During an afternoon of CrossFit internet reading, I came across an article in BoxLife Magazine called 5 Reasons to Attend a CrossFit Regionals Event. (Wait…only 5 reasons?) Going to the Games this year was out of the question (scarcity of tickets, travel, time off work, didn’t qualify, ect) but I decided to get a seat at the Central East Regionals in Cincinnati. The drive to the event wouldn’t be bad – only a bit over four hours – and tickets were $20 a day. Why not?
We went on Saturday to watch Events 4 & 5. I was pulling for local athlete Will Moorad, and I was really excited to see CrossFit athletes in action. The day was inspiring, and I plan on making it a yearly trip.
One of the cool things about the Events is empathizing with the athletes. You may not have qualified for Regionals, but if you’re a CrossFitter and you’re watching, you’re feeling the pain. But you also can’t watch bad form without commenting, watch an athlete walk without shouting for them to run, or watch time run out without yelling HURRY!
I learned a lot from my trip to Regionals. And I’m happy to say that most of what I learned I can apply to my daily WOD. Let’s start with what I need to work on the most…
1. Wear Your Game Face.
In Event 4 (which was made up of strict handstand push-ups, front squats and burpees) many of the athletes came off the handstand push-ups already looking exhausted. Shoulders sagged, chests heaved, heads were down. These athletes were not out of the running yet, but you could read defeat in their body language – even from where we were sitting. This trend was more noticeable in the lower-ranked athletes and I can’t help thinking there’s a strong correlation between body language and performance. Rich Froning has such a strong game face that when he comes in second, you believe that he meant to come in second…it was all in his plan.
Think about this: Next time you’re mid-WOD and you’re tired, you’re hurting, and there are way too many minutes left on the clock – throw on your game face. Get back in control. You got this. Get those shoulders back, get that head up, and go. Make that last rep as good as the first one. Finish strong. If nothing else, determination looks a lot cooler than resignation.
2. Control Your Movement.
Burpees are pretty straight forward. You throw yourself on the ground and you get back to your feet. There are a few burpee techniques, but really, in the end, you go down and have to get back up. During the team and individual events, athletes were flopping everywhere doing the burpees. I told my husband I might start calling the movement a ‘flopee.’ Arms flapping, legs flailing – there was too much effort being wasted.
Julie Foucher makes beautiful burpees. And she stood on the podium.
Think about this: Next time you see burpees written on the white board, be happy. You’re about to do some controlled burpees. You’re going to keep your body in line. You’re going to stay in control on the way down and you’re going to stay in control on the way up. You’re going to save some energy. And, of course, performing a movement in a controlled, efficient way looks a lot more bad-ass than flailing limbs.
3. Be Consistent.
This is probably Rich Froning’s greatest skill. He is consistent. Even my non-CrossFitter husband noticed. During Event 4, my husband said, “Rich is behind.”
Me: No, he isn’t.
Husband: Yes, he is.
Me: Yeah, but not really.
Husband: Well, technically…
And we watched as Rich maintained a consistent pace throughout the entire event. The pace that puts him behind initially will be the same pace that takes him to the win. And that’s what happened in that event when he tied for first with Scott Panchik.
Rich’s reps are nearly identical and evenly spaced. But he’s not the only top athlete who used this technique. Julie Foucher kept a steady rhythm throughout Event 4, and her burpees were all the same – burpee, hop, jump over bar. Burpee, hop, jump over bar. YouTube it. Watch it again. Burpee, hop, jump over bar. Controlled, consistent, paced.
Think about this: Proper pacing is one of the hardest skills to master. You have to know your body and its limitations. You have to know when you red-line, and you have to know when you need to push. It takes experience and awareness. So start now. And you’ll smile when the little braggart that lapped you in the first round finishes behind you.
4. Stick to the Plan.
When I spoke to Will Moorad after he qualified for the 2014 Games, I asked him if there’d been any surprises during the Regionals – anything that he thought he had prepared for but didn’t go as planned. He said he had been surprised that he’d abandoned his strategy during Event 6. Instead of sticking to his plan, he’d decided to go fast out of the gate in an effort to chase Graham Holmberg. He spent his energy too fast and the rest of the event was a lot harder than if he’d paced himself.
Think about this: You don’t usually have the need or the time to create a strategy for a white board WOD. But if you get the chance, try it. Break down those 15 toes to bar into three sets of five (or, if you’re like me, five sets of three). Will broke up the handstand push-ups in Event 4 into sets of three. Other guys were going max-effort and ended up falling behind.
5. Thighs Are In.
On the competition floor, in the bleachers, on the sidelines – women of CrossFit take pride in their thighs. Despite the threat of cold weather, shorts, spandex and spandex shorts were the apparel of choice. I wore shorts and experienced a sensation completely unexpected and foreign to me: pride in my thighs. Even my husband noticed, “There’s a lot of strutting going on, and it’s not just the guys.” I smiled. I may have been guilty of a strut or two.
Think about this: You squat with those thighs. If it’s not there already, bring thigh pride to your box.
You may not have fast WOD times or lift as much as a Regional athlete, but there’s no reason you can’t learn from the top competitors. Try a few of these tips and you’ll be a step ahead when the speed and strength catch up.