After trading in writing blog posts with writing my MSc Marketing dissertation it has been nice to be able to throw down at a couple of CrossFit competitions recently. Now, I find myself reflecting on how things have unfolded in my CrossFit journey.
On 11 September I took part in the Scale the Heights Final in Reading. This competition is designed for those who are newer to the sport and last year was a blast. With my dissertation still on my mind 2016’s competition has drawn mixed feelings. I know that I underperformed, but since then I have been trying to reflect upon the reasons why. I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone in order to take the risks that I needed to, to win. People that know me, will understand that is not like me at all! All successful athletes and teams take risks to be successful. But what about when the risk backfires? How do you know when the time is right to take a risk?
One factor, which I believe makes a huge difference when taking ‘risks’ at a CrossFit competition is which heat you are placed in. If you aim to challenge for a podium position you need to be competing alongside other athletes with the same objective. This is usually in the final heat. Personally, I find that when I’m competing next to high-level athletes who are going hard and fast, this increases my work capacity and I subconsciously take more risks to keep up with them. I do not want to be beaten and so push myself out of my comfort zone to move faster. At Scale the Heights, it was random heat allocation and so I ended up in heat one. Although I had previously tested workouts for pacing and in each workout won my heat on the day, this was still not good enough to place highly when compared to other athletes in different heats. Being in the first heat, I also couldn’t compare myself to previous heats! I didn’t know how fast to go or how fast others were going to go to attain a decent time or score. Maybe I’m trying to find an excuse, but I believe this was a big factor in my underperformance.
My fear of failure of breaking up reps led me to concentrate on that instead of going faster and risk breaking sets through fatigue. The workouts were short with basic movements, which created a sense of comfort – I knew I could complete the movements unbroken on two workouts and so this decreased my nerves. However, with my nerves depleted, I became complacent and did not move fast enough throughout simple movements such as kettlebell swings and box jumps. These are movements which my short levers should allow me to move through fast! I stayed within my comfort zone and my focus instead, (and my mistake) was going ‘unbroken’ as I thought this would be enough to place well. This complacency and lack of confidence led me to miss the final by one place, through replacing speed with the fear of not going unbroken, on kettlebell swings in particular.
Due to the heat placing and the lack of technical movements in the Scale the Heights Grand Final event, I now have mixed feelings about this competition. The Semi Final in Leeds had complex movements such as hang snatches, deficit parallette push ups and toes to target. Whereas the final had more simplistic movements such as hanging knee raises, jumping pull ups and box jumps. For me, these two events’ difficulties seemed the wrong way around. Surely you’d expect the final to have more difficult movements in than the Semi-Final? The event was well run, and I would recommend this event to anyone who has taken up CrossFit within the last two years and wants to take part in their first competition. Upon reflection, maybe the real test was doing movements that we sometimes forget exist and exploit these as weaknesses.
My most recent trip to the workout dancefloor was to Rep It Out UK, the same sex partner competition on 9th October. In 2015 this was a local Yorkshire partner competition. However, a well-run, fun and friendly competition doesn’t stay local for long. This year 120 international duos threw down in spectacular fashion. Like Scale the Heights, this was my second year returning to this competition. However, although the result of the competition was similar to Scale the Heights, the feeling of achievement was much greater. We (Team Delboy and Rodney) finished in 6th place overall with myself and Simba Hughff proving that teamwork can overcome individual talent.
The first event was max power output snatch each with one attempt to establish the output every 45 seconds for four rounds. Three out of the four lifts counted and then both sets of lifts were added together to create the score – a simple but exciting workout, as any misses could not be redone. My one rep max snatch isn’t huge, but Simba’s is significantly higher. This event installed the fear of failure in me. As I know Simba’s weaknesses, I knew I had two hundred double-unders coming up in a future event and so didn’t want to blow up my shoulders. Or was this an excuse for my lack of confidence and unwillingness to take a risk? In hindsight, how do I know that the snatch would have affected my shoulders enough to disrupt my double-unders? Should I have gone all out and tried to PB like Simba did? I didn’t miss a lift, and so this will always be in the back of my mind. It’s reassuring to know that we came second and we wouldn’t have been able to catch the team in first place even if I had PB’d my lifts. Plus, we were over the moon with second place, giving us a good head start.
