CrossFit Competitions are an amazing laboratory for testing the effectiveness of your training, especially your mental game. This environment stresses you far beyond that of a typical daily workout.
Why Do a Comp?
I recently came in last in all four events in the Strong is the New 40 Masters Competition. There was a 50+ Division, but I am well north of 50. Would you consider four last place finishes a PR? Perhaps not.
I have friends who have never started any fitness regimen. They often tell me, “I could never do that, I know I would always finish last.” So what! At least you finished! But they never finish, because they decided not to begin. This is sad.
Aside from the fact that I am demented, I sign up for these things for a couple reasons:
- the excitement and camaraderie of the athletes
- the physical challenge (strength)
- the challenge of practicing various movements (skills), leading up to the event
- I revel in the awareness that most of my peers cannot even imagine doing this stuff
- Comps are an opportunity to test myself mentally
Define Your Success
Though I may be demented, I am not delusional. I have no expectations of grandeur. I am so far from Masters Qualifiers or any level of eliteness. Most athletes on the floor glance at the Leaderboard to see how high they are in the rankings for each event. I glance at the bottom and if I am not there, it is a very big deal for me.
You may question why I bother signing up for these things if my chance for success is so low. Well, I have a different definition of success. I strive to finish each event. My success is that I do not quit. I did not quit, therefore I did not fail. That may sound like a very low standard to some, but not to me. Perseverance in the face of suffering (even if it is self-induced) is a matter of ongoing personal growth.
Physical vs Mental
CrossFit targets 10 specific athletic attributes. They are endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy, power and speed. These are all physical manifestations of the methodology.
An average day in the gym challenges me physically. But competitions test my mind and spirit. This is the mental game, where a positive attitude in the face of adversity makes a difference. This is where the comps get fun.
When it gets painful that’s when the arguments within happen. It’s a case of pushing on and grinding through that pain to get it done. – Justine Howlett
This weekend I saw some amazing men and women moving with strength, speed and agility. Then seven minutes in, fatigue sets in, the next five minutes seem like an eternity. The athlete holds on, desperate to survive the next lift. Failed lifts and No Reps increase in frequency. The mental game has begun. The noise level rises exponentially as the crowd cheers the athletes, to encourage them to get back on the bar to move that weight.
The high point of my game this weekend was in the final WOD, a 12 minute AMRAP:
- 15 Cal Row
- 20 Hanging Knee Raises
- 25 American KB Swings 16kg/12kg (35#/25#)
- 30 Wall Balls 14/10
- 25 Box Overs (Jump or step) 20″/16″
- 20 Thrusters 75/55
- 15 Cal Row
Unfortunately I maybe the poster child of self-defeating habits. My coach spends as much time coaching my head as she does coaching my lifts! Self-talk, self-limiting beliefs, posture of defeat, …
I brought all these negative things into the competition. My lack of confidence (self-limiting beliefs, yeah, I’m working on that) had me imagining I’d hit the cap while on the Box-Overs. I shocked myself by moving through this workout onto the Trusters. But this was my fourth workout of the day, and I was fried. The thrusters were a struggle and I was doing them in singles and doubles. Clean, squat, press out and drop. Rinse & Repeat. What a grind!
I glanced at the clock, I needed to get back to the rower to finish under the time cap. By now I was the only athlete left on the floor. All eyes were on me. I was dying from exhaustion and pain with each lift, as I counted 8, 9, and 10. I threw the bar down and ran to the rower. But…
Then This Happened
…but my judge hollered at me to come back to the bar. I needed to perform TWENTY thrusters, I had mistakenly thought it was TEN. I had used all my mental strength to pull off ten lifts. My judge called me back, to knock out ten more lifts.
My body was spent. I had this crushing thought of collapsing on the floor in tears and desperation. I didn’t have anything else to give. The noise was overwhelming. Everyone was yelling at me to get back on the bar. They were calling me by name. I ground out one ugly, determined lift after another. Perhaps it was out of spite, but I performed the final three lifts unbroken.
Then I ran to the rower and strapped in with 30 seconds left on the clock. I pulled off 10 Calories before time ran out, and I was 5 short of finishing beneath the time cap. But I was satisfied. I did not quit, even when I wanted to curl up on the floor and die.
The defining moment of this whole day was finding the mental fortitude to make my body suck it up and perform ten more lifts. There was no time to whine, or pout. There was only time to move. At the end of the day, I finished last in all four events. But when I faced total failure by entertaining the thought of quitting, I was able to muster the strength to carry on to the end. Some of the motivation was extrinsic, as the crowd cheered me on. But ultimately, I had to be internally motivated enough to fear my failure more than my pain.
The Mental Game is why I sign up for CrossFit Competitions, and that is where I break new ground, regardless of where I finish on the leaderboard.
In recent weeks, I have increased my training. Some of this is obvious, as I am in the gym more. But most people are unaware of the most drastic transformation that is under way: the quest for mental strength. I owe a great deal to my Coach, Erika for this, because she is relentless in chastising me for my choice of words, and how those choices impact my thinking.
I will expound upon this in my next essay. In the meantime, be Defiant and be Well!