“I’ll never be like them,” Karen Hand thought miserably to herself, watching a pair of joggers zoom by as she shuffled along a trail near her home in Kansas City, Missouri.

Several weeks earlier, in August 2013, doctors had discovered five malignant tumors spanning a total of 8 cm in her left breast, enough to warrant a Stage 3 breast-cancer diagnosis. Though Hand was only 42 years old at the time and loved to bike and hike, the chemotherapy—six rounds every three weeks—left her feeling weak and exhausted.

“It gets in your head that ‘I’m so weak. My life is never gonna be normal again,’” said Hand, now 46. “It just beats you down.”

After Hand underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, surgeons scooped out flesh from her abdomen to reconstruct her breasts. The hip-to-hip scar seared with pain whenever she tried to lift her 4-year-old son or simply lie flat.

In June, after about nine months of training at CrossFit Memorial Hill in the special BUILDclass designed for cancer survivors, she was carrying the groceries in unassisted and hoisting her son with ease—and not only can she lie down, but she can also do unbroken sit-ups in sets of 10.

“I don't feel like those things limit me anymore,” she said. “I feel like I can lead a full, normal life again.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

“You are worthless. You don’t deserve to be here.”

Ron, stepfather to Katie Smith—who was around 6 or 7 at the time—spat the words at her, his eyes filled with hate and rage. Smith, her younger sister, their mother and Ron were packing for yet another move, and one of the dogs had gotten in the house and defecated on the floor.

“Eat it,” Ron commanded her.

She didn’t scream. Didn’t cry. Hardly dared to breathe. She gingerly gathered the foul turds and placed them in her mouth.

“It was terrible,” she recalled. “But you didn't question, at all. You just did what he said.”

Smith, now 32 and a happily married mother of four, is a survivor of more than a decade of child abuse—first at the hands of her biological father until age 3 or 4, and then by her stepfather until she turned 15. Her sister and mother were also victims.

Though she was raised to believe she had no value, Katie today draws from her experience as she spends her days helping women—and men—build physical and mental strength as a coach at CrossFit Barbell Republic in Denison, Texas, which she operates with husband Christofer (Chris) Smith.

“It doesn’t matter where (you) come from. You can have an incredible life,” she said. “I grew up feeling worthless but came to realize how big of (a) lie that was. I think that’s why I love what we do so much: helping people become better versions of themselves.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

The surgeons had been working for more than seven hours by the time they excavated their patient’s diseased liver.

Mottled with dark patches of scar tissue, the organ looked like that of a 40-year-old alcoholic. Instead, it belonged to 17-year-old Sydney Sullivan, the champion of the Teenage Girls 14-15 Division at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Her 23-year-old brother Tommy lay in a recovery room nearby, recuperating from his own procedure. Doctors had removed his liver’s right lobe—about 60 percent of the organ—and transplanted it into Sydney. A later biopsy of Sydney’s liver revealed she had been living with Stage 4 liver cirrhosis.

“We asked 'how long would she have lived with that liver?' and they said maybe a year,” said Judith Sullivan, Sydney’s mother.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

The walls are painted and the rig is in. A new class of recruits is learning the air squat in the corner.  You built it, they came—but will they stay?  You’re passionate and knowledgeable, but that’s not enough “because there’s a lot of great gyms out there,” said Dhani Oks, owner of  Academy of Lions CrossFit  in Toronto, Ontario.  “There was a point when we entered the CrossFit world that just by having an affiliate people would flock to you because there weren’t too many around. Now the regular market forces are upon us.”  It’s not so hard to get people in the door, he continued. The world is sick, and many people are eager to make a change in their lives. It’s keeping them in the gym—retention—that’s the tough part.  The fitness industry has long been known for  poor retention rates  and fickle clients whose initial flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm fizzles after a few months, at which point they sink back into the couch. To turn these trends around, affiliate owners need to provide training excellence, but backing that up with excellent retention strategies will help keep members around for the long haul.

The walls are painted and the rig is in. A new class of recruits is learning the air squat in the corner.

You built it, they came—but will they stay?

You’re passionate and knowledgeable, but that’s not enough “because there’s a lot of great gyms out there,” said Dhani Oks, owner of Academy of Lions CrossFit in Toronto, Ontario.

“There was a point when we entered the CrossFit world that just by having an affiliate people would flock to you because there weren’t too many around. Now the regular market forces are upon us.”

It’s not so hard to get people in the door, he continued. The world is sick, and many people are eager to make a change in their lives. It’s keeping them in the gym—retention—that’s the tough part.

