By Misha Shenderey

Guys, a couple of us from the gym participated in a Crossfit competition over the weekend, and I wanted to share my experiences with you.The Capital games took place in Alexandria this past weekend, and you find more information about the event by following the links: Capital Games website, Workout descriptions, and Results.

My teammate Amy and I (team Mishamy, get it? Thanks David T. for the great name!) as well as Rachel and Vic (team Fire and Rice, get it?) represented CrossfitDoneRight.

I had never done a competition before, and man, was I nervous on Saturday morning! As I completed signing in and filling out the waiver form, the lady at the sign-in desk gave me the standard instructions: “the goodie bags and t-shirts are behind you”. I was so out of my element that I stared blankly at the space behind her and slowly muttered: “when you say behind me…”. Without a hint of compassion, the lady coolly responded: “I mean turn around and look in front of you”. Good start.

As I walked into the waiting area, the scene did nothing to allay my nerves. In every corner of the room, there were women with thighs the size of my head and a proud look that descendants of the Amazons wear. The men all looked like they were enjoying a day off from their Special Forces deployment or martial arts careers. Luckily, I saw Amy, who had already setup a corner with chairs for us like a pro, and ran to her like a 4-year old runs to his mother after getting lost in a mall. As a wide-eyed rookie, I found it reassuring to have Amy, an experienced veteran, as my partner. Chatting with her and plotting our strategy for the day helped me stay focused on my plan for the first event – split-snatch max, although I spent the majority of the time staring in shock at competitors warming up with a split snatch that was above my max.

Despite these overwhelming initial impressions, I tried to internalize the advice that our experienced hands gave me in the days leading up to the competition. Steve O. told me to have fun and think less about the competition aspect of the day. Maddie told me to think through my pace for an entire workout instead of giving into the initial burst of adrenaline. Amy and I meticulously talked through our approach to every workout, from the starting whistle to the finishing bell. For the first workout – “40 burpees, 80 double-unders, find max split snatch for the rest of the time (9 minutes total)”, Amy and I planned every detail, down to how and where we were going to place the plates that were allotted to us.

When Amy and I finally took our place on the mat for our heat, and the announcer screamed “Go!”, I felt completely locked in. Every movement felt calculated and rational even as events unfolded in seconds, and I felt like I was bursting with energy. We were first in our heat to dispense with the burpee and double-under buy-in and to get on the bar. We did not set snatch PRs, uncovering hidden power or suddenly mastering the technique. We performed no miracles during the event. Instead, we executed exactly to plan, and scored exactly what we wanted to score, finishing our last lift just as time expired. As I walked off the floor, I felt an incredible rush come over me. It is the simple beauty of Crossfit that it grants you those moments of feeling acutely alive within your normal everyday existence. You do not have to be Keith Richards, intaking enough drugs to kill an elephant, or an Alpine snowboarder, jumping off a helicopter into the unexplored terrain of indomitable peaks, to get a high or experience something that is out of the ordinary.

The rest of the day had its own triumphs, trials, and tribulations. We discovered that there were events where we could hang with the best of them. There were other events that humbled us. Amy found her enemy with chest-to-bar pull-ups, and I nearly killed myself by dropping 135lbs on myself during overhead squats. By the end of the day, I felt that I was a part of the little world that was taking place at the facility, aware of its flows and rhythms, and no longer a nervous stranger entering a forbidding realm. There were plenty of lessons learned. The age-old adage that you cannot trust a book by its cover was a prominent theme. There were modest-looking competitors flying high, and others, who looked like Rambo, who were not as advanced as their appearance intimated. Strategy and preparation make all the difference. Strengths get redoubled, and weaknesses get brutally exposed. Experience matters.

The most important lesson, and the reason why I wanted to share my experiences with you, is another familiar theme expressed by yet another well-worn saying: “half of life is just showing up”. We feel anxious about exposing ourselves to new things and challenging ourselves. The most difficult part about experiencing change and the unknown is the uncertainty of the anticipation. Once we are immersed in whatever it is we set out to do, we take the unfolding events in stride and adjust to the challenges accordingly. As you are reading this, dropping a 135lbs bar on yourself must surely sound a lot worse than being nervous before the competition. Let me assure you – dropping that bar felt like nothing; I promptly jumped right back on and finished my set. Feeling nervous before the event can have a debilitating consequence if not channeled properly and without proper preparation. With focus, that energy leads to a better performance. I left the competition with an enhanced sense of confidence about my strengths and a sharp awareness of what I need to work on. And if ever run into the lady at the check-in desk again, I will retrieve my shirt like a boss.

Misha introduced himself to each judge and asked any questions he had to be sure he wouldn’t hear the dreaded words “No Rep!”

Workout of the Day

“Grace”

30 Clean and Jerks (135/95)

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