Last weekend we got to watch some of the Fittest people on Earth compete at the CrossFit Games. These are people at the absolute pinnacle of their fitness who have worked for years to build the capacity they have. Many of them were athletes in other sports before making the switch to CrossFit. Every year new athletes show up and prove that they belong amongst the 40 fittest men & women on Earth. And who knows, next year it might be you.If you have been inspired by these athletes and want to make it to the next level and one day compete at the CrossFit Games, here are 5 practical things that you can do WITHOUT a coach that will make you the best CrossFit athlete you can be. The key is to do them consistently…
If you have been inspired by these athletes and want to make it to the next level and one day compete at the CrossFit Games, here are 5 practical things that you can do yourself that will make you the best CrossFit athlete you can be. The key is to do them consistently…
1. Keep Your Standards High
By far the most obvious place to start is with your movement. More importantly, your ability to understand and adhere to proper movement standards will set you apart from others. When you do the WOD at your box you have a choice of sticking to the correct movement standards or doing a few bro-reps while the coach isn’t watching. But in competition you don’t have that kind of freedom, you have a judge watching every single rep. If you haven’t engrained proper movement patterns through continual repetition then you are going to struggle to stick to the standards on the competition floor.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
It’s not hard to find the movement standards, go through every open workout ever released and you’ll find a detailed description of most of the typical movements you will come across in a WOD. Find movements and ways of moving that have the greatest transfer to all other movements. Perform your back squats, front squats, and overhead squats as similarly as possible. Overhead squat with the same grip as your snatch. Deadlift like you would clean. Develop your hollow and arch body positions to improve ALL gymnastics movements. And always work on your mobility and stability in the squat & overhead positions.
2. Intensity before Volume
CrossFitters have become obsessed with volume thanks in part to the Rich Froning’s and Mat Fraser’s of the world. You can find mini-documentaries on your favourite Games athlete on youtube and by taking that one snapshot of their training regime and applying it to yourself is never a good idea and often leads to overtraining.
Intensity stimulates change. In the same way that you will never build a 200kg+ back squat by doing 500 air squats a day, you will never build the capacity needed to compete at Games level by doing 5 low-intensity workouts a day. Consider this question,
What is the minimum effective dose to stimulate adaptation?
This requires carefully paying attention to how you manipulate intensity and volume. The beauty of this is that less experienced athletes will have a lower overall level of strength and conditioning so performing the same workout as a more experienced athlete will automatically require more intensity, therefore less volume (READ: You don’t have to workout as much to still get gainz).
For example, let’s take two athletes of similar size and similar fitness levels who both move well, the only difference is that athlete A has a 100kg Front Squat and athlete B has a 160kg Front Squat. Both perform the workout “Fran” and get the same score of 3:15, who is working harder? Obviously, athlete A is working harder, the thrusters are 42.5% of his max compared to 26% for athlete B. You have to take these things into consideration next time you screenshot an Instagram post of Mat Fraser’s training schedule and try to duplicate it.
3. Strength trumps Fitness
The Sport of Fitness actually requires a tonne of strength. As mentioned previously, a stronger athlete doesn’t have to work as hard at a given weight. CrossFit is not divided into weight classes and you can’t scale relative to your strength in a competition. If they ask you to lift a weight you’d better be able to lift it. When you are faced with a 120kg Snatch in the Open (!) no amount of rowing, assault bike, or running is going to help you lift that barbell, you’d better have worked on your strength.
Prioritise your strength work, follow a proper strength program that has some kind of progression – whether that’s linear or undulating is up to you, both can produce great results. But remember, doing 500 air squats don’t build a big back squat.
There is, of course, a point at which the carry over to CrossFit is diminished. That is why the guy who won the 1RM Snatch this year or the Deadlift ladder last year did not win the CrossFit Games. Their training has been too biased in one direction.
4. Work Your Weaknesses
This is possibly the most talked about amongst Games athletes yet so many people fail to do it. Why? Because it sucks to suck. No one likes that feeling of being inadequate and struggling with something while people around them are breezing through the same exercise. Sticking to your strengths is a guaranteed way to develop holes. Whether it’s the strong guy who doesn’t show up for running WODs or the ninja that’s allergic to heavy squats, these athletes will run into problems in any well-programmed competition and the gauntlet which we refer to as the Open, Regionals, and Games are very well programmed.
Embrace the opportunity to learn and develop a new skill and get excited about what that will mean for your overall performance if that one movement didn’t always hold you back.
5. Have A Champion’s Mind
Tia Clair Toomey winning the CrossFit Games is perhaps one of the best examples of a talented athlete that had all of the potential but the wrong mindset – until this year. Take a look back at the Fittest On Earth: A Decade of Fitness documentary which follows the athletes throughout the 2016 Games weekend. Toomey clearly lacks the belief in her own ability despite coming 2nd in 2015 and holding 1st place overall at certain parts of the competition. She spoke about one of her biggest changes this year being her mindset and having belief in herself. It also has nothing to do with being arrogant or belittling her competitors.
All of the excuses, complaints, and insecurities serve no purpose if you want to be the best you can be. You can’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Every excuse I ever hear people make is their way of coping with the eventual failure they will experience because they weren’t able to go all-in and commit. Remember, the athletes that you see competing at the Games committed their lives to being there, they don’t make excuses about being too busy, too tired, or not talented enough.
It takes training in the same way we treat physical exercise but too many people passively allow their mindset to hold them back. You can affect change on your thoughts with practice, it just takes discipline. I’m not saying post motivational quotes all over your bedroom walls and watch Eric Thomas videos on youtube, but if that works for you then do it! Just shut out all the ‘noise’, focus on what you want, and go after it relentlessly.
With the CrossFit Games done for 2017 that means it’s only 6 months before the Open is upon us again. For serious competitors, this is our off-season. You should be reassessing your goals and making a plan to achieve them, everything mentioned above should be a part of that plan if you really want to succeed.
Maybe next year it’ll be you at the Games!