By Jessa Lemoine
Competition takes a lot of preparation. We know that from sports of all ages. Whether you played little league as a kid, a sport in college or anything in between you are familiar with the word “practice”. We practice all week for the game on the weekend, we train all year for one day of the championship.
The question is, what are we practicing? Most athletes and coaches of various sports are focused on sport specific skills and necessities. For the sport of CrossFit, you could argue that a Scaled athlete should focus on being proficient at pull-ups, push-ups, wall climbs, single-unders and have an understanding of all the barbell movements. An RX athlete should focus on being proficient at chest-to-bar pull-ups, handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, double-unders and building strength in all the barbell movements. And of course all CrossFit athletes should focus on having a strong aerobic system as well as getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, these are the obvious and easiest preparations of a CrossFitter. All you have to do is show up and work hard!
The next question is, what are the not so obvious preparations? Recovery, nutrition, mental game and sleep. You need to know what your body needs to recover, what foods give you energy, how to train your brain and how much sleep you need. The reason these preparations are not as easy is because they take time, self-reflection, usually help from another person or persons, and a sort of dedication that makes your burning desire to train look like a mere spark. You can definitely learn from what other people do for sleep, nutrition, recovery, etc. but remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for you. The sooner you start paying attention to yourself and becoming aware of how things affect you the more prepared you will be. You need to know when you feel your best!
Here are some questions to start asking yourself that will help you prepare (write down your answers!):
How do you like to recover from a tough workout? 5-10 minute cool-down? Specific targeted mobility? Light massage therapy? Ice bath? Make a list of your go-to’s and make a plan (write down reminders, schedule appointments, pack equipment, etc.).
What foods give you energy and help your performance? How long before a workout do you typically eat these foods? Make a shopping list to have these foods on hand! What foods make you feel bloated or sluggish? Stay away from these foods the week of the competition (or arguably all the time!). It is also good to pack fast digesting carbohydrates and protein the days of the competition like fruit and protein powder to replenish muscles as soon as possible after you finish each workout. This will help with recovery as well. Make sure to eat a big dinner at the end of the day to help your body refuel overnight and wake up feeling good. Food fuels performance! A carbohydrate supplement like Xendurance Fuel-5 can also provide some extra energy just seconds before or even mid-workout without wasting energy on breaking down actual food. And of course, water! You should be drinking half your body weight (pounds) in ounces every day, and this is no different during competitions. The only thing you may consider changing is adding electrolytes.
Now remember the last time you crushed a workout or PR’d a lift. What was your mood like before the workout began? What were your thoughts in the minutes leading up to the workout? What did you tell yourself when discomfort set in? How did you finish the workout? How did you feel immediately after the workout was over? The answers to these questions is the step in building your strongest mental game! Work to recreate these feelings for every workout.
Last but definitely not least, sleep. How many hours of sleep do you get each night? What time do you go to bed and what time do you wake up? How do you feel in the next day (morning, afternoon and evening)? We should all be getting 7-9 hours of sleep regularly. On competition nights more like 8-10 hours. Your intensity is a lot higher just off of adrenaline during competitions and this really fires up your central nervous system. It’s not just your muscles that recover during sleep but all of your body’s systems! Make an extra effort to get in the hours you need starting two nights prior to competition as well as throughout the competition.
And after the competition is done schedule some alone time to reflect on the things you learned to help you be even better prepared for the next one. The saying is true that experience is the best teacher!