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Up Your Game

Every CrossFit newbie should do these five things NOW to get competition-ready.

Game season is upon us. You’re becoming irrationally obsessed with Brooke Ence’s abs (or at least I am). The Games are dominating your consciousness, and you’ve started to think, Maybe I should sign up for a competition. Then, terrified, you do 15 extra burpees just to drive the insane thought from your mind.

But here’s the thing: You’ve already signed up. Every class you take, you’re competing against your yesterday self and comparing how you stack up against other athletes. You just took a humbling dip in the Body Fat Dunk Tank to motivate (read: shame) yourself into stepping it up. But now you need to make the competition official. Yes, YOU: the accountant who just took up CrossFit last month after a sedentary seven years behind a big wooden desk. Yes, YOU: the endurance athlete who only took up CrossFit to get more functional weight training into your regimen. Yes, YOU: the placid, peaceful, “everyone’s a winner” yoga instructor. Clearly, you’re not going to compete in the CrossFit games themselves (yet), so calm the F down and keep reading.

Real Talk: CrossFit isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a sport. It’s competitive by nature. There’s a reason you walked into your first box instead of cashing in that Zumba Groupon.

I recently signed up for my second competition. Femme Royale is on August 8, and I’m scared out of my mind. But I know a few things that will get me where I need to be (at least mentally) on competition day. So this is as much a reminder for me as it is a tool for you. You’re welcome.

Here are the five things you need to do NOW to get competition-ready.

1. Partner Up


Having someone to share your terror and your goals with makes you more accountable, it makes you less anxious and it makes the whole thing a hell of a lot more fun. Pair up with someone on your level (or slightly better) so you’re pushing yourself to keep up.

A partner makes you stronger than your excuses. When you don’t show up for a workout, it’s not just your own workout you’re sandbagging. When someone else is relying on you to be your best self, you tend to take the slack out of the line, dig deeper than ever and pull PRs out of your ass. Your squat-hard ass.

Plus, the psychology of comparing yourself to other people is powerful magic. When you’re comparing your performance to someone else’s, you work harder.

2. Sign Up

I’m going to be brutally honest with you for a second: You don’t feel ready because you’re not. Sign up anyway. You’re never going to feel ready. BUT you’re never going to GET ready until you have a deadline looming. Now, don’t go in like an asshole and sign up for an Advanced Rxxx. (Is that even a thing?) Know yourself and compete in a level that fits your skills (Rx, beginner, fun, etc.).

Back yourself into a corner so you have no choice but to fight your way out. Pick a competition a month or so down the line, give yourself time to prepare … and start training now. KNOW that you have that big gray dot looming just three thumb swipes down your iCal.

Tell your coaches as soon as you sign up. Ask for their advice on how to prepare, pace and strategize. Tell EVERYONE to make it feel real and to make excuses a lot harder to justify. Now you have something to work toward … other than creating a puddle on the floor to post the perfect sweat angel on Instagram.

3. Fuel Up

Nutrition is essential on game day. Ask any endurance athlete: The way you have to eat to fuel an entire day of exercise is very different from the way you might eat on any given Sunday (Pacino reference anyone?). To make sure you’re not crapping yourself (literally AND figuratively) on competition day, you’re going to have to start altering your nutrition way ahead of time. A typical day of CrossFit competition might involve three separate workouts. Competition day will feel like a mini Hunger Games, and you need to keep your body and mind well-nourished.

You’ll need foods that replenish your glycogen stores so you have ready energy. You need to start timing protein and carbohydrate intake to best aid muscle recovery. You need nutrition that’s convenient and easy to digest. I love single-serving protein powder packets. They’re a ton more convenient than toting your canister around, and they make it easy to keep your nutrition in line on-the-go. Throw a few in your gym bag as you’re training so you get used to the routine. Start now so you get comfortable with the foods and powders and snacks that work for you. And most important, find stuff you actually like so you won’t tire of it by competition day. These new salted caramel packets from Quest are pretty awesome tasting, and the ingredient deck is really clean. Find a flavor that makes your nutrition a treat instead of a chore.

4. Suit Up

You wouldn’t go snowboarding in jeans would you? (I was that #citygirl on my first snowboarding venture. Frozen soggy denim … NOT fun.) You’re starting to think of CrossFit like a sport now, not just a lifestyle. Treat yourself like a pro and invest in at least one piece of gear that will make your training more efficient, less painful — and have you feeling more like a badass. Oly shoes, wrist wraps, knee sleeves — what do you need/want the most?

My partner and I are getting matching outfits for our competition. There may or may not be costume changes for each of the three WODs … (shuttup). Hey, it makes the competition more fun … and hopefully it will distract attention from my pitiful attempt at a thruster ladder.)

5. Show Up

And I don’t just mean physically. As long as your will is stronger than your skill, you are gold. Show up as your best self. Be present. You’ll want to back out and you’ll wonder (maybe even out loud), What the F am I doing here??? But I PROMISE, you’ll wind up doing more than you think you can … even if you come in last place. (DON’T, btw!)

Look around the room at everyone else grinding through and facing their demons, and show up for them, too. You’re showing up for something much bigger than yourself — not just as an observer but as someone playing the actual game.

Once the competition’s over, your entire outlook will be transformed. You’ll have more confidence, you’ll realize what you’re actually capable of and you’ll start looking forward to your next competition instead of fearing it. You’ll start figuring out all your weaknesses so you can turn them into strengths. Even if you don’t do another competition right away – you’ll tackle your everyday classes more like the champ you really are.