The fitness industry has long been known for poor retention rates and fickle clients whose initial flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm fizzles after a few months, at which point they sink back into the couch. To turn these trends around, affiliate owners need to provide training excellence, but backing that up with excellent retention strategies will help keep members around for the long haul.

It’s the beauty of the affiliate model: CrossFit gyms can be run in many ways.

But as new affiliate owners quickly learn, running a CrossFit gym requires tough decisions beyond how many burpees pay for a spilled chalk bucket—decisions such as whether to hold your athletes to a membership contract.

When deciding, affiliate owners must consider a litany of issues. Is the gym financially viable enough to operate without guaranteed income? If a client breaks a contract, to what lengths will they go to recover the promised funds? Will contracts scare away potential new members?

“My gut tells me that (having membership contracts) certainly has a positive impact on our bottom line and our fixed revenue stream,” said Tucker Jones, owner of Ballston CrossFit in Arlington, Virginia. “There may be a couple people that don't join along the way because of it, and that's something I'm willing to accept based on the benefits I think it brings to the gym.”

David Rowe, owner of CrossFit Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, cautions against using contracts, which he says affiliate owners might come to rely on more than excellence for retaining business.

“Personally, I would never choose to use them,” he said. “I believe resisting contracts keeps us accountable to the athletes to whom we owe our livelihood.”

But for others, the issue isn’t black and white. Some affiliates offer discounted long-term membership options with no contractual obligations; they’re sealed with a handshake and settled with payments of the difference between the discounted and full-price rates if a member leaves. Others use contracts but create easy outs with cancelation fees and clauses for injury, relocation or pregnancy. Still others offer both contracted and month-to-month memberships, providing discounts for choosing longer-term, contracted options.

Here, affiliate owners from around the world share the approaches that work best for them.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Dr. Stephen Schimpff calls it the paradox of American medicine.

“We have really well-trained, well-educated providers. We are the world’s envy for biomedical research. We’ve got excellent pharmaceutical (and) biotechnology companies and diagnostics (tools). But the paradox is on the other hand we have a terribly dysfunctional health-care delivery system,” said the retired CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Despite our technology, education and wealth—in 2014, total national health-care expenditures hit US$3 trillion—chronic disease remains the nation’s top killer, with seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 stemming from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. In 2010, 86 percent of all health-care spending was attributed to chronic disease—conditions labeled preventable by the Centers for Disease Control.

So why are we still so sick?

“America does not have a healthcare system; we have a ‘disease industry,’” Schimpff wrote in a 2010 article. “We focus on disease and pestilence and do a good job of caring for those with acute illnesses and trauma. But we certainly do not address health well and we are not good at caring for chronic illnesses.”

It’s an industry based on one fundamental problem, Schimpff said.

“We don’t put our money where we could have a huge impact, which would be prevention and wellness.”   CONTINUE TO FULL ARTICLE

A 45-lb. plate can be a great doorstop.

Of course, it’s a better fitness tool, but what else can you do with a broken bumper?

The business of fitness is tough work, and CrossFit athletes are tough on implements. As eager as affiliate owners are for their clients’ PRs, progress inevitably comes with broken weights, snapped skipping ropes and busted rowers.

“Things are gonna break,” said Justin Riley, owner of CrossFit East Sacramento in California. “It’s part of being a business owner that you’re going to have to fix things and replace things and do maintenance.”

Equipment shelf life isn’t always the first thing affiliate owners think of after they open their gyms, but according to Jeremy Thiel, owner of CrossFit Central in Austin, Texas, it’s something they should consider from the start.

“It’s very hard to know exactly when equipment’s gonna go out,” he said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Lindsey Barber gripped the wheel. Most of the 30-mile drive between Unity and Cut Knife, Saskatchewan, is open road, nothing but 360-degree field and sky, and she tried to enjoy her morning commute to a job she disliked.

She pulled into the small lot outside the chemical-and-seed supply company where she worked as a sales agronomist. Some days were spent loading pallets of seed and chemicals onto trucks; others found her visiting surrounding farms and meeting with growers. Mostly, she had to sell—fertilizer, pesticide and seed.

“(My) job was basically to get the farmers on our program to buy as much product as they can, telling people what they need to hear just to make the sale,” Barber said.

But Barber hated selling. She felt dishonest pushing products farmers didn’t really need and felt “like I was serving no purpose in the world,” she said.

She cut the ignition and sat in her car, fighting tears and unable to will herself to go inside. She never thought work would be like this.

“My parents always said if you really like what you’re doing, then work won’t be so bad,” she said. “And I knew that this was not something I wanted to be doing forever, that there had to be something more for me to do. But I just could not come up with something that I would love to do enough to do it for the rest of my life.”

