In July, the CrossFit Games will again be held to determine the "Fittest on Earth." Two-thousand fourteen marks the seventh straight year the competition has taken place.
To participate in the Games, athletes first compete in the CrossFit Open, which consists of five separate workouts held over a five week period. Anyone can compete at this stage. Athletes must complete the workouts at a local affiliate or videotape their performance for validation.
After the five workouts are completed, the athletes with the best times from 17 regions around the world move on to the next phase —Regionals. Athletes may be selected as individuals, and/or as part of a team.
Regionals consist of live, three-day competitions held around the world. The best performing athletes from Regionals are selected for the Games. The local Regional competition will be held between May 23-25 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA.
Noah Gabriel-Landis, one of the Head Instructors at District CrossFit located in SW Washington D.C., was kind enough to answer questions about preparing for the CrossFit Regionals. Noah and his team at District CrossFit finished 12th out of over 300 teams competing in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the 2014 CrossFit Open.
1. You qualified for Regionals as an individual multiple times now. How long have you been training in CrossFit? What type of athletics were you involved with before coming to CrossFit?
I've been doing competitive CrossFit for about 4 years now. In college I was on the Track and Field team, primarily as a long jumper. After graduating I joined a gym because I thought it was the right way to stay fit, but it never really filled the void in the same way that training on a team did. The CrossFit world has plenty of room for competition if that's what you're looking for, but that doesn't have to be the draw. Simply having the support structure of like-minded folks around you can make all the difference in the world when it comes to enjoying your fitness, and I think that's what I appreciated the most. It wasn't too long before I left my career as a Certified Financial Planner and started coaching.
2. What is your weekly training schedule like? Does it stay pretty consistent throughout the year?
The schedule stays pretty consistent (5 days per week), but the type of workouts change substantially over the course of the year. Early in the season we focus very heavily on raw strength development and as building a strong aerobic base, which is often referred to as an accumulation phase. Over the course of the year we move into an intensification phase where the movements get more technical and sport-specific, and the conditioning gets far more intense. The 8 weeks or so preceding Regionals can be really tough, so training with a team can make all the difference in the world. Otherwise, it's really easy to come up with a reason to skip the most unpleasant parts of a workout.
3. Please offer insight into your team's training for Regionals. Now that the workouts are posted, do the training sessions become more focused?
Yes, far more focused. It's not quite as simple as repeating the Regionals workouts over and over and over, but every day we practice several elements of the workouts that will come up during the Regionals workouts. For example, one of the workouts involves each member performing a series of Double-Unders (jumping rope where the rope passes under your feet twice with each jump), deadlifts and toes-to-bar. For some athletes, more time needs to be spent on practicing the double unders, while others may benefit more from training the toes-to-bar. As the individual elements of each workout get more refined, it becomes easier to piece them together and do dry-runs of the actual events. Before Regionals actually arrives we'll probably do each workout 2 or 3 times so there are no surprises.
4. On average, how long have the athletes on your team been training CrossFit?
Most of us have been doing CrossFit competitively for a while now. If I had to put an average to it, I'd say 2 years. The way the sport has grown over the last few years, the level of competition has grown tremendously, and consequently it's pretty rare when somebody can drop right into CrossFit and compete at a very high level. It does happen from time-to-time, however. One of our athletes, Andrea Ferry, was a very accomplished powerlifter and figure competitor and she's been competing with us for less than a year.
5. CrossFit is known for its high-intensity workouts. What precautions does your team take to stay injury-free as the Regionals get closer?
This time of year we're walking a very thin line between self-preservation and getting as much work in as possible to prepare for the big weekend. We spend a big chunk of time each session mobilizing to mitigate the risk of any injury, and we also partner with a few doctors to help work out any kinks. We spend so much of the earlier part of the year working on moving properly that I think we tend to avoid injury more than the norm, but still, things do come up. Things like torn hands, sore wrists and mental fatigue (not really an 'injury', but still a problem) are among what we keep an eye out for this close to competition. If we get the sense that the volume is starting to negatively affect our athletes more than it's improving them, we don't hesitate to back off a bit and force some more rest.
6. How much of a role does diet play in your preparations for elite competition? Is it something that most athletes on your team manage alone or do coaches assist in this realm as well?
Nutrition is hugely important. Not just this time of year, but every day (and that goes for non-competitive athletes, too, by the way). With the amount of work that we're doing each week it's imperative that we eat and supplement properly so we're properly recovered for the next day's workout. We're also very careful to avoid any pro-inflammatory or immunogenic foods as they can really make any existing injuries linger for much longer than they should.
I generally think that the better your nutrition is, the more acutely aware you will be if you eat something that's not good for you. For example, I can hardly be in the same room as soy products without feeling like I have the flu (no, it's not an allergy, it's just bad for you). As our competitive athletes are pretty dialed in with our diets, getting knocked on our butts by an unhealthy meal is something we can ill-afford.
7. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of preparing for competition?
Well the favorite part is easy - training with the other team members. Having done Regionals as both an individual and as part of a team, I get far more satisfaction out of training with teammates than I do by myself. We work our tails off, but it's still tons of fun. Many of the team members are also coaches here at DCF, so while we're working out we also get to scratch that coaching itch and help each other improve in the process. The fact that we're all friends makes a big difference too, of course.
I'd say my least favorite part is how it negatively affects my schedule. I'm usually at DCF until about 9:00 every night, so preparing for a competition that requires a 6:00 wake-up isn't especially fun. When it comes to sleep, I don't mess around - 8+ hours, every night, no negotiating. Trying to fit that in between a night-time work schedule and an early-morning training schedule can be a real bear.
8. What goals do you have for you and your team at Regionals this year?
Well first and foremost, our goal at Regionals is to have fun. I know that sounds cheesy but it really is true. None of us are professional athletes so there's no paycheck at the end of the weekend for us. We're all here because we derive some enjoyment from doing this, and if we lose sight of the enjoyment we get from participating then there really is very little point. More specifically though, our goal is simply to execute our plan of attack. By the time we arrive at Regionals we'll have run through each of the workouts multiple times, so we all know what we're all capable of. The question is, can we perform just as well once we're on the big stage. Competitions like this are less about heroic individual performances and more about sticking to the strategy that we've spent weeks preparing. Since we can't control what the other teams do our goal is simply to execute our plan of attack as precisely as possible. If we can do that, I'll be thrilled.
Train with Noah at District CrossFit in SW Washington D.C.