Can You Just Have One Pair of Trainers?

I remember when I first started running, everyone said how accessible it was – all you need is a pair of trainers and some old clothes and you can run. Which is true, unless you want trainers for distance. Trainers for speed. Trainers that stop your arches collapsing. Trainers that return the energy from your footstrike. And what about if you want to do a HIIT class? Or lift some weights?

Inov8 have just brought out their latest pair of trainers, the All Train 215, which come with the claim that you can use them for pretty much anything. So can you really just have one pair of trainers for all activities? I got a pair from [Kit]Box to find out.

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inov8 All Train 215

The Technical Stuff

One of their lightest shoes yet, the inov8 All Train weighs just 215g (or a whopping 240g if you’re a UK size 8.5 like me!). The lacing pulls in a cradle around the sides of your foot, locking you in and supporting side to side movement. The sole has triangular shaped cleats to help with grip in any direction. A firmer heel and reinforced heel cup support you during lifting and squatting. And a meta-flex groove provides the flexibility for plyometric movements.

Firstly, I’ll say that Inov8 have comfort down to a T in all their shoes. Every pair of Inov8 shoes I’ve owned (including my lifters) have been incredibly comfortable and the All Trains are no different. These guys know how to do feet! Having said that, I do find them a bit of a pain to get on – you have to loosen the laces quite a bit to be able to slip your foot in the back without squashing the heel cup down. But, once they’re on they really do feel like a supportive second skin.

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In Action

I wore the All Train 215 trainers to CrossFit to test them out with a variety of movements (moderate-weight power snatches, skipping, wall balls, etc.) and also running along the river in quite muddy conditions.

Personally I wouldn’t wear these for dedicated lifting as I always prefer the extra stability of a pair of lifting shoes, but in a workout where you’re mixing lifting with other exercises they hold their own on the platform pretty well. I found I shifted forwards onto my toes quite a lot when snatching, but this might be because they’re so light. For wall balls (squatting with a medicine ball and throwing it to a target overhead) I found them really good – they helped my feet stay grounded while giving me enough freedom of movement to easily jump to throw the ball.

For running I loved them – they are super light and comfortable and felt grippy even in the mud. I wouldn’t recommend them for heavy heel-strikers as the firmer heel and minimalist feel probably wouldn’t provide enough cushioning. However, if you want to get yourself away from a heel strike then these may be a good way to help reinforce good running patterns! I’m a forefoot striker so these were perfect for my running style.

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When I’ll Wear Them

I’ll be slipping on the inov8 All Train 215 shoes whenever I’m going to a class that has a mix of cardio and strength exercises, such as Re-Shape at 1Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp classes, F45, Grid, etc. I’ll probably still go for my dedicated CrossFit shoes for CrossFit classes – purely because they have a flatter sole that I think just has the edge for lifting – but I’ll definitely keep these as the trainers I take to work for lunchtime workouts or runch!

Does One Shoe Fit All Activities?

So, can you just have one pair of trainers? If you’re a fitness class addict or love variety in your training but don’t want dedicated pairs of trainers for each workout style, then the inov8 All Train 215 shoes are a really good choice as an all-rounder that will support a little bit of everything.

With the best bits of all trainers; the inov8 All Train 215 is a running shoe you can lift in, a lifting shoe you can dodge and weave in and an agility shoe you can hit the trails with.

Pick up a pair of the women’s in0v8 All Train 215 (the ones in this post) or the men’s variety, from [Kit]Box for £84.99 (price correct at the time of writing!).

Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*, 17mm f1.8 lens* and 30mm f3.5 macro lens*.

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Disclaimer: I was given a pair of inov8 All Train 215 trainers for review by [Kit]Box. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by payment, or items/services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

7 of the Best Free CrossFit Programmes

For most, CrossFit is a method of keeping fit. You go in to your local box, work hard, get fitter, stronger, faster. You make friends, support each other and come away feeling awesome. And that’s great. It’s enough.

