3-2-1-Go: An athlete’s lessons from the Regionals floor

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At Regionals that count down becomes your whole world. From the sound of the beep to the moment your foot crosses the finish mat nothing exists but that workout. Nothing matters except getting the next rep out, and the next, and the next.

In between the pain, the cheers, the congratulations and the tears there are a few things that I learnt out on the Regionals floor.

Performances get you noticed. Graciousness gets you remembered.

When you do well in an event people congratulate you. And it feels awesome. But it is fleeting for both you and them. That moment where you raced to the finish mat first will by eclipsed by a hundred other moments where other people give stand out performance.

The things that I will take away and remember for a long time are the sincere and gracious shared moments, and the people who gave them. The squeeze of a hand from a fellow competitor before we walk out onto the floor. The unexpected compliments from strangers. Heartfelt words from a coach. Thoughtful acknowledgements of you efforts.

Be honest, be thoughtful, be gracious. Be remembered beyond the moment.

CrossFit hurts… but the high is worth it.

If you do CrossFit, I’m sure you’re already aware of the fact that it is painful. You push your body to its absolute limit and then demand that it keeps going far beyond that. But even though my judge had to peel me off the floor after the chipper (I literally couldn’t get myself up), the emotional highs of competition make it all the pain worth it.

You are herded like cattle out the back of the arena. In a dusty concrete hall that may have seen better days. You are anticipating the pain of the workout to come. You question why you even do this crazy sport. But then you walk out onto that competition floor. They call your name and a thrill goes through you. There are people in the crowd who came just to see you and who are screaming their support. The call of 3-2-1-Go is like an electric shock to your heart. Adrenaline kicks in. Those first few reps feel like nothing can slow you down. You fly. Then the pain sets in. The grueling slog where you wish each rep was your last, but it’s not. Not even close. Until eventually, through a haze of pain, the finish line is in sight. The announcers boom your name around the arena as you race to the finish mat. Raise your hands in the air. Finished. Victory. In the workout it seemed impossible to stand tall, but in that moment it is like the pain never existed.

Yes, CrossFit hurts. But the highs are worth it.

You compete as an individual, but really it is a team effort.

I said to my coach before the Regionals weekend “Whatever happens this weekend the credit belongs as much to you as me. I may be the one out there competing as an individual but really we are team.”

No one gets to be elite at anything on their own. Everyone needs a coach. Everyone needs team-mates and supporters. And in CrossFit you definitely need massage therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, nutritionists and room mates that don’t mind you getting up at 5am every day!

You may get the spotlight, but don’t forget to give credit to everyone that is standing in the shadows behind you.

Athletes are just regular people (most of the time)

Even the very best athletes in the world get nervous. They need to pee 5 minutes before their event. They cry when they’re disappointed. Shop for their own groceries. Worry what people think about them. Love eating chocolate. Like to sit on the couch in PJs. Compare notes on how best to treat blisters. Get bruises. Bang their shins on box jumps. And have days when their legs are so sore they can’t sit down properly.

Most of the time athletes are just regular humans. The difference is when it really matters they have an extra gear to shift into. Focus becomes absolute. The body finds reserves of energy. And their performances seem inhuman.

We love winners, but we often cheer louder for the person who comes last.

It is a common sight in CrossFit to see 9 athletes in a 10 person heat all finish their workout and return to the floor to help the last person finish. The crowd will often rise to their feet to cheer that last person on, like they didn’t for the winner. Our sport is almost unique in that aspect.

While we appreciate the skill and fitness of the winner, I think our emotions resonate when we see someone fight to finish. We know how much harder it is to push for every rep when you are the only one still going. When the time is ticking down. When your body is completely exhausted. We love winners, we want to be winners, but it is those that struggle that we connect with. Probably because we’ve all been in that dark place ourselves, and wanted someone to stand by us while we were there.

If there is ever a time to enjoy the moment… this is it.

Training is about constant improvement. We scrutinize our technique down to the millimeter. We time our performances to the second. We measure our improvements in the tiniest increments of weights. In training we are thinking.

Competition is different. All the hard work has been done. CrossFit performances, more so than in almost any sport, are a direct reflection of training. It’s not like you can get fitter out on the floor. All you can do is give the best performance that your training has prepared you for. It is the time that you get to stop thinking, and just be in the moment. Enjoy it.

Our sport has the best community. Hands down.

Most sports fans are just that… fans. They don’t really participate in the sport they are watching. CrossFit is different. We could easily claim the title of fittest fans on Earth. Because of this there is no ‘couch coaching’. The people in the stands understand how much the athletes on the floor are suffering, because they’ve suffered too. Often they train in the same gym as those athletes, and have attempted some of the same workouts.

At Regionals I was humbled by the number of people that congratulated me that I didn’t know. I was amazed at how athletes that weren’t happy with their performances were gracious enough to sincerely commend those who did do well. I was stunned at sheer energy, time, money and emotional investment the CrossFit world brought together to support the elite among them.

In the end all we are doing is working out. But we are all in it together. That’s why Crossfit is the best community.

CrossFit is cyclical.

For three days CrossFit is your whole world. It is the culmination of years of training. Surrounded by the hype, and the people, it feels like the most important moment in your life. Regionals is like an emotional rollercoaster where you experience highs and lows amid a constant rush of adrenaline. But like any roller coaster you have to get off the ride at some point, and it is hard to come back to earth.

A few weeks on from Regionals however it sinks in that CrossFit is cyclical. For those going to the Games they are still in this year’s cycle. For everyone else the journey begins again. There are seats on the 2016 rollercoaster available and thousands of faces looking to be in them. Whatever your result this year, it is just one year. And for the people on the podium – you’re victory is short lived. We’ll all be coming for you next year.11017748_906048689436990_8311288633992435439_o

June 15, 2015