Just like any sport, CrossFit competitions are intense and difficult. No matter if you're doing a physique show, playing in a soccer game, or running a marathon, doing well in competition takes a huge amount of training and preparation. What makes CrossFit a little different from these other sports, though, is the sheer number of skills an athlete needs in order to be competitive.
Since CrossFit can take everything from pulling a heavy-ass deadlift to swimming a half mile, preparing for a competition takes some big-time strategy. Having to be good at everything means you'll have to train for everything. And that's difficult to do if you're new to competition and aren't sure where to start.
If you're doing well in your house WODs and think you're ready to try a competition, here are some ways to prepare.
Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Here's a list of the skills and strengths I think are necessary to be successful at an elite competitive level:
- Fran: Sub 2:20
- Clean and Jerk: 315 pounds
- Snatch: 255 pounds
- Max Muscle-ups: 15 reps
- Deadlift: 500 pounds
- Max Pull-ups: 50 reps
- Mile Run: 5:45
- Strict HSPU: 20 reps
Not every person is going to have the same strengths. Some of us may be stronger than others, some of us may be better at gymnastic movements, and others may be able to run for miles without breaking a sweat.
"The number of weeks necessary for a person to prepare for a competition will depend on the individual and their skill level," says Marcus Hendren, regional athlete and 2012 CrossFit Games competitor. "Personally, I always feel like as long as my strength numbers are up, I can get my wind back in a month with a metabolic conditioning (MetCon) workout or two each time I train."
"Sometimes, you get elite-level athletes from other sports that cross over to CrossFit and can quickly reach a competitive level because they are already used to pushing their bodies and mind," explains Bobby Ashhurst, Pursuit Rx athlete and aspiring CrossFitter. "But for the average person, training for a competition is going to take much longer. It's not just about learning the movements, but also correcting any mobility issues and core weaknesses that most of us have at the start. It took me almost a year of mobility work and reprogramming my nervous system to go from isolating muscles on exercises to teaching my body to work as a coordinated unit."
Your skill, strength, and conditioning levels all have to be high in order to compete well. So take some time to measure yourself against what some of the best athletes in your box can do and then increase your training intensity so you can one day surpass them.
Spend More Time Training
CrossFit competitions will ask you to be good at everything, so you need to find ways to train your weaknesses without losing your strengths. "If you are looking to compete, regular classes are not enough," says Ashhurst. "There are so many movements to practice, as well as unknown factors that are often thrown into competitions. Preparing for everything takes additional work outside of classes to ensure you improve."
If you're interested in competing, talk to the coaches in your box and ask them to help you prepare. If you need some strength gains, they can help you come up with a lifting program to improve your lifting game. If you need help with your endurance, you'll probably need to add a metabolic conditioning WOD into your daily training regimen.
"Competitive CrossFit athletes are far more efficient in their movements and work capacity than recreational CrossFitters because they spend so many hours in the gym. It's no different than an IFBB pro and a typical gym-goer: The time spent, dedication, and intensity are much higher for a pro than a weekend warrior," says Ashhurst.
Train With Better Athletes
Although normal CrossFit classes are conducted as group exercise, you need to find people who will challenge you to get better. If you're one of the best in your class and are consistently beating everyone with prescribed weights, then you should prepare for a competition with other athletes at your level.
"In the weeks leading up to  Regionals, I made sure I worked out with other regional-level athletes," says Hendren. "It's hard to create the intensity you'll see in a competitive atmosphere by yourself, and the more you work out with people that are better than you, the better you will become. It's my favorite thing to create workouts that play to others' strengths and my weaknesses. If I can keep up with them doing movements they excel at, I should be OK during competitions."
Train Your Mental Game
"A lot of competition WODs are designed to be much more challenging than a typical WOD you'd find programmed at a box," says Ashhurst. "It seems that the designers of competition WODs [build them] with the hopes that many cannot complete them in order to separate the best from the rest. WODs you see programmed at most CrossFit boxes have the restriction of getting everything—warm-up, strength/skill work, MetCon, cool-down—completed within the one-hour time limit."
Because the length and difficulty of competitions are much higher than what you normally do during the week, you need to be mentally prepared for the rigors. You may have three WODs each day of a two-day competition. That amount of stress is going to take a trained mind.
"As important as it is to be physically prepared for competition, having a mental edge is more important," says Hendren. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to prepare for situations that will inevitably occur: How are you going to perform on day two when you're sore everywhere and have five workouts left? How are you going to react when you get "no repped" in the middle of a workout?
If you don't know the answers to these questions or you know you won't be able to keep going with a positive attitude when you're beyond exhausted, then you're going to need some mental training.
"In all sports I've competed in throughout my life, my mental preparation took place during practice or prep. I tried to visualize and replicate what the competition would be like. I did it so much that by the time the game or show came around, it was just another day," says Ashhurst.
Control What You Can
If you have a competitive personality, then you want to win. Because CrossFit competitions can last for days, the stress of your performance and your placing can be overwhelming. It's important to remember that you can only control what you can control. You can't control what the guy next to you is doing and you can't control your judge's opinion. You have to concentrate on doing what you're capable of doing and then do it to the absolute best of your ability.
If you've prepared for a competition and you've prepared well, then you've put yourself in the best possible place to do well. When the countdown to the beginning of the first WOD begins, you'll know exactly what you have to do.
"I always believe that you put the work in before you hit the field, court, or stage," says Ashhurst. "Competing is another way to express all of the hard work you've put in. Competing is the reward."