This week’s find is slightly different as it’s not a class you can simply book into, but lots of people ask me what CrossFit competitions* are all about and I entered one last week, so it seemed like good one to review! (*technically you can’t call them “CrossFit” comps unless they’re CrossFit approved… so they are actually just fitness competitions – tomayto, tomahto).
My non-CrossFit friends, understandably, think the concept of fitness competitions is totally weird – I kind of agree, but they can be a lot of fun too and can provide a sense of achievement, even when you’re competing at a low level.
CrossFit the sport (i.e. the CrossFit Games) is totally different to what most CrossFitters do day in day out at their gyms, and local fitness competitions are not events for people with ambitions to get to the Games. Rather, they are an opportunity to do a load of workouts over the course of a day and see where you stack up against others and how much you can do when put under a bit of pressure.
There are lots of types and levels of competition – some for individuals, some for pairs, and some for bigger teams. Some competitions such as Tribal Clash, the team comp I went to last month, you can just sign up and turn up. Others require completion of a series of qualifiers in advance, with the top teams advancing to the final. Back in June one of my gym buddies, Anna, and I signed up for the Rep It Out qualifiers. Over the course of three weeks, three workouts were released which we had to complete, Submitting our scores along with a video. The top 64 teams were then invited to the one-day competition which took place in Halifax. We qualified somewhere near the bottom and planned our trip up North!
What They Say:
Rep It Out is a same sex partner competition built and designed around a love for fitness.
The competition is set to challenge you whatever level you are at. With three qualifiers running throughout June and the top 128 teams offered a place in the final what have you to lose? So if you and your partner fancy having a go at an inclusive throw down get signed up and come and join the fun!
I’m by no means a competitive athlete and this level of comp is really just for fun. That said, obviously I wanted to do the best I could!
I headed far, far up north the night before the Sunday competition. The train from Kings Cross was so fast my ears popped the entire way – it took less time to get to Leeds than it does to cross from one side of London to the other and I gazed out of the window, catching a spectacular sunset over rolling countryside en route. There’s something about getting out of London that is just so relaxing.
I strolled through the quiet town centre to my hotel and snoozed as soon as my head hit the pillow; registration for competitions is early, we were due there at 7.30 the next morning, and it would be a whole day of activity.
The venue was a sports centre and we set up camp in a spot at the front of the bleachers. Down the centre of the hall was a big rig and a load of shiny new kit: barbells, plates, kettlebells and wall balls.
There are a few things all fitness competitions have in common:
1. Girls with chunky bums and thighs wandering around in booty shorts (my natural environment!)
2. Bearded, tattooed muscly guys with their tops off
3. Food stalls serving big bowls of meat and paleo brownies
4. Merchandise stalls selling all the CrossFit gear… want a mobility tool, hands wraps, protein shaker, hoody or skipping rope? There are many ways to part with your money!
5. Competitors lugging around big bags full of all the kit you might possibly need for a comp… skipping rope, lifters, knee sleeves, tape, chalk… everything but the kitchen sink.
This event was no exception, and the hog roast stall smelled particularly good!
The workouts had been announced over the previous couple of days – so enough time to think about them and maybe even practice them if you were so inclined (we hadn’t!). There were going to be three events before a cut for the final and we’d have a couple of hours between each workout to chill out, refuel and watch the other heats.
At the start of the day everyone was gathered together to go through the rules and movement standards. When it comes to competitions you have to have standards and guidelines to make sure it’s a fair playing field. Each pair would have a judge watching every move, and you get “no-repped” if you don’t do things properly. The head judge went through the movement standards and took questions, then we were off. As we had qualified towards the bottom, we were in the second of four female heats. Looking around, there were a lot of strong girls there! Anna and I looked like a pair of baby deer and were definitely at the spindly end of the spectrum!
The first event was one for the strong girls. Each pair had a 5 minute window to find their heaviest bear complex – that’s taking a barbell from the floor to the shoulders, front squatting, pressing overhead, bringing it onto the back, squatting again, and pressing back overhead to finish. Straight after that we went into a combination of kettlebell movements (swings, snatches and thrusters) which we had to complete as quickly as possible. We were near the bottom on this one and it was inspirational to watch some girls throwing big weights around in the later heats. One event down and I was already inspired to spend the next year squatting and doing little else!!
The men went next and then it was time for our second event. This one was a sprint involving rowing, front squats and pull ups. It was over in a flash and really hurt! When you have a little adrenaline and are racing the people either side of you it’s easy to push more than you would in the gym, and I had a nasty but somehow satisfying metallic taste at the back of my throat for the next couple of hours. Watching the men in particular on this event was awesome… finishing with a rowing sprint meant there were bodies collapsed on the floor all over the shop!
Before the third event there was a break during which Sarah Davies, GB weightlifter, did a clean and jerk demo. At 63kg bodyweight, she did a few warm up lifts and quickly progressed to a lifetime PB of 122.5kg in front of a rapturous crowd! She was simply incredible to watch. I can barely pull that weight from the floor and she was throwing it over her head. Amazing.
The third event was a combination of hang cleans, push jerks and double unders (skipping where the rope goes under your feet twice every jump) interspersed with toes to bar (where you hang from the rig and repetitively bring your toes to the bar) and wall balls (squatting down and throwing a medball to a 10 foot target). This was our best event and we were both pleased with how our toes to bar had come on and the ease of throwing the wall ball to a higher than normal target.
After that, they cut to the top 8 teams for the final. We had never targeted top 8 but were pleased to have climbed the ladder from our starting position in the high 50s to 43rd overall – pretty low in the scheme of things, but there were some strong girls out there and it wasn’t really about our placing. Although you’re out there to compete, really it’s about doing the best you can on the day, strategizing well with your partner and pushing a bit harder than you normally would. I know I’m never going to be throwing massive weights around and I’m just fine with that! The nice thing about fitness comps is that there’s always going to be something you can do better than the person next to you, and it highlights strengths as well as weaknesses. Although you don’t know the people you’re competing against, it’s kind of nice to know that all of these people turn up at their gyms week in week out, trying to get a bit better and a bit fitter and this is chance for them to see how much they’ve progressed.
As we headed back down south we felt a little bit tired, a little bit achy, and overall in a happy haze after a good solid day of fitness. We calculated that we’d only actually worked out for a sum total of 27 minutes across the whole day… but a fun (and hard) 27 minutes they were! As nice as it is to escape London, there’s a comforting feeling of getting back within the M25 too and climbing into my own bed after a long day was bliss.
Fitness comps are widely varying and this was a really well organised one for mid-level athletes. Entering competitions can seem daunting, but there are loads of beginner level ones out there that don’t require you to complete qualifiers and there is simply something satisfying about pushing a little bit more than normal and seeing what you’re capable of in a competitive environment (even if you’re only competing with yourself). It gives a bit of purpose to what you do in the gym and it’s pretty inspiring too to see lots of fit people of all shapes and sizes being strong, gymnasticy and all round beasts!
If you don’t do CrossFit, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going to a fitness competition to spectate… I mean, it really is just a bunch of people working out, but it’s super fun if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. Like a sports day for adults!
Cost: Qualifers: £20 per team. Final: £65 per team.
How to book: http://www.repitoutuk.co.uk