The CrossFit Games 2016 just ended this past weekend and after watching every single event and being an extreme Instagram stalker to many of the athletes, it was pretty easy to pick up a few patterns these athletes follow to be so successful in a competition environment. These may seem so simple for you to read, but they sure are not so easy to master:
Know your pace: Knowing what your limits are and what kind of pace you can keep up is the only way to ensure you won’t get burned out in the first minutes of a WOD and have a hard time finishing strong. Take the example of Spencer Hendel who went full force during the first leg of the plow drag event only to learn that he couldn’t keep up the pace through the whole 560 feet field. Josh Bridges also made the same costly mistake and they both ended up having to watch athletes that were way behind them in the beginning reach the finish line ahead of them. Garrett Fisher, on the other hand, paced himself perfectly and earned first place in the event. This blog post has great tips to help you find a workout pace that works for you.
Know your weaknesses: Highly competitive athletes can have a hard time admitting that they don’t excel at a certain movement or exercise. But the best approach is definitely recognizing your weaknesses early on and dedicating extra time to working on improving whatever they may be. Take Mat Fraser for example: He figured out that he sucked at sprinting last year by coming second to last in a sprinting event. He really didn’t try to make any excuses for his poor performance. He simply sucked it up and got to work. The “you can’t be good at everything” attitude doesn’t work for CrossFit, because The CrossFit Games exist specifically to expose weakness and to test your ability to be great at all aspects of exercise.
Practice: Once you have a list of your weaknesses, it’s time to practice, practice and practice some more. I was just saying the other day that I’ve been crossfitting for a year and a half and I am still not even close to getting double-unders yet. But that’s because I never practice them. I get the most frustrated when I try doing them and can’t even link two together. Practicing something you suck at stops being fun really quickly, but if you practice enough, the results will come. Going back to Fraser, this year he was able to revel in the fact that he came in second place in the sprint event. When asked about it in an interview, he said, “I tried this thing called practice.” Simple.
Keep a cool mind: There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you are competing and the most experienced athletes understand that. You may get a judge that is no-repping you for good reps, you may develop a cramp, you may trip and fall or you could even forget the instructions and celebrate your win too early – like what happened to Becca Voigt during the plow event. An athlete who is able to keep their wits about them, know there is no point in arguing with your judge, for example. If you got a no-rep, then seek clarification and move on. When shit happens you can either dwell on it or tell yourself to just let it go. And the quicker you can learn to let go, the more you can focus solely on performing well. An athlete that we could see was all up in his head during the Games this year was Noah Olsen. He is such a capable and strong competitor, with two consecutive 8th place finishes at The Games, and many pegged him for a breakout performance after finishing 1st worldwide in the CrossFit Open (including 4 top-10 performances out of 5 workouts). He really let the competition get the best out of him on many events, however. You could see the frustration on his face on more than a few occasions, and that landed him in 15th on the leaderboard this year. He even vented on his Instagram saying that he didn’t feel like himself and something was off the whole time.
Enjoy the process: Practicing skills that you don’t naturally excel at can be pretty daunting, but getting better at those skills is what keep these athletes going. Katrin Davidsdottir actually said that when asked about how she managed to once again be crowned the Fittest Woman on Earth. She said that she enjoys the process, so the results follow along. She loves being challenged and has fun with it. On multiple occasions during this past weekend, when asked what she was hoping for in upcoming events, her answer was always along the lines of “something as hard as possible, the harder the better.” You can read here the whole interview she gave to BoxRox Magazine last year.
Recovery: If you took the time to read the interview above, you know that Katrin also mentioned that “Sufficient recovery is the part where many CrossFit athletes fail.” She advised people to listen to their body and avoid overtraining. Part of recovering well also means taking care of how you fuel your body and ensuring a good night of sleep. Professional athletes usually follow specific diet plans tailored to their needs, but since many of us can’t afford such luxury, we should at least be mindful of the basics like not abusing the alcohol intake, watching our food portions, being knowledgeable of nutrition values and macro ratios and always being well hydrated.
Overall, the “secrets” the top CrossFit athletes in the world have to share are all pretty basic. But implementing and being consistent about them is what poses the challenge. Of course these athletes have undeniably great genes, but since we can’t mimic that, we’ll just have to mimic everything else. The Games really got me fired up to practice my weaknesses and try to bit a more disciplined. I’ve been counting my macros more consistently and practicing my strict pull-ups regularly. What are you doing to improve your inner athlete?
Thanks for reading!