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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.
The games -
I sit here in awe watching the CrossFit games. From the masters, to team, to the individuals. Who wouldn’t be in awe? These athletes are true role models of CrossFit and of beauty.
I took interest in listening to the broadcasters talk about the lives some of these athletes lead. From running and coaching at a box, owning companies, being on the seminar staff, having a “real job” such as an elementary school teacher, and being a mother/father. This is incredible stuff.
Ever hear of Val Voboril? She is the 35 year old female athlete who placed 5th at the CrossFit games. 5th! The 5th fittest woman in the world!! Do you know what else she does; teaches 4th grade!
What a fantastic role model. Can you imagine having the 5th fittest woman in the world as your teacher?! What a fantastic picture of beauty. She inspires teachers, parents, and students daily all while kicking butt in CrossFit! Gosh, I’m still in awe.
Take a look at this YouTube video…enjoy.
If you are reading this article, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you know that Rich Froning won the 2014 CrossFit Games this past weekend. You probably also know that this was Froning’s fourth consecutive win at the Games. But did you know that he couldn’t have done it without his buddy, Jason Khalipa?
No, they don’t train together (they don’t even live in the same time zone) and it doesn’t have anything to do with the rumor that Froning has “What is Khalipa doing today?” on a sign in his training garage.
Froning uses Khalipa as his pace-partner during any events where the two of them compete against each other.
In an interview for CrossFit’s “Behind the Games: 2013”, Froning talked about facing off with Khalipa in the Sprint Chipper (21 medball GHD sit-ups, 15 snatches 165/100, 9 wall burpees for time). Froning walked you through his mindset for this event. He talked about how he knew Khalipa would be his lead competition and how Forning had a strategy to use this to his advantage. Froning said that he busted through the GHDs as quickly as possible and then met Khalipa at the snatch. With his eye on Khalipa, Froning kept pace with him snatch for snatch and, when Khalipa put the bar down, Froning did one more rep before resting his own bar in the grass. When Khalipa picked his bar up, Froning picked his up, knowing he was already a rep ahead of his closest competition and continued this strategy. Every time Khalipa put his bar down, Froning gained one more rep before putting his down as well. After that, Froning knew he just couldn’t let Khalipa pass him on the wall and the event was his.
This year, as in previous years, Froning has had to come from behind to get his win. This means, that when stacked in the heat-shuffle, Froning was not in the top heat of men until Sunday, the last day of competition. This was a clear disadvantage to him in the Clean Speed Ladder. Froning was not in the top heat for this event, and so he had no one to push himself against. He was noticeably dogging his finish and took his time stepping up to the finishing podium. This lack of competition in his heat, cost him the chance to advance to the final portion of this event – the top eight finishers went on to complete an additional clean ladder and Froning, in ninth place by mere seconds, missed out.
But this is why I was able to proclaim, loudly and proudly, that there was NO WAY Froning was going to come in anything but first on the final event of Double Grace. Not only was he going head to head with his buddy Khalipa, he was going to be able to go rep for rep with him. In the last twenty reps of Double Grace, you can actually see Froning look over at Khalipa time and time again, watching and pacing, keeping himself no more than one rep in front of Khalipa. Doing this allowed Froning to move as quickly as he needed to in order to maintain his lead, but not so fast that he would burn out early and allow himself to be overtaken.
Froning isn’t just the Fittest Man on Earth, he is an incredible athletic strategist. Try his theory out the next time you are in the Box. We all have those athletes that we know are our friendly competitors. When you are in a WOD with them, use them as your pace-partner and see if you can Froning your way to a faster WOD time or a few extra reps in the AMRAP. If we can’t lift like Froning, maybe we can at least strategize like the Fittest Man on Earth.
In football it’s the scream-filled, helmet-slap-laden sack dance on a second down play when the team trails by four touchdowns.
In baseball it’s the bat-flipping, chest-beating homerun celebration the lands in seats already emptied by a lopsided score
In basketball it’s the Jordan-esque jump and fist pump after a last second shot that ends the first quarter drawing your team within 8.
Sports are emotional and with that emotion there comes a time and a place for the sack dance, homerun salute, and buzzer-beating celebration. But too often in mainstream sports the celebration trumps the play, the act usurps the game, the individual overshadows the team. Unfortunately our Sports Center attention span reinforces athletes’ shameless acts of self-promotion at the expense of what makes sports great: the games.
But fortunately for us, fans of the Crossfit Games, our athletes are not ruled by egocentrism. Instead they are driven by one of the foundational values of Crossfit: community.
The second event of the 2014 Crossfit Games, the men’s 1 rep max overhead squat, illustrated all that is right with Crossfit. Little known Emmanuel Maldonado earned some of the biggest cheers of the night. The reason? After failing on his first two attempts, Maldonado was able to grit out his final lift of 295… good for 39th place. They weren’t cheering for his weight; they were cheering for his perseverance.
During the second heat, Tommy Hackenbruck and Matt Fraser were going back and forth, each pushing the other to higher weights overhead. After Hackenbruck set the bar with a successful 376-pound overhead, Matt Fraser successfully lifted 377 pounds to win the event. Hackenbruck’s response? An authentic smile and some applause for his opponent.
But maybe the highlight of the event was seeing what happens when an athletes comes face-to-face with failure. After winning the first event, Jordan Troyan failed on all three of his overhead squat attempts. As a result he was the only athlete not to post a score in the event. Once the heat was complete his fellow competitors came over to console him. Why? Because they’ve all been there before…
The cynics will say Crossfit is too new, too young, that it’s still in its infancy. Its athletes haven’t had time to be tainted by greed and shameless self-promotion.
Others will claim that Crossfit’s media machine dupes us; it shields us from what athletes really think and how they really feel.
Still others will say that we’ve drunk the Kool-Aid; we’re blinded from the truth by our cult-like addiction to functional fitness.
To all the naysayers I respond the same way: You must not Crossfit.