Last week I wrote about the top five things I learned from being a member at a CrossFit box. This week I look at things I have learned from competing in CrossFit.

Now most of us don’t join up to a CrossFit box with the goal of competing – most of us just want to increase our fitness and be social. For those of us who do decide to pursue CrossFit as a sport and test ourselves against the masses there is a huge array of competitions out there which cater for every and all level of experience and ability – and preparing for and competing in them will teach you a lot. My top five lessons:

One weakness can cost you, a lot. Our sport is designed to test your overall fitness and ability. Having one weak link in that arsenal – be it a movement, a skill or an energy system – can lead to disaster. You might have the best engine in the world and muscular endurance to die for but if you can’t swim well it will cost you. If you can’t handstand walk and it comes up, you’re fucked. You’ve smashed every WOD so far and the final is in sight but, muscle ups, your nemesis, it will probably cost you the podium. I have learned the hard way that having multiple strengths is great but having one weakness is shite!

Doing multiple workouts in a day is a different kettle of fish. For me personally the hardest thing I find about competing is getting physically and mentally prepared for each workout. Competitions tend to be long days with early starts. You might hit your first workout at 8am and then not hit another until 11.30 with a third and maybe even a fourth event in the afternoon. Everyone who’s ever done a decent met-con at a box will know how immediately after you feel horrendous, about ten minutes later you feel euphoric and then 20 minutes later you feel tired and hungry. Imagine, just as that tired and hungry stage kicks in you have to go and do the workout all over again – it sucks. On competition days, what you do between workouts can often have as much impact as what you do during the workouts. Eating the right things at the right times, napping and warming up and cooling down all come into play.

You make epic friends competing. I have friends who I have done nothing with but compete in CrossFit. I have worked out in a lane next to them for 30 minutes over a weekend, shared a few high fives, cheered them on or had them cheer for me and shared a few ‘fuck that sucked’ verbals. But in those short interactions a mutual bond is created and through social media, friendships are made, training sessions are planned, workouts are shared, and bro-sessions are organised. Nothing creates friendship like shared suffering.

Our mind is primary. The biggest weakness I experience and see during competitions is the mind. Our emotions, reactions and thoughts on a workout, a movement or a situation can completely change the outcome of a competition. Your mind will tell you, you can’t do something, it will tell you to stop, that you’ve done enough or can’t do anymore. The ability to ignore those thoughts, to keep pushing and to overcome your preconceived ideas on a workout make a huge difference to a score board. There have been several times in competitions where it’s got dark and I have thought ‘why do I do this? I could just stop and ultimately no one would give a fuck and nothing would change. I don’t need to compete.’ The ability to ignore those thoughts, to keep on moving, to not accept them is primary.

Competitions programmers are evil. I have programmed and completed thousands of workouts over the years. I have programmed horrid and tough workouts for others and myself. But I have never experienced workouts like a few I have completed at competitions. The programmers for good competitions seems to make the simplest movements horrendous, the lightest weights feel heavy and the shortest times feel long. I don’t know if it’s the intensity of competition that adds to it, the sheer volume or if it’s that do a special ‘how to make the simplest workouts seems fucking horrendous course’ but competition workouts are amongst some of the worst, and therefore best, I have ever completed.

There are obviously a million other things I have learned from my time on the competition floor but those are for another post.