10 traits you need to be a great Crossfitter and Regional Athlete
Good integrity of movement and efficiency.
Probably the most important aspects of movement efficiency, or what some call virtuosity, are strength, coordination and mobility. If one of these facets is missing an athlete's internal power output will be much greater to achieve the same amount of work and they'll be leaking energy with every repetition. Besides, no one wants to be a leaky athlete that's just gross!
For example, you can have all of the mobility in the world but without the strength to maintain it you will fall out of a good position under stress. Conversely, you can be very strong but without the mobility to get into a good front rack position to propel a bar off of, you will always be muscling overhead movements with your shoulders and burning them out quickly. Coordination comes in play by being able to transition from one efficient position to another using the least amount of energy required.
Here's a little front squat video demonstrating efficient technique vs. what I like to call the squatting dog technique. This video also proves you don't have to be elite to move well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dehR3d6NuQE
Developed aerobic base
This one is easy to explain. The Open qualifies you for Regionals and it consists of hundreds of repetitions and multiple workouts lasting over 10 minutes. Without an aerobic base it's hard to maintain a pace throughout workouts such as these.
Example of what a 10min. workout can do to you.
High level of skill acquisition
Most athletes at the Regional level are somewhat gifted in the areas of learning new skills. They don't have to be elite or get muscle-ups their first day, but in general they should have above average body awareness. With the number of different skills included in CrossFit® at the Regional level now it's important to be able to learn them in a timely manner just because there are so many to get good at!
Proficiency in the olympic lifts
Like it or not olympic lifting is a very large part of CrossFit® and the best at CrossFit® are in the upper echelon of olympic lifting CrossFitters as well. Here is a chart showing the % break down Olympic lifting takes up compared to other movements at the Open, Regionals and the Games.
Full link to the interesting article is here, along with a ton of other statistics. This guy is obsessed with CrossFit® statistics! http://cfganalysis.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-closer-look-at-2014-games-programming.html
The ability to go to the dark place mentally and physically.
When I first started CrossFit® I was not in the greatest shape at my gym but I would continually beat people in better shape than me because I was more willing to hurt. After enough time of doing this they could no longer beat me even if they had wanted to hurt. In order to progress you have to want to go faster and get better more than you want the pain to stop. It's as simple as that. The other thing is no matter how far you progress if you're going hard enough there will always be a workout that takes you into the dark place. And the dark place never gets easier, you just get faster there!
This includes getting enough sleep and a low stress environment outside of the gym. If you're getting 80% of the sleep you need you can be guaranteed you'll have 80% of the energy you need during your workouts. You also will not be healing as well because most growth hormone production happens while you're sleeping. Additionally, if you are in mental anguish outside of the gym and hurting emotionally it's hard to make yourself want to hurt physically. The body interprets physical and mental stress much in the same way. It knows when it's dealing with too much and won't allow you to push as hard or else it will start to break down.
Don't be that guy.
Nutrition regimen that works for the individual
There is no one way for athletes to eat. Some need to perform on an empty stomach and others need to be eating something on the start line. The percentages of macros is also individual, as is total calories. The one thing that remains consistent though is athletes need to fuel themselves well enough for performance and recovery, and this means not skipping any energy substrate. You may eat lower fat or low carb, but you can't not eat them and do well. It's important athletes experiment to find out what's optimal for them, and that doesn't always mean being super clean either. This will take recording things and observing the effects with some trial and error, but it really does make a difference and is one of the things that is easily controllable when it comes to performance. I can't control my femur length, but I can control what I put into my body so might as well do it!
The ability to focus during a workout and mastering the mental game.
Often new CrossFitters get tunnel vision when they start a workout. You know the look, like deer in headlights, unaware of the drool dripping onto their shirt as they bend forward hands on knees looking at a wall ball that might as well be 100lbs now. This is about the point where people report that they miscounted (but that's a whole other issue!) You could replace their wall ball with one 15lbs heavier and they might not even be coherent enough to realize something has changed from the last round and check their equipment. They may know it's harder but the ability to think within a workout and realize things aren't going as they should and then adapt is imperative to success in competition.
I think the mental game in CrossFit® is very under-emphasized. There is a lot of strategy to many workouts, and a good competitor can focus well enough to implement the strategy or even change it when needed. Instances where this is the case might be a strict or even non-communicative judge. While you need to be focused on what you're doing you also have to pay attention and if you're getting no-repped figure it out as quickly as you can. Other mistakes due to lack of focus are things like grabbing the wrong object to run with, transitioning to the wrong exercise, or forgetting the rep scheme all together. Beyond staying in your own game with all of this, the next level is being able to juggle your own performance while gauging where your competition is. Are you able to catch them without reaching beyond your own limits and blowing up? Is the risk worth the reward for trying? And if you're really good can you push at just the right time to make your competition question themselves and break? See what I mean by the mental side?
A training program that makes progressive sense.
This one should be obvious. There are many skills in CrossFit® and you should be sure you are practicing all of them with enough frequency to be proficient. There should also be a focus on weaknesses in your program. Cherry picking will not get you to Regionals, and if by chance it does you can bet the programming will make cherry pure out of you. That's just how it seems to go, but it's the beauty of CrossFit®. If you want your deficiencies exposed, go compete. That said you can't complete hero workout after hero workout without diminishing returns at some point either. That's the progressive part. Training should be varied and challenging, not random and demolishing.
Desire to achieve and work ethic.
No one in CrossFit® gets to Regionals without putting in the work anymore. I have yet to see even the most talented athlete come in and have no weakness their first day or month for that matter. The work ethic required to turn a weakness into a strength is one of the keys to mastering this sport and differentiates athletes with time. Mostly because the person with the fewest weakness, not the most or greatest strengths, is usually the overall winner.
Working weaknesses is usually not fun either. That's where the discipline comes in. Becoming competitive requires the ability to stick to a skill until you master it and the tenacity to stick to a lifting program until you get stronger. I've seen many class members try muscle-ups and when they don't get them after a few minutes abandon the endeavor. The approach from someone hell bent on competing is quite different and goes something like this: research on progressions towards a muscle-up, relentless practice of those progressions and the ability to delay gratification while their strength increases until one day they get their muscle-up. Then the process begins again when they want to learn to string them together efficiently. It's never ending. You can always add more weight to the bar, make a skill harder in some way, or go faster.
That's sort of the beauty of it as well. You may arrive at game day, but you never truly "arrive" as a progressing athlete and you can't cheat the grind. It knows if you've worked for it and competition will reveal it. I've had people surprised before by how hard I work. I think they view the top athletes in our sport as just being more gifted, and in many other sports that might just be the case. In CrossFit® the top athletes, however gifted, all work as hard as anyone in any other sport. I've seen a World Champion Decathlete train over the course of months while I was in college on the UT track team and most Games athlete's training is harder. So hard that you really have to be desirous of it because training with a work ethic that great isn't for everyone! For those who think it is go back through the list and start checking them off!
- Talayna Fortunato