CrossFit Competition Essentials

So you bit the bullet and signed up for a CrossFit Competition. It’s the night before and you’re freaking out and wondering why you ever agreed to this. Maybe your friend made you be their partner, maybe you got pressured by your gym friends. Either way, you’re in it now and there’s no turning back.

I know what it’s like, I just competed this past weekend and was nervous as hell. Don’t let your nerves distract you from bringing the essentials to help you get through the day and perform your best! Did you remember all of these?

Prep Food

As a coach, one of the biggest mistakes I see rookie athletes make is suddenly changing their entire eating habits immediately before or during their competition. They show up the day of the competition with weird supplements, energy drinks, gels, protein bars, and other “CrossFit-y” things they see their favorite athletes using. If you don’t normally consume these things, don’t shock your body with them on the day you want to perform your best! My suggestion is to prep food you’re used to eating. Make some simple chicken and rice, bring some fruit and some protein shakes, and just eat what you’re used to! Your body will thank you and you won’t have to repeatedly stand in line outside at the 1 port-a-potty the gym decided to rent for the day.

Bring Equipment

Go through the workouts that were released and make sure you have all of the right equipment. Double unders? You’ll want a rope (and make sure it’s tightened! You might even want a backup rope). Bring your knee sleeves, your grips, your lifting shoes, and whatever else makes you feel comfortable. You don’t want to show up the day of and realize you completely forgot your shoes!

A lot of competitions these days also have a “mystery wod” or a floater or a final that isn’t announced. You’ll want to make sure you’re ready for that. Long socks just incase there are rope climbs. Size 16 clown shoes just incase there are toes to bar. Be prepared for the unknown and unknowable, or whatever that saying is.

Bring Chairs/Blankets

At most local competitions you’re going to be spending large amounts of time sitting in a big open floor with a bunch of other athletes. You might as well be comfortable. It took me way too long to start bringing lawn chairs and blankets to competitions so I could actually sit down comfortably in the 3 hour long gaps between my heats. Bring stuff that makes you comfortable because you’ll most likely be sitting around a lot.


You can’t survive off of Kill Cliff and protein shakes. You’ve gotta drink WATER. It’s essential to HUMAN LIFE. The night before the competition and between all events you should be sipping water. Bring enough water for the day and if you’re prone to dehydration, an electrolyte drink (like Pedialyte) might also be good for you. Athletes who are less hydrated will perform worse, it’s science.

Practice the Workouts

Don’t just wing it. Have a plan. If you wing it you’re going to get baited into going out way too hot and not be able to hang on. Know your body and practice the workouts – have a plan if it’s a partner competition so you don’t waste time trying to communicate over loud music and yelling. Know when you’re going to break things up, know what weights you’re going to try to hit (with backups) if there’s a lifting component, and go in as prepared as you can be. Winging it doesn’t work great when your nerves are through the roof and you think everyone’s watching you.

Sign the Waiver

Oh man, nothing’s more fun than showing up to a competition just to wait in line for 45 minutes while everyone signs the waiver, right? A lot of gyms will send out the waiver in advance – sign it and get it out of the way so it’s not something you have to deal with the morning of!

Communicate with your Judge

Judges are human. Most of them are just members of the hosting gym and are super nervous as well. They’ll make mistakes. They’ve counted reps for 10 heats before you and are tired. It’s up to you to speak with them and try to minimize the risk of costly miscommunications. I’ve been a judge and an athlete a million times, and it’s better for both parties if you explain your game plan before the workout.

For instance, a lot of people do a few single unders before they start a set of double unders. Some athletes jump right in. Let your judge know if you plan on jumping right in so they can be ready to count and don’t miss a few of your reps!

I personally like it when my judge counts every rep out loud – so I tell them to do that so we are on the same page and so that I’m not all confused if they have counted the same reps I did. Or if I know I’m going to break things into sets, I’ll tell the judge “Hey, I’m doing all 5s on the toes to bar”, that way they are prepared and less likely to mess something up. Make sure you are on the same page for standards, reps, etc. before the event starts.

Warm Up/Cool Down

I know you’re nervous, but you HAVE to warm up and cool down. Be ready 20 minutes before your heat to do a little general warm up, hit some dynamic stretches and movement-specific drills, and be sweaty before the event starts. After the event, head over to a bike or rower and ride for 10 minutes to cool down and reduce the risk of getting super sore and tight.

You’re not wasting energy by warming up, I promise you. It’s much worse to go out there and “Do it live!!!!” and hope the movements feel good.

Size Up All The Other Competitors

It’s super important to look at all of the other competitors and decide whether or not they are going to beat you in the workout based solely off of how they look. That’ll totally help your nerves if you go in thinking someone else is going to beat you because they have massive biceps. Conversely, you want to look as big and intimidating as possible so make sure you walk around shirtless or wear as much gear as possible to intimidate others. How else are they going to know you sometimes get top 3 in your own gym’s leaderboard?

Have Fun!

Look, most of us aren’t going to make a living competing in CrossFit and even if you’re pretty good, the $50 prize at “Dave’s Backyard Barbecue and WOD-off” isn’t worth getting all nervous about. You’re in this to get outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself and have fun. If at the end of the day you’re beating yourself up over little mistakes or spent the whole day thinking everyone was watching you (they weren’t), then the competition wasn’t worth it. You gotta have fun and walk away with great memories with your gym friends, feeling accomplished that you pushed yourself. The work has been put in, so go out there and enjoy having the privilege to express yourself through fitness.