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Lessons on sustainability from a competitive athlete (Part 1)

BY LAKEN SUMMERVILLE

I have always been a  competitive human growing up, playing a variety of sports through school. By the time I went to college, I let athletics slip by the wayside in an effort to have a “true college experience” (whatever that means).

It wasn’t until 2009, after graduating, that I began prioritizing my fitness again. In that time, I dabbled with bodybuilding, group HIIT classes, and bootcamps. None of these managed to keep my attention. Building the “perfect physique” or training for the sole purpose of aesthetics never interested me, either. Instead, I obsessed with finding what my body was capable of doing. I wanted to be strong.

Fast forward to 2012, when I happened to stumble upon this fitness phenomenon called CrossFit. It was love at first WOD. It combined all of the things I enjoyed about working out. There was variation, competition, benchmark goals, and a plethora of new skills to learn.

At this point, I had been different kinds of “fit” in my endeavors. I was “fit” to the point of easily holding a 6min/mile pace, but never seeing the inside of a weight room AND I was “fit” when I could back squat 315 pounds, no sweat, but avoided taking a jog over 400m.  

For the first time, I was finding this balance of strength, endurance, and also learning gymnastics and olympic lifting skills. As a result, I was never bored and never plateauing. Out of the gate, I started training as a Crossfitter 5x a week. My first Crossfit competition was in the Spring of 2012 and I knew that landing on that podium was my reason for training. Within 6 months of my first day at the box, I registered for my first competition as an individual and took second place.

Over the next 7 years, I competed in local comps throughout the Mid Atlantic region and Regionals/Sanctionals qualifiers, averaging one competition every other month.

I made numerous mistakes early on. The big one was confusing training volume with progress. I would train multiple times a day for 6-7 days a week in preparation for an upcoming competition. Turns out more is not always better. It’s just more.

To make matters worse, my nutrition was not supporting my training, either. I found myself chronically fatigued, laden with joint aches, and with no tangible progress to show for it. Eventually, I realized that the way I was training wasn’t conducive to my health or my goals. I was tirelessly smashing my body into the ground with high intensity exercise, without allowing for proper fueling or recovery. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that I was spinning my wheels without getting anywhere.

(Continued in part 2).

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