How to Simultaneously Succeed in Competitive Sport and CrossFit
Although CrossFit is now a sport in its own right, there are still plenty of people who take it up in order to supplement their other athletic pursuits. That’s how I got into it - I was playing elite-level beach volleyball and went looking for a more interesting way to be strong and fit than just going to the gym.
Athletes are naturally competitive, so it only makes sense that many of us end up competing not just in our chosen sport, but also in CrossFit. The chance to measure ourselves against thousands of others is too tempting to resist.
"You have to decide what your priority is for the season. Do you want the best result in CrossFit that you are capable of? Or the best result in your sport?"
But when it comes to juggling sport and Crossfit at the same time, you can’t expect to win at both. This is the third year I’ve done the Open while in the midst of the Australian beach volleyball tournament season. And I can tell you, it’s not easy competing in two things at once.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that will help if you are doing more than just CrossFit at any time of year.
Decide on Your Priority
With the upper levels of CrossFit improving each year, being at the top is now a full-time endeavor. And it is the same in any other sport. Talent is no longer enough to be the best at any athletic pursuit. Hours and hours of training are required.
You have to decide your priority for the season in question. Do you want the best result in CrossFit that you are capable of? Or the best result in your sport? Trying for both at the same time is a sure way to fail at both. Unless you are permanently transitioning into CrossFit, most athletes should focus on their sport.
"Talent is no longer enough to be the best at any athletic pursuit. Hours and hours of training are required."
Set Big Goals, But Have Realistic Expectations
After you decide your priorities, set some realistic expectations. I find the best way to do this is to pick a challenging, but achievable target before I do each WOD. If you reach your target, then you have to be happy with yourself.
You can also set yourself a stretch goal - a number of reps or a weight that seems almost impossible, but may be achievable if everything goes right. Your target is your expectation. You should be disappointed if you don’t hit it. But your stretch goal has to be exempt from expectation.
Forget Stalking the Leaderboard
That competitive streak that athletes have means you constantly want to see how you compare to others. I’ve caught myself thinking, “If I wasn’t so focused on my sport, imagine what place I’d be sitting in on the leaderboard.” But if CrossFit isn’t your main sport, then functional fitness-style competitions are your chance to enjoy a bit of competition, without the stress on results that comes with your priority sport. Focus on your performance, not your placing.
Cut Out Extra Training
If you are doing another sport, then chances are you’ll only have space for a limited number of CrossFit sessions each week. Use that time to focus solely on what is likely to appear in the competition events. The variety of CrossFit is now your enemy, but over the past four years of the Open, only fourteen different movements have actually been used. So, you should be doing thousands of reps of these and not too much else if you're aiming for the Open.
"You may not have trained CrossFit as much as others, you may not be as technically perfect in all the movements, but you can be the mentally toughest."
Focus on What You Will Lose First
Studies have shown that you lose strength and power less quickly than you lose aerobic conditioning and muscular endurance. I once stopped CrossFitting for six months and just played beach volleyball every day. At the end of the six months, my max lifts remained almost unchanged, but my performance in metabolic conditioning WODs was dramatically worse. If, because of your other sport, you don’t have the time or energy to do full CrossFit sessions, then skip the lifting, but not the metcons.
Rest Is More Important Than Another Session
It’s tempting to squeeze in “just one more” training session to help you prepare for the next WOD. But being rested and fresh will probably help your performance more. Make sure you also look after your body. Spend plenty of time stretching, getting massages, and eating right to ensure you are at your physical peak.
Be Mentally Tougher Than Everyone Else
You’re an athlete. You know the pain of losing by the smallest of margins. You know how to maintain composure under pressure. You know how to push through physical exhaustion for a bigger goal.
Bring the mental game you’ve developed in your sport. You may not have trained CrossFit as much as others, you may not be as technically perfect in all the movements, but you can be the mentally toughest. In CrossFit, that counts for a lot.
The Best You Can Be
It’s certainly not easy being both an athlete and a CrossFitter. It is tough to juggle training and competition commitments - and manage your performance expectations. While the tips above will help you get the best performance you can, in the end, it’s the work you’ve done all year that will be reflected on the leaderboard.
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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography