So I did a thing … well, two things actually. Let me back up a bit first.
At the end of last year, I felt myself wanting a change. I mean, I really love running but I was feeling less and less inspired by it. Training for marathons had become a grind — one that I wasn’t enjoying the way I used to. It was time to change things up.
So I stepped back from running for awhile and tried something completely different and way out of my comfort zone — CrossFit competitions.
Prior to entering my first competition, I’d been doing CrossFit consistently for just under a year. It was fun, super challenging, and the community was amazing. So when my friend Liz asked me about doing a partner competition, I was in the right place to say yes. Fast forward a few months … and we finished on the podium in our very first competition. Before long, I was signed up for my first individual competition, in which I ultimately finished first in my age group.
What It’s Really Like to Train for a CrossFit Competition
- It’s time-consuming. I’m not gonna sugar coat it … I was working out for 2-3 hours, 6 days per week. Most of that time was spent drilling lifting technique (not particularly sexy), followed by the 2-3 minutes of rest mandated by my coach between sets. After all my lifts and gymnastics training for the day, I’d often have some intervals or a metabolic conditioning workout to complete that was usually pretty brutal. So yeah, I was working out a lot.
- You have to be really tough mentally. I had to work out when I was tired, when I was sore, and when there were other things to do. Some days I just didn’t have it physically and everything felt hard. Not only do you have to be able to push through the tough days but you also have to be able to carry on when things aren’t going your way.
- You spend a ton of time working on things you’re not good at and don’t like. This one’s tough because no one really wants to repeatedly do stuff they suck at. But competition is really about maximizing your strengths and working even harder on your weaknesses. You have to face the things you aren’t very good at without getting frustrated.
- It’s incredibly humbling. Just because you crushed your workout yesterday doesn’t mean you’ll crush it today. And just because you did the work to prepare for competition doesn’t mean you’ll win. Yes, you worked hard but presumably so did everybody else. You are entitled to nothing.
- Food intake and timing matters. This training volume requires more food. But in order to perform well you can’t just eat more, you have to eat well and time your fueling appropriately. The right balance of macronutrients is really important or your performance and energy levels could tank, leaving you to drag yourself painfully through your workouts (and the rest of your day).
- You need the right equipment. I definitely learned the value of lifting shoes, gymnastics grips, and chalk. Life is so much better with the right gear.
- You have to up your recovery game. As much as I wanted to lay around after those long, tough workouts, I couldn’t let my muscles get tight. I spent a good bit of time taking leisure walks, rolling on a lacrosse ball, and soaking in Epsom salt to relieve soreness and stay loose.
- It takes a village. I assembled a small army of expert coaches. Not everyone needs it but this was undeniably the pivotal point in my training — almost overnight, I got unbelievably better. They kept me focused, forced me to work on my weaknesses, provided a fresh perspective, and gave me new drills to improve technique.
- You’ll do things you didn’t think you could do. When you’re training for a competition, you have to do some things that are pretty far out of your comfort zone. As scary as that can be at times, be prepared to surprise yourself. When you are truly committed to improving, cool stuff starts to happen.
- Your hair will be dirty a lot. There are simply not enough hours in the day to wash my curls after every workout. ‘Nuf said.
Look, I don’t wanna scare you off, so please know that if you want to do a competition for the experience or just give yourself a goal to work toward, you can totally do that and still have a blast. But if you enter and want to really push yourself to see how well you can do among your peers, it’s a lot of work and sacrifice.
In the end, I felt it was all worth it. I actually really enjoyed the process. It was unbelievably satisfying.
Have you ever done a CrossFit competition? Share what you learned in the comments below. —Alison