“Each day, my confidence got better. My goal was to make it to the top 12, so coming in third was a bonus.”
Competition anxiety got the best of Eric Bartlett during last year’s Masters competition at the CrossFit Games. Still, he took third place in the 45-49 division.
This year, he isn’t letting nerves get in the way.
“When I got there, I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are big and muscular.’ And I was a little intimidated at first,” he says. “I was nervous, and when you’re nervous, you’re gonna get tired faster.”
He says the intimidation affected his performance in the Masters triplet on the first day, slowing his rope climbs and leading to a tie for 11th place and a 7:46 finish.
After he calmed down and regrouped, he took fourth place in the Row-Clean-Burpee event, first place in the Chipper and snagged a 10-lb. PR at 175 lb. in the Snatch Ladder.
“Each day, my confidence got better,” he says. “My goal was to make it to the top 12, so coming in third was a bonus.”
With a year of competition under his belt, the butterflies have settled and Bartlett wants to play with the big dogs again.
“Just being able to qualify to go to the Games and compete with everyone else would be great,” he says. “Everyone there was at a really high level and it was an honor to compete (with them).”
As a coach at CrossFit Lower Town, he says his strategy for fighting competition jitters this time is to remind himself of what he teaches his athletes every day.
“I tell people, ‘You gotta relax your face and breathe. It’s just another workout, just keep moving.’”
To prepare for a workout, he does what he calls “the old man warm-up,” a series of his favorite mobility exercises.
“I like to do the same warm-up regardless of the WOD,” he says. “It kind of gets my mind right.”
One thing he doesn’t worry about is his training. Bartlett and all the coaches and athletes of CrossFit Lower Town follow the programming of Doug Chapman of HyperFit USA.
Training sessions usually include a met-con, strength work like push presses and jerks, an Olympic lifting complex and skill work like dips or handstand push-ups.
“(Chapman) does it so well that you’re hitting everything,” he says. “He mixes it up pretty good. I might tweak it a little so it’s geared more for me, but only for the extra stuff.”
For Bartlett, that means lots of rope climbs when he’s already worn out and his least favorite movement: overhead squats.
“It’s just a hard move and I feel like I struggle with the position,” he says. “I make sure when it’s in the program, I don’t skip it.”
He trains two hours a day, five days per week.
“Right now, we’re training Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because you want to get the body adjusted to (working out) Friday through Sunday,” he says. “That’s what it’s like during competition.”
The programming of recent weeks has revisited the workouts from the 2012 Open, giving Bartlett a chance to see how he’s improved. He surpassed his 12.3 score of 25 rounds in the 18-minute AMRAP of 15 box jumps, 12 push presses and nine toes-to-bars, by a full round. When he retested 12.4, a 12-minute AMRAP of 150 wall balls, 90 double-unders and 30 muscle-ups, he added three more muscle-ups to his previous score.
Favoring skill over strength, Bartlett hopes to see more workouts like last year’s chipper in 2013.
“I’m pretty coordinated, so I’m good at most things,” he says. “I can do double-unders fine and I have the technique for muscle-ups.”
But even with a podium finish under his belt, Bartlett remains unassuming.
“My wife is already talking about flights,” he says. “(But) first, I just want to finish the Open and get in again, just qualify for the Games.”
If he does return to the Games, Bartlett thinks he’ll be more mentally prepared.
“Now I’ve been there, so I know what to expect,” he says. “I think I’ll be a little more relaxed, and enjoy it more.”