This is a question I’ve gotten a lot from members here at Lumber Capital Athletics, but also through my remote coaching company ZOAR Fitness.
It’s usually recreational athletes trying to decide when they are “fit enough” to enter their first competition.
The first thing I usually ask -if I don’t already know- is what their goals are around CrossFit. The conversations I have typically go one of three directions…
(1) I’m a Newer Class-Goer Looking for a Fun Outlet to Push Myself
The perspective that I would give this person is that whatever they choose to do should be something that they find enjoying and exciting. In other words, fitness should aid your life outside the gym.
So if the idea of doing a local weekend partner competition with your buddy sounds like a fun way to get some fitness in, then why not!
It doesn’t matter if you can do all the workouts as prescribed or even if you finish every workout dead last, as long as you have a positive mindset about the experience.
Commit to having a fun experience regardless of the outcome and you probably will!
(2) I’m Experienced with CrossFit But They’re Movements I Can’t Do Yet
With this athlete, I would want to tease out their level of seriousness around their goals to see what makes the most sense for them.
If they are a younger athlete who is highly motivated to improve and has glaring holes in their arsenal, then I would treat them more as a competitive athlete looking for optimal development.
If they are a more veteran athlete or casual competitor who has good fitness and plenty of experience in CrossFit, but would need to dedicate significant time to master high-skill movements (Muscle-Ups, Handstand Walking, Legless Rope Climbs, etc.), then it probably doesn’t make sense to deprive them of competitive experiences.
Translation: “Hey, you could be doing Handstand Walk progressions for the 18-24 months, so if you’ve got a competition on your radar, let’s have at it!”
(3) I’m a Competitive Athlete Looking for Optimal Development
If you didn’t notice, I took a very casual approach for each of the previous two people.
Essentially, “If you think it’d be fun, go for it!”
This last athlete is in clear contrast to those other two. For a competitive athlete who takes their performance very seriously and is looking to improve their athletic development as quickly as possible, this process requires intentional progressions.
Competing too early and too often in an athlete’s career will blunt their progress.
Younger athletes, especially Teens in CrossFit, have lots of holes. These holes will never get filled if they are constantly competing.
Taking the time to step back and build a strong foundation is the only thing that can set them up for a long, successful career in CrossFit.
There is a time and place for developing The Art of Competing, but there needs to be long blocks of training built into the athlete’s yearly calendar.
And furthermore, an athlete needs to enlist the help of a coach. You don’t know what you don’t know, and so you will always be your own worst enemy. There is no greater way to accelerate your athletic progression than working with a 1-on-1 Coach who has helped others along the same path you are trying to walk blindly on your own.