Benefits of Competing
The final event of the 2009 Crossfit Games was a chipper that included 10 different movements, one of which was the ring Muscle-up. Annie Thorisdottir entered that event never having done a single muscle up before, yet she managed to get her first ever muscle up in front of a screaming crowd cheering her on.
As coaches we receive a lot of feedback from members when we encourage people to sign up for The Open, competitions, or when we start internal competitions within our own gyms:
“I’ve never done that movement before.”
“Why compete/sign up if I’m not going to win?”
“I don’t want to let my team down.”
“It’s too much pressure.”
When the coaches suggest these things, we do not hate you. We do not want to embarrass you. We are not picking on you.
Although immediately there may not seem like any positives, there are actually a ton of hidden benefits from competing that could make you a better athlete that will also translate to your everyday training.
Competition Spurs Progress
It’s too often that people will muddle through things in life because they don’t have a goal or point where they will be tested. Unfortunately the same can be said about training. Having goals is essential to learning, growing and improving overall. Remember back in school how hard we would study for a test or exam coming up? (Unless you cheated on tests, then shame on you.) The competition is our test. Whether it’s weight we are trying to hit or landing your first of a specific movement, competition gives you a finish line to identify.
Competition Can Help Us Push Beyond Our Limits
When prepping for a competition or practicing on a specific event with your team, you’ll find that because of the concentration you’re putting in you’ll be able to go a little farther and dig a little more than you normally do. The extra time and focus you put into the prep for a competition can lead to some pretty big jumps in your training. Also, because of adrenaline and excitement, it’s very common for athletes to hit new PRs and complete their first movements of something they’ve been struggling with! And who doesn’t love a PR???
Adversity has a tendency to bring out who a person really is. I competed earlier this year at the Gladiator Gauntlet and there was a partner deadlift/bar over burpee workout that was straight murder. So bad. About halfway through my portion with my partner I was completely done: exhausted, grip was blown, hamstring and back were dying. In any other normal circumstance I would have stopped, and everything in me wanted to stop. But my team is screaming for me to keep going. So what do you do? Give up or pick up the weight? Do you let the pain take control or do you take control? A large portion of training is what is going on between the ears, and competition can grow your mental toughness and show you what you’re really made of.
Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Think back to times in past Crossfit games competitions where an athlete is cruising along and then completely hits a wall with a movement:
– Annie Thorisdottir with the muscle up
– Rich Froning and the infamous rope climb
– Matt Fraser with the pig flips
– Josh Bridges with the heavy deadlift
Now think of later where they come back after that and completely destroy that same movement.
During a competition your strengths and weaknesses will be highlighted. And this ties into the goal setting mentioned above: these call outs will tell you what you need to work on. Set the goal to improve that movement, and as soon as that is reached, set the next goal.
You Can’t Lose
What will you ultimately lose? If you/your team don’t do well, you won’t be able to stand on the podium and you won’t get the free supplements the winners get. But just by competing you will have experienced all the above mentioned, and will be leaving a better athlete. You may not be able to see it right away because you’re bummed about the outcome, but what you gained is far more valuable.
So the next time there’s a competition or the Open comes around, sign up! You may be surprised with the results: you might find the inner beast within you that you never even knew existed.
Training vs. Competing
Stopping by with the first non-programming related blog post to talk about the difference between training and competing during your 1-hour block at the gym in a new segment we’ll be calling “Coach’s Corner”!
Here’s the scenario: You walk in for your regular class a few minutes early and swing by the whiteboard to do your daily check on the peeps from earlier in the day. You notice the gym “body weight ninja” got 26 rounds on “Cindy”! Impressed by the performance you get yourself psyched up and proceed to throw-DOWN! Moving as fast as you can through the reps, you accept that cutting corners with your technique here and there during the 20-minute workout is what the other guy did in order to get such a great score…in order to leave it all out there on the floor, right? By the end, you feel absolutely exhausted and you’re super happy with your score…so it must be good thing, right? Maybe…but maybe not.
The scenario above is one of the most common examples of “competing instead of training” that the coaches see on a day to day basis. Ignoring the fundamentals of the movements (e.g. midline tight in the push up, knees out in the squat, back neutral on the deadlift) in order to improve your “number on the whiteboard” does more harm than good, even though you felt like you got a great workout. Maybe it’s because we sometimes refer to it as a “score” when we should say “result”. The word “score” implies comparison…it naturally makes things more competitive, which brings in ego (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how it’s used in this scenario).
Competing can be awesome – it can push us to our limits and provide us with the intensity we seek in hopes of improving our fitness! Unfortunately, cutting corners with our technique and mechanics in the name of higher intensity has adverse effects on our bodies ability to change in a positive manner. You can even train yourself OUT of shape! In the Crossfit Level 1 Seminar we’re taught, “Mechanics, Consistency, THEN Intensity.” If you have intensity without the first 2 prerequisites you’re more likely to compete yourself right into injury or poor movement patterns, as very little positive adaptation comes from training this way.
In summary, focus on TRAINING while you’re in the gym: perform every movement from the time the warm up starts to the final rep of the metcon with purpose and the intent of perfect mechanics and you’ll avoid having your intensity stunted by your technique. You’ll be less prone to injury, develop a more balanced body, and make more long-term progress!
Post any questions, comments, or concerns in the comments and have a great night!