By: Emily Beers
In the early days of the CrossFit Games and local throwdowns, the most physically fit athlete usually won.
I don’t think this is the case anymore.
Let me explain:
I decided to put myself through all 7 regionals workouts in three days this weekend. Invariably, people in the gym privy to what I was doing kept asking me how the workouts were going, how I was faring on the California, South and Pacific leaderboards. I kept telling them my scores were irrelevant, and they gave me confused looks in return. Sure, my scores gave me a rough idea of what I’m physically capable of at this moment in time. But as I have learned from competing on the big stage—as an individual at the CrossFit Games in 2014 and a four Canada West and West Regional competitions—an athlete's physical abilities tell only half of the story.
No better example of this is California athlete Lisa Warren’s Instagram testimonial after Day 1 of this year’s regional competition:
“Just about a minute into each of the two events I’d start feeling sick, nauseous, anxious and prematurely exhausted and my expectations of each workout changes to simply trying to survive the workout and not quit in front of everyone,” she wrote, adding she performed “significantly worse” than she had practice.
Nerves can get the best of even the best athletes in the world
The point is, everyone is fit at regionals. I believe in the stronger regions, more than half the field probably has a legitimate chance to qualify—definitely including Lisa Warren. The competition has become as much about handling the pressure and stress and rising to the occasion as it is about fitness. And it’s the athletes with the strongest mental game who will punch their ticket to the Games. Prime example: Becca Voigt!
In light of this, I reached out to athletes who competed this past weekend for their top tips to surviving a regionals weekend. I asked for either physical, mental or emotional tips, and interestingly enough, every single person who replied chose to give mental tips.
Tips from first-time CrossFit Games qualifier Sean Sweeney — South Regional
Tip #1: “Each event if over when the time stops. You cannot go back and change that rep you missed or that one extra second. Let it go and move onto the next event. You do that and each event will go much better than expected.”
Tip #2: “Have fun. Make penis jokes. Laugh at mistakes. Enjoy the fantastic company you are surrounded with. This is something you have worked for all year. Be in the moment.”
Tip #3: “Attack. When you get out on the floor, training times do not matter. Pain does not matter. Listen to your body a little bit. If you know you need to back off some to hang in, do so, but other than that, faster is never wrong.”
Punching his ticket to Carson gave Sweeney lots to smile about
Quick Tips from Pacific Regional Games Qualifier Mitchell Sinnamon
Tip #1: Don’t get wound up in a bad result. Deal with it quickly and move on!
Tip #2: Focus on the next workout, not the entire weekend.
Tip #3: Smile and have fun out there. The prep is done.
Sinnamon's simple advice might be easier said than done!
Richard Bohlken’s Regional Assessment—11th at the South Regional
Blonyx athlete Bohlken's Instagram update just after his regionals experience
Bohlken, a 2014 Games athlete, was one athlete who did provide some more elaborate physical insights for each and every workout.
Event #1: “I was fully prepared to get to the 265 lb. bar. However, I came out of the gate very fast and was not in control of my body. My legs blew up on me and I felt like I had no pull. If I could do Event 1 over, I’d try to mimic Rich Froning’s approach as much as possible.”
Event #2: “The guys in our region that did the best on the event did singles on the strict muscle-ups all the way through.”
Event #3: “Event 3 is a go, go, go workout. My plan was to go unbroken completely. My grip was starting to go, so I ended up dropping at 48 (pull-ups) and then doing the last 4. There is no pace on this workout but go all out. Focus on all good reps and not missing the target. Any time wasted on that workout costs a lot of spots on the leaderboard.”
Event #4: “I was happy with my effort. I killed myself on Event 3 and tried to hang on in Event 4. GOt to try to stay 10 and 5 on all the power cleans and stay moving on pistols.”
Event #5: “The trueform was a different experience for me. My GHD sit-ups slowed on rounds 2 and 3. I tried to stay moving, but my overall placement indicated I didn’t move fast enough. The deadlifts at 405 lb. weren’t the issue. If you wear a belt, wear the best the entire time!”
Event #6: “Event 6 is all about the burpees. I went very hard on the burpee and was unable to gather myself and lower my heart rate to go unbroken on the OHS (at the end) and that cost me.”
Event #7: “I was going great. Great pace. Got no repped on my first rope climb in the round of 2s and that cost me. So be sure to focus on the judges standards and hold onto the rope all the way until the designated 9-foot line.”
After his detailed assessment of the physical components of the weekend, Bohlken also offered some valuable mental advice:
“I placed a lot of pressure on myself before the weekend even began. I really wanted to prove myself and have a good weekend. Making the Games is such an amazing experience and so much work is put in to make it that sometimes added pressure is there. Go into the weekend with plans for each event and execute and then just see where the cards fall.” - Bohlken
What got 19-year-old Pacific Region CrossFit Games qualifier Maddie Sturt through the weekend
#1: I stayed relaxed and made sure I was enjoying myself. I was telling myself that I’ve trained all year for this one weekend. Enjoy it!
#2: Go hard in every event. I told myself: ‘There’s no point in holding back. You get recovery time between events.’
#3: After every event, my coach made me cool down properly and flush my body. I think this really helped in regards to how my body pulled up each day.
Maturity and competition poise beyond her 19 years
One final simple and elegant reminder from Sarah Hopping-Estrella — 9th place finish in the California Regional
Hopping-Estrella: “Never ever, ever give up. And if you’re tempted to give up, don’t. Trust your strategy, rely on your training, and appreciate the opportunity.”
Hopping-Estrella always looks like she's enjoying herself out there! Last weekend, it helped her improve on her 19th place finish from last year's regionals
Good luck to all athletes this weekend!