But for some, CrossFit is a sport – one to compete in at a serious level. If you want to take your CrossFit training to the next level and aim to compete at Regionals, or even the Games themselves, you’ll need dedicated programming, and that can get expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of free resources out there for you to take advantage of.

In this post I’ve tracked down some of the best training programmes out there to help you improve your CrossFit performance. So, in no particular order…

The Best Free CrossFit Programmes

CrossFit.com

CrossFit Mainsite Programming

Clearly one of the best places to get CrossFit programming is the CrossFit site itself. CrossFit.com, or “mainsite” as it’s known, has 7 years’ worth of workouts to look back on and it’s known to have given an indication in the past of what might come up in the games. For example, when heavy DT (21-15-9 of deadlifts, power cleans and push jerks) was announced during the 2015 CrossFit Games, some athletes who regularly train off mainsite were pretty smug as they had done an even heavier version of DT from there a short while before.

Check in for workouts regularly and you’ll get an idea of where CrossFit HQ is pushing boundaries to.

http://www.crossfit.com/workout/

Built by Bergeron

Built By Bergeron Comptrain

The man behind the 2016 male and female individual winners of the CrossFit Games, Ben Bergeron programmes for the best CrossFit elites around. Katrin Davidsdottir and Mat Fraser put their trust in him for the second year in a row, and look where it go them… on the top of the podium! You have to pay for Ben’s Games programme, but his Regionals and Open programmes are free for the taking on his website and social media, so jump on board for some serious expert training!

Go here for some targeted, and proven to be effective, competition training.

http://www.builtbybergeron.com/comptrain

CrossFit Invictus

CrossFit Invictus Programming

One of the top CrossFit boxes in the world, Invictus is home to many Games athletes and teams, including Lauren Fisher, Sam Dancer and Kristin Holte. They offer a daily programme with competition, performance and fitness options on their website going back further than you’d care to see. They also have an athlete programme which you can sign up for (at a cost) that enables you to choose elements you need to work on and caters for multiple sessions per day.

Invictus always have a good turnout at Regionals and the Games so they must be doing something right!

http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/wod

The Outlaw Way

The Outlaw Way Barbell Programming

Father and son weightlifting duo Jared and Dave Fleming provide a weekly barbell programme on their website, the Outlaw Way. All they ask is you add your progress in the comments so they can see what works and what doesn’t. Expect a cyclical programme (now in its 10th 15-week cycle) that addresses technique and strength with the aim of preparing you for a weightlifting competition.

If you want a weightlifting-specific programme that’s been developed with feedback from all around the world, then this is your one.

http://theoutlawway.com/category/blog/

Misfit Athletics

Misfit Athletics CrossFit Programming

Started by a group of five self-proclaimed misfits, MisFit Athletics is a free daily programme that is designed to be progressive with cycles of training, including testing weeks. Their personalities and attitudes coming across in their programming and you’ll find the blogs as entertaining as they are helpful. Oh, and the programming is pretty disgusting… think all manner of burpees, muscle ups and multiple metcons.

You have to sign up to access this one, but don’t worry – it’s still totally free!

http://misfitathletics.com/blog/

Rowing WOD

Rowing WOD CrossFit Programming

Another sign up only resource, the Rowing WOD training plan is available to you as soon as you submit your scores for 2 benchmark sessions. Cardio endurance/capacity catches out a surprising number of CrossFit athletes, so if your rowing is lacking then get yourself on the Rowing WOD programme and work on those weaknesses. Who knows, maybe you’ll be setting world records soon, like Sam Briggs!

Perfect if you need a bit of a helping hand in the cardio endurance area (let’s face it, most of us do!)

http://www.rowingwod.co/

Weightlifting 101

Weightlifting 101 CrossFit Programming

Erik Lau Kelner, weightlifting coach to Sara Sigmundsdottir, Emma Mcquaid and Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson, offers free weightlifting programming on his website, Weightlifting 101. His programmes are intended to build a solid weightlifting base, while allowing for the unpredictable nature of CrossFit. Expect a programme that allows for good weightlifting potential even after a 5k run, or for high repetitions in what he calls “CrossFit Weightlifting”.

