"Can I make it to the CrossFit Games?" I get the question everywhere. How do become good enough to progress through the CrossFit Games qualifying process. All over the world. At CrossFit gyms I own in Boston. At CrossFit HQ seminars I teach in all over the country and around the world.
I get asked this in far away places. At a CrossFit Level 2 certificate seminar in Novosibirsk, a town in the southwest region of Siberia, I was asked again:
“How can I qualify for the CrossFit Games?”
The hard truth for almost everyone is this:
The CrossFit Games in 2018 are a lot different than the Games I first competed in in 2009. In the earliest days of the CrossFit Games, the event was at a ranch in the middle of California. If you showed up, you could enter.
Now, the path to competing in the elite division of the CrossFit Games starts with the CrossFit Open, early in the year. More than 300,000 people entered this year. From hundreds of thousands, the number of those who move on to stage two of the CrossFit Games, the Regionals, is in the hundreds. It’s then filtered down to the handful of athletes who compete as individuals in the Games.
As the numbers portray, the odds are against you when it comes to qualifying. I tell people that to have a legitimate shot, they need to achieve the following minimum standards:
- Sub-5:30-mile run time
- 275-pound snatch for men; 205 pounds for women
- 345-pound clean and jerk for men; 225 pounds for women
- Sub-60-second 400-meter run
- 15 unbroken muscle-ups
- 70 unbroken pull-ups
- 2:30 or faster Fran (Fran is the famous benchmark CrossFit workout consisting of descending rounds of barbell thrusters and pull-ups)
- The hard-won ability to perform complex gymnastics movements extremely well, often blended with things like weightlifting, rowing, or running, at high speed and at high heart rates
- Be able to knock out every workout of the day posted on the CrossFit.com site for a year with little struggle—and whether you can do the RX version, with the prescribed weights and reps, should not even be a question
Then, when you have those standards met, you need learn how to compete with a CrossFit judge watching your every repetition to check that it meets the standard. Then you have to be be durable enough to compete through multiple workouts across multiple days. It’s simple. It’s elegant. It’s brutal.
So what I offer to those aspiring to compete in the CrossFit Games is a simple test of discipline. It’s a test to see if you have the discipline, consistency, and self-control that you would need to have, day and night, for years before you will realistically be able to start thinking about clawing and scratching your way to the top of a Regionals competition. The test is a nutrition test, partly because if there’s one thing you have 100 percent control over, it’s what you put into your mouth.
Here's an initial test to see if you have the bare minimum of discipline and fortitude to succeed in the CrossFit Games qualifying process. Follow the CrossFit prescription for nutrition.
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.
No cheating allowed, period. Weigh and measure every meal. No mistakes allowed.
Successfully execute this protocol for six months, and you will have the bare minimum of discipline that you’re going to need for your long and uncompromising journey to the top echelon of the CrossFit Games. That’s the bare minimum.
You’ll need to leave behind your social life as you know it. You’ll have to embrace three workouts a day.
Do you need to do that to be fit and healthy? No, not at all. If you can follow the nutrition prescription 80 percent of the time and go to CrossFit workouts three or four times per week, you’ll get in good condition, feel great, and look good naked. If you’re busy with life, a family, and a job, it’s doable and effective.
The Crucial Ingredient
But if the goal you have is to be in the top fraction of a percent of the world in CrossFit, or any other challenging endeavor, the price tag for entry is going to go up. For whatever degree of discipline you need to achieve something you really want to achieve, I think one commodity is crucial. Humility.
If you let your ego get in the way of you looking and bumbling around like a beginner, then the game is over before it’s begun. You have to be able to handle being last in class at the beginning. I remember when I first realized a skill I was going to need was being able to jump rope. I was terrible. To improve, every day I went out into a public parking lot and spent time looking ridiculous. A grown man trying to teach himself how to jump rope. Every day when it was time to make my way to the parking lot to practice, I came head to head with own ego, which is, as author Steven Pressfield has characterized, a form of internal resistance that is out to stop you before you start. Every day I had to work past that resistance and go out there and flounder around until I finally started to get it. Then I had to practice more. And more and more until I had achieved a level of proficiency. Then practice more to move toward mastery.
To this day I still have to wage a daily battle with resistance. Not long ago I wanted to be able to do a backflip. I’ve been training and competing in CrossFit for nearly a decade. I have all of the athletic skills and capacities one needs to do a backflip. This time the resistance was fear. I’m not comfortable being upside down, for one thing. And I was afraid I was going to get hurt.
Just like the jump rope, I had to practice. I went to a gym where I could progress in small bits and pieces with big fat foam mats underneath me. I had to do this day after day and chip away at the fear, each day working through the resistance. And I got it.
Whether your goal is to take on being obese, or to enter a Spartan race and face the obstacles, or to make a career change, or to pursue any new and challenging skill or dream, the starting place is the same: leave your ego at the door and embrace looking like an absolute newbie.