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Just like with any sport, CrossFit competitions are intense and difficult. What makes CrossFit a little different from other sports, though, is the sheer number of skills an athlete needs in order to be competitive.
Since CrossFit can take everything from pulling a heavy-ass deadlift to swimming half a mile, preparing for a competition takes some big-time strategy. Having to be good at everything means you’ll have to train for everything. And that’s difficult to do if you’re new to competition and aren’t sure where to start.
If you’re doing well in your house WODs and you’re feeling ready to try a competition, here’s what you need to do to be ready.
1. Assess Your Weaknesses
Not every person is going to have the same strengths. Some of us may be stronger than others, some of us may be better at gymnastic movements, and others may be able to run for miles without breaking a sweat. But your strengths alone aren’t going to save you in a CrossFit competition.
But if you have a glaring weakness, a competition could be the thing that exposes it dramatically. Maybe your deadlift isn’t where it should be. Maybe your shoulder hurts when you’re fatigued. You need to know that as far ahead of time as possible!
What to Do: Get blunt feedback from someone you respect. Measure yourself against what some of the best athletes in your box can do and then increase your training intensity in your weak areas so you can one day turn them into strengths.
2. Spend More Time Training
CrossFit can be life-changing, even as just a few classes a week. But once you get to the point where you’re looking to compete, regular classes simply aren’t enough. Elite CrossFit athletes are far more efficient in their movements and work capacity than recreational CrossFitters because they spend so many hours in the gym.
Their technique is automatic. Their conditioning is superhuman. Their strength is mind-boggling—and none of it happened by accident. It happened by time and effort.
What to Do: If you’re lifting 3-4 days a week, keep that schedule and add specialty work on top of it to build up your weak points. It could be technique work on the Olympic lifts, extra conditioning-focused WODs, periodized strength work—whatever you need!
A quality nylon or leather belt is a must on competition day. Be safer and stronger when it counts!
3. Start Training with Competitors
Many lifters start to get the competition bug when they find themselves regularly performing at the top of their class. They’re consistently beating everyone with prescribed weights and feeling like a king or queen of the box on that particular day.
There’s nothing wrong with this feeling! But it doesn’t mean you’re world class yet. Unless your last name is “Fraser” or “Toomey,” there’s always somebody way ahead of you. And you should be learning from them!
What to Do: Start training with CrossFitters who are above your current level—ideally ones who are preparing for a competition, too. As I can attest, having attended the CrossFit games on a team in 2015, there is no feeling of lifting comradery quite like a group all preparing for a big competition at the same time.
4. Know How to Keep It Cool
Even the meanest WOD is just a single workout. A competition, on the other hand, can include three brutal WODs per day over the course of a weekend—all with judges who may not be as forgiving as the ones in your box. Those who aren’t ready—either physically or mentally—will get schooled.
You may be confident at home, but can you keep it mentally together in a strange gym or pavilion with a crowd watching? How will you handle it if you get “no repped” in the middle of a crucial workout when a placing is on the line? How will you keep going when you’re already sorer than you’ve ever been, and you still have 5 events left?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you’re going to need some mental training.
What to Do: Spent time—lots of time—visualizing and replicating your competition, both in your mind and in the gym, if possible. You can only do so much, but the goal is that by the time the competition comes around, you can make it feel like just another day.
5. Know Your Gear, Nutrition, and Supps Inside and Out
Part of your “just like any other day” approach is being very familiar with all the non-workout parts of the CrossFit lifestyle: workout accessories, supplements, and meals. Trying something new on meet day—even just having an extra-big breakfast—is a classic mistake in all sports, but strength sports in particular, strength coach Josh Bryant explains in the article, “Prepping for Your First Powerlifting Meet.”
The workouts themselves will challenge and surprise you. Nothing else should!
What to Do: Weeks or months before your competition, get the necessary gear and supps and practice using all of it in your actual training sessions. This could include:
There’s nothing wrong with getting systematic about this! Ask experienced competitors how they managed their contest day and what made the most difference. Have your gym bag packed the night before, sleep well, and go into your competition feeling ready!