He’s recently changed his programme from a weekly schedule to a block of training that you can schedule when you want. Access his previous programmes below, and the current block of programming is also available from the main menu.

http://www.weightlifting101.net/previous-programs/

And if you aren’t interested in competing? You can still use any of these sites for workout inspiration when you can’t make it to the box, if you want to do a home workout, or just for ideas for open gym.

Have you used any of these (or any other) free resources before? Or have any of them peaked your interest? Comment below and let me know! And if you liked this post please feel free to share it or comment/like/follow so I know to do more like this!

CrossFit Christmas Gift Guide

I can’t believe how quickly Christmas has come around… I swear I say this every year, but it really has jumped up on me this year! There may not be long to go until the big day, but there’s still time to get some online shopping in with guaranteed Christmas delivery, and if you’re struggling to think of what to get the CrossFitter in your life, this gift guide should help you!

All the items in this guide are either products I’ve tried and tested myself, or are from brands I buy from regularly, so this is a bonafide recommendation from me, an avid CrossFitter/weightlifter, to you – the giver of gifts. I’ve included some higher price items right the way down to stocking fillers so there should be something for all budgets.

Let’s get shopping…

Home CrossFit Equipment

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  1. Pull Up Mate – £108.29, including bag. A great piece of kit for home workouts and generally working on your pulling strength. I use mine for pull-up variations, ring dips (with my Reebok gymnastics rings) and even lat pull downs!
  2. Reebok Ab Mat – £24.99. Good support for your lower back during sit ups but can also double up to rest your knees on for ab roll-outs and push ups. 
  3. Incite Fitness Paralettes – £60. I got these for Christmas last year and love them for practising L sits, jump throughs, crow, handstands, etc.
  4. Reebok Gymnastics Rings – £59.99. Brilliant for working on dips and muscle up progressions. You can even invert on these with the Pull Up Mate!

Clothing and Footwear

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  1. Reebok Nano 6.0 – £89.95. Reebok’s best shoe yet – super comfortable and more supportive than previous versions. And you can never have too many Nanos. They come in some gorgeous colours too!
  2. Nike Romaleos – £180. A pricey shoe, but worth it’s weight in gold (and it’s a bloody heavy shoe!). I wouldn’t wear anything else for pure weightlifting now.
  3. Reebok Jogging Bottoms – £39.95. These are perfect for chucking on in the evenings, or on top of leggings for between workouts. Super comfortable and stylish.
  4. Skins Calf Guards – £35. Great to keep in your kit bag in case of rope climbs, these calf guards will protect your loved one’s shins from the burn of the rope as they climb and descend.
  5. Nike Metcon 2.0 – £120. Another favourite shoe of mine. These are good for the Nike lovers out there and there are so many colours to choose from! The new rose gold ones are gorgeous!

Accessories

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  1. Unbroken Designs Weightlifting Belt – £29.99. I try not to wear a lifting belt too often, but find it really helps me with my clean and jerk when the bar gets heavy. This is supportive enough without being super wide.
  2. Vropes Fire Skipping Rope and Speed Cable Pack – £40 + £18. My favourite rope so far… and I’ve tried a lot of ropes trying to find the one that will magically give me double unders! You can get the extra pack with three different weight ropes for all preferences (each longer length for you to cut to the right length) and you can get the handles personalised too!
  3. Bulldog Gear Mobility Gear – from £2.99. Perfect for home workouts, stretching and glute activation. A mix of full size and shorty bands at different weights, plus a lacrosse ball and peanut roller would make for a really good mobility kit!
  4. Reebok Kit Bag – £89.95. Big enough to store all of your kit in and a really cool, quite military style. Us CrossFitters have a lot of kit to pack away!

