The Parallels of Competition and Life

by Coach Shawn

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People often use “battle language” when they talk about competition.

Beat, destroy, annihilate, kill.

But the word comes from a very different place.

Compete: from Latin competere to seek together, from Latin com- + petere  to come together, agree, to go to.

And when you compete people will often ask afterwards, “how did you do?” 

Wanting to know where you finished.

But there is more to competing than your finish ranking. 

The things you didn’t see, feel or experience.

And there are similar parallels we can uncover in regards to competing and life itself.


While we are not a competition or competing focused coaching based facility, we are not opposed to occasionally testing our fitness and training.

This past weekend 8 members of Railroad went to Kingston Athletics’ local CrossFit competition, “Hudson Valley: Fittest in the Hudson Valley.”

Emily, Brit K, Ava, Abby, Ken, Nicky, Peter and myself.

And I know dear reader you are asking, “how did everyone do???”

Here’s what I saw…

Ava, Nicky and Peter stepped out of their comfort zone as this was their first competition.


Ken, in the masters 40+ division, cleared all 8 barbells in his clean and jerk ladder easily.

He competed alongside his oldest son, leading by example.

He won an event that involved the assault bike and sled pushes.

He adapted and overcame when he ripped his hands/calluses during an event.

He would go on to be in the finals and and stand on the podium.


Nicky at 15 years old competed in the men’s scaled division. With grown-ass-men.

He moved well, carried himself well, left nothing else on the floor in every event.

Right before an event with chest to bar pullups he pulled me aside and politely asked me how to do them. Not feeling comfortable with the movement.

We went to the rig, fine tuned some skills and within seconds he performed two in a row.

In the actual event, he opened with 5 unbroken and eventually went on to take 2nd in that event out of 8 men.

He competed with a level of maturity, stoicism and incredible fitness that inspired all in attendance.


Ava actually shares one of my favorite moments of the entire competition.

Ava PR’s her clean and jerk to 165lb within a challenging every minute on the minute ladder format which gives you little time to recover. Not optimal for maximum output.

After she PR’d, with one more barbell to go, I looked across and she was the only female left on the female clean and jerk ladder side and I was the only male on the male side, both at our last barbells.

The entire crowd’s eyes on these two members of Railroad.

I walked across to her before we were set to lift, smiling and gave her a fist bump.

From someone who was so shy, reserved and quiet, to witness this confident young woman she has become, out of her comfort zone yet moving and carrying herself with such poise was a special sight to see and I am grateful to be a part of that moment with her.

We’d have mini strategy or mindset discussions before most events and her ability to execute was nothing short of impressive.


It was said many times how chill Brit is or was during an event, something I admire about her.

She’d be moments before an event, hands behind her back looking as if she was browsing a grocery store aisle.

Cool as can be.

She mentioned to me during the event, her body didn’t feel like it had that gear she wanted to tap into, yet what I saw was someone who continued to show up, again and again. Seeking that gear and never losing spirit in its absence.

From pushing herself through handstand push ups and chest to bars pullups, movements she can do that are more challenging for her, she faced the difficulty of the day and how her body felt with a consistency that could have easily been shaken or derailed.

She always showed up.

Embodying a relentlessness we should all aspire to possess.


One of my favorite moments was performing the floater workout with Abby and Peter at the same time. Nobody wanted to do this workout.

It was a pure “pain” workout.
3 minutes of: 1,000m Assault Bike into a 50ft sled-push down, sled-pull it backwards 50ft.

The three of us signed up to go first.

I loved their lead the pack mentality. The fearlessness to do one of the most difficult tasks FIRST.

It felt like another day at Railroad, a team workout with two of my closest people.

But most special was Abby’s parents being there for her and Railroad.

Especially her father, seeing her perform in two of the day’s workouts.

I know how much she loves and adores her mom & dad and I know she made them proud.

For not doing chest to bar pullups in about 8-9 months she whipped out 12 of them.

She kept the mood light, fun and the environment better just by being there.


If you know Emily, you know she’s fit, strong, capable and can often not see those same attributes the same way we do in herself.

She works hard. Is extremely disciplined with her nutrition. Consistent with her training.

Emily’s greatest challenge would come between her own two ears, her mind.

Physically she was clearly fit and put all her skills and training to the test.

It would become about her ability to overcome adversity.

In life and in competition, there are MANY things out of our control.

