Competing, whilst not the main reason many of us started CrossFit, has become a very natural progression for many athletes. Many of our athletes have shown an interest in or competed at various local events, which is awesome. However, there is a big gap between training at your local box and throwing down against 50+ people you’ve never met before in a foreign gym. This is where in-house or interclub competitions come in.
These small-scale competitions, either just with your own athletes or against another box, play a vital role in athlete development, in my opinion. They allow your athletes to have a bite of the competition pie before deciding if they want to eat the whole thing. It exposes them to the elevated level of pressure that you experience when competing without overwhelming them. Many first time competitors may not have even completed multiple WODs in a day before.
Screening athletes for these competitions is important to ensure they are ready to compete both physically and mentally. Having categories based on competency level such as beginner or intermediate is a great way of ensuring close and fair competition.
Our biggest focus when running these competitions is making sure that athletes have a positive experience. Competition Day usually comprises 3-4 workouts and a final. We want to test as many aspects of fitness as possible, without crushing their spirits, al la un-partitioned weighted Murph.
The programming must be kept simple yet challenging. We try to have at least one endurance component, a strength component, a skill component and as many classic CrossFit movements as we can. The simpler, the better. We try to ensure that there are few, if any, movements the athletes will be asked to perform on the day that they haven’t performed numerous times in the box already. For beginners, we tend to limit the number of high skill movements that they will be asked to perform and focus more on the foundational movements of CrossFit. For the intermediate or advanced guys and girls, it gets a little more challenging.
Comp Days are also a great way of spotting an athlete’s potential weaknesses before putting them on a larger stage. No one likes the feeling of being stuck on an exercise when everyone else finished 5 minutes ago, especially in front of a room full of strangers. This allows athletes to reset their focus in the box and allows us coaches to tailor the programming to keep improving our athletes. It can also push athletes to do things they would normally avoid or only half arse, like rowing or thrusters. Nothing like watching the screen of your competitor’s rower to push you on!
Since first running these events, we have found that the athletes who chose to compete usually make better progress in the box post comp than those who don’t. This is due to a combination of things such as increased motivation, improved self-belief, weakness identification and also an expectation of the next competition. It’s incredibly addictive, as long as you nurture beginner athletes through their first competitions and ensure they have a positive experience. We usually start and finish these days with a brief and debrief, stressing the importance of having fun and enjoying the community that they are part of.
Eric Blyth - Elvin is the Owner of CrossFit Croydon. He's an OG member of the Melbourne Crew and important figure in athlete development in the Easter Suburbs of Melbourne. Photos courtesy of Adam Lesniak - Co-Owner of Again Faster Australia / NZ.