Holistic Accessories

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  1. Love Life Supplements Primal Power Whey Protein – £34.95. Really good quality whey protein which contains a balance of 20g protein, 10g fat and 5g carbohydrate per serving. It even contains health boosting flaxseeds, digestive enzymes and prebiotics.
  2. Liforme Yoga Mat – £100. The best yoga mat ever. Fact. Lines on the mat help with alignment in poses, the anti-slip fabric helps you stay in place no matter how sweaty your hands get, and it’s big enough for those of us who are a little taller. I got it for Christmas last year and wouldn’t use any other mat now!
  3. Yoga Gym – £12. A great book of yoga workouts from Nicola Jane Hobbs. This book isn’t just for yogis – CrossFitters will benefit hugely from the strength and mobility focused yogacises.
  4. First Aid 4 Sport CrossFit Kit – from £6. a brilliant little kit for any CrossFitter to put in their (Reebok) kit bag! The basic kits contains tape, plasters, bandages, gloves, scissors, etc. but you can also add products like a callous shaver and a block of chalk! Perfect for keeping the WOD going through every pull-up your beloved can do.
  5. Becoming a Supple Leopard – £45.99. The CrossFitter’s bible. This well-known book is packed full of mobility exercises and technique tips to help make for the smoothest movement standards known to man. Great for any mobility geek hoping to brush up on some Starrett knowledge.

Stocking Fillers

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  1. Graze Mince Pie Flapjack – £5.99 for six. Because… mince pie flapjack. Duh!
  2. MyProtein Wrist Wraps – £8.49. Like with the belt, not to be worn all the time, but when doing lots of heavy reps wrist wraps really help. These are a really affordable little present – great for Secret Santa!
  3. MissFits Protein Sachets – 12 sachets for £20. Individually portioned pea protein sachets of goodness. In four lovely flavours.
  4. WATU headband – £19.99. A headband that actually stays in place while you train. And it has aluminium spots to help cool in known hotspots! Awesome. Oh and it’s unisex.
  5. Stance Socks – from £7.99. Stance are known to be the sock of choice of CrossFitters. They’re super comfortable, colourful, and help protect your shins during rope climbs. Awesome.

I hope this CrossFit Gift Guide has helped you think of some last-minute gifts for the CrossFitter in your life. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d add!

Disclaimer: Some of these items were given to me as PR samples in the past. However, most were bought by me, or given to me as gifts from my family and I would recommend them to my friends! As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by payment, or items/services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. This post contains some affiliate links. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

Outside the Box – Pull-Up Exercises

It’s been nearly a year since I got my first body weight (unassisted) pull-up. A goal I’d had for what seemed like forever finally came through, but I’ll admit to being a bit slack on working on them since. By now I should be doing sets of 5-10 with ease… I’ll admit this is not the case.

Body weight exercises are always going to be a little more tricky for people like me – being taller than average is not in my favour with long levers and a larger mass to move. But that needn’t be an excuse for under-performing when you have people like Chyna Cho and Sara Sigmundsdottir (5’8″ and 5’7″ respectively) at the CrossFit Games. The key is to work at your weaknesses, and as the author of Happiness By Design (a book I thoroughly recommend, by the way) says – if you want to do something, make it easy to do.

So to try and combat this I bought myself a Pull Up Mate. The Pull Up Mate is a freestanding pull-up bar and dip station, so it doesn’t need to be fixed to a wall or slotted into a door like most home pull-up bars. It’s strong enough to support 110kg body weight and can be taken apart quickly to store under a bed or behind a sofa. It was actually my husband who found it and sent me a link (and admittedly he’s had the most use out of it too!) but it was perfect for what we’d been looking for. We bought the wide grip version and it fits nicely in our spare room for regular use.

Here are my “homework” exercises for improving my body weight exercise strength and technique.

What you’ll need:

Pull-up Exercises

Negatives

  • Jump or pull yourself up to the top of a pull-up position (chin above the bar).
  • Slowly lower yourself down.
  • Aim for 5-10 seconds on the lowering phase.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Shaking is expected!


Pull-up holds

  • Jump or pull yourself up to the top of a pull-up position (chin above the bar).
  • This time hold the top position for 5-20 seconds before lowering.
  • Embrace the silly facial expression you no doubt have!
  • Repeat 3-5 times.


