Recently, several of us at CrossFit 405 competed in this year’s Koda First Timers. This one-day competition is for CrossFit athletes who’ve never competed before. It typically includes four fast-paced workouts that are intended to challenge and push your limits both physically and mentally. Outside of participating in my first competition, one thing I learned was the art of trusting myself.

Before I begin, I want to give a huge congrats to two of our very own 405’ers for their podium finishes! Kristen Campbell won second place in Women’s Beginner, and Stephanie Gossen won fourth. You ladies are amazing – we are so proud of you! And congrats to everyone who competed.


A group of competitors from CrossFit 405.

I went into this weekend knowing I wouldn’t podium, or probably even come close. Not because I had a negative mindset, but realistically speaking, I knew there would be women who’ve been doing this for years, and whose experience and strength I’m just not up to par with yet.

So my goal was two-fold: beat my practice times, and don’t come in last.

I learned something vital this weekend during my worst event. It wasn’t my worst event because I came in last; I didn’t, actually. It was the worst, initially, because of the mental breakdown it was bound to cause.

“Ski Balls” was a ten minute workout, EMOM style. At the start of every minute, we had to do eight wall ball shots before hustling to the Ski Erg with a goal of sixty calories, cumulative over the ten minutes.

Because I’m small, wall balls are a challenge. The target seems miles away, and I end up jumping to reach it. My size has bothered me since elementary school, where my height and size gave me an internal fragility I couldn’t shake. Wall balls are a solid reminder of that. Too small, too short, too weak.  

The workout was agonizing during my practice a week before, and I knew it would be agonizing all over again. I’ve never been so terrified walking into a WOD. I’d come very close to giving up during my practice round – now I had gallons of adrenaline coursing through my veins and dozens of screaming spectators. Sometimes that helps. This time, it did not.

 I asked the judge if I could shoot a few wall balls beforehand to get comfortable, but glancing up at the target made me nauseated. It seemed further than ever. I’ll never make it through this. So I changed my goal from “get the sixty calories” to “survive and don’t quit.”

I quickly realized the only chance I had at making it through the workout was if I could find a way to slow my heart rate down before the wall balls each time. So I decided that, instead of taking the full minute to get my ski calories, I’d take the last ten seconds to slow my pace, then stop five seconds early to get setup for the wall balls.

My judge, however, didn’t like this strategy. “Stop wasting your last ten seconds!” she said. “Get as many calories as you can and wait for the beep.”

This made sense, logically speaking, because the goal was to get the most out of the Ski Erg. At first, I thought, She’s right, I’m being stupid – the more I ski, the faster the calories are finished, and then I’m done. But I also knew what had happened to me during practice: I’d pushed so hard on the Ski, I could barely pick up the wall ball each time. It wouldn’t be worth it in the end.

One of our awesome coaches, Ryan Roden, had told me several times to trust myself – something I’ve never been great at. But I remembered that, so I stuck to my method.

Sometimes the most logical approach, or the approach that works for everyone else, isn’t the right one for you, and that’s okay. “Ski Balls” was technically my worst event in that I was time-capped. And yet, I trusted my approach despite the circumstances telling me otherwise. I did what worked for me, and I made it through. Ben Bergeron says there is no such thing as failure: you either win, or you learn. I learned. Maybe it was my best event after all.

When it’s down to the wire, and it’s just you and a WOD, or you and an event, or you and a competition, trust what you know. Remember your training. Remember how hard you’ve worked. Listen to your body. Trust yourself.

Author: Shyla Stokes
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