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Every year I look forward to watching the CrossFit Games. I probably look forward to the Games more than NCAA Nationals for gymnastics, which now seems strange to me. Both are only on once per year. Both are sports that I love. Gymnastics was my only love for 16 years, and only being able to watch it on tv once a year was like torture for me as a kid! I looked up to the girls competing immensely, and I always wished I could be just like them one day. Now that I’m 27 years old (ancient in gymnastics years), I see gymnastics differently. I watch it to appreciate the sport, and see how it is evolving. CrossFit, however, I see in a completely different light. They are competing in the same sport that we do at ACF every day. I watch the Games athletes, and I am able to compare myself to them. Sure, their Fran times are twice as fast as mine, but I know that I can do that same workout that they’re doing, whether it’s scaled or as prescribed. Because of this, I am inspired and motivated by everyone on tv at the Games.
Another reason why I love watching CrossFit is seeing the camaraderie between athletes who are competing against each other. You hear it all the time from the commentators- “it’s always the athlete that finishes last who gets the loudest cheers.” I love that aspect of our sport. You would never see that happen in gymnastics, or probably any other sport. Rich Froning, 4-time Fittest Man in the World, cheers for every single athlete he can, even though all of them are trying to take his title from him. What?! Cheer on the people trying to beat you? I love this about CrossFit! You’ll see the top athletes giving pointers to their competition before an event has started, and encouraging each other. I think this is what makes our sport the best, and it is something that we can all take away from watching the Games every year.
Let’s all try to be more like Games athletes, not only in work ethic, but in the way that they support each other. Cheer loud for your friends in the gym who are still trying to finish a WOD, even though you are completely dead from having just finished it yourself. Help someone who may be struggling with a certain movement, even if it means they’ll end up with a better score than you. With our fast-growing box, I think we sometimes lose sight of the community that we have at ACF. So, let’s all use each other to be better athletes, and more importantly- be better people.
For anyone who knows me or goes to the early morning WODs, you know that at times I fall off the wagon hard with my eating paleo and attendance at WODs. It’s not something I actively plan for, in fact every time I do it, I tell myself “never again”. Despite me telling myself “never again, it still happens every now and again. I have a few busy days at work and can’t make it in, I do a little too much volume and have to take a few extra rest days to ease and overused body part, or maybe it’s just a nice summer day and I want to eat a burger and relax with an adult beverage of choice. That’s how it starts, then one bad decision leads to another, then another and so on…Before I know it, my belt is fitting tighter, I’m moving slower, and those wall balls I used to breeze through now feel like I’m hurling a ball of concrete.
Enter in the memories and current viewings of the Crossfit games. Hello motivation and inspiration overload. Just watching the top tier athletes compete at the level they do makes me want to stop what I’m doing and start doing burpees. That’s not a joke, it just makes me want to workout. When I see them doing a skill that I generally suck at and they are doing it so easily, it reminds me that at one point they had to work hard to obtain that skill and work exponentially harder to master it at their current level. In fact, that is how I got unbroken double unders. In the summer of 2012 I was on vacation with my family and we were watching re-runs of previous games workouts. One of the WOD’s had double unders and I remember how effortlessly the athletes were just jumping up and down doing insane amounts of unbroken doubles, their faces looked like they were getting rest time in while doing this. Well, some of them anyway. At that time I was just getting back into shape from some time off recovering from shoulder surgery. I said that when I get back home I am going to get unbroken doubles. When I got home, I worked every day on my doubles and before I knew it, I was stringing unbroken doubles together. I kept working on them and now doubles are often times my strongest skill in a WOD.
Also along the lines of motivation is how strict the games athletes must be throughout the rest of the year. We all probably know that Rich Froning was once again the male games champ. Looking at the other names on the leader board and the podiums, a very high percentage of them are all repeat games athletes. One can only imagine the kind of strict eating, training, and planning it must take to achieve and maintain that level of fitness. For many of them, certain slip ups on clean eating and/or workout regimens may very well mean the difference between watching the games at home or watching the games from the eyes of an athlete on the rig. When I feel myself falling into a slump of eating crap food or taking the easy way out, I think of this and force myself to eat a paleo meal or get into a class and as one bad decision often leads to another, one good decision more often leads to another. This helps me stay on track and feeling fitter and better.
During the month of July there was a special kind of excitement in the air at ACF. The games were upon us! The Super Bowl of our sport was about to begin! Most of our athletes were buzzing with the excitement and anticipation of the crowning of the next fittest man and woman on earth.
In the days leading up to the crossfit games I paid very close attention to what was happening at our box. Most classes started with a mention of the games during our briefings at the white board. Most athletes appeared inspired by a discussion of the games and the athletes that were competing in them. You could see that enthusiasm in their faces when the coaches speculated about what the WODs might be and who would perform the best.
But I also saw many athletes with blank faces, athletes who didn’t seem at all interested in the Games or a discussion of them.
