The huge growth in CrossFit and accessible competitive CrossFit has lead to a surge in competitions. Previously there where the big three competitions, the open, regionals and the games, and your season ended when you’d gone as far as you could go. There were also 2-3 national competitions which tended to be well spread through the year. These days, with team, pairs and individual competitions you could end up competing almost every weekend. This is great at first, but in the long run is it good for you and your long-term progress?
There are many upsides to competing in CrossFit, but there are also downsides too. For 99.9% of CrossFitters the sport doesn’t pay the bills, so alongside the stress of competition you also need to manage work stress, life stress and training stress. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to manage all 4 things and still give your body the recovery time it needs to adapt. So, if you want to progress as an athlete giving your body a break and planning your season is essential.
Every sport has an off season, and in most sports, whatever the level, it is enforced by the competition calendar. In CrossFit however, this isn’t the case as there are competitions all year, meaning you need to selectively pick and choose the competitions you want to do, and build your off season into the plan. Typically, I wouldn’t advise competing more than 3 times a year, ideally well spread although practically this isn’t always possible. Alongside this, I would advise designating an off-season period of 2-3 months.
So what is an off season? The term simply refers to a period where you aren’t competing, but what goes into it?
Firstly, it’s about making sure you give your body the time it needs to recover. Recovery is a multi-faceted thing and goes deeper than just whether you feel sore. True recovery allows the normalising of hormone levels, nervous system recovery and mental rejuvenation. Depending on the intensity of your training or competition, this can take anything from 2 weeks to months.
Secondly, the off season is a time to really work on your weaknesses. During the competition period, when training time is limited, you want to maintain a level of performance in all aspects of fitness, so you can capitalise on your strengths and minimise the damage your weaknesses do to your overall placing. This is great, but eventually you will reach a point where you stop making any improvements.
At this point, you need to spend a significant period of time dedicating a large chunk of your training time to your weaknesses. The off season is the perfect time to do this as if your strengths start to slide you can pick them back up later in the year in time for competition. The net results of this is that by the time the season comes around again, your strengths are still strong but your weaknesses are less weak, making you a better all round athlete.
And that’s the name of this game right?
So take the time once you’ve finished your next competition to sit down and plan what your going to do next. Take a look at your strengths and weaknesses and decide what you need to attack. But don’t get too excited and dive straight in. Give your body a break first, it will thank you for it in the long run.