relearn) as much from a single weekend of competition than we do in months of training.
So what exactly did I take away from the weekend?
*Since Regionals 2014, after which I decided to focus on Weightlifting and take a step back from CrossFit 1. Choice isn’t always a good thing.
1. Choice Isn’t Always a Good Thing
The first event of the weekend was a 10min chipper; but there was a bit of a twist to it. Rather than having us start on one station and work our way through the movements sequentially; the organizers let us decide how to break everything up.
Chippers suck. Sometimes they consist of movements we’re good at and other times we’re not so lucky; but either way they usually get pretty uncomfortable. But for all their ‘suckiness’ chippers also tend to be pretty straightforward. We just have to accept that it will be uncomfortable, try to turn the brain off and get the work done.
But a chipper that lets us pick & choose the order is a different matter. On one hand, it means we can play to our strengths/avoid our weaknesses (a big plus) and lets us break up any movements that usually take us to failure (e.g. Toes-to-Bar). On the other hand however, it requires more thinking/strategy and and because of this, it can be harder to just tune out and grind away.
I think a lot of people did a really good job figuring out how to use this style of chipper to their advantage; unfortunately, I was not one of those people. I underestimated the workout big-time and when my strategy fell apart (only a few minutes in) I did a poor job modifying on the fly; and ended up choosing pretty much the worst thing I could….I chose the rower*. But hey, live and learn.
*I’m a relatively weak rower, and of all the movements I could have chosen, I think rowing was the slowest.
2. We are Stronger than We Think
How many times during training do we fail lifts because we get in our head, put down the ball (or bar) because we ‘know’ we can’t do another rep? Or resign ourselves to a bad score (before the WOD even starts) because it’s something we’re bad at?
Our brains have the tendency to create mental limitations as way of protecting us from “potentially harmful situations”
e.g. putting really heavy weights over our heads
However, while it’s important to be aware of what our brain is saying and not to be reckless.
E.g. Trying to lift a weight we have no business attempting
We need to realize that the body is much stronger and more capable than we our brain would have us believe. The strength is there if we can commit to giving our full effort; which means learning to silence that self-doubt in our heads, believing in ourselves and going for it.
3. Our Weaknesses are just as important as our Strengths
To be successful in CrossFit, we can’t just rely on our strengths. Just one or two bad WODS can be enough to knock us down the leaderboard and take us out of podium contention. If you take a look at the leaderboard from last weekend you’ll notice that none of the top 5 athletes finished outside of the top 10 in any of the events. .
And sometimes (although it wasn’t the case here) an athlete can end up in first without winning a single event. Consistency is key and and what sets the top athletes apart isn’t just their strengths, it’s their weaknesses (or ‘lack of’) and the amount of time they dedicate to eliminating them/minimizing any holes in their fitness.
4. Take it Seriously but don’t forget to Have Fun
Whether you compete for fun, to see how you stack up, or your goal is to be on the podium – it’s important to take the competition seriously. And just to be clear, by take it seriously I don’t mean freak out at your judge over a few reps or be a jackass to the other athletes; I mean respect yourself, your competitors and the competition enough to give a full effort.
- Take the time to prepare properly – make food/sleep a priority prior to (and during) the event, get a good warm-up in for each WOD and do whatever you need to do to get yourself “in the zone”.
- Own your performances, good and bad – take pride in success/when hard work pays off (don’t brush it off as “I got lucky”) but at the same time don’t self-handicap or blame poor performances on factors ‘outside your control’ – e.g. the bar was shitty, my judge had it in for me – Figure out what went wrong and commit to fixing it for next time.
- Recover properly (between WODs and after the comp) – cool down after each WOD, fuel properly for the next event and when all is said and done, take a few days off.
Sometimes I feel like people consider fun and being a competitive athlete mutually exclusive. But they are not, or at least they don’t have to be. Last weekend was the first time that my sister (Sally) and I have gone head to head in two years and both of us really wanted to come out on top. To the point that (at least for me) the competition became as much about beating her as making my goal of top 10.
But even though we’re both really competitive, we had fun still had fun with it; to the point that we spent the week leading up to the competition planning our matching outfits (and hair….)
In the end, it came down to 1 spot (3 points); and I can’t speak for Sally don’t, but I think I would have pushed quite as hard (or had as much fun) without our ‘sisterly competition’. So that’s a wrap on the Winter Challenge. Last weekend was a blast, I definitely uncovered a number of things to work on but now I have an idea where I’m at and I have a goal for my next individual competition….
…and beat again Sally ;).