Emily’s make or break moment came when she was performing the floater workout with her girls, Brit and Ava (that bike sled push/pull workout.)

Ava got off the bike first. Immediately followed by Brit.

Emily will be off any minute now I thought.

The girls begin pushing their sleds down.

Emily is still plugging away. They pull their sleds back.

As I look at the clock ticking by, I feel something isn’t right.

I know how long 1,000m takes.

At our outputs men were averaging 1:20-1:30 and women 1:30-1:40 and it was coming up on 2 minutes.

Even at an easier effort it’s accomplishable within 2 minutes.

I walk over to her direction, she’s grinding through, likely in a world of “what the…”

Her judge offering gentle encouragement “you got it, just a little more…”

Around 2:20-2:30 she finally gets off her bike.

I looked at her bike monitor and my heart sank.

It’s in miles (not meters!)

I tell her judge and he has an “oh shit” moment.

This was Emily’s make or break moment. That event took its toll on all of us.

And now Emily, with still 3 events to go, had this psychological battle she would need to overcome.

Competition isn’t always fair. It’s not perfect. Adversity is everywhere and this was that for her.

She would shake it off and go on to compete.

Strangers were recording her with their cell phones, admiring her movement quality, physique and happy energy.

She would go on, not defeated mentally, but hungry to climb her way back.

She would go on to win the women’s RX division.


Another highlight for me was being in every heat with Peter. That made it feel like another day at Railroad.

At one point we were the only two men on the clean and jerk ladder together.

We tackled the floater together.

Again the things you don’t see…

Peter, Abby and I did the floater first thing in the morning at 9:20am.

Imagine the nerves, anxiety and build up of your first competition.

Peter went all in on that 1,000m assault bike. A complete FULL-SEND.

He did great in the event, taking 2nd place.

His grandparents and sister were watching along.

Afterwards and for the next 90 minutes it looked as if Peter had hit a night out of drinking and did not get any sleep.

He was in rough shape.

He couldn’t stop sweating, his face was red, eyes bloodshot and heart rate wouldn’t come down.

Nerves and intensity on a collision course. I quietly walked up to him and said, “Don’t let your other competitors see you’re tired and hurting.”

He would regain his poise and come back to shine. My personal highlight for Peter was during a challenging double “pull” event.

A sprint workout involving Rowing, Burpees and 3 variations of Kipping Pullups, Chest to Bar Pullups and Bar Muscle Ups.

Watching Peter complete this workout, move well, and push himself through high levels of movement complexity and fatigue made me so proud of him.

He shined, completing his last bar muscle-up 3 seconds before the official time cap of that workout.


I would overhear or people would directly say to me what a “strong crew” we had.

What good movers we had.

The presence and energy of our squad.

I am beyond proud of our entire crew. The way they ran into challenges head first, faced adversity, stepped up, their movement quality and the overall energy and vibe they all carried with them.

Competing with grace.

We don’t do CrossFit to compete. We aren’t a “competitive” gym.

Our focus is longevity and vitality.

Ultimately leading happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Hell, we just took 7 months off of CrossFit through the summer.

It’s one thing to sign up and compete for 6-7 hours on a Saturday through 4-5 events, it’s another to come watch and support all day.

The loyal support from those in attendance was felt and became a fuel of sorts for all of us.

We carry with us the love and support from those who couldn’t be in attendance.

Those who were there so graciously encouraging us along, helping in anyway that they could and offering their endless cheers, support and belief in all of us is what helped each and every one of us perform.

Thank you.


Competition is intimidating. It’s uncomfortable. It’s exposing.

You either rise up, step up and lean in or you break mentally, crumble and wilt.

To me it’s not about rankings or finish places but about HOW you showed up, how you rose to the occasion, how you handled adversity.

Much like a metaphor for life.

Here is a ton of adversity, challenges and stress all piled into one day, one moment, HOW will you show up?

Your way outside your comfort zone. You’re putting your mind, body and spirit to the test.

All the meanwhile, with a ton of eyeballs on you watching your every move.

A judge critiquing you and holding you to the standard.

It’s easy to let doubt creep in. Think things are unfair or you’re not ready or prepared.

To let that “weaker” inner voice we all have take over.

You know little about the challenges and challengers.

All you know is yourself.

How will your best self show up?

How will you rise in the face of adversity?

This weekend, 8 people came together (what it means to compete) and rose to that occasion and met adversity with an unbeatable resilience.

That’s the win.

That’s Railroad CrossFit

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