With the CrossFit Games underway in Regional competition right now, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on topics like competition, what it means to be a crossfitter, and all that one can learn from such experiences.
If You Love Something, Let It Go.
Let me start with my background in CrossFit. Four years ago I picked up the sport, and in September of 2009 I attended the Level 1 Trainer Course. I coached for a few months after, but when the owners decided to forego the biz, I decided to take my coaching in a different direction and pursue group fitness–where I found my LOVE of inspiring others through fitness, as well as a very special love of teaching kettlebells. But after three years of group fitness and what seems like hundreds of friends made and lives touched, I’ve decided to take a step back…and return to my my old love: CrossFit.
If It’s Meant to Be, It Will Come Back To You.
So in January of 2013, I began crossfitting again and decided that I would sign up for the 2013 CrossFit Open–for no other reason than to prove to myself of what I was truly capable of accomplishing. I’ve never studied “technique” so much in my life. In my opinion, every workout should be treated like the open. Imagine how much each athlete would study, learn, progress, and improve?! Needles to say, the open literally opened my eyes–in more ways than one.
Time to Kick Ass and Take Names.
Some gyms treat the Open as if it’s time to kick every ass in the building. Other gyms focus on the individual and push every single competitor to his or her full capacity. And that’s exactly what I strove to learn in the Open–what I–and no one else but me–was capable of. I refused to believe that there was anything I couldn’t do, and I made sure to provide myself with every chance I could to perfect a move, reach a target, or meet a goal. And here’s what I learned from this experience:
1. A rep is a rep is a rep. This is beyond frustrating to me and fair warning — I am bitter. Every repetition of every exercise counted towards the total score at the end of the open. I get that CrossFit wants its athletes to be good at every move–not just specialize in ONE area. Like, I totally get that. But let’s compare my standings at the end of the competition to a few others and see if you can make out the same conclusions that I did.
All four snapshots are scores from random athletes similar to myself. One athlete ranked in the 400s, two in the 500s, and one even closer to me–who landed in 705th place. ALL athletes beat me in ONE out of FIVE workouts. According to CrossFit standards, these athletes are the better competitors because they are better than me at wall-balls. By CrossFit standards, they’re more well-rounded athletes. I flat out suck at wall balls. So I drop over 200 places behind some of these women. If this were the World Series, I would have won four out of five games. So frustrating for so many athletes, but again, I do understand. Crossfit promotes well-rounded fitness. It shows you your weaknesses and in a weird way, that’s the beauty–or the sweet spot–of the sport. CrossFit punishes the specialist and that’s kind of cool. You’ve got to be good at everything. What other sport requires you to be pretty freakin’ awesome all the freakin’ time? Not baseball. So yeah, I get it. I don’t like it and still would argue that I kicked more ass than my results show, but I get it. I do wish that my 100 pound power snatch could have made up for my crappy wall balls, but it can’t, and that’s what makes CrossFit, well, CrossFit. You have to be fit for life…not just for picking up heavy objects. Boo.
2. I can power snatch 100 pounds under pressure…but haven’t done it since. Speaking of power snatching…it’s unbelievably sweet what you can do when you “have” to do it. I learned to snatch in about two days. Erik bought me a PVC pipe, looked up some great coaching videos, and pretty much drilled my form until I was confident enough to attempt what I needed to do. I’ve never snatched in my life and under the pressure of the first competition–as well as the incredible drive I felt to push myself to that limit–I did not give up until I accomplished all that I could possibly do. Looking back, I still can’t believe I did it. Adrenaline? The desire to prove myself? Will I ever know?
3. And speaking of not giving up, my third competition was dreadful. 150 wall balls, 90 double-unders, 30 muscle ups, as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes. If I could have gotten TO the jump rope, I’m pretty sure I could have nailed all 90 double-unders. But I couldn’t finish the wall balls. 148 balls and I never got to my rope–the workout that set me back over 200 places. I cried when it was all said and done and it’s the first time I ever shed tears for a workout. The amount of frustration and bitterness that had built up in me over the course of 12 minutes was more excruciating than the workout itself. I cannot believe how emotionally draining a WOD can become.
