CrossFit Competitions : Not just for the Elite Athlete, you should have a go.
You’ve probably noticed everyone in your CrossFit gym getting very excited about the start of The CrossFit Games this week. Finally Games Week is here and we can watch in awe as these incredible athletes demonstrate their strength, speed, adaptability and determination. Whilst the rest of us will cheer them on, it is highly unlikely that most CrossFit enthusiasts will ever come close to such an achievement. When there was talk of a competition in my CrossFit Box I had assumed that it would be just for the elite athletes who trained there. There was no way would I ever be fit enough to enter.
My CrossFit journey started seven months ago, shortly after my 40th birthday, when I decided that I was ready for a new challenge. It had been 10 years since I had set foot inside a gym having spent time away having my children and setting up my business. A friend introduced me to CrossFit and I thought I might as well have a go. After all, how hard could it be? Despite my total shock at the intensity of the workouts, pretty soon I was hooked. Despite being slower and weaker than most people there, I love the positive team mentality, so when everyone was signing up for the Summer Same Sex Pairs competition, I thought why not?
“It’s just for fun – nothing serious,” said my little sister Maddy and partner for the competition. I should have known better. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it until the week before the competition. And then it was just to make sure that we had co-ordinated outfits for the day and had agreed how we were going to do our hair. However, on the day of the competition, the nerves started to build. Especially when girls from other CrossFit gyms arrived looking intimidatingly athletic and strong. It has been about 20 years since I’ve competed at anything and I soon remembered that my Mum used to give me some kind of herbal calming tonic the morning of competitions.
As newbies to CrossFit, Maddy and I were in the scaled competition (lower weights, less technical movements) and had been placed in the second out of three heats. This meant that we could watch the 8 teams in Heat 1 tackle the first WOD, and get a sense of the speed that people were going at. As the competitors began to finish, the roar of the crowd got louder and louder. Cheering each team to do their best and complete the workout. I’m not sure if it was the music pumping or the genuine excitement and encouragement of all the supporters, but I actually shed a little tear at what a wonderful moment it was when the last team finished, beaming smiles on everyone’s faces. Tell me, in what other competitive sport does that happen?
As the excitement died down, Heat 2 was called. Panic, it was our time to have a go. One last dash to the loo and I was ready. Slightly in a flap because we couldn’t write the details of the WOD on the board, and memory not being our strong point, we asked the judge to keep shouting what movement was next and how many reps were left to go. Maddy picked up the barbell first and set a fast pace. I still can’t remember what we actually did, but there seemed like a lot of thrusters, shoulder to over heads, the dreaded burpees over the bar, and some boinging over the box. I am nowhere near as fast or strong as my little sister, but I did the best to keep up with her and not let her down. As I started my last set of burpees over the bar, my mind started to wander. How the hell am I going to do 3 more WODs? The final 5 thrusters nearly killed me off and I finally understood the phrase “pain cave”. I have never, ever worked that hard. As I laid on the floor, legs resting up the wall I started to seriously question if it was possible to leave the competition right then.
In our heat there were a couple of teams who I knew would be better than us. But as it turned out, not by much and we realised that we were not as slow as we thought. We completed the WOD in 9.40 which put us (or Team Barbie n’ Brittney!) into 7th place.
WOD 2 was much simpler. One person runs 800m. Other person rows 1000m. Great, Maddy is a super fast runner so I knew she would do well at this. I’m ok at rowing. Only small problem was that I’ve never rowed that far. So I had absolutely no idea how to pace myself or what time to aim for. I figured I would just start rowing fast and see what happened. My coach told me to sprint the last 250m. That’s a bloody long sprint if you ask me. 3, 2, 1 GO…..
I was so nervous that my mouth was really dry before I even took my first pull. But then, from behind me I heard a loud booming voice “Gabby, use your legs, use your legs!!”. Thank God, Victor ‘Polish Rowing Champion Extraordinaire’ was shouting instructions and encouragement the whole time. He was so authoritative that the competitor next to me started to follow his instructions too!! As the meters were ticking down, the runners started to come back into the room…..3 minutes later there is still no sign of Maddy. Where the heck is she? She is very fast, but also very clumsy so I started to worry that she had collided with a lamp post or crashed into someone. A few seconds later and I was on the last 250m. I was meant to sprint this, crap! Pull, pull, legs, legs, breathe! And finally it was over. A respectable time of 3.57 – middle of the pack. And then, as I fell off the rower and tried to get my legs to walk, I saw Maddy – having a little rest on the floor behind me. Turns out she was the first one back from the run in 2.34! This amazing run catapulted us into 1st Position on the leader board. WHAT?!
At this stage people started using the phrase “Final WOD”. Eh? A 5th WOD for the top 5 finishers which would determine the podium places. Well there was absolutely no way that I could even manage a 3rd WOD – my legs had decided to both walk in different directions, not dissimilar to how I looked after giving birth. I was starting to feel my age and lack of cardio conditioning at this point but looking at everyone else, they seemed to be pretty tired too. That sense of “we are all in this together” that I feel during CrossFit classes was very much alive at the competition. I love that feeling of team spirit, that everyone is wanting you to do well, is very special.