In 2011, a year into Barber’s agronomy position, she noticed an unusual picture on her boyfriend’s Facebook feed. It featured a woman doing a one-armed handstand—“and she had abs,” Barber added.

Barber messaged the woman, asking what she was doing in the photo.

CrossFit, she replied.  CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Nearly 5,000 miles and an ocean apart, two classes of CrossFit athletes are doing work.

Their lungs are searing, but all that matters is the last few reps— and getting them in before the minute turns over.

As the last barbell settles at CrossFit Fifty, an open-air garage gym in Honolulu, Hawaii, the athletes lie on the sun-stricken pavement, heaving as they stare up into the electric-blue sky. At CrossFit Below Zero/I.C.E. NYC, tucked inside a luxury condominium in Manhattan, an athlete rests against a marble column, chalk dust trickling from the brass-coated pull-up bar above.

Once they can breathe again, CrossFit Fifty athletes report to the whiteboard one by one to scrawl their scores next to a list of mantras—“don’t panic” among them. CrossFit Below Zero athletes sign on to Wodify, broadcasting their efforts on bright flatscreens mounted in a neat line on the wall.

One group leaves sweaty and sun-kissed, hiking the 400 meters to their cars down the block. The other crew stops for a shower in a gleaming spa-like bathroom where high-end shampoos, hair spray and body towels big enough to camp under return the New Yorkers to normal before they step back into the Manhattan streets. Both leave a little fitter than they were before.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

On Sunday, June 12, Omar Mateen opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring three others in what theNew York Times has described as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Though the sudden devastation came as a shock to the world, many in the lesbian/gay/transsexual/bisexual/queer (LGTBQ) community saw it as a terrifyingly real expression of the challenges they face each day.

“It’s a daily reality for so many of us,” said Adam Gonzales, a 27-year-old gay man living in Amarillo, Texas.

Months before the shooting, Gonzales lay on the floor at CrossFit Amarillo, his chest heaving and head spinning in the aftermath of Open Workout 16.5. His boyfriend looked on from the sideline, pride etched on his face as high fives and fist bumps were passed all around. The final workout of Gonzales’ third CrossFit Games Open was cause for celebration. But first, Gonzales required a costume change.

Taking care that he didn’t match his boyfriend’s outfit too closely, Gonzales swapped his bright-purple plastic-rimmed glasses for a more conservative pair in black. At the restaurant, the couple took care to leave several inches between them. In Texas, there are no statewide protections against employer discrimination based on sexual orientation, and as a teacher in a school district that has allegedly fired employees for their homosexuality, Gonzales’ partner needs to stay under the radar.

“If word got back to his employer, he’d lose his job,” Gonzales said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

Thomas Seyfried, Dr. Eugene Fine explain how cancer is affected by sugar, insulin and inflammation.

Accounts of deadly tumors date as far back as 3,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt.

Yet despite centuries of study, cancer is—after cardiovascular disease—the world’s second-leading cause of death, claiming more than 8 million lives in 2012 alone, a number that’s expected to nearly double over the next 20 years.

Prevailing theories on the origin of cancer held by most researchers and oncologists today dictate that cancer is thought of predominantly as a genetic disease, whereby damage to a cell’s nuclear DNA turns the healthy cell into a cancerous one.

But what if we’ve only been studying a piece of the puzzle for all these years? What if cancer is just as much about what we put into our bodies as the genes we were born with?

Thomas Seyfried, a Boston College biology professor with a doctorate in genetics and biochemistry, disagrees with the idea that cancer is primarily a genetic disease.

“That’s all misinformation,” said the author of the 2012 book “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

For a shorter read on the same topic, check out "Cancer Loves Cookies?"

The rain sounded like gunfire as it pelted John Franklin’s home in Hoboken, New Jersey, one night in June 2013. Though it was already past 10 p.m., he pulled on his boots and drove the seven blocks to Hudson River CrossFit, the affiliate he was in the process of opening after months of leading free park workouts. He was just weeks from the grand opening date, and with the gym sitting right at the city’s lowest point, he feared the heavy rain might seep inside.

He heaved the garage door open and flicked on the lights.

“The floor looked kind of like an infinity pool,” Franklin recalled, unable to tell where the water ended and dry cement began.

He ventured to the far side of the gym, where a long concrete slab—a storage area in the space’s past life as a refrigerator warehouse—was elevated a few inches above the floor. Gray sludge oozed from the hairline crack beneath.

“It looked as if the concrete was sweating profusely,” he said.

Before he had the chance to reach for a mop, he heard a low gurgle from the direction of the bathroom. In a few seconds, the gurgle became an explosive sputter as the drains in the gym’s two sinks, showers and toilets began spewing sewage in succession “almost like a fountain show,” Franklin said.

