Thursday, October 23, 2014

How To Survive Your First CrossFit Competition

This past weekend, I competed in my first CrossFit Competition. I have participated in CF fundraisers and the Open for the CF Games, but I didn't think I was ready for a real competitive event. Then my friend Brian sent me the link to the Festivus Games, "the games for the rest of us."

Per their website, the Festivus Games are a competition series designed for Novice and Intermediate Athletes ONLY. "No fire-breather  types allowed." It sounded right up my alley, and after some peer pressure from Brian, I signed up for the Intermediate Competition. 
The division you choose to participate in should be based on the guidelines above. 

Competition day consists of three WODs. Then, at the end of the day, the top five competitors in each division compete in a final fourth WOD to determine the winners. FG posts all the workouts (minus the finals) on their website prior to the competition. This allows athletes time to practice and plan their workout strategies. Going into the events, I knew that this would not be my best performance. For one thing, none of the events were in my wheelhouse (I am better at upper body focused movements). Secondly, I had tweaked my back the week before. Regardless, I was determined to show up, give it my all, and see what competing was all about. That is exactly what I did, and I had a BLAST! I have since been bitten by the competition bug and am planning to enter more competitions in the upcoming months. 

Before I recap my day at the Festivus Games, I want to share with you my top five tips on surviving your first competition. If you do these things you will have a great experience, just like I did!

If you feel like you are over packing, then you are doing this step correctly. Bring all your equipment: lifting shoes, jump rope, hand guards, wrist wraps, weight lifting belt, etc. Anything you use for a WOD bring it. Just because a certain element isn't in one WOD doesn't mean it isn't going to be in the finals. It is best to be prepared for any situation. Make sure to (over) pack food, snacks, water and recovery drinks. Some competitions might have food options for sale, but don't rely on this. Bring your own! Plus, you know what your body needs to rehydrate and refuel adequately. DON'T try something new on competition day. Stick with your tried and true foods/drinks. Bringing your own foam roller, lacrosse ball and anything else you usually use for stretching and mobility. It is better to assume that the competition site will not have these available for your usage than to show up unprepared. Other last minute items: phone charger, water bottle, camera, cash, drivers license, extra socks, clothing layers (you never know what the temperature might be), chairs. 

You are not going to be good at every element in a CrossFit Competition. But, if you know your strengths and weaknesses you can make a game plan on how to attack the WODs efficiently and effectively. For example, I am a HORRIBLE rower. The first WOD at the Festivus Games was a 2K Row. Talk about a suckfest! Since rowing is a weakness of mine, I went into that workout with the mindset to do my best and get it over with. Then once it was over, I shifted my mindset to a new strategy for WOD 2. It consisted of elements that I am much better at: burpees and toes to bar. Since this WOD was where my strengths would be highlighted I needed to give it all I had. CrossFit is a mentally challenging sport and requires strategy. Knowing your strengths and weakness will help you not only physically attack WODs but mentally attack them as well.  

Remember how I said to bring your own roller and lacrosse ball? That is because between rounds you need to roll out and stretch as much as possible! Competition WODs are attacked at full speed and with every ounce of energy you've got. The second you finish you are exhausted and so are your muscles. But since you have more WODs to come, it is important to keep your muscles and body loose. Rolling out your muscles is therapeutic and it will help them recover faster after such strenuous workouts. It also boosts mobility and flexibility which is crucial for an all day competition. The second I finished a WOD I went straight to our "camp" to roll out and use the lacrosse ball on spots that felt tight. I swear this is what saved my tweaked back from getting tighter or reinjuring it. Roll Out. Roll Out. Roll Out! It will save you. 

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the competition and forget what your body is telling you. Don't Do This. It isn't worth it. If your back is telling you to drop the weight, listen. If your shoulder is saying you can't do another pull up, then don't. This is your first competition. It isn't the CrossFit Games. There is no reason to injure yourself just to get a heavier Olympic lift and then be out the rest of the year because of it. Competition day is going to be hard on your body. More than likely you are going to have some discomfort. But, make sure you are listening to your body. If that ache feels like it is something more, just stop!

I am SUPER competitive. Josh can tell you I have pouted (more times than I would like to admit) because I didn't get the score I wanted or the outcome I expected. I am intense. I can't help it. But, no matter how hard I am on myself, I always remember to have fun! That is why I entered the competition in the first place. I knew I wasn't going to win but I hoped to do my best and have a great time. So I did! 

And there you have it! If you follow these tips, you will not only crush your first competition but you will have a great time while doing it too! 

Do you have any advice for first time CF competitors? 

Are you interested to know how I did at the competition?  I followed all the advice from above and my first experience couldn't have been better. I didn't win (or even come close to the top 5), but I was happy with my performance. More importantly, I was ecstatic that my back didn't get reinjured. If anything, it felt better and better as the day went on (which I credit to tips 3 and 4). Full disclosure though: I was super sore for the next two days. Not in a bad way, but in a "hurts so good" way. 

2K Row for Time
I had a lot of fear and worry going into this WOD. For starters, I am not a good rower. (Give me double unders any day.) Secondly, my aforementioned back. Finally, a 2K row is grueling. I knew this was not going to be fun nor my best event. My goal was to finish under the 10 minute time cap. Luckily this amazing thing called adrenaline kicked in. And while the whole thing did suck, I did better than I expected with a time of 8:56. This put me in 16th place out of 21. Not too shabby. I was exhausted after that all out sprint, but with only an hour until WOD 2, I got to hydrating and rolling out. 
Having your CF friends' encouragement and support helps so much too!

10 Minute AMRAP
50 Over the Bar Burpees
30 Back Squats (65 Pounds)
10 Toes-to-Bar
In this WOD I knew I needed to step it up because it utilized more of my strengths.  I knocked out the burpees quickly without getting too winded, and I never dropped the bar during the back squat. Even though the weight was light, the back squat was the hardest part for me because of my back. It took me longer than it should have. But, in the end I finished 122 reps (1 full round plus 32 burpees) and placed 11th out 21 competitors. 

6 Minutes to Establish a 5 Rep Max Deadlift
(the lifts must be touch and go unbroken, no re-grip on the ground)
This was the final WOD and featured an Olympic lift. I knew I wanted to be able to walk out of the box without a back injury so I went into it with a low goal/weight of 175lbs. Yet, with so much time after my first attempt, I ended up adding 10 more pounds twice and finished with a 5 Rep Max of 195lbs. I couldn't have been happier and placed 15th out of 21.

For final scoring, your places in each of the WODs is combined to get your final score and placement. I ended up being in 17th out of 21. Not the best but not dead last either (which would have been fine too). 

One of our friends ended up making it into the final WOD and the top 5, and we were so proud of her. I was so TIRED after three WODs, I couldn't have imagined competing in another. She rocked it though, and I was so impressed! 

And that is the end of the longest post ever :) To recap, by following some simple tips you will be ready to crush your first CrossFit Competition. I used them and was happy with how I performed. Plus I had a great time! I couldn't have asked for a better experience and I am already looking forward to my next competition...oh and my next donut :)
A nice reward after a grueling day :)

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