Can Someone Be Too Competitive?

Posted: February 8, 2018 in CrossFit, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Yes. They can.

End of story.

Bye!

All jokes aside, this post is timely given some members of the audience reading my blog, and some situations I’ve witnessed in my years as a CrossFit coach. A lot of gyms out there have fun monthly challenges to keep their members engaged and strengthen the community. One in particular, which I’ve seen at dozens of gyms all over the world, happens during the second to last month of each calendar year. This event is called… ROW-VEMBER! What is Row-vember? Well, it’s an in-house competition to see who in the gym can row the most meters in the month of November. Sounds fun, right?! Well, it can be! At least, until people take the competition a little bit too seriously.

If read that and thought, “You’re kidding, right? How can someone take a rowing competition too seriously?” I’m SO glad you asked! There was a handful of individuals that were so set on winning, that in many ways, rowing took over their lives for four weeks. They’d show up early to row before class. Stay to row more after class. They’d come in and just row instead of taking class. Sometimes they’d back to the gym a second time during the day just to get in more rowing. Someone even took apart their own personal a rower so it would fit in the car to take with them on vacation! Now hopefully the picture is getting painted a little bit clearer as to how things went down.

TooCompetitive1

A few years ago, Crazy Castro had the CrossFit Games athletes complete a HALF MARATHON Row… that’s 21,000 meters. In a row. Insane! What happened next? Well, like every other year after the CrossFit Games are over, people all over the world tried to do the same workouts on their own… “Just to see how they’d do compared to the fittest people on earth.” I know several people who called up some friends one day, went to the gym, put a movie on the TV, and rowed for over 90 minutes straight, just to say they did it. I get it. (Well, just like I know people pay money to do Ironman distance triathlons, doesn’t mean I want to do one myself. You do you, just know it’s not my jam!)

So we’ve talked about a crazy CrossFit event where athletes rowed for over an hour. And we’ve discussed people going to the gym all the time just to row and taking rowers on vacation with them to not fall behind in random competitions. Now, to drive home my point of just how bad it got, put those two groups together. There were a handful of people rowing 20,000+ meters nearly every day!! And if they missed a day, they’d make it up before or after!! That is insaaaaaaaaane to me. I’ve been in this CrossFit game for nearly a decade, and I’ve never even rowed a 10k!

I understand some people just like long and slow cardio. I also get how completing long distances in the form of several shorter interval repeats can make it more manageable. But what my brain doesn’t process is why when you’re 23 days into a month, and your sleep is suffering, focus is off, hands are calloused, butt and lower back are wrecked, and energy is down… you’d keep going just because there are seven days left in the month! But they did. That is a situation where, in my brain, the competition got way too intense. If you’re pushing yourself to the point of adrenal fatigue over pride and a $50 gift card, I think your priorities should shift a little bit. Realize that we want to take care of our bodies through the work we put in at the gym, not destroy them!

TooCompetitive2

I thought of this story because at one of the gyms where I currently work, they’re completing a challenge each month to complete 2018 reps of a different movement. January was burpees, and I think there were about a half-dozen members who completed them all! This month, it’s Calories on a bike or rower. Since I didn’t hop in last month on the burpee game, I figured as a coach I would hop in a lead by example to encourage others to participate. After a few days of rowing a bit and writing my score on the board, I realized that a few of us started to get a little bit competitive with each other. The first few days it was fun, and then I was reminded of the folks I saw a few years ago.

Let this be my official declaration to those of you who are in the friendly game with me:

I just want us to have fun. If you ever feel like you’re impacting your work, social/personal life, or health and stress levels just by trying to row more, let me know. I will gladly step back and bow out of the game! 

I say that kind of in jest, but still pretty serious. For me, I find rowing or biking a little more than I usually would to be a great way to burn off a few extra calories. It’s low impact, I can do it on my own, and at my convenience. So, while my goal is to “#BeLessFat” and allow myself to drink another beer or two on the weekends without feeling guilty, I know that some people get wayyyy too into the competitive spirit. Don’t allow me to fuel an unhealthy fire. I want to make your life better, not worse! Besides, at the current gymour competition isn’t even for most meters, it’s just to see if people can hit 2,018 in the month. Every meter above 2,018 is just icing on the cake! I’ll back out in a heartbeat if I need to, though.

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If you can keep it all in perspective, though, game on. Today I rowed an extra 4,000 meters at a comfortable pace while watching a live video of my favorite Dj, and my heart rate was low the entire time. It was just some nice active recovery, and it felt awesome!

While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really competitive, I rarely let that get in the way of my own health. Sadly, though, I know a lot of people who can’t safely make that distinction. Did rowing alone lead to adrenal fatigue? Of course not. But putting  one’s body through that much unnecessary stress for that many days in a row, certainly didn’t help! Story one was about a competition that went awry. Story two is about a challenge to hit 2,018 meters. The point is, saying, “It’s not a competition,” is great, but we all know that to some people… everything is a competition! If all else fails and your brain won’t let your body stop pushing, remember that it’s only a game. And none of it matters. Train smart, friends.

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