Lat pull down

  • Attach two light-weight bands to the top bar of the Pull Up Mate.
  • Slot a broom handle through the loops of the bands.
  • Sitting either on the floor or on a chair, hold the ends of the broom handle in a wider than shoulder width grip.
  • Pull the bar down to below your chin, using your back to initiate the movement (don’t let your elbows lead).
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.

Pull-ups

  • Attach a band to the top bar of the Pull Up Mate and hook your knee into it.
  • Allow the band to support your body weight as you hang from the bar.
  • Using your back to initiate the movement, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  • Slowly return to the start.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • To make this more difficult, use a lighter band (or no band) or pull yourself until your chest touches the bar.

Ring Exercises

Ring dips

  • Attach a band to the handle of one ring.
  • Loop the other end of the band over the other ring and hold in place with your hand.
  • Step your knees into the band, keeping your arms fully extended and hands tucked in close to your body.
  • Bend your elbows to lower yourself until your biceps touch the rings, keeping your arms close to your body throughout.
  • Push yourself back up to fully extended arms.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • To make this more difficult, use a lighter band (or no band).

Muscle-up progressions

  • Hold the rings with a false grip – this is where the ring rests on the edge of your wrist and your hand rotates inwardly to grip.
  • Yes, it feels weird!
  • Stack your feet directly under the rings and lean yourself back until your arms are fully extended.
  • Pull yourself up, using your legs to assist a little if needed, until the rings touch your rib cage.
  • Peel your hands apart and drop yourself forward until you’re in the bottom of a really deep dip.
  • Jump or push yourself up to the top of a ring dip.
  • Repeat 8-12 times x 3 sets.
  • To make this harder, put your feet further forward of the rings.

Core Exercises

Hanging knee/leg raises

  • Hang from the bar in a “dead hang” with your knees tucked behind you.
  • Keeping as still as possible, pull your knees up and towards your chest.
  • Lower back down to the start.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • If you find this easy, try straightening your legs (you might need to hold a half or full pull-up to be able to do this unless your bar is higher!)

Windscreen wipers

  • Hanging from the pull-up bar, straighten your legs out to one side.
  • Sweep your legs up and over to the other side.
  • Pull a really silly concentration face.
  • Repeat 8-12 times x 3 sets.
  • If this is too hard, bend the legs a little to shorten the levers and make it easier.

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Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in association with Pull Up Mate. I bought my own Pull Up Mate, but the Reebok rings and Bulldog Gear bands were samples gifted to me. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by payment, or items/services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

CrossFit Girls on an Active Hen Night

Look at any stag and hen party website and you’ll see the typical choice of activities for women – dance lessons, spa days, maybe a even a class on making your own frilly knickers. But there are so many more options out there than first meet the eye. For my hen party just over a year ago I had great fun life drawing and cocktail making, but if you’re after a more active hen night then Maximise have you covered.

I was invited to bring a team of girls along for an evening of active hen night games, with prizes up for grabs. I don’t often get to share my blog experiences with friends so jumped at the chance to put together a team made up of my friends and fellow CrossFit girls. I knew they’d be totally game for it and they proved me right from the word “go”!

The Megamix Games

The Snatch Sisters

Kelly, Jo, Kerry, Tina and Anita joined me as team captain to take on the other teams. The first challenge? To come up with a team name. We wanted something that identified us as CrossFitters, and “snatch” was the obvious choice. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of alliteration? So, Snatch Sisters it was.

When I told Elle, of Keep It SimpElle, that I was bringing my CrossFit friends she said “sounds like you’re gonna be taking it seriously?” I told her we just were going in for the fun of it, but when we started playing the first game our competitive nature took over, well… we are CrossFitters!

The Games

The variety of games we played was huge and definitely included something for everyone. The old school sports day games really got the teamwork started with three-legged races, accumulating team relays, the “getting dressed” race and more. These were probably my favourite of the evening with laughter flowing all round.

We also tried our hand at hula hooping, bubble football (which I was nervous about but actually loved), disco dodgeball and beer-goggle football. All of the Maximise team were brilliant at getting the teams psyched up and coming up with twists on the games to keep them fun and different. The two hours from when we started absolutely flew by and we had smiles plastered on our faces the entire evening.

