I began CrossFitting in February 2012. I was always very active prior to that. I rowed in college all four years and raced various distances, but besides signing up for a half-marathon here and there, the chance of entering any sort of competition was long in the past.

But, in the heat of the moment, and possibly from the pressure of coaches and athletes at my box, I signed up for my first CrossFit competition: Dynamix Duo. This event is a coed partner competition in Queens, N.Y. I entered the scaled division with another athlete from my home gym and immediately fell in love with competing.

After my competition ended, I was fueled by the excitement and signed up for another competition a few months later, then another a few weeks after that, and another in the spring, until my calendar was packed with competitions and a tangible purpose to push myself harder in my daily training.

The atmosphere of a competition is addictive, as you can see by my back-to-back registrations. But more importantly, in that type of setting, you really can surpass limits.

So if it’s such an unbelievable feeling, why were so many people at my box not competing? I was especially shocked by those who lift heavier weights or get more rounds than I do in an AMRAP WOD and simply did not register for upcoming competitions. There had to be a reason. I raised this question to a coach and other athletes at my box to get their opinions.

Dell Polanco, CrossFit Level 1 Coach at Brick New York

Metcon Magazine: Tell me about your first CrossFit competition.
Dell Polanco: My first comp was the Hoboken Winter Challenge in 2011 and I didn’t do too well. But the experience was great. I learned a lot in terms of my weaknesses and it made me look at CrossFit more from a sports perspective rather than just working out.

MM: How do you get your athletes to sign up for their first CrossFit competition? 

DP: I help them realize the progress they have made in CrossFit, and if they haven’t progressed much because they’re new to it, then I emphasize the amount of fun they’ll have and how much better that one competition is going to make them. You not only learn a lot about the sport, but you learn so many invaluable lessons about yourself.

MM: How is a CrossFit competition unlike anything else? 

DP: Of course, everyone wants to win. But CrossFit competitions are probably the only competitive environment where the athletes push each other to do better, even athletes competing against each other. Now that is pretty exceptional.

MM: For someone who has done a few scaled competitions, how do you know you’re ready for Rx? 

DP: There are a few different scenarios that can play out. If the athlete has done a few scaled comps and has placed well, then it’s time to move forward to Rx. If the athlete hasn’t done a comp but wants to compete in the Rx division, then he or she should analyze the movements they may not have in their arsenal and take the leap of faith and compete. Either way, it’s a win-win situation. If the trouble movement comes up in a WOD, then at least it’ll confirm to the athlete that they should work on that particular movement. If it doesn’t show up, then consider it a free pass. What makes CrossFit so unique is that we will always have skills to work on, and even when we get good at those movements, we have to figure out how we can make them more efficient. The more efficient we are, the more energy we conserve, which means the faster we are able to complete the tasks. The more we can do in less amount of time, the more fit we become.

MM: Is it harder when people are watching you?
DP: Having people watch me compete forces me to keep my cool, stay calm and perform. I’m there to do the best I can, while God does the rest. I focus on my strategy at hand and execute. If I don’t get it done, then it’s on me. The audience gives me the opportunity to showcase my ability so I’ll push harder, but at the end of the day it’s God, me, and the clock.

MM: What’s the most empowering moment you’ve had and/or witnessed during a CrossFit competition? 

DP: When I competed in the 2013 Dynamix Duo. It was a coed team competition and my teammate was fellow coach Maddy Curley. Before the competition, we both prayed together, which put both of us in the right place before stepping out onto the floor. We both felt empowered, confident and humbled to participate in a sport that we both value and respect so much. Win, lose or draw, we wanted to have fun and give it all we possibly had. We didn’t place first, but we still stood on the podium in third and we both surpassed our own expectations, which will always stay with me.

Beth Viner, Athlete at Brick New York

Metcon Magazine: What about a CrossFit competition is unlike anything else?
Beth Viner: You definitely get that “who talked me into this, I’m going to murder them” feeling. That part is unlike anything else, but more in a complete nausea-inducing, I-wish-I-was-still-in-bed, it-must-be-Fran kind of way. The positive part starts immediately after you begin your first WOD. Competitors standing next to you, competing against you, cheer for you. And not just at the end, but in the middle of the WOD in which they’re also competing. You look up, in a total haze, and see your coaches and friends and people you’ve never seen before yelling at you to keep moving, don’t slow down, as they count out your reps. And then you miraculously finish. No matter how you compare to those next to you, the accomplishment leaves you glowing and happy and excited.

MM: For someone who has done a few scaled competitions, how do you know you’re ready for Rx?
BV: I’m not sure I’ll ever completely be ready for Rx. There are a few movements I am working toward (and by a few, I really mean many). But at a certain point, competing in a scaled competition when I’m on the verge of Rx will feel disingenuous. Muscle ups and handstand push-ups aren’t in my repertoire, but I’d rather finish last than take the joy away from a scaled competitor who should have finished higher but didn’t because I was too afraid to push myself.

MM: What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself during, or training for, a CrossFit competition?
BV: That I really like the people I work out with. My first competition…allowed a large group of us who WOD together every single morning to finally hang out together — at another gym. Okay, so that part might sound cultish, and if so, ready yourself, because this part is just plain cheesy: At the end of the day, any of us can do CrossFit as an individual, but it’s the people that make this workout a sport.

Ian Creighton, Athlete at Brick New York

Metcon Magazine: How did you know you were ready for an Rx competition?
Ian Creighton: I think it’s important that you are comfortable with the Rx standards for the competition. The standards are usually posted with the competition information. For me the biggest thing was making sure I was strong enough, which meant being comfortable going overhead with 185 pounds. If the Rx weights are higher than your one RM, it’s probably not the smartest move to compete in that division. That said, I think people are often reluctant to compete Rx because of fear of not being able to do certain things (i.e. muscle-ups or hand stand push-ups) or fear of coming in last place. My advice would be if you meet the standards for Rx, even if they are a little on the heavy side, give it a try — you’ll probably surprise yourself! If you come in last, who cares? You just competed in the Rx division, which is enough to impress anyone on your Instagram/Twitter feed. It also makes you better prepared and hungrier for your next competition.

MM: Is it harder when people are watching you?
IC: Friends from my box watching and yelling at me make me push much harder than I would on my own. I think having people pushing you through a WOD is one of the greatest appeals about CrossFit in general. Compare it to weightlifting comps where you have to wear a Spandex onesie and perform a lift in silence in front of a row of judges. That sounds horrible!

MM: What’s the most empowering moment you’ve had and/or witnessed during a CrossFit competition?
IC: Watching a coach from my box stand up a heavy hang snatch after getting stuck in the bottom for about 20 seconds. She was doing a partner hang snatch ladder, and on her final attempt was able to get under the bar but then got stuck in the bottom. With an army of supporters screaming in her corner, she was able to eventually get her balance and stand up a very heavy weight. No way it would have happened without the support of fellow coaches and box members.

If Dell, Beth and Ian haven’t convinced you to sign up for a local CrossFit competition, then you must not have read this article closely enough. At the end of the day, a competition may seem like it’s against hundreds of other people, but if you look at it as a competition against yourself, you’ll always win.

By Myles Worthington

Myles Worthington is a New York-based communications professional with an expertise in sports and fitness marketing for major global brands. When not wearing his public relations hat, he moonlights as a freelance health and fitness writer for Men’s Fitness and AskMen. He is an avid CrossFitter at Brick New York.

About Metcon

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