4. If you do a workout twice, chances are, you can improve your score. It’s not rocket science, the more times you do something, the better you get. None of the Open workouts are “fun.” In fact, they’re completely dreadful. But almost everyone I know who did them twice, improved their scores. Our ambassador, Reagan, improved by 73 reps in the second workout! Now that’s just sweet! For next year, I’ve realized that with proper rest, and at least a day or two between WOD attempts, chances of obtaining big numbers will play a huge role in placing. I did 13.2 twice this time and am beyond glad I chose to do so. I knew my box jumps weren’t great and I wanted to strategize. In the end, step ups were faster for me and I improved my score by almost 30 reps. I was able to see what I was capable of by trying various jumps and steps. It worked! I made myself a better athlete by the end! And isn’t that what I wanted all along?
5. Rest, Ice, and Epsom salt baths are the key to a great workout. Like I stated above, for 13.2 I knew that I wanted a day to rest between my two attempts. And I needed it, BIG time. My calves were SO sore after the first try! Soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salt relieves so much muscle soreness! And after taking a miserable ice bath and a few rest days post 13.3, I’ve learned–especially recently–that rest is NOT to be neglected. In fact, I’m starting to believe more and more that rest days should be scheduled as much as workout days, and might even be more important than ever before. CrossFit is NOT like any other gym-lift-session. It’s freakin’ tough on the body and the body should be given a chance to heal. CrossFit HQ promotes 3 days on, 1 off. Realizing that my gains are much better after rest days, has opened my eyes. From now on, this gal is taking 2 bittersweet rest days, every week. And mobilitywod and gymnasticswod are slowly becoming my BFFs.
6. Your fiercest competitor is you. This is a fantastic article that really hit home with me. My fiercest competitor is myself and I tend to push myself harder than anyone else ever would. Which can be awesome…100 pound snatch! Or drastic…overworking major muscles and ending up in the doctor’s office. (Shout out to Dr. Dave–who’s getting his own article written soon!) Competing against yourself–and only yourself–is key for many crossfitters, and that’s hard for even other crossfitters to understand. Some will get jealous of your drive or desire, and some will want to push you further. Some will want to do what you do and push themselves too far. There’s a HUGE balancing act involved in being a CrossFit athlete and sometimes its tough to figure out how to push–but not too hard-and stay focused on YOU along the way. During the Open, I realized that I’m strong–but I’m not as strong–yet–as I want to be and this is something tough to wrap my head around. After going back and re-attending the Level 1 Trainer Course this past weekend, I’ve learned that it’s never too late to re-visit the basics, perfect technique, let the body heal so it CAN improve, and have a little fun along the way.
“You see, if ALL we do is compare ourselves to others, we may not experience progress. […] for many of us, it can be because it is too discouraging and not an accurate target of where we need to be aiming. To truly measure progress, we can only measure ourselves with ourselves.” Lauren Plumey
Chris Spealler Taught My L1 Trainer Course
So speaking of revisiting L1 training courses, I showed up on Saturday morning, Charlotte NC, to attend my Level 1 trainer course. I sit down and the instructor dude is super cute. Of course, they all are, they’re crossfitters. But this one looks familiar to me. He says his name is Chris and I’m distracted by his shin scars and tattoed arm. Two hours into the course he starts joking about Matt Chan and Rich Froning. And it hits me…this isn’t just trainer Chris, this is THE Chris Spealler from the CrossFit Games! AKA the guy I told Erik I was going to root for because I just liked so much about him and he was going to be my guy! My guy! In front of me! At lunch, I google image him just to be sure and hot damn, if I’m not dead on! I go back into the building–after texting and tweeting and facebooking everyone I know–and I realize he’s in the middle of a WOD–shirtless! Is it my lucky day or what? (Sorry Erik, I know you’re going to end up proofreading this for me.) I snap pics, tweet some more (are you following me @strongfigure?!) and I continue to have a glorius day. I PR on Fran by over two minutes, and I get 17 kipping pullups in a row. That’s two PR’s in ONE workout! Fran-tastic!
