With the 2020 CrossFit Games® finished, there has never been a better time to get motivated and educated about how to take your competition skills and performances to the next level.
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This Editorial contains many practical and psychological tips specifically for competitions, but the vast majority of these secrets are also applicable to WODs where you compete against yourself and your friends in the Box or Gym. There is also an extensive nutrition section to help you maximise both energy levels and recovery between and after workouts. You will learn more about the following:
- Practical tips for improving performance
- Nutritional tips for enhancing performance and recovery
- Additional psychological and performance-based secrets
If you are new to competing, or have never competed before, then before we dive into the practical and psychological tips to help you perform better, you need to think about the particular mindset you wish to adopt in regards to your next competition.
The first mental primer is to be proud of yourself for entering and for earning the right to be there. Many people talk about the great things they can/will do yet a very small percentage of those people actually step up and complete what they promised they would.
Anyone’s first competition is a big step to take. So be proud of yourself for being a doer not a talker, and genuinely stepping out of your comfort zone.
The second mental primer is to enjoy yourself. Have fun, eliminate regrets, and then celebrate–regardless of where you finish.
8 PRACTICAL TIPS FROM THE COMMUNITY
We spoke to the BOXROX community and asked athletes from all different races, genders, backgrounds and ability levels (Elite, RX, scaled and beginner) to give us their tried and tested tips for raising your performance when competing.
1. Write down your kit list before you pack your bag for the competition
Tick each item off as you pack it to be 100% sure that you have it. When 100 toes to bar are announced in the first workout, you want to be totally confident that you know exactly where your hand wraps are! This sounds like such obvious advice, but you would be surprised how often athletes do actually forget their lifters, water bottle or other important item that they wanted to have with them.
2. Bring spare t-shirts
If your competition involves multiple workouts, then make sure you have multiple t-shirts
You don’t want to sweat right through the only one you have in the first WOD if you then have to walk around in it all day.
3. The judges are always correct
Even if they aren’t, you must just accept their decision, and get on with the WOD. Getting frustrated with them no-repping you will only help you to lose focus and energy. It’s easier said than done, but this is an important point to consider if you want to perform well.
4. Eat a large breakfast
You may have to workout during different times from your normal schedule. A large, protein and carb rich breakfast will give your body a solid platform whatever happens throughout the day.
A great default is oats, Greek yoghurt, fruit and a Myprotein protein shake.
Try to consume up to 1000 calories (I am not kidding) at breakfast. It will build enough foundation to offset at least the first workout. Eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the first workout. Later, eat and drink after each workout even if the WOD was one max rep lift or something else very short.
5. Warm up for every workout
This seems to be a no brainer, but in reality, a lot of competitors only warm up properly for the first event. Often, I barely see any athletes in the warm up area after event 2 and 3. But this is a rookie mistake.
Your warm up should remain in the sub 20 minutes time frame. There is no need to warm up for a whole hour, especially when four events may be following that same day. I personally have a 3-time 5 minutes rule. Five mins of a general warm up (row/run), 5 minutes of specific (movement prep for the particular workout) and 5 minutes WOD flow prep where I test upcoming movements.
6. Cool down after every workout
Even if you don’t feel good, try to hit the rower for 5 minutes after each workout. Slowly decreasing your heart rate will speed up your recovery.
7. Don’t use any gear that you’ve never used before
If you have a favourite pair of lifters that never let you down, use them for the competition. Don’t take a brand-new pair that you’ve never used before. If you feel good in the kit that you have, then it will help you perform well.
If you want to buy new clothes or training shoes to compete in, make sure to wear them in beforehand.
8. Hydrate properly!
Ensure you hydrate adequately in the day or two prior to the competition, and sip water continuously throughout the competition. Again, this sounds obvious, but in the excitement of a competition, it can be surprising how many newer athletes make this mistake.
NUTRITION AND PERFORMANCE
When it comes to competing, the two most important aspects of your nutrition are fuelling your body properly before each workout, and giving your body what it needs to recover after each event.
Protein is essential for the repair of cells that have been damaged during intense training or events. The repair of these cells is essential in order to be able to maximise performance for the next event or following day of the competition.
It can be hard sometimes to get solid food down during competition day so a Myprotein protein shake is the perfect way to keep up the intake of calories and protein between workouts, without sending your body into a slump of tiredness as it attempts to digest a full meal between events. This is what the UK’s best CrossFit® Athlete, Zack George, uses, so it’s worth following suit if you want to take your own performances to the next level.
If you don’t already know, Myprotein are one of the world’s leading sports nutrition brand, delivering a wide range of quality products including protein powder, vitamins and minerals, high-protein foods, snack alternatives, and performance clothing for functional fitness athletes. They are making big strides into the scene, and working to support elite athletes such as Zack, right through to the everyday heroes that are killing it day in, day out, in boxes all around the world.
When we train at high intensity we rapidly deplete glycogen stored in the muscle. This is the fuel we need to perform. Consume quality carbohydrate as soon as possible after every event. During the post workout period we make better use of carbohydrate as our muscles want to replace glycogen. Glucose is absorbed easier during this period, preventing it being stored as fat. The amount needed depends largely on duration and intensity of the training.
