Micha Ostergaard

From The Olympics to The Box – Why Crossfitters Should be MORE Competitive!

Olympic athlete turned Crossfitter describes the lessons learned from competing at the highest level in sport.

From The Olympics to CrossFit – My Transition

In August 2008 I swam at the Beijing Olympics for Denmark. In swimming you have several races, but my main event was 200m Butterfly. I set a new Nordic record that still stands to this date.

At the Olympics nobody wanted anyone else to do better than oneself, everyone was there to win and everybody knew it, so they didn’t fake anything. They showed how they felt. Nobody was happy to lose.

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Happy Olympic Day! #2008 – It’s been 10 years since I went to the Olympic Games & still it continues to surprise me how much it influences my life on a daily basis. I could write a novel on how it still influences me to this day, but one very important aspect is the fact what hard work, endless discipline & dedication it took to get there. 👉🏼You have to be special to achieve something special. Just as important, however, is the afterlife of an elite athlete; what happens, when everything you used to know, your identity since you were a child, suddenly ends? How do you cope? How do you start the next chapter of your life? – Professional athletes, and other people who have been very successful at something, often experience a mental downfall after having to let go of everything they used to know, and everything they knew they were world class at. To this day, this is a topic that’s rarely talked about & unfortunately also something that only few federations act proactively (or even actively) upon. Transferring from an athlete to “the normal life” is something to take very serious & I am happy that The World Olympians Association have started to put a light on this topic! – Like I initially said: I could write a novel on this topic & all the mental and emotional aspects, so I am more than happy to announce that on September 20th I’ll be joining a panel of experts in Hamburg, Germany, where all of the above and much more will be debated. – #happyolympicday #beijing2008 #woa

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This doesn’t mean that there was no sports(wo)manship and/or respect between competitors, there definitely was, but the athletes were very honest and open about what they were at the Olympics for. Why they had invested their lives into reaching their goals.

In 2015 When I made the transition into Crossfit I noticed that there was a different attitude. This was probably more apparent with the women than the men, but it seemed to me as if they weren’t allowed to display the same level of competitiveness.

It was as if they had to always talk themselves down, apologise for winning or overly congratulate other girls for beating them.

For me this was very odd.

It’s fine to be Pissed off when you Lose

I am a very competitive person, I hate to lose. I am happy to say it out loud, write it down and put it on record. I think that it’s fine to be highly competitive. You don’t need to act in a certain way because you came in second place. Respect is important, but I don’t pretend being happy when coming in second –  at least if you’re NOT.

I know who I am and I am unapologetic about that. My competitive nature pushed me to represent my country at the highest level in sports. I know that when I put my mind to something that I can make it happen. Simple as that. It is a matter of how much work I put in that will decide the outcome.

For some people that rubs them up the wrong way, but I won’t make excuses and I am honest about who I am, what I feel and what I am capable of doing. CrossFit at most levels is a community sport and don’t get me wrong, I love that aspect of it, but I don’t think you always have to pretend that you aren’t trying to win, or as if winning isn’t important, if that’s what you want to do. I never understood the saying that just being at a certain the competition is what matters.

Rich Froning on the Podium at The 2017 CrossFit Games

For example, look at Rich Froning when he took second place with CrossFit Mayhem at the 2017 CrossFit Games. He was pissed off. He still congratulated Team Wasatch Brutes because they beat him fair and square, but he was not happy to be wearing a silver medal and he was not scared to hide that emotion. He has been so successful for a number of reasons, but one of them is undoubtedly his competitive nature.

“For those saying I am a poor sport for not smiling on the podium, I will not apologize for who I am. I’m a competitor to my core, I do not like to lose, and I do not hide my emotions well. There’s one thing you can be sure of, we’ll be ready next year.”

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First of all thank you to all those who volunteered their time and worked long hours to make the CrossFit Games possible. Thank you to the best fans in all of sports for being with us all weekend and pushing us along. Congratulations to all competitors in all categories who competed, it's an honor to compete along side you! Congratulations especially to Wasatch CrossFit (@adrianconway_ @builtfjordtough @spjut2 @tensparkles @mandi_janowitz @hungryfitness) for winning the Affiliate Cup, you guys are all true champions and it was great to compete against you guys and get to know you better all weekend. Proud of my team and the effort they put in, definitely not the outcome we wanted but it wasn't because they didn't put in the work or push hard enough. Thank you to our amazing CrossFit Mayhem family and my family for always being there to support us. Thank you to my beautiful wife @hillaryfroning for always being there to support me and pick up my slack in the months leading up to competing. Thanks to @roguefitness who makes the best equipment in the world and their crew who works tirelessly to make the Games a success, to @reebok for making the best shoes and apparel, for @advocare for the best supplements on the market, for @rehband and @realtreeoutdoors for the support to allow me to do what I love. And… For those saying I am a poor sport for not smiling on the podium, I will not apologize for who I am. I'm a competitor to my core, I do not like to lose, and I do not hide my emotions well. There's one thing you can be sure of, we'll be ready next year. 📷 @flsportsguy

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You Don’t have to feel Happy all the Time

Most social media perpetuates the false idea that everyone is happy and fulfilled and doing incredible things all the time. It is a snippet of the greatest hits of other people’s lives, probably your friends and other individuals that you look up to, who are better at CrossFit than you are, who lift more, run faster and win more competitions (because they are professional athletes) than you do.

Generic advice on mindfulness, or cheap spiritual knock offs that patronisingly oversimplify ideas from important spiritual movements such as Buddhism, saturate the internet and tell you that you should be feeling happy all the time. I don’t believe in that. It is unrealistic to think that you should feel happy 24/7, nobody does, it is simply unrealistic. Stop feeling like you’ve failed in life just because you feel down once in a while. The process of rising and developing, is in my opinion one of the most important processes that we re going through as humans.

