Coaching Moment: Experienced CrossFit Athlete vs. Competitive CrossFit Athlete

Josh Melendez
January 23, 2024
Coaching Moment: Experienced CrossFit Athlete vs. Competitive CrossFit Athlete

There is a difference between experienced CrossFit athletes and competitive CrossFit athletes.

Experienced CrossFit athletes are athletes who have a training age of more than 5+ years consecutively. They have not stopped for a long period and then returned to CrossFit. They are consistent athletes in the gym and have learned that the reality of PRs come infrequently. They have maintained their fitness level and have even tried the CrossFit nutrition prescription or possibly even flirted with weighing and measuring their food. At times they sign up for a local CrossFit competition for fun.

Competitive CrossFit athletes compete for a living. CrossFit is their full-time career and it is how they earn their income. They do CrossFit competitions for the sole purpose of winning them and getting sponsors to increase their own earnings. They have a team behind them who supports them with their programming, nutrition, sleep, recovery, logistics and overall schedule. They spend 3-5 hours at the gym 5-6x a week, consume a large amount of calories for fuel, recover for 1-2 hours a day, sleep for 8+ hours a night and follow a rigid schedule to optimize their performance at the gym.

For a competitive CrossFit athlete, they require volume. They require multiple sessions and lifts a day. But that volume is determined by their coach who ensures it is properly developing their athlete but also not exposing them to potential injuries. One way they determine their volume is by the intensity they move in those training sessions. If their intensity is low or if they are not moving at the rate the coach wants, the programming will be adjusted. Why? Because intensity is how we gain the adaptations we desire. For a competitive athlete, they can handle volume. They can handle multiple sessions in an hour or day consecutively. They have both the psychological and physical tolerance to do so.

For many experienced CrossFit athletes, it is easy to fall into the trap that you need more in an hour. They have been doing it for a long time and say to themselves that they can do more in an hour. But the reality is that more is not better. Competitive CrossFit athletes are chasing functional dominance while experienced CrossFit athletes are chasing functional competence.

These are two HUGE distinctions. For experienced CrossFit athletes, moving well and moving with intensity in their one hour is enough. The thought that we need to walk out of the gym feeling "beat up" after every session is an unhealthy way to view your CrossFit sessions. And thinking that you need more in an hour to get the results you want is possibly ignoring other huge factors.

My questions is, how is your nutrition? how is your sleep? do you stretch daily? can you do "Fran" in sub 2:30 RX? can you squat snatch more than you can power snatch? can you RX every single workout in the gym and meet the stimulus?

If the answer is that there is room to improve your nutrition, sleep and recovery well then let's improve those and you'll see your fitness improve with it. If you're answer is "no" to the fitness related questions then we need to learn to move with more intensity in workouts, improve mechanics and spend a few minutes daily on developing some skills before, during or after class.

I say all of that to educate the CFBS athletes in understanding the difference. At the heart of the CrossFit methodology is to help people build a long, healthy, functioning and pain-free life. At our gym, we follow and will always follow the CrossFit methodology 100%.

But I also want to be clear, if your desire IS to become a competitive CrossFit athlete that's great! Then please come speak to one of your coaches and let them know so we can discuss what a plan can look like for you.


Josh Melendez

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