Over the last few years, I’ve had multiple conversations with folks about the topic; ‘Competitive CrossFit Athlete vs. Fit-For-Life’.Understanding the definition of “competitive CrossFit athlete” would be paramount, before diving into this pool. As is the case with many people that do CrossFit, I find myself to be competitive, but I no longer consider myself a competitive CrossFit athlete. If becoming a competitive CrossFit athlete is your thing, it is a fun journey! However, you must understand that going down that road can be very time-consuming and demanding.
A Brief History of My Competitive CrossFit Experience:
My very first CrossFit workout was ‘Fight Gone Bad’, all the way back in September of 2008 (and no…I didn’t have hair then either). CrossFit was still somewhat underground back then, as the inaugural CrossFit Games had taken place the year prior (which happens to be the year I shaved my head bald). This first workout also happened to be a competition/fundraiser that took place on top of Whole Foods in downtown Austin, Texas. The atmosphere and energy were electric, and I was completely enthralled. I grew up playing sports and working out, but I had yet to experience the “Sport of Fitness”. I dedicated the next several years to learning and practicing the skills, techniques and different movements that come with CrossFit and in 2012 I participated in my first CrossFit Open. After getting a taste of the worldwide leaderboard, I dove deeper into the time commitment it takes to acquire the strength, endurance, and skills, as well as doing the non-flashy necessities of mobility/stability accessories, breathing exercises, eating like it was my second job, and sacrificing some things so that I could get the amount sleep to recover properly. I can honestly say that I enjoyed that part of the journey. I managed to squeak into the top 5% in the world most of those years, with my last year of considering myself a competitive CrossFit athlete coming in 2016…the last hurrah before moving into the Master’s Division.
In my experience, there is one common attribute that creates success in both the “Competitive CrossFit” Athlete and the “Fit-for-Life” Athlete categories. You’ve probably heard your coaches say things like “listen to your body” or “work with the body you have today”. The technical term for these types of phrases is known as auto-regulation. We are not born with this as an inherent part of our being, but as with pistols or double-unders, it is a skill that must be developed over time. It takes intentional practice, week in and week out. Our “ego” can sneak up on us at any time, and this intentional practice of auto-regulation can help keep it in balance.
Being in-tune with your body, knowing when your sleep/nutrition/recovery has been on point and you can push through a hard workout as “Performance”, or understanding that you’ve been stressed with an issue out at work and you need to pull back is a skill. It might be the most important skill for your longevity. I often use the term “fitness maturity”. As the months and years stack up, your experience grows and you mature….hopefully.