Activity Quick-Fire Summary

Activity One: Old School Sports Day Games

What is it? A retro revival of old school sports day classics, including egg and spoon, three-legged race and the sack race.

Objective: To score as many points as you can across the various games.

Active Hen Night School Sports Day

Sitting down like the obedient children we are!

Activity Two: Bubble Football

What is it? Encased in a large body zorb players roll, bounce and bump their way through a simplified football game.

Objective: To score as many goals against the opposite team as possible.

Active Hen Night Zorb Football

Bubble football mayhem

Activity Three: Hula Hens

What is it? A multitude of different hula-hooping challenges from being able to sit down while hula hooping to being able to run and keep the hoop spinning.

Objective:  To complete a variety of challenges while hula hooping

Active Hen Night Hula Hooping

Some hip-thrusting hula-hooping

Activity Four: Disco Dodgeball

What is it? Disco tunes and dodgeball come together in this unique mash-up. Players dance their way out of trouble to a soundtrack of tunes from across the decades.

Objective: To dodge balls hurled by opposing teams 

Active Hen Night Disco Dodgeball

Grabbing life by the balls…

Activity five: Binocular football

What is it? In this twisted version of football, players attempt a variety of ball skills while wearing googles which make the ball appear either 10x closer or 10x further away.

Objective: To complete a variety of challenges in the quickest time

Active Hen Night Goggle Football

The crazy beer goggles

The Results

What helped the smiles was the fact that we seemed to be on a bit of a winning streak. We earned first place in bubble football, disco dodgeball, goggle football and old school sports day… the only game we didn’t win was the hula hooping, despite a couple of the girls being naturals!

I can’t help but think that CrossFit was a massive driver in us winning the evening – after all, CrossFit embodies “general physical preparedness”. That is, to be physically prepared for any challenge thrown at you! This is explained a little more in my post exploring whether CrossFit can make you a better runner.

Anyway, we collected our prize, including a brilliant team trophy, and celebrated with some delicious healthy salads from the 100 Islington Restaurant, of course all washed down with our bottle of Prosecco. Who said CrossFitters can’t enjoy a drink or two?!

Maximise Active Hen Night

Winners!

Book an Active Hen Night

If you’re planning a hen party and fancy taking on some of the activities we tried with your friends then check out Maximise’s Megamix Triple Combo, where you can choose your own combination of games. I’d definitely recommend trying something you wouldn’t normally go for as it was these activities that I enjoyed the most!

Thanks to team Snatch Sisters for being an awesome team, and to Maximise for putting on such a fun event.

Maximise Active Hen Night

Team Snatch Sisters

Disclaimer: I was invited to bring a team to participate in the Maximise Blogger Games free of charge. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items or services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. Photos courtesy of Maximise.

How to Up Your Game in CrossFit Competitions
So you’ve been training for a little while and want to start entering CrossFit competitions. Maybe you’ve even already done a comp or two. You’ve identified the skills you need to practice, found yourself a training plan to follow and booked yourself in for some regular sports massage. But have you thought about how to prepare mentally?

The athletes who often do the best in CrossFit competitions are those who can keep focused, can psyche themselves up when needed, switch off when not, and stay resilient in the face of adversity. All of this takes practice. And I’m going to give you some tips and tricks.

Managing Arousal

Arousal refers to how alert you are and it’s important in regulating consciousness, attention, and information processing. This is all controlled through changes in levels of specific hormones, including adrenaline, histamine and seratonin. There are lots of ways arousal is increased naturally, for example where feeling threatened kicks off the flight or fight response – getting cut up on the road can make you so angry that your pulse raises and you start to shake. 

A certain amount of arousal is good for performance – it primes the body for action and can focus concentration. But too much, or too little, could turn your competition on its head.

The key to managing arousal lies in identifying your optimum level, and using prompts to help you raise or lower it as required.