The Best Lesson I Ever Learned…
All crushing aside, I learned so much invaluable knowledge from this two-day course that I can’t ever imagine CrossFitting without having attended. In fact, trainer or not, every serious crossfitter needs to attend this course. I learned that my squat set up was about one inch too low. My deadlift was starting with my knees a little too far forward. I also learned that my hips do in fact open when I perform movements. And I learned that instead of yelling the same damn cue over and over to an athlete, that if the cue doesn’t fix the problem, the trainer should probably try a new cue. “Open your hips” never worked with me. “Squeeze your butt” does. Thanks Spealler. Teaching good technique, fixing the flaws of the lifter, and doing it all WELL is a skill that will require TONS of practice. Not many people are good at it. I’ll gloat that Spealler complemented my med ball cleans and called me a “thrusting machine.” (Erik’s proofreading insert: “Funny, that is the same nickname Camille LeBlanc Bazinet gave me.”) Yes, I will rock that title for the rest of my crossfitting days. But the biggest lesson I learned–and the one that made me hang my head a little lower–also came from Spealler:
“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Chris Spealler
I’m horrible at pushing myself too hard. I’m mad that I can’t do EVERYTHING at Rx prescribed weight yet. I’m pissed that my snatch isn’t OVER 100 pounds and I’m even more pissed that I’m too scared to drop under the bar to pick up a heavy clean off the ground. Chris said that athletes who are scared to drop will take A LOT of practice and coaching to break through that fear. It means revisiting the basics, and drilling, drilling, drilling the mechanics over and over again. My biggest goal for myself is to NOT forget the basics. Drill, practice, drill, practice….for as long as need be. And to be a good coach I need to practice practice practice coaching skills. And I REALLY want to be a good coach.
I’m Going to Regionals!
So to help with my practice, I just signed up to volunteer to work the Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition. I am THRILLED to have this opportunity. Not only will I get to watch INSANELY amazing athletes, but I’ll be able learn from them, watch their technique, work with judges, and learn learn learn. Isn’t that what makes us better?
Did you know that you can also volunteer? If you want to sign up, click on this link! http://games.crossfit.com/
Help Trevor Go to the 2013 CrossFit Games In California!
Not only am I going to get to go help at Regionals, but Strong Figure Ambassador, Trevor, JUST MIGHT get to go to California to watch the actual ESPN Reebok CrossFit GAMES! But he needs your help readers!!! He’s in a contest right now, and all you have to do is VOTE for him on Facebook, and the person with most votes get a FREE trip to California for the games! CrossFit has completely changed Trevor’s life and going to the games would mean the WORLD to him! Please click here: VOTE FOR TREVOR and vote now! And then share the link with your friends!
Totally unrelated, but did you miss out on our Burnout Tanks? I know you want to look cute + badass this summer, so I’m going to place another order. If you want to reserve yours now, CONTACT US ASAP!! Just let me know the color and size and I’ll send out a simple paypal invoice. Easy-peasy.
My CrossFit Hero in Action:
I stayed late on day 1 of our trainer course to watch a bit more of Spealler in action. Here’s about 45 seconds of his 30 Rep Burpee Muscle Up WOD. It took him–I believe–right around four minutes to do all 30 reps. WOW.
By the way, I’m sorry the video is not shot in horizontal format. I was, well, distracted. 😉
Tell us below, what’s your most bittersweet crossfitting moment? Please tell me that I’m not alone in this!
Plumey, Laura. “Your Fiercest Competitor.” http://www.shorelinecrossfit.com/2013/04/your-fiercest-competitor/#comment-12201