It can be inspiring and fun to view the lives of others through our iPhones, but most of the time it suggests a false norm, and as a result, normalises behaviour, actions and achievements that are best unattainable, and at worst completely demoralising. Demoralising in that matter that it is rarely shown nor told, how a person worked to get where they are at. That to me, however, is the most important part. I wanna know what people went through in order to achieve what they have. Personally, the length of my arms are way above average and my body in general has good proportions for swimming, but I for sure know what I went through since the age of 9. Nothing was given to me. There is no story without a struggle.

Happiness often arises from your ability to cope with the problems that you have. You earn it through the struggle. You earn it by working for what you want.

By definition, if you are never unhappy then you will also never be happy. Each opposing state helps to form and constitute the other. Like Hegel’s dialectic of master and slave, neither can exist without the other.

The Grind – Discipline and Consistency

When I was training for the Olympics I had to spend 4 amount of time almost every day in the pool + 2 hours on general fitness.

In my Olympic preparation year would jump in the water Monday through Friday at 5.30am and swim until 7.30am. Then I would go to work from around 9am to 3pm. Then I would hit the gym around 4pm for 60-90 minutes and then swim again for 2 hours straight after that. Saturday’s if I remember correctly were 2 hours of swimming + a bit of fitness. Sunday’s were just getting in the water for a bit of water feeling – around 1 hour.

By the way: remember that those are hours spend actually training, without stopping for social media pictures. And in case you ever wondered; yes! We all pee in the pool, because it’s not accepted to miss a few minutes of training while using the bathroom. When you calculate your weekly training hours, think about actual coherent training hours. If I follow e.g. a program from Weightlifting101, it does make the world of a different in I execute the session in 2 hours or in 3 hours because I am talking and doing pictures in between.

This was not all fun, it was a grind. And partly it was just a habit created over years. I knew that I had to do it in order to reach the Olympics so I was disciplined enough to do it even when I didn’t want to.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Muhammed Ali

Anyone who is genuinely dedicated to achieving a particular goal understands that there will probably be some form of sacrifice and suffering involved along the way. These things may be worth it in the end because they are necessary to achieve the end result. There is joy to be found in the struggle, however, you see close to 0% of this actual daily struggle and grind on social media.

Stop making excuses – take ownership of your problems

It’s very rare that I hear someone blame themselves for their lack of results. It is usually the fault of the coach, or the nutrition plan, or the programming, or because their boss is an idiot – you get the idea.

In the vast majority of cases, it is their own fault. I know that isn’t a popular thing to say, but people should be more honest to themselves and stop getting upset about the results they didn’t get from the work they didn’t do.

Nutrition is a perfect example. It is simply a matter of following certain scientific principles that will cause your body to react and change. Why is this so difficult to do then, why do people blame everything else apart from themselves? Because it is HARD to stick to these plans. It takes EFFORT and SACRIFICE.

Taking ownership of your own problems is liberating. Be honest to yourself about how much work you are actually doing, then you can make meaningful progress and be proud of your achievements.

A personal example: I now only work out between 3-5 hours a week. I like to drink wine. I don’t food prep, I often go out for dinner etc. I not only know and accept that none of that is going to make me a world class athlete with a ripped body 12 months a year. In fact it is my choice. I have been a professional athlete. I know what I am capable of. I know what I have to sacrifice if I want to be the best, strongest and fastet version of Micha. But I don’t want to – it’s just not worth it to me anymore. And I accept that, which I believe is one of the most important things one can learn: does your effort match your expectations?

Balance – You can’t have it all

Another erroneous myth, consistently extolled by many forms of social media, is that you have to have it all. Nice car, good clothes, perfect relationship with your soulmate, island retreats, consistent travelling to exotic locations, top level performances in every workout, new weightlifting PRs every week, big bank account, fulfilment etc. But life is about choice, and everything exists in balance.

If you want to earn a lot of money then you will probably need to spend more time working, which means less time with your significant other, which could lead to a worse relationship.

If you want to get better at CrossFit, crack double unders, nail 500 unbroken bar muscle ups, and win Wodapalooza to earn your ticket to the 2019 CrossFit Games, then you will need to spend more quality hours in the Box, meaning less time at work (unless you are a professional athlete), which means less money, fewer holidays, not so many new clothes etc.

If you want to continue to have great relationships then you need to spend time with your friends, family and better half. This may take time away from training, or from those extra language lessons you were doing, or that overtime you wanted in order to pay for the better car.

In general that is a simple equation in life: you have to act and live to become/get what you wish for. If you are not happy where you are, don’t be scared to make the changes that are going to take you closer to how you want to feel and what you what to achieve. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing one can do in life is to fear the change one has to go through to achieve what feels more right. More complete.

My point is that you must decide for yourself what is important, and not feel bad because you’re unable to compete financially with an investment banker that works a 100hr week, or because you can’t snatch as much as the CrossFit Games athletes that you follow on Instagram.  Nobody has it all, it’s a myth. Its about finding what is truly important for you and doing that. There is not one right answer. However, if you’re true to yourself, your values and your expectations, then I believe you can at least feel very close to actually having it all.

To return to my original point, don’t be scared to be yourself. If you are competitive then BE COMPETITIVE! If you get beaten then you don’t have to act all meek. Simply acknowledge where you went wrong and work on that so you are better prepared next time around.

Don’t make excuses. Realize why things didn’t go as planned and how YOU can improve.

If you wan’t something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.