“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It’s a famous quote by Dickens, or is it a description of your latest performance in competition? For me, it was the latter. And this is both the beauty and the agony of CrossFit—“constantly varied, functional movement” means that at times we will finish on top and at other times… well, not so much (15.3, anyone?). There may not be much we can do physically in the moment when the wheels fall off in a CrossFit competition, but there is much we can learn.

I recently competed in my fourth Rx competition—the Florida Open at CrossFit Tamiami. I’m not yet 3 years into a CrossFit life that includes Olympic style weightlifting and gymnasty things I haven’t done sine childhood. So, even though I’m now 40, I still feel much like a baby when it comes to CrossFit competitions. As a matter of fact, the women working the registration table also didn’t believe at first that I was competing in the Rx division.

The Florida Open is a unique competition because the first WOD of competition is the last WOD of the Open, followed by 3 additional pre-released WODs over the course of the weekend. This year’s competition marked one year since my first Rx event.

The first WOD, 15.5 went so much better than I expected. I took 2nd place and a place, mentally, on top of the world.

The second WOD began with 50 double unders. I’d been practicing and was regularly able to do more than 50 unbroken. But you know dubs… the harder you try, the more elusive they seem to be. The spacing of the 6 athletes in my heat was tight, and my judge was standing directly in front of me—close. Too close. I tripped on my rope. And again. And again. I watched as one by one the others left me and moved on to the next task. And just like that I went from second place to second to last.

The remainder of the weekend was more of the same—peaks and valleys. And that’s pretty much how CrossFit goes. We have our strengths and our weaknesses. We sit and watch the announcement of the Open WODs, crossing our fingers and shouting at Dave Castro through the Internet to “PLEASE SAY _________!” (Insert your favorite strength in the blank.)

Anytime we compete, whether it be the Open or a local competition, we stand in front of a mirror. There’s no hiding a weakness. No cheating on reps that aren’t good. It’s a reality check, and it’s why I think competing is a very healthy part of CrossFit. Competition is about testing yourself, about learning and improving mentally.

How do you prevent the wheels from falling off in CrossFit competition? And then what happens if everything goes wrong? Lou Holtz said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

Prepare. Obviously, before entering competition, you want to be physically prepared. The training has to be there. Choose a competition and a division that will test you, but know the standards and be sure you can complete the movements that will be tested.

Create a strategy. Most competitions announce the WODs early. Practice them. Consider your pacing. Know how hard you can push yourself before you completely blow up. Decide how many reps you can do unbroken. Going out too hard and fast can mean disaster.

Don’t panic. Suppose things don’t go as you had practiced and planned. Stay calm and breathe. Panicking because you suddenly cannot do more than 3 dubs unbroken won’t help. Keep chipping away. And keep looking ahead. Focus on finding little ways to make up time.

Do your thing. Stick to your plan. During a training and performance seminar at Wodapalooza Miami, Jason Kahlipa stressed the importance of working at your own pace and not letting someone else’s performance affect yours. He warned against changing your strategy to match a competitor’s. You know yourself best. Don’t pace based off of someone else.

Learn. Use today’s competition to shape tomorrow’s training. Have problems hitting the wall ball target? Can’t do dubs in close quarters? Engine not as powerful as it needs to be for a weekend of work? Can’t lift as much as you want? Go back to your box. Practice those weaknesses and make them strengths.


About Amy: Amy Lawson is a CrossFit Level 1 trainer, English teacher, wife of a strength coach and mom to 2 teen boys. She competes in CrossFit, Elite Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and just about anything else that presents a new and different challenge. Find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amylawson323 Twitter: @ALawson323 and at http://running4one.blogspot.com/

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