Chris Carra

5 Things I Learned from Turf Games (Summer 2022)

This summer has been crazy for me! While I won’t recap everything, I do want to record my experience competing in Turf Games London Summer Festival back at the start of July.

For those not in the know, Turf Games is officially described as ‘an event designed to mirror the camaraderie of sport, but in a fitness environment’. 🏃‍♂️

Essentially, you are part of a team, but instead of kicking a ball or passing a baton, you are rowing, running, jumping, lifting heavy things, doing burpees, rope climbs, and so on. It’s fun, hard work, and very rewarding!

Here I am throwing a medicine ball as part of the opening workout – we came first!

How I Came to Compete in Turf Games

It was the end of June. I stood in my kitchen at 9.30pm on a Tuesday evening, having just come off the phone with a friend of mine (the leader of a local fitness community), who – in a slight panic – had asked if I would come up to London on the weekend to be part of his Turf Games team, due to a last-minute dropout.

I agreed to shift around my weekend plans and join the team in London. Shaping my decision was my mindset: 2022 has been a year for challenging old thinking and pushing myself out of comfort zones. This would be a good test!

But then it hit me – I hadn’t trained for this event.

I knew my general strength and stamina would probably be enough to survive the four workouts (after all, I was following the new ‘Built Like a Badass!‘ program…) but I wasn’t sure.

Guess I’d find out soon enough!

The biggest issue for me was that one event required me to perform a 3RM (three rep max) front squat. Despite all my experience lifting heavy things, incredibly I had never actually done a barbell front squat before!

A front squat is similar to a back squat, although the bar sits at the front of your shoulders, which changes the movement, the amount of weight you can handle, and so on.

To ease my anxiety, I had a very quick training session on how to do them, managed to sprain my wrist, and left feeling even more unsure.

What Happened at Turf Games?

After staying the night in nearby Slough (the best hotel I could find at such short notice!), I drove to Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club ahead of the big day. This was a fantastic outdoor space with a 3G pitch, good facilities, and grandstand seating.

I was due to compete in a team of five (the Team Titan Beavers), in four events: Farm Fitness, Gymbox, Evolve, and Talisman. The exact content of these workouts can be Googled if you are interested, yet to give you an idea, Farm Fitness included (as a team):

There were four of these workouts, all with different themes and focuses. Some were more endurance based, others were more about strength.

5 Things I Learned from Turf Games

A little sled pushing – something in which I am well versed

#1 – I am fitter than I think

Without blowing my own slightly worn trumpet, I know I am fit. I train 4-5 times a week, including at least one session of high-intensity training.

Before the competition, I was worried that my fitness may not be on par with that of other competitors, although I was pleased to both survive and thrive in all four events.

I walked away from the day knowing that I didn’t have to doubt my fitness when it came to these kinds of events.

#2 – Elites athletes are incredible

My team was in the Everyday category, which was the entry-level tier in this competition – and these workouts were tough! Our team was a fit bunch of guys, but even we struggled with some of the workouts in the Everyday category.

However, the Elite category – both male and female – were a sight to behold, both in terms of performance and aesthetics. Of course, these were largely professional athletes, who tend to be paid to work out. (I don’t have that luxury!)

I have spent time around professional athletes in the past, but never have I seen so many in one place. It just confirmed to me how fit some people can actually become. Their level of discipline inspired me!

#3 – Adrenaline helps you break barriers

Giving 105kg everything I had (and succeeding for 2 reps!)

As I mentioned above, I was a little concerned about performing a front squat 3RM, having never front-squatted before. On the day, I was going to attempt a respectable 85kg 3RM, which was on par with some of the others on my team.

I was the first on my team to step up and squat. My teammates loaded the bar. I unracked the weight, got into position, and squatted. Fucking hell. I could barely get one rep up. This was at the end of the day and my legs were tired, but that first squat was very difficult. Too difficult.

I composed myself and went for the second rep. Again, I struggled, but got to the top. One more rep. I went down and… never came back up.

As I walked away dejected, my team realised they had made a mistake. They hadn’t loaded the bar with 85kg. They had loaded it with 105kg! No wonder it was so heavy! I laughed (and swore), caught my breath, then went back and recorded a successful 3RM of 90kg. After this, my legs were done!

Had I known there was 105kg on the bar before I squatted, I wouldn’t have even got one rep up. But with everyone cheering and the adrenaline of the competition, I was able to break through that barrier.

#4 – I will work harder for a team

The dreaded final minute…

While other workouts were tests of strength and speed, the Evolve workout was a test of sheer endurance.

After 15 minutes of rowing, cycling and running ourselves into the ground, we had a few minutes on the clock at the end to record our maximum distance on both the bike and rower (where the real scoring takes place).

Three of our team took turns on the bike, while myself and one other (Robin) shared rowing duties because getting on and off the rower is considerably more faff.

As we approached the final two minutes, Robin was on the rower while I was hunched over, catching my breath. With around 1 min 30 left on the clock, he tagged me in. I gave it my all for around 45 seconds, then ran out of steam. However, with the clock ticking, tagging him in would have wasted too much time…

…so I stayed on for another 45 seconds of absolute agony.

Now, had I been competing for myself, I would have ended it there. I was already done. But this day I was working for the team. I couldn’t let others down (camaraderie and all that…). Worryingly purple face or not, I continued to row until the clock finally ran to zero.

Don’t get me wrong – I will give effort when I am alone. But I’d have never gone through that amount of pain for myself. It was only because the team was counting on me that I persisted.

#5 – I will do this again

Overall, I had a blast.

Despite my initial anxiety, the costs and the time it all took, I was lucky enough to spend an entire day working out and competing with friends.

I learned a lot about myself and my limits that day, and am now looking forward to the Winter Turf Games (coming up in January 2023).

I just hope I get the call with a bit more notice next time!

Brutal but rewarding…