Food for Thought: Mental Games: Are You Ready for the CrossFit Open?

The following is a great article from breaking muscle on setting your mental game for the Open!

The CrossFit Open is right around the corner. In fact, there are just days until the 2015 competitive season begins. For many, including myself, this is also the start of the “let me compare and berate myself” season. 

When everyone is doing the same workouts every week and posting their scores for all the world to see, it’s natural to want to see how you stack up. For most of us, we see that while we might be considered a great athlete at our own box or even in the region or state, when compared to the entire world, we are just middle of the pack.

For many of us, this leads to a whole lot of self-deprecating thoughts like “I suck,” “Why do I even do this?” and, “Why aren’t I better?” It can become a real battle to get through the Open without making yourself feel like an utter failure. This article is about how to avoid doing that. And believe me, this is just as much for me as it is for all of you.

What Does It Take to Be Elite?

The amount of time you have spent participating in sports, not just CrossFit, makes a big difference in how quickly you’ll make progress within CrossFit. Many phenomenal athletes and top performers have been participating in CrossFit for years - or they starting competing and participating in some sort of sport early in life.  

That early and prolonged exposure to training, lifting, gymnastics, and other aspects of sports builds an athletic base that is hard to create later in life. Neurological pathways, muscle mass, body composition, and flexibility - not to mention athletic confidence - are most plastic and most easily attained during our formative years.

If you spent most of your pre-teen and teenage years playing video games, hanging at the mall, or participating in the drama club, then your CrossFit journey is going to be a longer, slower process. I did a little bit of cheerleading in high school  (before you needed to be an elite-level gymnast to participate) but other than that, I was basically a nerdy, slightly chubby little kid.

My athletic base didn’t really begin to be built until I started lifting at a globo gym in high school. And I was even doing that all wrong. So, my progress has been slow and gradual. I’m sure a lot of you have similar histories. Therefore, comparing ourselves to someone who started gymnastics when he or she was five and is now an elite CrossFitter is just kind of a ridiculous comparison to make, don’t you agree?

Is Age Really Just a Number?

No, really. I know the saying “age is just a number” is pretty popular and I agree no one should give up his or her athletic dreams just because of age. But there is a huge difference between a 21-year-old athlete and one who is closer to thirty or 35. Heck, there’s a huge difference between 25 and thirty for most of us (if we’re honest with ourselves).

Hormones change. Our ability to recover from strenuous workouts slows. Our volume tolerance decreases. We get injured. Age happens, and with every passing year we need to assess how our bodies are handling our training and adjust accordingly. I’m not saying you should slack off, but I am saying you need to be realistic and appreciate what your body is still capable of - but also respect its limitations.

Oh, and another thing happens as we get older - we have to start working and taking on more responsibilities. We get “real jobs” or maybe we open a gym.  How many of you thought if you opened a gym you’d get to work out all day? LOL, right?

As “grown-ups,” the amount of time we can devote to workouts, meal prep, mobility, and sleep all decreases. We also have more mental stress to deal with. Right now, I have a list about a mile long of things I need to do at our gym and at my “real job.” And I need to fit in workouts on top of that.

These days, most of those amazing world-class CrossFitters work out for a living (in some form or fashion). A few years back, that wasn’t the case yet. Now, the part-time CrossFit hero is a thing of the past. You’re all in or you’re recreational.

Your Goals Might Change

You may think it would be amazing to compete in the Games. But the commitments and sacrifices you would need to make may not align with your overall life goals anymore. If you want to raise a family, go to graduate school, or build a successful business, all those things would have to take a back seat to training if you really wanted to be an elite-level CrossFitter.

Is that something you actually want? Do you want to spend an entire day working out? Five or six days per week? Think about that for a minute before you answer.

If your answer is “yes,” would you still want to adopt that lifestyle if it meant sacrificing your other goals or at least putting them off for several years? That’s a tough decision for a lot of people and one that probably keeps many athletes from reaching the upper levels of competitive CrossFit.

And there’s no shame if your answer was “no.” Being a simple “great” CrossFit athlete is still something to be proud of and is also completely attainable for most of us.

Approach the Open With Confidence

So, as the Open begins and you watch the scores go up, avoid beating yourself up. Know that where you are now in your CrossFit journey is a reflection of many different things, many of which you have no control over.

If you are unsatisfied with your scores, make a plan (a realistic one) and go at it. But, do yourself and all those who care about you the favor of not berating yourself or driving yourself crazy because you’re not top fifty in your region, top 100 in your city, or whatever.

Oh, and remember - CrossFit was and still should be fun. Remember that. And every time it starts to feel like a job, a chore, or something you dread, lighten up and remember this isn’t your job. It’s your hobby. Have fun with it!