As Franklin stood ankle deep in sewer refuse, he thought of the three friends who had showed up to his park workouts.

“Am I just making like really bad life choices?” he asked himself. “Because we had no idea how this would actually work—or would anybody actually sign up for this CrossFit thing?”

Today, Hudson River CrossFit boasts around 250 members, one of two affiliates that make up Flipside Performance (the other is Bowery CrossFit in Manhattan, New York, which Franklin opened at the end of 2013). With heavy rain flooding Hudson River CrossFit about once a month, Franklin and his staff have become pros at keeping their heads above water, loading all their equipment into an elevated storage room every time the weather report predicts a storm.

“We’re very handy with a Shop-Vac these days,” he said. “That’s how you get all the water out, and then you have to go through the whole process of disinfecting it.”

To disinfect the 2,800-square-foot space, Franklin shells out about US$600 each time for a professional sewage-cleaning service. Adding backflow preventers to the drains would cost nearly $30,000 and require a total bathroom tear-up, and with real estate at a premium in the area adjacent to New York City, moving is out of the question. So what keeps Franklin going?

“The community,” he said. “Our mission has always been to build a strong urban community ... and we’ve probably trained 1-2 percent of the entire town. That means any time I walk the dog, any time I go to a restaurant, statistical probability says that I’m gonna run into somebody that I’ve worked with before. So you have a lot of accidental community that happens, and it’s much stronger than anything I’ve felt.”

Challenges are par for the course, Franklin explained: “It’s all part of the game. There are certain points ... where I get a little beat down, but in perspective, my life is fantastic. I have a staff that I love, I have members that I love, ... I get to share something that I’m very passionate about with other people, and I’m making a living doing it. It’s just a team effort, and having that good staff in place is something that has saved my ass more times than I can count.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

“High knees, lunges and PVC pass-throughs!”

While lunging her way across the room for what feels like the millionth time, an athlete steals a jealous glance at the wildly giggling CrossFit Kids who are playing a tic-tac-toe racing game in the next room.

At CrossFit Leverage, warm-up games aren’t just for kids.

“All of our members have got real jobs and real lives outside of this place,” said affiliate owner Dave Fecht, “and if they’ve had a long, stressful week, it’s silly games like this that kind of give them a chance to play and have fun.”

Besides ending the monotony and helping athletes crack a smile, the occasional warm-up game can also break the ice for new members or athletes from different class times.

“It’s a good way for people to overcome that standoffishness or nerves coming into their first main group class,” said Aaron McIlwee, co-owner of CrossFit East Auckland.

“And it’ll still get the heart rate going,” said James McDermott, head coach at Albany CrossFit. “It will still prepare them for the WOD, they’ll still break a light sweat, but they’re gonna have fun, too. And if you have people laughing and smiling, then you already know it’s going to be a good day.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

The “energy balance” is a myth. You can’t outwork a bad diet.

Jason Mathews almost lost his pull-up.

Though Mathews has trained at CrossFit Armoury for the past three years, a desk job in sales convenience trumped cleanliness when it came to nutrition, and his 30 unbroken pull-ups soon dwindled to less than a handful.

“Now to get one or two (pull-ups) in a row is tough,” he said.

Despite his commitment to training, a diet dotted with pastries and ice cream—a Dairy Queen is just down the road from the gym—has held him steady at nearly 30 percent body fat.

“I know it’s horrible for me,” he said. “I’ll always (plan to) start eating healthy again tomorrow … but there’s not enough tomorrows to make up for the amount of bad I’m doing to myself.”

Though Mathews reports that 75 percent of his diet is clean, “Just one or two (sugary) meals seems to sabotage me,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many times I work out. It seems like those calories are a lot harder to push out.”

The soda industry would have you believe otherwise.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

With treatment of chronic disease eating up health-care budgets, elected officials consider excise taxes to reduce consumption of harmful sugary beverages.

On Nov. 4, 2014, 76 percent of voters made Berkeley, California, the first U.S. city to pass a soda tax. After its implementation in March, the tax generated just shy of US$700,000 in revenue in its first six months.

Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli helped spearhead the measure. At first, he saw the tax as little more than a revenue source. Then he saw a YouTube presentation on the toxicity of sugar by Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco.

In his 2013 book, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food and Obesity,” Lustig discussed findings from his 2013 study on the relationship between sugar and diabetes prevalence across 154 countries over a 10-year period, during which worldwide diabetes prevalence rose from 5.5 to 7 percent.

