The pictures below are from a recent CrossFit-style competition called the WarriorZ Throwdown. This competition featured some heavy hitters including the likes of Jenny Lebaw (doing the push-ups) and Rebecca Voigt. Their presence I’m sure was appreciated by fellow competitors and fans alike. But their being there also underscores something I’ve been saying about high level athletes and competition, particularly local CrossFit competitions, for a while.
But before I go there let me give some backdrop. This program’s main objective is to prepare CrossFit athletes to compete on the highest level which in the CrossFit world is The CrossFit Games. In order to accomplish this tall task, part of the prescription of this program is to hone the athlete’s mental and emotional competitive readiness. So I suggest athletes following this program find and participate in local competitions to support their training efforts. It is difficult, if possible at all, to duplicate the intensity of the competitive environment in training.
While encouraging athletes to compete in local CrossFit competitions is one prescription of the program it’s definitely the one I have the most difficulty promoting. Why? Because most local comps are simply pure hogshit. Instead of testing an individual’s fitness they tend simply to be a bunch of elements thrown together in one day so some box owner can either show how “innovative” his programming is or worse, simply to collect your $100+ entry fee. Most often you have programming which makes no sense, like max effort handstand push-ups at the beginning of a chipper at an all women’s comp. Or 5 AMRAPS in a day of 10+ minutes each with a 6th workout for the “finalists”. I don’t know what you think but six wods in a day is just assinine. Or elements that make no sense together like snatching, then cleaning the same bar, back and forth for time. Why not just have one or the other?
Even worse than those things, which can essentially be classified as plain old bad programming, there are times when the programmer simply doesn’t take the athletes safety into account. Probably the most glaring and common violation of athlete safety are not things like “tea-bagging ring dips”, as a good friend has called what you see pictured, or a Lulu-Lemon clad lady athlete pulling a car on a rope, then almost getting run over by said car (that shit happened). No, the most common safety violation you see is a lack of space between the athlete and the crowd and between the athletes themselves. I’m just waiting for the day when some standerby gets a Hi-Temp bumper to the face because some athlete’s split jerk went awry after having done a max effort handstand hold and there was only 8 inches between the athletes and the crowd. I won’t even get into the obvious absence of an on call EMT should something serious happen. Call me a prude.
Which brings me to the high-level athlete and their involvement in nearly anything competitive. When one of these folks, many times some of the most intelligent people on the planet off the field, is placed in that kind of environment, they become the dumbest people on the face of the planet. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean this as an insult. In fact, if an athlete isn’t a bit dumb, he would not be able to do half the shit he is asked to do in competition. I mean it is pretty stupid to beat your body to smithereens for very little reward. But that’s what it takes to win and without this dummy switch, it will be hard to be successful in anything athletic.
So when one of these athletes is placed in a situation where they have to do something that is obvious to anyone who is not “beastmode drunk”, just plain dangerous, they WILL DO IT! Although such a situation is more likely to occur on the local level, the big game is not exempt from dangerous elements.
Back in 2010 I ran into Pat Sherwood at the airport coming from the first year of the CrossFit Games at the Home Depot Center. He asked how I enjoyed the event. I said it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen and participated in, save one thing – the rope climb in the final event. For those of you up on your CrossFit history, Rich Froning dropped from first place as he also dropped from a 20-foot rope. My view was there should have been a pad for the athletes to fall on. Pat countered with, “Well, it’s up to the athlete if he wants to climb that rope or not.” Which brings me back to the point. Athletes, real athletes, will do dumb shit if you put it in front of them. (Like an ocean swim with no real swimming ability.)
Hey, you’re not going to change the nature of true top level athletes. They’re going to run into concrete walls head first just because you challenged them to do it. So as programmers of these events, you have to be better. You have a responsibility to keep these guys safe and to keep them from doing dumb shit. Test fitness, not tea-bagging for time. HQ, has learned it’s lesson from 2010. They changed the standards of the rope climb and provided athletes with foam safety mats seen most commonly in pole vaulting events. They also learned from 2011 and put more lifeguards in the water on the ocean swim in 2012. HQ got better at programming competitive events and providing athlete safety. Here’s my call…
Local CrossFit competition organizers! Get better!
snatch: 15 minutes to max for day
1) 4 x 3 strict press, as heavy as possible, rest 60 seconds
2) 4 x 6 Pendlay rows, as heavy as possible, rest 60 seconds
run: 4 x 400m, rest 90 seconds, hold within 3-5 seconds
3 x 8-10 reverse woodchop with band (each side), rest as needed (video)