March 22, 2013
Leaderboarding in the Central East
By Josh Bunch

Does "Leaderboarding" hurt or help?


Once you get into Leaderboarding, it’s hard to kick the habit.

CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Trainer, Doug Chapman, tries to keep his athletes from getting addicted to the constant score updates.

“The programming is better (than the Leaderboard),” he says. “The best will rise to the top.”

At the same time, he admits the Leaderboard can give some athletes the extra push they need. Watching your original score go from hero to zero can make you crazy, or it can teach you to dig deeper.

“I follow the Leaderboard,” Central East competitor, Jen Osborn, admits. “It gives you a target to hit and keeps your head on in the middle of chaos. On unknown (workouts), I need some direction, so it helps to see what others can do.”

The stress of “Leaderboarding” works to her advantage.

“I need to be stressed and nervous (to compete),” she says. “If you're not the kind of competitor that feeds well on a diet of anxiety, you should probably read the articles and watch the videos, but steer clear of the boards.

Nick Urankar, 36th-place finisher at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, also doesn’t mind Leaderboarding … as long as he posts early.

“The longer I hold off (on submitting my score), the more I feel I need to be refreshing (the Leaderboard),” he says.

If he gets caught up in the Leaderboard and tries the workout multiple times, it can mess up his training that week.

Once he turns in his score, he starts to play the “game of inches.” He watches as athletes best each other by one-rep increments.

Urankar has fun with it, and likes to know where he sits, but he’s seen it go the other way.

“You always think you can do more or be better, and there is always someone who does more or is better, so you are never satisfied,” he says.

If you’re that kind of competitor, Urankar suggests you do the workout early and post your score as fast as possible. After that, sit back and have fun.

Heather Welsh, who finished in 22nd place at the Games last year, doesn’t tread into Open water. She sets a goal with her coach, Doug Katona, and goes straight for the Open Workout without a glance at the Leaderboard. Only after she has completed the workout will she log onto the Games site.

“I think it can work for you or against you depending on where your head is,” she says.

In contrast, affiliate owner, Mitch Potterf, encourages his members to “Leaderboard” and take in the constant stream of information on the CrossFit Games site. He says it’s a great way to get new CrossFitters connected to the community.

“We use the Open to try and launch people into other competitions,” Potterf explains.  

With more than 130,000 competitors registered worldwide, there’s bound to be mixed feelings about the best way to manage such a powerful tool. But somewhere in the madness is the medium. The place where magic happens and anxiety promotes movement instead of paralyzing effort.

So how do you get there?

For Julie Foucher, it’s as simple as setting goals that are based on her expectations. Goals just out of her reach.

“I think the more time you spend worrying about what other people are doing, the more you either doubt yourself or limit what you are capable of,” she says.

During last year’s Open, Foucher would look at the Leaderboard once a week when she entered her score. During her 12.5 redo, she set a target she could hit.

“When I look back on that (workout), I think that once I realized that goal was within reach, I might have relaxed a little bit and not pushed myself as hard as I could to the end,” she says. “When I entered my score and saw some other girls posting higher scores, I wondered if I would have pushed myself harder having those higher goals in mind.”

Foucher says pressure has always been her biggest struggle. It’s a game within the Games and it’s about applying friction that sparks a fire, not suffocation. Longtime competitors learn to tread this line lightly avoiding obsession. CrossFit rookies should approach with respect, caution and above all else, a curious mind yearning to see exactly what they’re capable of.

“If you are always striving to improve yourself and you walk away from every workout knowing you gave it your all, you will be satisfied with your performance,” Foucher says. “In the end, that is the most important part.”