“Every additional 150 calories per person per day barely raised diabetes prevalence,” Lustig wrote. “But if those 150 calories were instead from a can of soda, increase in diabetes prevalence rose sevenfold.”

Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks account for 36 percent of added-sugar intake in Americans, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The science is in, I believe, and so I pivoted from looking for sources of revenue to looking for ways to, in fact, reduce consumption of what I consider to be a toxic substance,” Capitelli said.

As Americans get sicker—rates of both obesity and metabolic syndrome are pushing 35 percent in adults—Berkeley’s landmark legislation leaves the rest of the country wondering: Could taxes turn the trend around?   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

The walls crumbled around Melinda Metten. A deep orange glow beckoned from the end of the hall, black dust swirling in a doorway like a gaping mouth to hell. The thick air sizzled and snapped, embers flicking her way like a serpent’s tongue. She pressed forward.

Drawing from the 30-minute supply of oxygen filtering from a small tank on her back through her face mask, Metten inhaled the oppressive heat. She picked up her tool, a long spear-like baton with two curved prongs at the end, and heaved it over her shoulder into the ceiling. Sparks flew as she wrenched the hook down, sending fragments of glowing plaster and sheetrock cascading to the floor.

“We call it overhaul,” Metten, a firefighter of 14 years, explained. “We’re pulling the ceiling down to see if there’s any extension, if there’s any fire in there, so we can put it out.”

The work is grueling.

“Think of the worst possible thruster that you could do, with a pack on your back and helmet,” she said. “And maybe you’re wet a little bit from the hose, and you’re working. Doing work pulling ceilings.”

It’s a good thing she’s fit. When the 35-year-old isn’t fighting fires — or refueling planes tens of thousands of feet in the air as a boom operator for the United States Air National Guard — she trains and coaches at CrossFit Bangor, the affiliate she opened in 2011 in Bangor, Maine. And over the next five weeks, she will fight to reprise her 2015 role as the Fittest Woman in Maine in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open.

“Now that I’ve done it, I’d kind of like to defend that title,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

More than champions

MADRID—It was the first week of December, days before the USA Team would earn its second consecutive CrossFit Invitational victory, defeating the Canada Team by a 6-point margin after five events at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Invitational.

Team members from the United States, Europe, Canada and the Pacific arrived one week prior to the competition, splitting their time between training, recovery and seeing the sights of Spain—most of them, anyway. While her teammates rested, snug in their beds, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet studied by the cold blue light of her computer screen before the sun rose each day.

“After (practice) I would be being pulled left and right to do some photo shoot, and then instead of (visiting) Spain after like everyone else, I was just going back to try to finish my schoolwork,” she said.

In her final semester at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, Leblanc-Bazinet was just months from finishing her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. In the days before the Invitational, she worked on her final project, designing a method to convert recycled plastics into carbon nanotubes.

She’s also the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games champion, a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff member, founder of CLB Fitness, ambassador for numerous sponsors and the newly minted director of programming for ICE NYC, a New York fitness center.

Fans, accustomed to the champ’s buoyant charisma, don’t always see the effort behind her winning smile.

“Most of the time I just feel really, really overwhelmed,” Leblanc-Bazinet said. “You need to be always happy and excited, and truly inside you just want to yell and punch walls because you need to finish your fucking project.”

There is life before and after the CrossFit Games, even for champions. Champions like Leblanc-Bazinet, Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir, women renowned for moving large loads long distances, quickly, and less known for the years they spent studying chemistry, engineering and law. Each found CrossFit while pursuing other careers; each whose CrossFit career shaped her professional path forever.

CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

SF State groups beat back pouring-rights contract worth millions.

On Nov. 19, a group of about 20 college students in San Francisco, California, managed to do what countless community leaders and health advocates have failed to do: beat Big Soda.

After a five-month campaign protesting San Francisco State University’s pursuit of a 10-year pouring-rights contract with The Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo Inc., the student-run SF State chapter of Real Food Challenge (RFC) convinced SF State President Leslie Wong to stop the contract process. Sixteen other student organizations, two grassroots community-health collaborations, several SF State faculty members, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and more than 10 percent of the student body assisted the RFC.

Commonplace since the 1990s, pouring-rights contracts grant corporations exclusive sales and marketing opportunities on school campuses in exchange for funds, the use of which is often restricted to purposes designed to funnel money back to the provider. The SF State deal was poised to bring in a one-time minimum contribution of US$2 million and annual contributions of at least $125,000, according to a May SF State request for proposals obtained by the CrossFit Journal.

Though Big Soda dollars promise relief in the face of budget deficits and a lack of government funding for higher education, critics argue that ubiquitous on-campus marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages does more harm than good. Added sugar has been shown to increase risk for diabetes, tooth decay, obesity and a host of other health problems.