These are People who I made a point of speaking to later. “Will you be watching the games?” I asked several of our members. To my surprise, several people said no. At first I was shocked!
“You’re not going to spend four days glued to your computer and a wi-fi network to watch
people do what you do everyday?”
I was confused, it made no sense. It was like playing softball your entire life and not watching the world series………
Except that I’ve played softball my whole life and I hate watching major league baseball. And to be honest, I don’t much like watching the games either. It was kind of liberating to know that I am not the only person who doesn’t like to watch the games. I used to think that there was something wrong with me, that I was less of a crossfitter because I could care less if Rich Froning won for the fourth straight year.
So I thought about it. What does this disinterest in the Games mean? Does it mean that the athletes who choose not to watch don’t care about our ACF community? Does it mean that they are not dedicated to their personal crossfit journey?
Of course it doesn’t.
There are many members at ACF that come to our box day in and day out, that leave their heart and soul in the image of a perfect sweat angel on the floor. These are people that are dedicated and irreplaceable members of our community. Yet, they have no idea who Rich Froning or Annie T are. And frankly, like me, they don’t care. And that is ok.
That’s the beauty of our community. It is diverse. All of us have different goals and different priorities- for some that includes being a spectator and an athlete. For others, we are just happy being athletes who get to be a part of an amazing community that supports each other both inside and outside of the box. What is important, what matters, and what connects us all so deeply is that for the hour that we are working, side by side, we are all engaged in the same undertaking- to finish the workout and then to help our fellow athletes finish it as well.
This year I didn’t watch the games, but in honor of them and in honor of the sport of crossfit, something that has become such an important part of my life, I spent the time that I would have used to watch the games to hit double workouts and to take a long run. I also tried a new sport, and I got my sister, who has never crossfitted before, to hit a wod with me.
As the dust settles on the 2014 CrossFit Games Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Rich Froning are the fittest athletes in the world. After watching Rich’s four 1st place finishes Sunday with Matt Fraser nipping at his heals and Camille finally reaching the pinnacle of the sport of fitness I can’t help but feel inspired. If you have been following “Squat Therapy with Jason Ackerman” you no doubt heard the interviews with games athletes Greg Martino, James Hobart and Austin Malleolo. One thing that was constant with all of these athletes was their work ethic. Games athletes are laser focused when it comes to nutrition and fitness and seeing that many likeminded people gathered in one place can make anyone a believer. The evolution of CrossFit has made the games larger than life, a true spectacle. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to get a pump in after watching Rich go unbroken on the OH Lunges during Midline March. Aside from wanting to increase our fitness, the games also remind us of other reasons we show up to the box every day. When Chris Spealler struggled with the 275# squat clean the community showed up. The roar of the crowd was deafening and willed him to a good lift. Whether you’re Rich Froning finishing up double grace at a blistering pace or Joe Shmoe doing your first set of burpees you are now a member of the tribe and you have the unwavering support of the greatest community in the world. The games inspires gains, in both fitness and in social interactions with others.
What a mix of emotions watching them. It started with masters men….holy moly. Any and all age ranges was exciting to watch. When I watched the women,I got motivated, excited, loud and had tears when watching any one particular athlete finish right under the time cap or come from behind because steady wins the race. Then bring on the “regular” games….what an exciting weekend. From Jenny and Annie coming back to wondering if Rich would three-peat and knowing it would be great to see whether he won or not. One of my favorite highlights was when Camille went unbroken from pull-ups to muscle-ups. That was so bad ass, not one other athlete did that. When there was OH lunges, I knew Rich would kill it, it’s what he does. It was great seeing a rookie in the top spot for a couple days, if I were to guess, he learned what he needs to do to be(tter) again, steady wins the race. I found myself jumping up screaming at the tv when Josh bridges was no-repped 3 times while OH squatting almost 100# more than his body weight. These athletes did amazing things that not just any one can say they can do. Can we talk about the teams? Having 6 people work as one was awe inspiring rip watch. My favorite was big Bob but mostly the worm clean and jerk. I’m motivated….I know I have the ability to get to the games and need the commitment to put the time in and get the skills. Nothing can stop me but me!
It’s Sunday at the Puorto house, dishes are clanging in the kitchen, the smell of olive oil on the stove is prominent, wine bottles are scattered throughout the living room and continue to the back porch, conversations overlap like a bad editing video… if you were to walk in during one of these Sunday’s in its prime you wouldn’t believe you’d find only 9 or 10 people.
Normally over the steady buzz of conversation the faint call of Michael Kay during the Yankee game sets in as background noise, but not on this particular Sunday. Yes, the Yankees are still on in the main living room- muted. On this Sunday, the overwhelming sounds of weights clanging and crowds cheering consume the room- Lindsey and I are streaming the final day of the 2014 CrossFit games.
Probably not uncommon for most of you reading this- I’m sure the majority of us at some point last week logged on games.crossfit.com, clicked the ‘Live Stream’ link, went through the tedious process of finding your Time Warner username and password and proceeded to watch some bad ass athletes destroy WOD’s. But, did any of you watch with others? Not other CrossFitter’s, but others. I did.
