At AO1 we talk a lot about mindset
We stress effort over results and to let go of expectations. So does that mean that we say all competition is bad? Absolutely not! I (Stefanie) have personally loved competing throughout my life and feel that it has played a huge part in defining my character. Competition has looked different in different seasons of my life and I feel that I’ve come to an even deeper understanding of it just recently.
Growing up I played any sport available to me. Once a goal was explained clearly and I was set loose to put a strategy into action, I was all in. I would feel my nervous system light up as I mentally forecasted how a play would go, and put every ounce of energy to sprint to my position to take over the play. It didn’t matter if it was a recreational game of ‘capture the flag’, college-level volleyball or my very first time playing street hockey.
I loved being ALL IN.
I was naturally ‘good’ at athletics. I would get a decent amount of floor time in the sports I would play but that never included the front row in volleyball. Basketball was a short-lived experience. I believed that by being a short athlete, I wouldn’t be able to truly excel at a sport. Then I was introduced to CrossFit. I first, just loved the challenge of the workouts and the myriad of movements to learn and master. When I found out it was its own sport with competitions, I couldn’t wait to get started!
I devoted more and more of my time, energy and attention to competing in CrossFit as a sport for the next three years. I was propelled by the continuous questions, “How hard can I push? What am I capable of?” I loved pushing myself harder and hitting new records. I was training 3-5 hours per day, 5 days per week. I was tracking my macros and sleep. I would watch every YouTube interview with elite CrossFit athletes. I would listen to every podcast on training techniques and mindset tools. I got my best finish ever by finishing in the top 50 women in Western Canada.
The result was impressive but as soon as the competition was done, it left me wanting more. If I didn’t stop and evaluate, the cycle could continue endlessly. I was sacrificing a lot of time with my husband and two young sons. I was trying to run a business and a household. I would be thinking about the next YouTube video on training that I wanted to watch, instead of paying attention to the conversation in front of me. I knew this season of being a competitive Crossfitter was coming to an end.
The end of any season is bittersweet. I was very glad to find a better life balance and to prioritize my family the way I truly want to. However, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some sadness. I felt a bit lost and confused in my training for quite a while. I cut back to 1 hour per day, 5 days per week. But even then, I felt guilty if ever I was working out when the rest of my family was awake and at home. I felt selfish if I was just getting a workout in for me. I didn’t know how hard to push in my workouts. How does one exercise without trying to be the best in the next competition? Should I still work on my weaknesses or is that only what competitors do? What about nutrition? Do I purposely eat whatever I want now because I shouldn’t be caring about anything related to competitions anymore?
It has been a year and a half since I made the switch to ‘not a competitive CrossFitter’. Through the ups and downs, I have learned a few things about what this season looks like for me, what a competitive mindset means to me, and how to balance life. I say ‘learned a few things’, not ‘figured it out’ 😉 In this season I try to prioritize five 1 hour workouts per week. I do this because I feel the best health-wise and energy-wise with this routine. If some extra sessions come up and it doesn’t interfere with other parts of life, I may do a little more. If more demands are being placed on me from other parts of life at a certain time, I may not make all 5 sessions and that’s ok.
I didn’t know how hard to push in my workouts. How does one exercise without trying to be the best in the next competition?
What I’ve learned about a competitive mindset is that I love a challenge, I love tracking progress and strategizing new ways to improve, I love the physical exhilaration of truly going to the max and I love chasing super inspiring athletes. There is nothing wrong with those things done within the boundaries of my current context. I know that training 5 hours per week instead of 15 hours per week is not going to yield as great results as quickly, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy going to the max during those 5 hours. It’s a great way to truly understand effort over results and taking away expectations. If my only expectation of myself is to give it all I’ve got, then I can deliver on that expectation and feel accomplished. Which is a lot easier said than done. It’s easy to make something look like your max… but you know when it truly is.
As far as life balance I know that my time, energy and attention need to reflect my priorities. One example is with nutrition. Health is absolutely a priority for me but it is not my top priority. Therefore I want good nutrition but I don’t want to be ruled by nutrition. I know that as a competitor, tracking macros is absolutely the best way to get results and to analyze how nutrition impacts performance. Now my goal is not performance and peace of mind is more important. I have decided that for 3 weeks out of the month I will eat super low carb. Protein + veg with some fruit and a satisfying amount of fat. I find with this system I don’t have to count macros to maintain weight, energy level or satiety. I eat when I’m hungry and I enjoy it. The meals are also very simple. The last week of the month I call ‘carb-loading’. It’s definitely not a scientific calculated approach. I basically trade-off having extra fat for more carbs. During this week if I am offered sweets I accept. Meals consist of tortillas or yams with protein and veg. They don’t have the usual extra salad dressing or avocado or bacon. This satisfies me, keeps me veggie-centric and I don’t feel stressed about making nutrition perfect.
We’re all on different journeys. My ah-ha moments of today might be dispelled in my future experiences. The more we can share together throughout our journeys, the more edified we’ll all be. My major take-aways from my reflection on competition is that:
We need challenges
We have permission to go ‘All-Out’
Compete for yourself, not for anyone else.
Are you ready to go from feeling tired, burned-out and unconfident, to strong, energized, and focused?
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