Why compete? My husband asks me this every single time I sign up for a competition. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s impossible to be fully prepared. You never know if your double unders are going to show up, and the heavy clean you can do in your sleep usually decides to take the day off. Not to mention you’re sweaty and smelly the whole day, even if you pack a change of clothes for every event. Quite frankly…competing is horrible.
And I love it.
In Middle Tennessee we’re entering our competition season. One Day events, Two Days, Teams, Individuals, Masters. There are competition options for everyone who is interested in competing.
But whether you’ve signed up for your first competition, or you have a few under your belt, you may be wondering how to best prepare for your upcoming event.
I’ve asked four elite coaches to give us some pointers on preparation and making the most out of our competitions.
I’ve just signed up. Now what?
“Knowing a competition is coming changes your mindset,” says Nate Beveridge, member and coach of the CrossFit Fraser Valley CENTAURS (with three consecutive CrossFit Games under his belt). “Even though you’re sticking with your box’s programming, you may notice that your performance improves a bit. You start to crack down on your nutrition. You have a goal.”
Michael Winchester, whose coaching helped lead Team CrossFit Central Downtown Black to the 2014 Games, adds, “Begin to dial in on nutrition (high-quality foods in the right quantities, proper supplementation and hydration). Get into a consistent pattern of sleep – preferably 8-9 hours per night.”
“When you first sign up, continue with your box’s programming. Focus on showing up. Now is not the time to blow off a WOD. Show up and work hard,” says Emily Griffith, co-owner and head coach of CrossFit Brigade Chattanooga, who has been competing at the Regional level for four years.
“Start increasing your conditioning – sprints, running,” says Dennis Cheatham, owner of CrossFit Talon and a 2014 CrossFit Games Masters athlete. “Start eating to recover. You have to consume food to get through the workouts.”
The WODs have just been released…
“Now you can begin testing the WODs. Sometimes I’ll run all the classes through the competition WODs. Seeing how a large number of athletes deal with pacing and strategy helps train the competitors,” says Coach Griffith. “And it’s important to log your results so you can see where you can shave off time.”
“Test the WODs at least once,” says Coach Cheatham. “To prevent boredom, you can also make new WODs with the same movements. Or use the movements in a ladder. For example, if you are concerned about your double unders, add a double under ladder to your programming.”
Adds Coach Griffith, “Break down the movements. If you have a certain weakness, do an EMOM with it.”
“Repeating the same WODs over and over can hurt your overall progress,” says Coach Beveridge. “But if it helps you place better in a competition, it may be worth it to you.”
If you experience success during your training, you’ll have more fun. It’s a competition, but it should still be an enjoyable experience.” — Coach Cheatham
It’s also important to wear the gear you’re planning to use on game day. “This could be lifting shoes, running shoes, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, compression gear, ect. You will want to train in this new gear for at least several weeks to a month in order to break it in to make sure you are comfortable wearing it for the competition,” advises Coach Winchester.
There’s only a month left…
“Begin a ritual of preparation before different types of workouts,” says Coach Winchester. “How do you prepare for a max lift? How do you prepare for a 5K run? How do you prepare for a blistering 5 minute lung-burner? Each of these types of workouts demands different execution, different type of warm-up and different mental preparation.”
“If you haven’t already, get serious about your nutrition. You want to be healthy and injury-free. Eliminate any alcohol and focus on consuming whole foods,” says Coach Griffith. “My competition athletes are strict about not only what they eat, but also when they eat it. Your diet needs to be balanced and consistent.”
The best athletes are also the most adaptable. Even the best-laid plan can or will need to be changed at a moment’s notice.” — Coach Winchester
Coach Cheatham suggests, “Develop a plan. The more you can stick to your plan during the competition, the better you’ll do. Work on your pacing and transitions between movements.”
“Think about a goal,” suggests Coach Beveridge. “Maybe your goal is to finish. Maybe you’re looking to hit a personal record. The goal doesn’t have to be the podium. If it’s your first competition, aim for something small.”
One week to go…time to taper
“Your last heavy lift should be 7 to 10 days before the competition,” says Coach Cheatham. “You’re not going to develop any more strength before you compete. Seventy-two hours beforehand, hit one of the WODS hard, but reduce the volume and focus on your skill.”
“You will want to stay in the gym and get rid of nervous energy, but you don’t want to overdo it,” warns Coach Winchester. “Take it easy on your central nervous system and make sure you are properly hydrating and fueling your body for the work you will take on. Do not change food or supplements. The same goes for your clothes and gear.”
Coach Griffith adds, “Forty-eight hours before the competition, do some mobility. Maybe a relaxing activity or even an easy conditioning workout. Don’t do anything strenuous the day before the event. Take the day off or just move a bit – light rowing, work on a skill or with the PVC pipe.”
“Nothing new on competition day. It’s important to stick to your normal routine,” says Coach Beveridge. “Do your normal warm-up, listen to your usual music, do your normal cool-down.”
“Show up early. Keep in mind you will want to check in, ask questions, set up your tent, familiarize yourself with the WOD-areas, and take in any pre-competition food and/or supplements and begin to mobilize, roll out and warm up,” advises Coach Winchester. “Know where the restrooms are. Continue to eat and supplement as usual.”
“It’s important to understand the standards and ask questions,” says Coach Griffith. “If the judging allows an easier version of a movement, take the advantage. Don’t make things harder on yourself.”
Adds Coach Cheatham, “Remember your plan. Pacing is incredibly important.”
Get your mind right. Each workout counts. By the end of the day many athletes aren’t as serious about their performance. Stay strong until it’s over.” — Coach Griffith
“Plan and prep your own nutrition,” says Coach Beveridge. “You’re going to be feeling a lot of adrenaline – something you’re not used to WODing with. Proper warm ups, cool downs and nutrition will help even things out.”
“Rest between your events,” suggests Coach Griffith. “I know it’s tempting to cheer on your fellow competitors, but you’ll do better if you take time to relax, recover and refocus.”
Adds True Barbellion: Don’t forget to pack! Here is a list of what I make sure is with me on event day (besides the gear):
- A couple of changes of clothes. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t – usually depending on the line for the restroom. But it’s really nice to be able to change out of your sweaty clothes.
- A small laundry bag for the sweaty clothes.
- A print-out of the competition schedule. This has come in handy so many times. It’s good to know when and where all the heats are.
- Wet wipes. When you’re feeling grody or just need a cool down. Sometimes I put these in a pocket in my cooler bag so they’re cold.
- Music and headphones: sometimes it’s hard to find a quiet place for yourself. The headphones help.
- Hand repair kit. Contains RipFix, athletic tape and bandaids.
- A big ol’ cooler. I bring a dozen bottled waters, coconut water and whatever else I need to consume that day.
Give a few of these tips a try at your next CrossFit competition. Even if you’ve just signed up for fun, you may surprise yourself with a PR or a new understanding of what motivates you.
How you do to prepare for a competition? What do you bring for event day?