The 2010 CrossFit Games
The ultimate proving grounds of the world’s fittest athletes.
July 16-18, 2010 • Carson, CA
The Home Depot Center Sports Complex
Select a 2010 CrossFit Games event
United States Qualifiers
Sherwood speaks to the intangible elements that set athletes apart
CrossFit athlete and HQ trainer Pat Sherwood will be joining the broadcast crew next month at the HDC to act as a guide throughout the weekend broadcast. Pat offers a unique perspective on the Games as he was a competitor in Aromas in 2009. He offered some thoughts on the role of mental fortitude in competition.
All the athletes showing up to the Home Depot Center in LA to compete in the CrossFit Games will be supremely fit. On this point there is virtually no debate. So what aspects, aside from fitness, will determine why one athlete outperforms another? This debate is one that I hear whereever CrossFitters gather to exchange opinions, points of view, and anecdotal theories of what separates the best of the best.
We have all looked at a workout and immediately felt that perhaps it favored a particular type of athlete. I remember when the events for the 2009 CF games were announced. The first event was a 7k hill run. The general consensus was it was a “little guy” event. What was the outcome? Chris Spealler won the race. The second event was a series of dead lifts set to a particular time interval and constantly increasing in weight. To no one’s surprise, the larger athletes generally out performed the smaller ones. This same discussion occurs for every WOD that comes out of the hopper. We can even dissect individual movements in a WOD and cast our vote on which they favor. For example, Diane has dead lifts (a big guy move) paired with handstand push-ups (a little guy move). Of course, the CF community is filled with athletes that blur the big guy vs. little guy line. These athletes appear to have capacity everywhere. These will be the monster performers putting on amazing performances at this year’s CF Games.
There is another area of being an elite athlete that will play a huge role in who comes out on top in LA. Mental toughness. This is a challenging topic to discuss because it is not easily quantifiable. It is hard to put your finger on it, but you know it the moment you see it in an athlete. I know that if I’m truly honest with myself when I finish most of my WODs, I would have to admit that I pushed myself hard, but not 100%. I try to hit all my WODs with high intensity, but I know that I rarely “go there”. The “there” that I speak of is a level of mental toughness to push through pain and expand the threshold for enduring misery that makes 99.9% of us put the bar down, slow down our run pace, or hop off the pull-up bar. Elite athletes can endure suffering, and an elite few thrive on it.
Through my job with CrossFit Head Quarters I have been blessed with literally seeing thousands of CrossFitters hitting workouts hard. I have coached these athletes through WODs like Fran over and over again. I have gotten pretty good at looking into the eyes of an athlete when the going gets tough and assessing their tolerance for pain and discomfort. Every CrossFitter pushes themselves hard, no question. However, many, many people I observe do the very same thing I do many times; they drop the barbell when they “want to”, not when they “have to”. Occasionally I see a Level 1 participant or an athlete at an affiliate reach that point of discomfort that is easy for me to read on their face. Then, when I expect to see the barbell hit the floor on the next rep so they can rest, something occurs…they dig deep, I mean real deep, they “go there” and suffer through agony for 1, 2, or 3 more reps. Mental toughness like that is not common.
I have also been lucky enough to workout with amazing athletes that also happen to be trainers we have on staff, such as Chris Spealler, Matt Chan, Heather Keenan-Bergeron, and Mike G, just to name a few. I am routinely beaten any time I get the opportunity to work out with these animals. I’m impressed again and again by their ability to suffer, to endure, and to push. Sure, they are physically fit, but the world has plenty of athletes who are physically fit, but will never be champions.
When all other factors are equal, what will separate the best of the best is the athlete’s ability to ignore every signal their body is sending them, every signal to their brain that says this hurts too much, every signal that says you can’t breath, every signal that screams STOP!
I can’t wait to watch these amazing men and women battle for title of the Fittest Man and Woman in the World. Every athlete there has my respect. Good luck!