An important secret here is to test what works best for you in the weeks and months before the competition starts. Don’t try any new foods on Games day that your body isn’t used to.
Break your meals down into smaller portions. On game day I pack the same food I pack every week day for my meals. However, I have found that breaking the meals into smaller divisions is beneficial to accommodate the different schedule of the competition.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TIPS AND STRATEGY SECRETS
It is also important to think about exactly why you want to compete, and what you want to get out of the experience. For example, Italian Adaptive Athlete Andre de Beni has excellent advice for athletes that are nervous about competing for the first time.
“Don’t think about winning or losing. Just focus on the effort: it doesn’t matter how you finish, forget rankings. Those are Games’ athletes’ goals.
For all the other tons of competitors around the world, there’s just one thing to know: the competition where you learn nothing about yourself has not yet invented. It doesn’t count in which position you end the game: you’ll go home richer, stronger, smarter, more experienced than when you first arrive.”
Remember what Mandela said: “I never lose. Sometimes I win, sometimes I learn”.
STAY IN YOUR LANE
Accept what you can and cannot control.
Staying in your own lane means to trust yourself, stick to your plan and work hard without letting the other competitors influence you too much. Sure, it helps to be aware of what the other athletes around you are doing, but not if that negatively impacts personal performance.
If you have trained hard, eaten well and prepared mentally for the competition, and you hit it with the right attitude, then you will have fun and do well. Your training, diet and attitude are things you can control. Other things may happen that are out of your control. What happens if the time of the workout changes, or you have to switch to a different heat, or your assault bike is faulty for example. With these external factors, you just have to take them on the chin, don’t moan about it and just get on with the day.
It’s always good to have a plan before the workout start, but sticking to it is much harder. The famous Mike Tyson quote explains eloquently that “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”.
Try to not get hit in the first two minutes of each workout. Stay focused and relaxed until 70-80% of the workout is done and then it’s game time. This 20% at the end of a competition event workout is a special time. In those moments you must stretch your personal potential to its absolute limits. There are no rules anymore. Just you and the given task. Execute.
FULL EFFORT IS FULL VICTORY
This motto is an extension of the point above. At the end of the day you cannot control the fitness levels or competition skills of the other competitors. You can control how much effort you put in.
If you finish each workout knowing there was absolutely nothing left in the tank, and that you gave your everything, then hold your head up high and feel proud of your performance, whatever final position you end up placing.
ENJOY THE CROWD
Competing out in front of a crowd in a completely different feeling from competing during a WOD in a class. Enjoy it and use the energy to really push yourself. Go for that new PR, attack that new movement you’ve never quite managed before and go hard into the pain cave. Competitions are the perfect time to see where your limits really lie.
Zack George enjoys competing, he has fun with it, and the experience is made all the better by the people there. Listen to the way he described the crowd in London, “The atmosphere at Strength in Depth was amazing and it highlighted why I do these Sanctionals®, to get that buzz from the crowd”
PRE-COMPETITION TRAINING – USE YOUR LANDSCAPE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
When it comes to your own training, look around you and capitalize on the advantages that you have. Don’t moan or complain about the resources or facilities that you don’t.
For example, if you live in a village in the Swiss Alps then it is easy to work on your cycling and training at higher altitudes. Maximise that aspect of your fitness then when cycling shows up in your workouts or competitions, go hard to maximise your advantage over the competition. People that might not have this same access and ability to train in such landscapes.
The same is true for cities. In Berlin for example, you have access to multiple world class Boxes, gymnastic facilities and Olympic swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor. Many of the top CrossFit Games® Athletes and coaches pass through the city delivering excellent training seminars that you can attend. Whereas it is harder to practice your cycling at higher altitudes in comparison to the Swiss athlete mentioned above, you have different advantages that others do not, so use them.
If you place two athletes of the exact same ability level in Berlin and London for a year, it would be easier for the athlete in Berlin to swim outdoors, due to a higher volume of surrounding lakes and access to clean, natural water to train in. Therefore, that athlete can augment that potential advantage.
Being good at CrossFit® is about consistency across all aspects of fitness. But, you must always maximise your results in the areas that you are naturally better at in order to improve your performance, results and points on the board in competitions. Think about it now, what potential advantages does your environment offer you?
ENJOY IT AND DON’T FREAK OUT
I know that’s easy to say and difficult to do, but seriously, what is there to worry about?
As I said earlier, your level of performance is pretty much a given on the day of the competition. You can’t magically do something just a little different and become 20% stronger or faster, so relax.
When I’m about to launch into a WOD I’m thinking, “It’s just another workout. Just do it like you’ve done all the others.” Important things make you nervous. They should, and they always will. You can’t avoid being nervous, but you can avoid completely flipping out and degrading your performance.
TAKE THE STEP
Do not just train for a competition. Make a prep plan with your trainer or by yourself. Take at least 12 weeks straight, clever consistent training working on weaknesses, strength building and engine work. There is no easy way to perform to the best of your abilities. Take the long way.
If you did everything, or nearly everything, correctly in preparing for the event physically, make sure you do your mental homework by focusing on all the work you put in, all the hours in the box and the pain you suffered during training. Be confident and show it. You are able to do it.
Make sure you have your nutrition dialed in and have fun. Now go out there and give it your all.
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