From this point on at Rep It Out we took risks, and it seemed to pay off. Even in the long chipper workout, we managed to create enough damage control to put ourselves in 11th place going into the last workout. In this last workout, we went for it. Although we were exhausted after the first two minutes of workout 3, we pushed through to finish the workout hanging on at the end. We managed to finish in 4th place in this workout which meant we leapfrogged into 10th place overall and just made the final with the top 10 teams going through. My partner didn’t want to compete in the final due to a ‘bad back’, leaving Del Boy out on the competition floor alone! Maybe he didn’t want to risk taking part in the final also due to fear of failure? I suppose I’ll never know and to be honest I was too disappointed to ask him. Either way, I was lucky enough to know Adam Blaney, part of the duo ‘Team Hufflepuff’. They finished in 11th place overall after we jumped ahead of them, and they missed the final. Adam stepped up to the mark to become Rodney and was a more than worthy replacement. I had competed alongside Adam in the Rainhill Trials in February 2016, at which he claimed first place. With this, I knew he would be able to throw around the 70kg barbell and float through the chest to bars – I was right! In the final, Adam and I overcame a 33-second penalty start (calculated based on the number of points that we were placed behind the team in first place) to place 6th overall. I couldn’t have been happier. We smashed the workout and I was grateful that Adam gave me the opportunity to compete in the final after working so hard during the previous workouts.
I believe the success of two jokers named Delboy and Rodney from CrossFit Leeds is due to not being afraid to take risks and working well together. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses to attack where we have strengths. In the final couple of workouts, we ran ourselves into the ground with nothing to lose. This proved dangerous and effective in the shared exercise workouts.
For me, it’s a simple choice. Would you rather take risks and go for longer in workouts and potentially succeed? Or play it safe, rest, break sets and fail? The answer is obvious. At the same time, it’s not an easy choice because no one likes to fail and, when you take risks, failure is a distinct possibility. What no one appreciates are the psychological factors which hold you back from a PB weight or time at a competition. Now I think about it there are a number of factors which come into play, such as:
- The fear of failure (this affects me the most). If I took a risk and sped up at Scale the Heights, would I have still been able to go unbroken through a set of kettlebell swings? I think so. But I was scared to take the risk due to fear of failing to go unbroken.
- Setting the bar too high and expecting too much. So for me, an example of this would have been attending Scale the Heights and expected to podium. Maybe I won’t risk attending competitions where I believe I can podium in the future, as these involve the risk of not performing.
- The willingness to give up control through taking risks. When you take a risk and push that little bit harder to get a faster time in a workout you don’t know if this will affect you later on throughout the competition. It is a decision and risk you have to take.
- The lack of confidence in abilities. I didn’t think I could PB my snatch at Rep It Out. This led me to stay within my comfort zone and not take that risk of missing a lift as each lift was important in our output total for that workout.
At no point will I be taking risks in CrossFit indiscriminately all the time; that’s a recipe for disaster. The goal is for me to increase my willingness to take appropriate risks when the time and situation is right, and the chances of the risk paying off are higher than it not. For example, on workouts which contain movements which I can do with my eyes shut, then I may risk performing a higher number of reps before breaking to gain a competitive advantage. This would be an appropriate risk in a positive situation with the chances being in your favour due to the adrenaline and the competitive environment.
I believe that to take a risk; you need confidence and to be able to look at the outcomes of failure. Failure creates the opportunity to learn and to grow. Therefore, it does not always have to be seen in such a negative light. I have found that another useful tool in overcoming a fear of failure is to view the situation from a worst-case scenario and then a best-case scenario perspective. What will be the absolute worst if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out the way you planned? How far will you fall behind on the leader board for 1, 2 or 10 seconds lost in a workout? Will you be eliminated from the competition? Miss the chance to go to the CrossFit Games? Highly unlikely.
On the flip side, I now try to look at what good could come out of taking a risk? Looking at it from both sides, taking risks in my most recent competitions has allowed me to see the benefits of pushing myself out of my comfort zone to create the chance to gain a competitive advantage.
I can’t wait to weigh up risks and attack workouts in the right way going forward. If the risks pay off, I’ll be happy, but if the risks do not pay off, I’ll learn and move on.