One of the great things about competitive CrossFit is you get the opportunity to see what is at the core of yourself and your competitors. If you talk with any competitor the story is always the same: they will tell you they are going to make it to regional’s, training is going well, I am way better than last year. Then competition comes around and you get to see if all the talk is real. The truth is everyone at that competition has fears. Fear of failure, fear of disappointment; fear they did not train hard enough. A true test of what is at your core is deep in a workout when the walls are closing in around you, your chest hurts, vision is impaired, motor control is fading and there is still work to be done. Do you back off, let your fear take over or push through and achieve victory? Victory may not always be getting first place, but having no regrets, facing your fear and know you left every bit of yourself out there.
In May of 2012 my first regional’s competition I found myself at the very end of a terrible workout. I looked to my left and right and saw there were two guys ahead of me, all I had to do was run to my bar and finish 30 push press. I chose to let my weak mind and aching body control me. I walked to the bar and ended up losing to more than just those two men. I could barely sleep that night; I was so disgusted with myself. That moment changed the way I compete. I vowed to never feel that way again.
There is a term called training in the suck or going “Dark”. This is during a workout where everything in your body is telling you to stop going. At this point you have a choice: live in the suck and achieve a great time or back off. I choose to live in it.
What most would describe as crazy has become my normal. Conquering the fear of training beyond what mot people are willing to put themselves through brings you to life. It gives you supreme confidence when competing knowing your mind will push your body further than the athletes beside you. If an athlete is not willing to go dark in training he will not know what to do when the feeling starts in a competition. Fear takes over, the mind breaks and the body follows. A workout or competitor has broken us all, you see it at every competition. This has become my biggest challenge, overcoming the fear of breaking.
Here are my tips for competing at a high level.
1. Make peace with God; get your heart right so the fear of death will be gone. There have been multiple workouts where I have checked in with God to make sure I am ready if it is my time. It is a freeing feeling that allows mindless finish.
2. Be willing to go dark in training or you wont be able to handle it in competition. So many times I have seen competitors back off when the suck hits in their training then come competition time their fear takes over and their mind and body shut down.
3. There is a time for training in the suck and a time for refining skill and technique. You can’t always train in the suck. This would cause bad technical habits and greater chance of injury. Take time to work on movement and feeling your body.
4. Lastly, no matter how good you are at training in the suck or going dark there is always somebody bigger and better. You can’t win them all. Take time after a loss to reflect, learn from it, be pissed and then move on.