Competition is ever-present in the CrossFit community. Aside from the Open, Regionals and the CrossFit Games, more local “throwdowns” are taking place. This allows a variety of athletes, at all skill levels, the opportunity to experience the competition component of CrossFit. So even if you have never competed perhaps a competition is on the horizon.
There are many benefits for CrossFitters who choose to experience competition. Of course, they vary from athlete to athlete, but they may include a heightened sense of accomplishment, increased camaraderie with fellow competitors and a greater sense of “feeling alive”. Competitions can be a great time to test how proficient you have become in various skills and to test your overall fitness level.
It’s important to recognize the benefits of competing, as it will help with your overall motivation and confidence. However, even with the benefits, there is another side to competition. The novelty of competition and concerns about one’s performance cause many athletes to experience pre-competition stress and anxiety. These pre-competition feelings can cause physical issues and create negative attitudes and emotions. Why would you want to lose sleep, feel sick to your stomach or have a negative attitude toward yourself or others, especially, since you chose to enter the competition in the first place? The good thing is these feelings can be controlled through effective mental training. Just like you train your body to become a well-conditioned machine, it is critical to do the same with your mind. The more you can align your physical training with your mental training every WOD, the more conditioned your mind will become to handle stress and pressure in a competition setting. To train your mind, implement two strategies consistently and you’ll be on your way to preparing yourself for competition.
Who am I really competing against? It’s obvious that you’re technically going up against other competitors, but ultimately you are competing against one person: yourself. When you adopt this viewpoint, you provide yourself with a vital tool for combating a part of pre-competition stress: your performance as compared to the competitors, or peer comparison. You can’t control how other competitors will prepare or actually perform. The more you worry about things you can’t control, the more you cause yourself unnecessary stress and waste mental and physical energy. The one thing you can always control is yourself. This includes your preparation, strategy, attitude and performance. If you can learn to easily shift your focus from things outside your control to things within your control, you’ll feel more relaxed and empowered over the situation. Knowing that you can and will give the competition your full effort, helps alleviate pre-competition stress and anxiety surrounding peer comparison. If you can give your full effort, no matter the results, you can leave the competition proud to have given it your all.
Why am I competing? What am I trying to gain from this experience? For a select few, maybe it’s for money and fame, but most people compete to test their limits and learn more about themselves. As a competitor, it is important to have a clear purpose for competing. Awareness around why you want to compete and what you want to gain from competing helps you keep things in perspective. Sometimes, you can lose track of why you CrossFit. Reminding yourself of the enjoyment and passion for the sport can help you keep the training and competition in perspective. Yes, it is going to be grueling at times, and yes it will hurt, but you still chose to participate. So when you find yourself second-guessing your preparation or questioning your performance, remind yourself why you are ultimately doing this. For you! To improve and see yourself push beyond preconceived physical barriers. That’s the fun part! For you, CrossFit is more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. It should be enjoyable the whole way through. Whether you are hitting PR’s or learning from your mistakes, it’s more favorable to meet these events with enjoyment and excitement. It is said that failure is essential to success. If you view every competition as a learning opportunity, you will gain a stronger focus and understanding of how to improve, in turn motivating you to excel until you reach your desired goals.
Remember, CrossFit is a journey, not a sprint. Getting better takes a great deal of hard work and dedication, both physical and mental. The process is just as or more important than the end result. Not to mention, it is satisfying! You are to enjoy every step of the way since you choose it to make it an important part of your life. Good luck as you reflect on how to incorporate this into your own mental training. Remember, you create and shape the context of any competition. If you want it to be a positive experience, it is up to you to execute that desire.