My whole family at one point or another spent 15 minutes or so in front of the computer watching- and watching intently. My mother is why I am into the fitness scene. I remember her teaching aerobics classes at the YMCA when I was a boy. She, not to my surprise, loved it. “Can you do all this?” “No, mom, but some of it.” “Oh, wow, he’s handsome…” “He’s the champ, ma”
My father and brother are big guys- the type that would want to grab a burger and a beer after work rather than bust out some squats. Wings for time over burpees for time for sure…
My brother said, “is this why you’re always practicing handstands? I get it now, that’s kinda cool” I was floored. He hates my love of CrossFit, or did. My pops, “Look at that crowd, it’s like a real sporting event” “Yeah dad, pretty cool, right? I don’t think it’s going to get less popular.”
My point is this- This sport isn’t really understood or liked by all. That’s ok, neither is football, baseball, basketball, or hockey. But it is compelling, interesting, and here to stay. Show someone you know who doesn’t CrossFit some coverage from the games, check their reaction. I bet you’ll be surprised.
On the surface, the Crossfit Games is the penultimate showcase of functional fitness. Mere mortals look on adoringly as beasts and goddesses with bronzed, chiseled physiques dispose of seemingly impossible tests of fitness: a biathlon and its 45 muscle-ups; a 3k row, 300 double unders and a 3-mile run; heck, “Grace” wasn’t challenging enough so they doubled it. And yet the most valuable lessons from the Games come not from the amazing feats of fitness performed but from the people that perform them. Although each one of them possesses superhuman strength that few can identify with, their stories are easily identifiable.
Without further ado, here are seven lessons we (re)learned from this year’s Crossfit Games.
1. Keep things in perspective. Julie Foucher, one of the stars of the sport, took a step back from the Games last year in order to put her schooling first. It’s not that she didn’t love Crossfit or that she wasn’t sad about missing the opportunity to compete, she just understood that some things (in this case her career) are more important. Sometimes we overemphasize what happens inside the four walls of the gym at the expense of our lives outside of them. So what if you didn’t PR today or perform your best during the metcon, in the grand scheme of things, is it really that important? Crossfit may mean a lot to us, but Julie’s actions teach us that it’s not everything.
2. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. After a 37th finish in “the Triple” the headline was “I haven’t been running enough.” After missing the final of the Speed Clean event it was “it’s just how the weekend’s been going”. But on the final day Rich Froning’s perseverance triumphed as he proved once again why he’s the four-time Crossfit Games Champion. A clean sweep of first place finishes in the final three events placed Rich Froning atop the podium for what may be his final Games as an individual. In doing so he shows us that even the very best have off days but what makes someone great is their ability to believe and to overcome the challenges they face.
3. Good things come to those who wait. Annie Thorisdottir missed the 2013 Crossfit Games due to injury. As a result she was forced to vacate her crown as the “world’s fittest woman” without having her chance to defend it. This year she made the most of her return, battling throughout the weekend and earning second place overall. “Iceland Annie’s” actions show us that injuries are not dead ends, they’re merely obstacles on the road toward achieving our goals.
4. Believe in yourself. Mat Fraser was a rookie this year and as a result not much was expected of him. But Fraser never bought into that. After putting on a show at the Northeast Regional, Fraser exceeded expectations at the Games falling just 51 points short of being crowed world’s fittest. Regardless of what others believe, Mat Fraser and his second place finish reminds us that what’s most important is to believe in ourselves.
5. Age is but a number. If you had the chance to see any of the masters competition I’m sure you marveled at what the athletes were able to accomplish. I saw 455 deadlifts by men and 100-foot handstand walks by women in their 60s! Couple that with top 15 finishes by “elder statement” Neil Maddox and Valerie Vobril in a field chockfull of 20-somethings and we quickly learn that age is but a number.
6. Don’t judge a book by its cover. At 5’ 7”, 160 pounds, he’s the most unassuming physical specimen you’ve ever seen. Sandwiched between guys like Jason Khalipa and Neil Maddox he looks like a twerp, but when he overhead squatted 325 pounds, people took notice. Cody Anderson was amazing this weekend, standing toe-to-toe with Crossfit behemoths. His weekend performance was punctuated by an unbroken, first place finish during the muscle-up biathlon. Although Cody Anderson may not look the part his actions teach us to look beyond the look.
7. Do what you love. Love what you do. Hands down Jason Khalipa had the most fun this weekend. My Instagram feed was jammed with Khalipa-and-fit-friend selfies. He also authored one of my favorite moments of the entire Games. His demolition of “Double Grace” earned him a sport on the podium, third place overall, but by his reaction, you would have thought he won the whole thing. After excessive clapping and fist pumping, he kissed his wife, lifted his seemingly disinterested daughter into the air, all while grinning from ear to ear. Jason Khalipa’s actions remind us to embrace the moment, have fun, and enjoy the ride that Crossfit provides.