“The most questionable aspect of these contracts is that they link returns to the companies and to the schools to amounts that students drink,” Marion Nestle wrote in “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

“Open happiness.” —The Coca-Cola Co.
America has a happiness problem, and Coca-Cola’s got the answer.

On the multi-billion-dollar beverage company’s website, the brand juxtaposes the words of Aristotle, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha and others with the prose of its marketing team: “Open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness!”

It didn’t work so well for Roxanne Melillo. A survivor of childhood domestic violence and sexual abuse, the 39-year-old has spent her life sugarcoating her pain.

“I ate to heal myself,” Melillo said. “I would get into a bad mood and the first thing I would turn to is a soda and a candy bar.” Snickers bars were her feel-good food, a glistening can of Coke her elixir.

“It was a quick fix,” she said. “Pop the can open, drink it.”

It made sense. After all, sugar mediates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates reward signals in the brain. Despite her self-medication, Melillo grew heavier, not happier. By 36, she was pushing 300 lb. at an even 5 feet and had stopped socializing.

“I didn’t care; (sugar) kept me in a cloud of no reality,” she said.

She’s not the only one with a sugar problem. In 2013, the average American consumed approximately 22 teaspoons of caloric sweeteners per day, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. Meanwhile, an estimated 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which dubs depression the world’s “leading cause of disability.” It’s not for lack of drugs. One in 10 Americans 12 and older takes antidepressant medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spending more than US$11 billion on antidepressants in 2010 alone.

“The rate of antidepressant use has more than tripled in the past 25 years, and yet, if anything, the overall rate of depression is higher now than it was back then,” said Stephen Ilardi, a Kansas University psychology professor who holds a doctorate in clinical neuroscience. “Everything that we’re throwing at this epidemic is really barely making a dent.”

So why are we so unhappy?   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

It was well past 1 a.m., and darkness blanketed the city of Derry, Northern Ireland. The streets were barren save for two teenage boys and their paint. Neither boy noticed the car’s approach until four masked men erupted from within. The vehicle was unmarked.

“That’s when we realized we couldn’t really run,” Porter recalled.

The men were members of one of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary organizations, vigilante enforcers of order on the hunt for two gunmen in dark-colored sweatshirts. Presumably nationalist, they would settle for catching unionists defiling their territory with political graffiti.

Thankfully, Porter was just tagging the wall with his graffiti name, Easi. Because Porter’s art neither defaced any political murals nor posed political threat, the men left the “graffers” to their painting unscathed. It wasn’t the pair’s first encounter with masked men in the night, but it was “the scariest one we’ve had,” Porter said.

More than a decade after the end of The Troubles, the 30-year period of Irish civil unrest responsible for the deaths of more than 3,600 people and thousands more injuries, wounds still run deep in Northern Ireland. Bomb scares, shootings and threats of paramilitary violence are still commonplace between the western Cityside and eastern Waterside communities of Derry (officially Londonderry), a city divided by the River Foyle and social malaise.

“There’s a lot of fear,” said Porter, who attended Catholic school in his youth but describes himself today as an apolitical and non-religious free thinker. “People live in fear and they don’t realize it.”    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY                                            

 

The ice cubes clinking against the glass. The bright beads of condensation promising relief from the Ohio humidity. The refreshing zing. Sean Buchan loved sweet tea.

“The sweeter, the better,” the 40-year-old said.

He was open to alternatives. Mountain Dew or root beer—four to five cans each day—hit the spot just as well.

“I figured my options were to drink that or drink water, and I’m not much of a water drinker,” Buchan said.

That changed May 28, 2014, the day Buchan, a nurse and retired U.S. Army specialist, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Lab results from an unrelated hemoglobin A1C test revealed 9.2 percent, which indicated Buchan’s blood sugar had been inappropriately elevated over recent months. Normal levels are within 4.5 to 6 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Buchan’s doctor prescribed daily doses of metformin, saxagliptin and glipizide—medications designed to decrease the amount of glucose the body absorbs from food and increase the body’s production of and response to insulin.

For Buchan—who weighed 262 lb. at 5 feet 11 inches and hadn’t regularly exercised since his Army days in 2005—the diagnosis was a wake-up call. As a nurse, he administered care for diabetics fighting blindness, amputation and death each day, but he never gave his sugar habit a second thought.

“I had the mentality of, ‘It could never happen to me.’”

Buchan added: “It was kind of my coming-to-Jesus moment. When I got home, I said to my wife, ‘I have got to change the way I eat.’"  CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

 

Dueling the Devil  

Thomas Moore loses a fight with a river but gets a rematch in rehab.

