How to Start and How to Get Better at Competing
So you want to (secretly or not so secretly) compete. Awesome! We are in the thick of the CrossFit Games competition season, and I don't know about you, but every time I watch people compete, I get an itch to be on the floor myself! The energy is contagious and being on the floor is truly one of my favorite places. There are few moments in life that stop time. Competitions are one of those times. Maybe it's because there was so much time put into getting ready for competition day—countless hours in and out of the gym. There are sacrifices that made. Your choices revolve around training and doing whatever it takes to help you be the best you can be on game day(s). This level of dedication is not everyone's cup of tea especially to be one of the fittest at the CrossFit Games. But if you are someone that is not afraid of working hard, and you want to have a challenge where you can show the world and yourself how hard you can work for a goal… well, competing is for you! I wanted to share tips and tricks on how to start competing and how to get better at competing. So whether you are a competition novice or a pro, this post is for you.
I wanted to share tips and tricks on how to start competing and how to get better at competing. So whether you are a competition novice or a pro, this post is for you.
For those who think, "Maybe I'll compete one day."
Anyone can be a competitor. I sometimes hear from people that they want to compete, but they feel like they can't because they are not an athlete. This is a myth! First, anyone can be an athlete. Do you have a body? Do you have a goal you want to achieve using your body? If you answered yes to both of these, then YOU ARE AN ATHLETE. Athletes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and with different levels of skills and abilities. Athletic competitions, CrossFit competitions are not judged on what your body looks like. Athletic competitions are about what your body can DO. It's about going on the floor knowing that you gave it everything you had to get you to this point. Competitions teach you to be dedicated. They hold you accountable for making sure you are eating healthy, drinking water, sleeping, doing your stretching and mobility… not with the goal of looking a certain way, but with the purpose of setting yourself up for success on the day of the competition. It's easy to get wrapped up in the idea that a CrossFit Games competitor looks or acts a certain way when we constantly are seeing images and videos of "elite" or "pro" athletes. Remember, every "pro" started somewhere. Who knows, maybe you have what it takes to go pro. Even if that is not your goal, you'll never know if you don't try.
For the "I compete, but my nerves affect my performance."
I think almost every athlete still gets pre-comp jitters. So don't beat yourself up for getting nervous. It just shows that you really, really care. And that's a good thing! Did you know that physiologically your body doesn't know the difference between being "nervous" and being "excited"? So when you feel the butterflies in your tummy and your heart feels like it's pumping a little extra harder, just think, "This means I am excited!" There are a couple of techniques that you can use to calm those jitters so that you can focus on the task at hand:
How often do you catch yourself not breathing? Breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Knowing this, try to build a breathing routine. Anytime you start feeling nervous or stressed about your competition, try this. Sit comfortably. Try to have your feet on the ground and sit upright. We want you to have good posture so you can get the most oxygen! When you settle in, start inhaling through your nose for 5 seconds. Hold for 5 seconds. Exhale for 5 seconds. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this as long as you can. At first, it might be a little hard, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. You can even use this when you are in the car or if you can't sit silently. The nice thing about box breathing is that you can do it anywhere!
Mental Rehearsal - You gotta see it to believe it.
You can even do this while you are practicing box breathing. Visualizing your performance is powerful. If you want to get better at muscle-ups, playing a movie in your head and picturing yourself successfully achieving that movement helps it become a reality. Of course, you still have to put in the work and practice your skills and techniques, but visualizing your performance can increase technique and skill development. This can be applied to competitions as well. In CrossFit, it is a little hard to visualize your performance because a big part of CrossFit is being prepared for the unknown. Even if you don't know exactly what's coming, you can visualize other things like how you walk into the competition. Picture yourself walking in smiling and feeling confident. You are feeling *excited* and are prepared. You have all your gear with you and your favorite snacks. You can visualize how you feel before the 3, 2, 1… and channel confidence. Confidence in yourself and your preparation leading to this day. You know that you worked hard and today is all about testing that hard work and having fun. So you don't necessarily have to visualize yourself doing certain movements, but you can also practice how you feel. Visualization helps with concentration and relaxation and decreases anxiety levels, and will improve overall performance! Before any big competition especially at the CrossFit Games, visualization plays a huge role for me.
So whether you are a seasoned competitor or just thinking about competing, I hope these little tips and tricks can help you get started or give you an extra edge. You can be serious and passionate about it, but ultimately we compete to test ourselves. To feel the pride of putting in the hard work day in and day out and then testing our hard work. And remember, ultimately competing is FUN. Never lose the fun in it!
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