WOD 3: 1 Rep Max Snatch.
10 minute time cap – not that I’ll need it as I’ll be at my 1 rep max in approx 3 lifts. In general, I’m not too bad at technique and I can do a lovely snatch as long as it’s around 25kg. Maddy and I decided to open with this weight so at least we had a number on the board. Slowly but surely, in 2.5kg increments we started to add the weight. And then technique went out of the window. I did some lovely high pulls at 40kg, and even a deadlift (completely forgot to pull the bar any higher). So we did what all sensible people do…use more kit. I added gloves and a belt and had a talking to from Top Coach Emma Gage and managed to somehow throw the barbell above my head. Not pretty but done. Whoop! Maddy added a bit more and achieved 42.5kg. We both had managed a PB so we were happy with that.
I decided at this point that I needed a bit of a lie down. After all, I am about 15 years older than most of the competitors. I was having a nice little snooze outside in the sunshine, happy that there was only one more WOD to go until the end. I could hear all the competitors and their supporters chattering away about how well everyone had done. Everyone was so enthusiastic and positive towards each other whether they were the competition or strangers. I have never seen this in a competition environment before. Usually there are secret whispers talking tactics and how to beat the other team, certainly little mingling. And then, still with my eyes closed,I could hear people saying, “have you seen the leader board?” Eyes open. Ah crap, Maddy and I were in joint 1st place. I’m sure that I was meant to be very excited about this. But honestly, I was absolutely shattered. I wasn’t trying to downplay my enthusiasm, I was still thinking of trying to escape out of the bathroom window. I don’t think people would have noticed for a while, I had spent the vast majority of the competition in the loo after all.
A nice combination of hang power cleans, kettle bell swings and sprinting. Not too complicated, the weight on the bar wasn’t too heavy and no jumping over stuff. Whilst we didn’t struggle with this WOD, we finished middle of the pack and gave many teams the chance to catch up to us.
I was relieved to have finished all of the WODs and to have avoided any major catastrophes or embarrassments. My thighs instantly developed some very colourful bruises from smashing the bar down on them during the hang power cleans (poor technique) but I am wearing these with pride! I was also surprised to find that the WOD’s hadn’t got any harder during the day. The first WOD had been by far the most challenging and exhausting and I had actually enjoyed the other ones. I was very tired, but happy to have been involved in such a great day. I could hear so many people cheering my name during my heats. And I absolutely loved cheering on everyone else. I’ve even managed to lose my voice from all the shouting! So many of my friends had achieved PB’s and performed so well. There was a wonderful, supportive, carnival-like atmosphere that I haven’t experienced anywhere before.
Just as I was about to go and eat some chocolate Maddy appeared and said, “Guess what? We have qualified for the final. We are in 5th place”. Oh No.
After the final WOD had been explained – synchronised thrusters, sit ups, push ups and skipping – I took myself back off to the loo. I was shattered, but so was everyone else. I had a 72 hour labour with my first baby and there’s no way this final WOD could be as bad as that. I also didn’t want to give in right at the last moment and be disappointed with myself. So whilst I sat there on the loo, giving myself a talking to, I found some determination.
For the last 6 months I have been determined to master double unders. Recently I’ve been able to string about 30 together. The Final WOD required single unders, no extra points for doubles. I used to be pretty fast at singles, so thought I would have a quick practice. Crap, I had totally lost my single skip rhythm. Could not do it. So I had to quickly re-learn.
We were in the outside lane so I positioned Maddy looking out towards the rest of the competitors so she could judge the pace. All I had to do was squat when she did, and thrust upwards when she did. And bless her, she coached me the whole way through. “Push with your legs Gabs!!” There was some confusion with her sit ups so she did a few extra. Then we did about 4 extra thrusters because we hadn’t fully locked out our arms – the dreaded “no rep”. But then we were onto the skipping. I could see that we were ahead of some of the teams so I skipped so blinking fast. Fast enough to put a worrying amount of pressure on my pelvic floor muscles – thanks a lot to my kids for that problem!
At last it was over and everyone was cheering and congratulating each other. I knew we had done our best and I really couldn’t have put any more effort into it. Now we just had to wait for the results. The team at M Squared did such a brilliant job pulling all the scores and results together so quickly. Poor Joe had been calculating scores, and updating leader board positions all day. His brain must have been boggled.
In third position for the Ladies Scaled position…. Team Barbie n’ Brittney. Woo Hoo!!
Whilst I am massively proud of this unexpected result, the real win for me has been finding Crossfit. M Squared is a very special place where I can turn up and spend time with some genuinely fantastic people. It is such a positive place to be, it’s my therapy. The added bonus is that I also get to share it with my sister, my husband and also my children come to classes too.
It’s taken me a few days to recover from the competition. I can’t remember a time when I have pushed myself so hard. But it has given me an extra bit of confidence in my ability. Maybe from now on I will push myself a bit harder during WODs, try to lift a little bit more weight and start to believe in myself.
Written by Gabby Lamplugh.
41 year old mum of 2 who has been CrossFitting at M Squared for only 7 months!