What Regionals Taught Me
I have always been one to emphasize learning from one’s experiences. If those experiences happen to be mistakes, triumphs, or just something that may have been variant of the norm, there is always something to learn in each experience and with that an opportunity to grow. Since I have embarked on this journey through CrossFit I have kept this same mentality and mindset, the only difference is now I am not only learning for myself but learning so that I can help others grow and develop in their own CrossFit journey. While still very early into my CrossFit career, I have had the opportunity to compete at the regional level, an experience I will never forget and hopefully one that I will repeat in the future. Nonetheless, being that I have “been there done that,” I figured I should share what I learned for those who want to “go there and do that” or for those who are just interested in what competing at that high of a level has taught me.
1) There Is ALWAYS Room for Improvement
Sometimes its best to be brutally honest with yourself and keep reminding yourself what you need to work on, but sometimes you don’t know what you need to work on and the best way to find out is to compete. As I’m sure almost everyone discovered who competed in the Open for the first time, or who did their first competition, you have SO much to work on. If you think that there is something wrong with that you’re sorely mistaken, thats why we do what we do, to improve. This fact doesn’t change, and frankly the more elite of a level you get to, the more your weaknesses are accentuated. So if you ever think that, “I’m good at that I don’t need to listen to my coach or work on that,” don’t be surprised when one day Joe Shmo shows you how strong your “strength” was and does it twice as fast or twice as heavy. There is ALWAYS room to improves and the art comes in the balance of turning weaknesses to strengths while making strengths that much stronger. Learn from those around you and observe what works and what doesn’t. Ask questions and make sure you listen to the answer, even if its not the answer you’re looking for.
2) Make Every Work Out Fun
Being competitive is great, and if you don’t want to compete with the people around you or at the very least yourself then maybe this just isn’t for you. Competition IS important, but if you can’t find any enjoyment in what you’re doing (CrossFit), then you are on a long miserable journey with the only pay off being the moment you walk out the door having escaped death from your WOD once more. Serious is good but being a little loose, we’ll call it a state of “Zen,” is much more beneficial. Part of that is the ability to have a little fun and find your comfort in all that discomfort. Its like when you hear an athlete talk about being in the zone, you’re floating through the work out weights feel light and all your movements feel crisp. No one can every find this “zen” or “the zone” while being too serious or trying too hard. The best image I have of this is that iconic Michael Jordan pic where he’s hunched over sweating and all he has is a smile on his face, and there is no question about what zone MJ is in. I know some of you are thinking, “I’m out of breath with 30 more reps to go and 270 reps behind me, where the hell do I find the fun in that?” It’s not easy but it helps, and that leads me to my next point.
3) 90% Mental 10% Physical
For more of the competitive CrossFit athlete; in all of these competitions they throw a slew of volume and work outs at you and the majority of the game is mental, although it may feel like its physical (I mean we are working out right?). Its tough to go out there, warm up, blast out a WOD at an intensity you can only replicate once in a blue moon, cool down, refuel, warm up, blast out another work out, cool down, refuel, repeat. The mental wear and tear from competition is more than the physical. Don’t underestimate how the body will definitely break down and how much rest and recovery you’ll need during the competition, but the mental recovery takes even longer. Each work out takes longer to get ready for and get mentally geared up to go and perform at the highest level. This all kind of goes back to the make it fun point, because when your mind starts to go and you’re working on weak muscles, work outs can be that much more painful. Leading into event 5 (the legless rope climbs), it didn’t help that I had burnt my palms off, or that this was the event I was most concerned with coming in, or that I was already pretty gassed from the 4 events prior, but I kept a good attitude and I let myself have a little fun. I kept myself at a point where I felt calm and loose, I was cracking a couple jokes and talking to some of the other guys and I didn’t let the event get to my head. And what was the result? I killed the event and had my second best finish for the whole competition. My mind was in the right place and now I realize how mental this all is. The ability to put yourself in a good mental state gives you an upper hand and is the difference between to good athletes and the great athletes. At times it may be hard to put yourself into the right frame of mind, and thats just part of the process to develop the consistency of mind for all your work outs. For example, I find myself in a place right now where its a little difficult to get back on the horse and get back to the intensity level I was training at before, but I know it’s all mental and I need to just turn my brain back on to “work mode.”
4) CrossFit Really is a Community
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about regionals was how laid back all of the competitors were. 48 guys fighting for only 3 spots, 3 coveted spots that would put you on the CrossFit map for years to come, you would think that there would be more jeering or trash talk, or just a sense of isolation from each other. I am happy to tell you that it really didn’t feel any different from being at home with a bunch of friends throwing down on a weekend. You would think it would be different on such a stage but the CrossFit community really is as strong as it appears. Cheering each other on, coaching each other during the events, even talking a little strategy for each event and sharing some tips. I was able to talk with Mat Fraser a couple times, and even being a favorite coming in after winning ECChampionships and sitting on top of the leader board all weekend, he was just like you or me. Yes he is the top CrossFit athlete in the North East, and yes I think he has a great shot to podium in Carson, but you wouldn’t know it by talking with him. He was nervous about parts of events, he dreaded the 50s like everyone else, and he was having fun just working out on that stage in a great venue. We have a great community as CrossFitters, a community that only judges you for the effort you put forth and not your skill level or your rank. We all share the same love for fitness, the determination to finish work outs like Murph, and the passion to get better every single day.
5) Wear Gloves 😉
Yea, its hot out there. If you’re handstand walking during a hot Massachusetts day on black matting you should definitely wear some gloves.