Thomas Moore couldn’t move. More importantly, he couldn’t breathe.

The rapids he had so deftly navigated just seconds before engulfed him with no warning, wedging his kayak between two boulders and trapping him nearly 4 feet beneath the surface of the San Joaquin River, deep within California’s Eastern Sierra.

The speeding currents pummeled his back like a jackhammer, folding him at the waist toward the bow of his boat. After he shook his hips in a vain attempt to free his boat from the boulders’ vice, he knew he had to abandon his kayak.

He gripped the side of the boat, thrust his feet down and popped his hips, pushing himself out partway. But the raging current immobilized him just below the knee. His legs were forced against the cockpit rim, crushing his knees and causing agonizing pain.

Submerged for more than a minute already, Moore was lightheaded from lack of oxygen. Hearing only the dampened scream of the currents enveloping him, he thought he was going to drown.

“I tried like hell to get free, but it felt hopeless,” he wrote in a blog post after the accident. “It was at this moment that I thought it was over.”    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

 

It’s in our homes; it’s in our universities. It lurks in the corners of our children’s schools, and it won our loyalty with its pocketbook and a mountain of sugar.

It’s Big Soda, and it’s got us right where it wants us: addicted.

Recently, San Francisco decided to do something about it.

On June 9, 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors became the first in the U.S. to pass legislation requiring warning labels on posted ads for sugar-sweetened beverages. The legislation also banned ads for sugary beverages on city property and the use of city funds to purchase sugary beverages. The ban includes sweetened coffee drinks as well as sports drinks such as Gatorade.

“This is a public-health crisis in the making,” San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said in a phone interview.

Warning labels will occupy 20 percent of ad space and read as follows: “Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

Less than a month before the legislation was passed, San Francisco State University announced it was looking for a deal with Big Soda, issuing its first Request for Proposals for exclusive campus pouring rights.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

 

Isis Brantley began African braiding as a child, practicing skills learned from her mother on neighbors in a small, impoverished community in southern Dallas, Texas. She has made her living braiding since 25, and in 1995, at 36, she opened her own salon.

Then she got arrested.

The date was Oct. 13, 1997, a Monday. Two women entered her store, inquiring about a consultation. After a few moments, one of them reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a badge, telling Brantley she was under arrest for braiding hair without a license.

At the time, braiding hair in Texas without a state-issued cosmetology license constituted a criminal offense. Though braiders use only their hands and no chemicals or dyes, becoming a legal braider required 1,500 hours of cosmetology training, which doesn’t include braiding instruction. Regulation continues to this day, with 24 states requiring braiders to become licensed as cosmetologists or hairstylists as of July 2014.

Imagine a world in which CrossFit affiliate owners could be arrested or fined a hefty sum for teaching the air squat without government permission. The concept is not too far-removed from reality.

On March 26, 2014, legislation requiring licensing of personal fitness trainers went into effect in Washington, D.C., with the Omnibus Health Regulation Amendment Act. Among nine occupations addressed in the law, the legislation holds personal and athletic trainers accountable to a to-be-determined set of government-mandated licensing fees and standards of practice, potentially overseen by the D.C. Department of Health’s Physical Therapy Board. Enforcement of the law is currently on hold as officials rework many of the details.

Though similar legislation introduced in nine other states failed to pass, longstanding efforts by lobbying organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association, indicate that the fight is yet in its first rounds.    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Coach, Counselor or Both? 

CrossFit trainers find they’re building athletes and relationships at the same time.

 

It was a rare warm November evening in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Maureen Randall quit the workout.

Beats were dropping from the speakers at CrossFit Praus, but for once, the self-described class jokester wasn’t dancing. The date marked 22 years since the night she was raped. She had been just 14 years old. Usually, she spent the anniversary locked indoors. Tonight, she tried to do an overhead squat, but the bar crashed to the floor.

“I broke,” Randall recalled. After the clock had gone dark, Randall still sat, her head buried in her hands. Affiliate owner Amanda Burge had a choice: Walk away or dive in. She dove.

The conversation was the beginning of a mentorship between coach and athlete that extends beyond class to texts, phone calls and post-workout discussions about how Randall can use CrossFit to help overcome her past.

“Anytime I need her, she’s there—no questions asked,” Randall said. “A lot of people coach and then they leave. With Amanda, that’s not how it is.”

As athletes struggle with everything from poor mobility to poor self-image, coaches are faced daily with the challenge of walking the line between coach and counselor. For Burge, it’s a no-brainer.

