Written by: Kenzie Riley - 2018 CrossFit Games Athlete
Despite qualifying for The CrossFit Games 2 years back to back, I can say with 100% certainty; I am a totally different athlete today in 2018 than I was in 2017. My first year competing as an individual at last year’s CrossFit Games was no less than one immense learning opportunity.
My Mindset going into the 2017 CrossFit Season
Approaching last year’s season, although I believed I had the abilities to qualify, I doubted myself when it came to thinking that I could hang with the best. I was constantly questioning when compared to others’ best efforts if my best efforts would be good enough. To clarify, I knew I was doing everything I could to be my fittest self, but to assume the field wasn’t doing the exact same would have been a drastic underestimation, thus the doubt. With this mindset going into the 2017 Regionals, earning any qualifying position would have felt like a massive accomplishment.
Regionals came and went, and upon qualifying (3rd Place 2017 Atlantic Regional) I was tasked to set my goals for the upcoming Games in Madison. Although this task followed all ordinary preparation protocol; at that point in time attempting to evolve my goals from “Qualifying for the Games” to “Performing at the Games” seemed like a mental barrier I wasn’t equipped to take on. I just couldn’t wrap my head around stacking up to the women I’ve aspired to be like for the last 5 years. I felt inadequate and unsure I belonged in the same league, like I needed to get my feet wet and learn from an experience before I could make an expectation of it. In hindsight, this mindset absolutely had the potential to negatively impact my performance.
Switching gears, one thing I DID do in 2017 that I 100% believe helped me have a season I was proud of was NOT avoiding the things I needed to improve upon. I stayed accountable to my “weakness work” in my training. I didn’t cut corners and I fully believed in my training. With the level of competition dedicated to the sport of fitness now, any dreams of qualifying for a spot in Madison will remain a dream if you have ANY holes that went unaddressed in the off season.
So Just like I wanted, I walked away from the 2017 season with a lot more than just some new gear and wet feet. I walked away with a game plan to execute in the off-season, which was great, because having areas to improve upon means there is a more potential within me. Aside from the obvious fitness related areas of improvement (skills, strength, etc) I wanted to dig a little deeper into the mental aspect of competing and strengthen it.
The Value of Amazing Coaching
My coach has been a great asset to me on every level when it comes to improvement. He sees things I don’t when it comes to reflecting and evaluating my own abilities and efforts. He often believes in my abilities more than I do and he pushes me to not let me bail on myself. I push myself daily and like most competitive fitness athletes I’m a self-disciplined individual. But what I’ve realized, is continuing to count on my drive as the most weighted factor in my performance doesn’t necessarily promote the most optimal rate of improvement. The facts are, the CrossFit field year over year improves at some rate. In order for an athlete to climb the ranks on the leader-board in 2018 the athlete HAS to be improving at a rate that’s better than the field. This means we have to constantly be open to training approaches that may differ than the approach that got you where you are today. This is where a great coach can make the difference!
After the 2017 season my coach showed me that taking risks in training not only challenges your abilities but builds mental confidence. So after some cajoling, I now look for opportunities to do this on my own, and every day in my training sessions. This is what training is for, and it’s made a HUGE difference in my game from last year to this year. And I promise you, relying on a single coach to provide you the value you need to improve at the fastest rates may not be possible. This said, I’ve also enlisted the help and support of other coaches in various specialties including gymnastics and mental fortitude.
Aspiring to be the Fittest isn’t Cheap
As we all know, fitness isn’t cheap. At a baseline it requires, membership or programming, training equipment, recovery gadgets, healthy and abundant groceries. I’ve spent the money to reserve monthly services, to travel across the country and get hands on help in person, and to make the time to implement what I’ve learned. Although time and money are tangible sacrifices, they have been extremely worth it. It's hard to put a price on improving my gymnastics skills or learning the tools needed to have a solid competition mental game. The fact that I've built so many strong relationships and made two incredibly close friends who believe in and support me has made it hard to consider everything it takes as a sacrifice, especially when the return is tenfold.
The Support System – You Can’t do this Alone
I am extremely lucky to have the support system I do, it has taken more than a village to get here! My husband is almost MORE invested in my athletic career than I am; he’s watched the journey since the beginning! I can always count on him for truthful feedback and to field the chaos that comes with life at this level. He fully supports the opportunities I get to travel and compete and truly embraces the experiences I’m afforded through this sport. I couldn’t have asked for anything more! My friends and family are always understanding and supportive of my obligations and crazy training schedule that keeps me unable to attend “normal life” functions; they are the best and I appreciate that about them.
My MisFit family is by far the most amazing group of people I’ve been exposed to through this sport. Their generosity and free flowing support has made this journey more feasible and WAY more fun. Having a supportive crew makes the fun times more fun and hard times more bearable. Same goes for all of my sponsors for that matter. For the majority of Game’s athletes, this sport is not monetarily rewarding; by no means is it enough of an income to sustain a family on. I don’t pursue support based on finances; I work with GOOD people who I genuinely respect and who’s company I enjoy. I am extremely lucky to get this continued support; it truly makes my job easier to have these products and people in my corner!
And for my American Gainz Nutrition THANK YOU Shout Out - There’s a ton of products and big business backed Nutrition protein companies that I see marketed daily to my community. The owner of this brand is a CrossFit athlete who makes products to support our community and as a passion and hobby! If you haven’t tried “Core”, this is the recovery product I’m taking to the Games. It’s as simple as it gets: 4 ingredients (Whey Protein, Organic Cocoa, Organic Coconut Sugar, Sea Salt) – literally nothing else!
2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Approaching
Going into the 2018 CrossFit Games, I am excited and ready. I’m not the apprehensive and nervous Kenzie from 2017. I believe I belong and I feel more comfortable on that big of a stage than ever. I’m not going to participate and have fun, but rather I’m there to show everyone that Kenzie Riley is the real deal. Everyone has trained hard, we know that. But I’ve taken the extra steps to truly push my limits, to hold myself to higher standards, to hammer weaknesses, and to believe...no, KNOW I can be whatever I want to be on that competition floor.
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