I’ve taken part in fitness-related competitions for many years. It’s through competing that you learn things about yourself and the nature of competition itself. One of the key things I’ve learnt is that to deliver your best performance you need to master energy management.
In the case of CrossFit competitions, you win by doing on average better than the people around you. If this was a local competition that spanned over one weekend, that may be three or four events. If it’s the CrossFit Games, you’re looking at 13 scored events, some of which have multiple components. Due to the difference in the number of events, these two competitions have to be approached differently.
In a competition that has three or four scored events you have to redline… meaning go full-tilt or, in other words, give 100% effort on every single event. If you don’t you’ll end up losing ground on the other athletes and find yourself unable to make that back up. As it’s only a small number of events, recovery won’t be that much of an issue, so giving 100% will not result in you tapping out.
This changes when the number of events increases threefold. Each event, especially at the beginning of the week, cannot be taken at full-tilt. If you watch experienced, successful CrossFit athletes like Rich Froning during the first few days of competition; it’s not that they’re taking it easy, but they’re more relaxed in this early stage. Once they get towards the final moments of each event they push hard to beat whoever is closest to them. It just so happens that Rich Froning’s ‘relaxed’ is better than 90% of the field.
By the time the weekend is closing and athletes move into the final few events, tiredness starts to show. If you’ve ‘relaxed’ all weekend you will be able to redline the final few events, knowing that recovery will not be an issue.
On the flipside, you see people trying to win everything like it is a local three or four event competition. They start the weekend redlining every single workout. A lot of them will do well in the initial events but as the weekend progresses they’ll not have enough energy to finish the final workouts in the manner that is needed. What I’m saying is that not only do the people who are on the podium have more work capacity across broad time and modal domains than their peers, but they also understand how to manage their output so they can perform to the best of their ability over 13 events.
This energy management is a skill that comes naturally to some people, while others learn it when they get to the top and fail. You see this play out with athletes who, year-in, year out, do really well at Regionals and then perform poorly at the Games. Having the mentality to learn from your mistakes and fix them is essential in doing well at higher-level competitions. So, the next competition you’re in, look at how many events you have to do. Think about it carefully and try to take a different approach to each individual event based on the total number.