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What Local Competitions Mean to Grinders

Every time I go into a competition, these are my three goals. Whether I’m competing as an individual, with a partner or in a group


“Don’t get hurt, don’t finish last, finish before the time limit.”*

Every time I go into a competition, these are my three goals. Whether I’m competing as an individual, with a partner or in a group of three, local competitions for grinders like me have never been about being on the platform.

I recently attended and competed in the Battle for the Hill at the Illinois State Fair. This is my third time competing at a CrossFit-style event at the State Fair with my team … The Grinders (honestly, what else did you think we would be called?). It was a three-person-team competition in which the members of all teams would have to complete a predetermined number of deadlifts, hang cleans and shoulder-to-overheads, and of course hill sprints in the first WOD and kettlebell swings, box jumps and burpees in the second WOD. As an added “bonus,” the top eight in the Rx division of the men’s and women’s side would get a third WOD consisting of two parts: one part team snatch ladder, one part triple “FRAN!” My teammates, Drew and Doug, agreed that we were thankful we would have no part in this except to watch it and cheer. The event drew around 375 competitors from three states and was watched by more than a thousand people.

Now, was this the Games or even Regionals? No. But for the local guy or gal, it is both those things.

First-time competitor Andy Cassady from CrossFit Rushville summed up his experience. “I really didn’t know what to expect going in and was a little nervous, but that’s what I love about CrossFit,” he said. “It’s constantly putting you out of your comfort zone and challenging you. It was amazing how the competitors and teams supported one another all the way through and cheered each other on. It was a great experience, and I can’t wait to compete again.”

At some point in their lives, all athletes’ careers come to an end. No matter the level or the talent of the athlete, all careers come to an end. With CrossFit, some of the thrill of competing comes back into play in the form of head-to-head results with others at your box or in your specific training class time. There is always the Open and, for the select few, the Regional.

Most everyday grinders will never get to the Regional-athlete level (without buying a ticket), so what we have seen is the growth and development of the local competition. These “battles,” “throwdowns” and “games” of various titles and themes come in all shapes and sizes. The fees are usually pretty reasonable, and they offer something that the official Games’ season does not: scaled divisions. By doing this, they open the doors for grinders like my teammates and me to compete.

For us, it’s not about the prizes or the spot in the final standings (as long as it’s not the last spot). We just love to have that feeling of competing again. To get a taste of what playing sports used to feel like. To see how we can take our group and go against your group on the same playing field and see who can do it better. I love watching the top guys and girls from our box go at a tough WOD against the top guys and girls from other boxes for bragging rights (and maybe a gift card or T-shirt).

It’s fun to see local businesses come out and sponsor the events and see people come and watch and get exposed to what CrossFit is like for a majority of us on a daily basis. The exposure is a key component to the development and growth of the local boxes, sure, but it has so much more to do with giving people a taste of what the sport side of CrossFit can be all about. We don’t have to call the event a “CrossFit competition,” it just has to have the elements of functional fitness over broad modal domains to show others a snapshot of what we love to do.

I wasn’t anywhere near the Ranch in 2007 or 2008, but I have, like so many, watched Every Second Counts. That movie made a HUGE impact not only on my life, but on the lives of thousands of others. These local comps mimic what the original Games were able to do — give the everyday man a chance to compete. What our Games has evolved into is so important to the sport and global expansion of CrossFit. But what a local comp gives to a grinder is the only thing people like me need — a chance to compete. Like everyone else, I have the same chance to pay my entrance fee and log my scores and times during the Open to see how I “stack up.” But in reality, that’s not going to be a very good indication of what I can do against people of similar age and skill sets.

For me, hearing 3,2,1 . . . GO! while surrounded by a few hundred people on an outdoor basketball court at a fairground or in someone’s box with dozens of like-minded CrossFit athletes from all walks of life staring at my team as we grind it out becomes my “Games.”

I love cheering on my fellow box members as they tackle their own WODs and compete against other local athletes. I love when you hear a roar come from the other side of the competition floor because a team from some other town or state just PR’d a snatch. It makes me smile. The hugs, the pats on the back, the beers afterward, all these things beat at the heart of CrossFit all around the world.

* By the way, we got 16th place out of 25 teams, finished all the WODs and none of us got hurt. Success!

Stay on the Grind.

— JTol
@Grindersgrind or JTol Grinder on Facebook