When Athletes Get The Competition Bug Is It Good For Training or Detrimental?

June 29, 2023 by and
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi
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Athletes new to CrossFit, and not so new, go through a phase where they want to compete. While some may do one and call it there, others get hooked and start doing local competition after local competition, but does that actually help them become a better athlete or can it actually stunt their progress? As CrossFit coaches and writers, we attempt to give some insight into the pros and cons of getting bit by the competition bug.


  • Competition intensity is very difficult to replicate at your home gym when using equipment you’re familiar with and being surrounded by people you know. It’s tempting to come out too hot in competitions, which can be detrimental to performance and recovery. Learning to control nerves and staying disciplined with pacing/strategy will improve with real competition experience. 
  • Judging standards vary in each competition. Learning to communicate before and during an event can help remove unnecessary no-reps and frustration while competing. It can also help you learn what adjustments need to be made to your movement during training so things become more automatic over time. 
  • Gameday nutrition and supplementation is something that can be refined with competition experience. There are general principles to stick to when performing multiple events in a day, such as prioritizing electrolytes and carb replenishment between workouts, but each individual will respond differently. Learning what works and more importantly, what doesn’t work well can help you lock in your nutrition strategies for future competitions. 
  • Warming up at competitions can throw people off, as there’s not generally as much access to equipment as one may have in training. This experience can help you develop a bodyweight warm-up to make sure you’re not taking the competition floor cold. 
  • Cooling down also becomes extremely important when performing multiple workouts in a day. Athletes can wear out later in the competition if the body isn’t taken out of the heightened state between events. Simple strategies like cooling the body temperature, flushing the system with light aerobic workout and soft tissue work can all help start the recovery process before upcoming events. Competing will allow you to figure out a system that works best for your body. 
  • Identifying areas that need to be targeted in training is often done by testing/retesting different benchmark workouts, cardio time trials or max lifts. This is an essential part of long-term development, but competing may help you identify different weaknesses that you may not see in training. For example, movement combinations, different rep schemes and the order of events may help you identify small tweaks to make in training based on what challenged you most. You’ll always have your big picture weaknesses that will be under construction at all times, but when you’re four to six weeks out of your next competition, you’ll be able to implement more specific training to target these areas.  


  • Constant states of testing don’t improve fitness levels, but training does. It’s difficult to get a full week of training done when you are being pulled into a competition on the weekend. Sometimes these are one-day or two-day events and don’t set you up for a successful start to the week. Over the last decade CrossFit coaches and elite athletes have pushed the importance of training as opposed to constantly testing your Fran time or one rep max of a lift. We aren’t suggesting you not do competitions, but instead use them as part of your training to improve your overall fitness. 
  • Over exertion over time will leave a lasting impact. A competition can be a lot of volume, depending on how many workouts there are, and doing that time and time again can fatigue your muscles and in turn leave you exhausted or depleted. If you are doing one class workout a day and decide to sign up for a competition, be clear in your preparation and if it’s a competition with four workouts in one day you should take it upon yourself to up your volume prior to competing. 
  • Limited movement exposure can occur during competitions, especially in partner or team workouts where you may find yourself only doing movements that you favor. Athletes also tend to come into a competition thinking it’s a great opportunity to work on, let’s say, ring muscle ups, but they have to consider the competition setting and the workout if it has already been released. Or in a circumstance where the workouts aren’t given ahead of time you may find yourself at a competition doing limited movements or minimal equipment movements due to the constraints of the competition itself. 
  • Lack of focus on overall training goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of competition, but it can be distracting to your overall fitness needs. The time being taken away from a training day to do a competition sometimes takes the focus away from weaknesses and instead amplifies other skills, only further growing the gap between your skill set. While this is not the case in all competitions, it’s still important to recognize when you’re losing focus on the bigger goals at hand. If you’re considering a competition, take a look at the workouts, if they’ve been released, and see if they could complement your training in a way that helps you grow as an athlete. 
  • High anxiety and let down can take over when you start to do several competitions in a row. There are typically a lot of nerves leading up to a competition and then if you don’t perform the way you had hoped or you “let down” teammates it can be stress inducing and put a damper on your training, not only physically, but mentally too. Once in a while I think it’s okay to feel this way, however, if you’re repeating this behavior it can become overwhelming and give you a false outlook on yourself and on your abilities. 

The bottom line: Competing is a fun way to test your fitness, stay focused/motivated in training and  give yourself a change of pace from the everyday training you do in the gym. While we are most definitely not saying you should shy away from competition, we suggest being smart about which you decide to do and be aware of how many you’ve lined up and if they’re hindering or adding to your training.

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