I Exercise for Fun

“Hey, do you want to go out Friday night?”
“Oh, I would love to, but I have a competition all day on Saturday.”
“Okay, maybe another time. What kind of competition?”
“CrossFit.”
“Isn’t CrossFit just working out”
“Yes…um, but it’s not just working out, it’s different.”
And then it dawned on me…I exercise for fun. I do exercise competitions FOR FUN. WTF!?

This is quasi-verbatim dialogue that I recently had with a friend.

During the partner competition at CrossFit Free a few weeks ago I think we all questioned why we were there. The WODs were certainly not easy, and there were 3 of them. So why exactly were we spending our Saturday working out? My reasons are that 1) it’s fun; who wouldn’t want to hang out with other CrossFitters all day?, 2) it’s challenging; you really get to test yourself, and 3) at the end of the day you walk away with an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Competing removes you from your comfort zone; your gym; your people; your lucky barbell; your ideal time-frame for WODs; you optimal pull-up bar. It challenges you to perform well when you are anxious, or tired, or working with a partner. Competing surrounds you with positive, like-minded people who love CrossFitting just as much as you do. The atmosphere is absolutely electric and you find yourself wondering how the hell did I just do that!? This leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and pride that is unmatched. We get this feeling in the gym, but it is taken to another level in competition.

Lately I have been struggling with finding the “competition feeling” and really pushing myself during WODs. I’m not really sure how I can motivate myself to push harder, and it might be that the competition feeling is unique to true competition. Then again, not every day needs to be a competition. I do know, however, that competing has helped me to be a better athlete and a better coach. I am a better athlete because I think about WODs differently; I plan strategy and think about the best and most efficient way to do the work. Competing has also helped me become stronger mentally. There is always someone who is way better than me and I know that I must not lose focus when that person is ahead of me. I keep my head down, do work, and do the best I can. At the same time, competing helps to expose weaknesses. In my last partner competition I realized that I utterly despise burpee broad jumps and it’s probably because I suck at them. Not that burpee broad jumps come up that often, but I had to do them after running with a 60 pound sandbag. I realized that transitioning from one intense movement like running to another super-intense and explosive movement is something I might need to work on. I also need to keep practicing my free-standing hand stand. Absolutely NO gymnastics history/experience in this girl!

Competing has made me a better coach because I am able to think through WODs to help athletes create a strategy and push a little harder when they might think that they can’t. Competing also evokes an energy that stays with you when you return to your home gym. You want to bring a small piece of that atmosphere back with you. It reinforces the principle that being CrossFit is being prepared for the unknown and unknowable.

I would encourage everyone to participate in a competition at least one time. No matter if you’re competing in your home box or in a 2-day major competition a few hours from home, the intensity will be taken to another level and you will push harder than ever. You might not win, you might not even place in the top rankings, but at least you will have had fun. Yes, you exercised for fun – all day – and you loved it.

My next competition is the Garage Games – September 8th and 9th in Natick, MA at CrossFit New England. During the 2-day Firebreather Festival I will be challenged by 5 WODs, most of which involve a heavy barbell. I know that my competition will be fierce and I am prepared to do the best I can. Hopefully we’ll have a crew representing The Fort – that would be amazing! In competition you can take in lots of energy from a rowdy cheering section (hint, hint).

Swingin’ the 53-pounder. Fun times!

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