This past weekend, a few Second Wind members competed together as a team at the annual Fall Brawl Competition.

Local competitions are not much different than our Friday Night Lights during the CrossFit Open. There are different levels for all skill levels. Just like on any given day at SWCF, there are events for advanced, intermediate, and novice athletes. Rx WODs and scaled. Trust me, there are people competing in a broad range of ability levels.

Over the last year, this was my fourth competition with various teammates from our box. I got asked what all the hubbub was about and why we keep signing up for these, so here are the top reasons. If you’re even remotely curious about local competitions, please feel free to pull me aside the next time you see me and we can talk about it!

First and foremost, it’s fun: Sure, “fun” is a relative descriptor. I get it.

But competitions are fun in the same way a ½ Marathon is fun. Some people run through the mud at Spartan Races, others swim/bike/run triathlons, some people play in adult kickball leagues, and others do local functional fitness competitions. It’s fun!

It’s a great feeling suffering together any given day at Second Wind, high-fiving at the end of a workout, and comparing notes on how well you did or what beat you up. At competitions, it’s the same feeling x10. You get to hang out with your friends from the gym for half a day, you get cheered on by complete strangers, you see some awesome feats by people just like yourself (chances are pretty good you’ll do something awesome too!), and you get some cool swag. Not to mention, you earn the right to serve yourself an epic cheat meal that evening. The endorphin rush at the end of the day is huge.

The camaraderie is great. Whether you participate as individuals or at a team event, hanging out and participating together with your friends is a cool, unifying experience. I’ve gotten to know other people from our gym way better than I otherwise would have. And I’ve yet to leave a competition without one of my teammates asking me when we’re doing the next one.

It’s fun.

Facing the unknown and dealing with it: Generally, workouts are announced prior to competitions. Inevitably, however, there’s some WOD format that’s strange or some piece of equipment that you’ve never touched. It’s pretty cool to try to figure out how your everyday training will allow you to deal with this twist.

We’ve done a lot of burpees during our Burpee Challenge, but have you ever done synchronized burpees with three other people for time? (Try it sometime: Put a 10 lb. plate on the ground in front of each participant. The standards are that chests must be on the ground together and then feet must be on the plates together. You don’t truly have to be in synchronization during the movement, just end up in those two spots together before moving on.)

What happens when your team must thruster four uneven sandbags that are linked together and a teammate loses grip and drops his or her segment to the ground? (Answer: the other three teammates fall down. But then they laugh, get up, keep thrusting, finish with a good time, and have a great story to tell. Ask Janet about it sometime.)

When an event has two simultaneous parts, scored separately as two events, where part (a) is an AMRAP of 30 snatches + 30 box jumps and part (b) is a max distance row and the event organizers declare the work can be divided up however the teams choose, how do you strategize who will do what?

How does all the rowing and running we do at Second Wind translate to work on an assault bike or a ski erg? (Turns out, if you’ve been pushing yourself in training, it translates pretty well.)

Testing and challenging yourself: For similar reasons as to why we participate in the annual CrossFit Open, it’s worth testing and challenging yourself on a periodic basis. Form must meet the event standards and there’s no swapping out weights in the middle of a WOD. Plenty of times in the middle of a workout I’ve asked myself why I’ve chosen a particular weight. But at a competition, I have no choice… and it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when the WOD is over and I’ve done more than I thought I could.

The coaches at Second Wind do a great job making sure our movements are sound and proper, but at a competition, every rep is scrutinized to ensure complete range of motion. Not only that, but if you’re competing in front of a crowd of people or on a team, you’re personally motivated to move cleanly and quickly. It’s really nice to have someone else count for you, allowing you to focus solely on getting the work done and forgetting about the whiteboard tallies or chalked rep marks to keep track of where you are during a workout.

It’s hard not to set some sort of performance record for yourself at a competition. The atmosphere and adrenaline naturally pushes you to PR or to ignore any distractions: I’ve witnessed the look of astonishment on Clarence’s face when he completed 15 unbroken heavy thrusters when he didn’t think he could, Janet PR her Olympic lifts during a 1RM event, and – this was the coolest – Leslie not miss a beat when a rubber slam ball ripped the earring out of her ear to beat the competitor in the next lane. (Who wouldn’t just pick the earring up, put it in their mouth, finish the over-the-shoulder-cleans, and calmly proceed to dominate a row sprint?)

Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive, but I usually find that my best weeks of training are after participating in a competition. We haven’t lit the world on fire at any of the events, but I come into the gym motivated and inspired to continue to improve, to get stronger and faster, and to help you guys do the same.