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Arousal Prompts

There are four key prompts for raising and lowering arousal levels, and which is best depends on what you most respond to in general, e.g. how you learn:

  • Visual (spatial): try using imagery. Picture yourself winning an event, performing a particular skill, etc. The point is to make your visualisation as realistic and detailed as possible so it becomes experiential with the hope of “re-living” it when the time comes.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): music is your best friend. Choose music with a tempo that gets you ready for action, but not so pumped that you’re over stimulated. The subject of music in sport psychology has been extremely well researched so it’s worth looking into!
  • Verbal (linguistic): try slogan clothing or wrist bands, or repeating a short motivational phrase to yourself before and during competition. Music can also be good for verbal motivation. For example, UFC fighter Miesha Tate’s walk on music is Katy Perry’s “Tiger” – this may seem like a strange choice, but the lyrics say it all:

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter,

Dancing through the fire,

‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar,

Louder, louder than a lion,

‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!” 

  • Physical (kinesthetic): try having a pre-competition stimulating massage – ideally in the minutes directly before the event – using warm up drills that mimic the movements and intention of the exercise(s) you’re about to do (e.g. using the same aggression on an empty bar warm-up as you would in a heavy version of the lift) or stomping your feet/slapping your legs before stepping up to the plate.

Identifying Optimal Arousal

The optimum level of arousal is like gold dust. Get it right and you could line yourself up for a PB performance. But knowing where that point is can be hard and it’s easy to let yourself worry and become anxious before a performance. Nerves are not necessarily bad; a certain amount of nervous energy actually leads to increased arousal, which I’ve already said can link to better performance.

Finding the point at which you can perform well before hitting that tipping point can only really be done through trial and error. Choose a practice event in the lead up to your main competition to gauge how you perform and what strategies work for you.

Identify that point where you can focus and push the nerves aside.

Coming Back Down

For competitions with multiple events, it’s just as important to be able to “switch off” and come back down to a state where you can relax, take stock of where you are and recover for the next event as it is to get psyched up for the event in the first place. If you ever watch the CrossFit Games, the most successful athletes are those who can turn their drive on and off and put the last performance behind them, ready to focus on the next one.

The same processes can be used to reduce arousal as those that increase it – just choose more calming versions of the same prompts!

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Facing Adversity

Not everything is necessarily going to go your way in competition. Whether it’s a judge who seems particularly harsh, or missing movements that you usually hit in practice. The athletes who will succeed are those who can pause and correct whatever it is that’s going wrong. Here are some tips for how to do just that.

Movement Standards

Judge keep shouting no rep? Guess what, it’s not their fault. Even if you think you’re achieving the movement standards, calmly ask your judge what you need to do then fix it. This could mean exaggerating the movement a bit. If you get angry or frustrated it’s not going to help you, and it’s probably just going to piss your judge off – which definitely isn’t going to help!

As the CrossFit posters say – leave your ego at the door.

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Failed Lifts

Know you can hit a 60kg snatch but keep failing over and over again? Step back, analyse your movement patterns and identify what you’re doing wrong. Not keeping your shoulders over the bar? You’ll struggle to keep that bar moving in an efficient path. Not getting your hips to full extension? You’ll limit power on the pull. Create that body awareness of what a good lift feels like and you’ll be able to identify, and correct, inefficiencies that much more easily.

The same applies to all movements, not just the lifts. Safety, efficiency and effectiveness of movement are key.

Practice Makes Perfect

As with everything we do in life, the more we do it, the better we are likely to get at it. No-one was perfect the first time they did a movement. Everyone has to learn the basics and build from them – even your top level Games athletes. 

But, as calisthenics star Stephen Hughes-Landers says, when it comes to movements – perfect practice makes perfect. We probably all know an athlete who is brilliant in training but falls apart in competition. Sometimes this is down to nerves, but probably 9 times out of 10 it’s because they aren’t hitting the movement standards in training.

“No rep” yourself. Learn the feeling of full range of motion. If you can’t get there? Work on mobility and getting those weaknesses strengthened. Train like you’re being judged!

Do you take part in CrossFit competitions? What are your tips for success? Comment below – I’d love to know what you think!

Photos taken at an in-house competition at CrossFit Raeda.