Competing in The CrossFit Games means different things to each individual, and changes over time. Some thoughts I have on the process after five years of pursuit:
1) KNOW YOURSELF
Self-knowledge will allow you to establish appropriate expectations for yourself and your body, both day to day and in the big picture. It’s only with self-awareness that the following points will be attainable.
2) BE ABLE TO SAY ‘NO’
If training for the Games is your priority you need to be willing and able to decline opportunities or obligations that detract from that. Contrary to what you may have heard, you can’t have it all- not at at the same time anyway. There are only so many hours in a day and unfortunately as athletes we can’t borrow extra time from sleeping hours. Prioritize. Don’t put too much on your plate. Be willing to give up non-essential activities.
3) INTEGRATE YOUR LIFE
Allow your training and recovery activities to be an enjoyable part of your life. If you can, share that time with family and friends (train with friends, bring your child to training), or enjoying nature by training outdoors, etc. This can help make training a wonderful part of your life.
You must find a coach who values and respects you as an individual, and also knows what they are doing. Training sufficient to Games level competition is demanding and will push you places that are difficult to go. Most people don’t have the extra mental or physical resources to spend energy wondering about their coach or program and still be successful. Having complete trust in your coach and 100% belief in your program will take a huge psychological burden off your shoulders, allowing that energy to go towards your goal. It will also help keep you safe. Many people have accepted it as normal to train with pain and injury on a regular basis. It’s not normal or necessary with proper training, programming and coaching.
5) TRAINING ENVIRONMENT
Not all facilities are going to be conducive to Games training. Whether it’s space constraints, lack of resources, gym culture, or programming, it can be a challenge for some gyms to determine how to deal with aspiring competitors without detracting from their core membership group. As competitor you need to find a place that is going to welcome and embrace your pursuit.
Ask for it. Accept it. Be grateful for it.
7) LIFE KEEPS MOVING
Someone recently commented to me, “it just amazes me how you guys (CrossFit competitors) dedicate your life to this.” The statement is true to an extent, but it’s also important to recognize that you’re living, today, right now. Putting your life on hold until after you reach your goal isn’t sustainable for very long, nor does it leave you much space to achieve a sense of balance.
I absolutely want to win the CrossFit Games. But at a certain point along the way (I think it took until after my second trip to Carson) I realized that winning the Games isn’t really the only point. The point what you gain from the pursuit. All the stars have to align to win the CrossFit Games (unless you are Rich Froning). The types of workouts programmed, the order of the workouts, your training, your health, your family and personal life, etc. If you do everything in your power to reach your goal and it doesn’t happen, your efforts have to be honored for what they are. Absorb lessons, revel in the growth and development you experience. You’re more than your competition results, your numbers, or any other athletic measure.
9) LOVE YOUR WORK
If you don’t enjoy the process of training, this is going to be a very unpleasant experience. I know Muhammad Ali is quoted as saying he hated every minute of training, but I don’t believe it! The man fought for over 20 years, he must have liked something. You have to find enjoyment, though it may be twisted, in the dark outside, 5am, middle of winter, in an empty gym lifting a frozen barbell, walking uphill both ways moments, just as you would embrace the sun shining on your face and the crowd cheering you on in the tennis stadium. Training is not suffering. You’re not a martyr. You’re not working harder than everyone else. Consider the perspective that the opportunity to train and work towards a goal is a privilege. “Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
The important question, why are you pursuing this? What do you think will be the result for you as a person if you achieve this goal? Why is it meaningful? What’s REALLY point? Find the answers to those questions and let them feed your drive.
11) CORE MISSION FOCUS
As the sport of CrossFit grows there are increasing opportunities for athletes with sponsors, magazine articles, personal websites, business development, media coverage with CrossFit headquarters… the list goes on and on. As these possibilities grow, so does the need for an athlete to maintain focus on their core mission. Refer back to points 2) and 10). Stay humble. Stay focused. Set your eyeson the prize that you’ve identified. If your desire to compete at the Games IS for the exposure, sponsors, etc., please disregard this point.
12) MIND OWN
Social media makes it really easy to find yourself all up in other people’s Kool-aid and you don’t even know the flavor. Many people get caught up in other people’s training practices, workload, numbers, who did what in another region, etc. What anyone else is doing has nothing to do with you. Don’t believe the hype about yourself or anyone else. I’ve talked to many aspiring Games athletes who have built others up in their minds so much that they defeat themselves before they even start competing. Respect everyone, fear no one.
13) THE LONG HAUL
Something that was both a blessing and a curse for me was qualifying to the CrossFit Games very soon after I got started in the sport. It set me up on a course of always chasing a win and chasing the next competition instead of settling in to develop as an athlete. Value preservation, a solid foundation and longevity over a suicide mission, crash course approach. Be patient with your development. Limit frustration, and don’t lament the lack of results from work you haven’t done.
14) THE LITTLE THINGS ARE EVERYTHING
One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “how many workouts do you do daily?” It doesn’t matter how many workouts I do in a day, but it does matter how I work. Work diligently, consistently, intentionally, intensely, passionately, and with true, honest effort. Pay attention to detail in every aspect of your preparation.
Roll with the punches. Be like water. Realize that things don’t have to be perfect in order for you to be successful. Success will not be the result of any one day, but a compilation of years of work. Create a body of work that you can be proud of.
16) Have fun. Laugh. Enjoy and appreciate what you’re doing!