On the first Saturday of February 2018, I entered a friendly Crossfit competition for nothing more than to have some fun. Despite a relaxed approach on my part, the contest gave me a goal to strive towards (let’s be honest, I didn’t want to embarrass myself).
While the competition didn’t go as I had hoped (I had to pull out), it made me realise that I lacked clear training goals. As a result, I ended up making poor choices.
But I learned my lesson.
And now, I want to share what this experience taught me as I’m convinced that it could benefit anybody who is working hard to achieve a better fitness performance.
Here are the 10 things I learned in my first Crossfit competition
1- Programming is essential
Choosing just to do random workouts that get you sweaty is going to put you at a disadvantage. A training programme that aims to improve your performance will include exercises having both the right intensity and the amount of volume for you to follow. This type of training programme is based on a cycle; it allows you to peak at the right time while reducing the chances of injury.
To give an example, an Olympian would hope to truly peak once every 4 years when the Olympic Games are held. The Olympian athlete needs to be at their best during the Olympic games, not 6 months before! My cycle only lasted for 8 weeks; the closer I got to competition the faster and shorter my workouts became: the intensity went up as the volume went down.
2 – Preparation is key
I organised transport, accommodation, food, and supplies before the day. As I prepared everything in advance, things ran very smoothly, and on the day I could just focus on the competition.
3 – Gradual overload to training
If I had started my training at a high volume with high intensity, there would have been a higher risk of injury. I would like to have burnt out because the training was too much and wouldn’t have allowed me to adapt. Instead, for the entire 8 weeks that preceded the competition, my coach added intensity as the volume went down gradually. This routine helped my body increase its capacity to intensity while adapting gradually. This is how you genuinely improve performance.
4 – Train how you play
If you fail to train at the intensity that the competition requires, then it will slap you in the face like nothing else. Towards the end of my training cycle, my workouts were short and fast which helped me prepare for those nasty frantic workouts. If my training solely focused on long and slow exercises, I would have adapted to perform only at this pace.
Therefore, on the day of the competition, I would have been ill-prepared to perform at a fast and short pace. I wouldn’t have known how far I could have pushed myself, and as a result, I would have been extremely uncomfortable.
5 – A de-load is essential
The week before the competition, both my training volume and intensity were dramatically reduced. This gave me both a mental and physical break, critical to a quick steady recovery. Bear in mind that I did not stop training. Instead, I spent more time improving my movement quality. Everything I did such as power snatches, power cleans, and butterfly pull-ups was slowed down to achieve excellence in the movement.
6 – Stay hydrated
Regardless of what level the competition is, game day is always different from any training day. You feel out of sync; your mind is racing, and your adrenaline is pumping. You forget to drink, and suddenly you find yourself dehydrated, out of focus and restless. So make sure to drink! A little trick: I got 2 big bottles of fluids close by so every time I saw them, I took a sip.
7 – Nerves
Regardless of the competition level, you will likely feel nervous. Because with nerves, eating becomes hard, I made sure I had a large meal the night before and that the food I had on competition day was easily digestible. Generally, for breakfast, I would have meat, veg, and a smoothie. Because I couldn’t do that, I just had a bowl of porridge with maple syrup… LOTS OF CARBS 🙂
8 – Warm up properly
Between the first and the second workout, there was a 4.5-hour break. During those breaks, there wasn’t much else to do other than sitting around, chatting and watching others competing. I still remember feeling lethargic during those long breaks. This is why 30 minutes before the second event started I got up and started moving.
First, simple and light movements, then a progressive increase of intensity with the addition of barbell weights. Just before I went out to compete again, I got my heart rate up as close as possible to what it would have been when the event kicked off.
9 – Injuries happen
Unfortunately, I had to pull out of event 2 due to a back problem that occurred whilst training. I just hadn’t had enough time to recover, I was aware of that, and I ignored it. I was disregarding the advice I give my clients when they come to the clinic. Luckily, I soon realised that it would have been a foolish thing to carry on competing.
So please, learn to suck it up and to accept your limits. And by the way…don’t use this against me when coming to the clinic!
10 – Have fun
THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL. If it’s not fun then why do it? I had fun learning to love my conditioning training again. It was also a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my University friend Steph who I competed with, and also my fiancée, coach and friends who came to support me.
It was all very much appreciated. One last thing before you go… I highly recommend getting some competition events in your training diary. It’s great fun and helps you focus. The Cheltenham throwdown is open to all levels of ability so keep your eyes open for the event next year. Who knows…. we might end up competing against each other!
P.S. Would you like to share your competition stories? Head over to our Instagram page and leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
If interested in improving your sports performance or getting help in spending less time on the sideline if injured, our ACTIVE Training Programme is for you.