“We’re not just puppet masters who program hellacious WODs,” she said. “We’re people, and we want them to know we’re here for them. They trust us with their lives during a WOD, so why would they not trust us with their lives outside of CrossFit?”    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

They call themselves “The Babymakers.”

Abrie Sellers and Sarah Brown of Thomasville CrossFit in Thomasville, Georgia, are among thousands of athletes who completed the first four workouts of the 2017 CrossFit Team Series this weekend. But their team is unique: at the start of Week 1, Brown, 38, was just 13 weeks postpartum after delivering a healthy baby girl, Zoey. Sellers, 33, had just hit the 25-week mark of her own pregnancy.

“With our mama forces combined, we make one badass female team!” reads the duo’s bio.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

“This is about crushing the people next to you, and this is about trying to win the fucking CrossFit Games,” Dave Castro, Director of the CrossFit Games, said at the dinner that kicked off the 2016 Individual competition. “If you’re not coming for that reason, you should just quit now.”

Tia-Clair Toomey, who took second in 2015, listened quietly. 

“Personally, I never wanted to come to the CrossFit Games to win it. I just wanted to be there, you know?” she said during a Skype call two weeks before the 2017 Pacific Regional.

By the time the week was over and she’d taken second again—losing the title Fittest Woman on Earth to defending champion Katrin Davidsdottir by just 11 points—she’d come around to Castro’s way of thinking. As she drove down the StubHub Center’s palm-lined boulevard for the last time on Sunday night, she turned to Shane Orr, her fiancé and coach.

“What do I need to work on?” she asked him. “Because I want to win the CrossFit Games next year.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Last Thursday, after Open Workout 17.5 was announced, Dave DeGroot had one thought: “Oh boy.”

The couplet of thrusters and double-unders called for 350 reps on the rope, more than the 47-year-old had ever done in a single workout.

Had it been a normal challenge programmed at his gym, CrossFit 808 in Honolulu, Hawaii, he would have scaled.

“But nope, it’s the Open,” he thought to himself. “I have a goal: Rx everything.”

A day later, DeGroot finished the final double-under of 17.5 at 37:26, last in his heat. Though disappointed at first, he looked at the big picture once he caught his breath.

“A couple years ago, I couldn't do double-unders, and 95-lb. thrusters would leave me gasping,” he said. “It’s good to keep that perspective.”

For DeGroot, a CrossFit Games Open competitor since 2012, that perspective spans six years and 30 Open workouts. Each year of tests, he said, has provided an opportunity to grow.

“The Open is a fun annual challenge—it's a way to benchmark myself against my age-group peers across the CrossFit community,” he said. “It's fun to be able to do that and see how I'm doing better.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

It’s 2:45 on a Friday afternoon at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts. Most students are surreptitiously packing their bags in the final moments of class, itching to escape to the weekend. But Eduardo Collado Rosario and Jeffrey Almanzar are not most students. Their Friday night plans include deadlifts, wall-ball shots, rowing and handstand push-ups.                                                                                           

Instead of bee-lining for the door after the bell, the two make their way deeper into the school to an old computer lab next to the Spanish classroom. But where rows of monitors used to be, there is now a pull-up rig. Barbells, weights and kettlebells litter the corners, and rowers line the walls. The room smells like rubber.

They might still be in school, but once they walk through those doors, they’re also in Lancer CrossFit, a non-profit affiliate within Lawrence High School (LHS), named for its mascot.

The pair might be done with exams for the week, but they’ve got one more test to do: Open Workout 17.4.

“And I close my door, I blast my music, and the kids work out—3 … 2 … 1 … Go!” said Vincenzo DeLucia, the affiliate’s head coach and teacher.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Air seemed scarce.

Brandy Digre stood over her barbell, hands on her knees.

She was more than 13 rounds and almost 20 minutes deep into the scaled version of Open Workout 17.3—a couplet of jumping pull-ups and increasingly heavy snatches, wherein the reward for completing the work before the time cap was more time to do even more work.

She shuffled her feet and gripped and ripped, catching the 95-lb. barbell a hair too far forward, dropping the weight and landing on her ass with half a smile on her face. Her coach, Stephen Hitt, stepped forward, twisting his arm to demonstrate external rotation. Someone called out the 90-second warning.

Another quick shuffle, another deep breath. This time her arms locked out overhead as she bounced neatly out of the catch to stand up. She grinned again, then logged one more snatch—plus 10 jumping pull-ups—before the clock hit 20 minutes and her workout was done.

An onlooker congratulated her on making it to the 95-lb. barbell.

“What was on my bar?” Digre asked, shocked. Ninety-five lb. was her snatch PR.

“The fact that I was lifting my PR weight and I did it four times made me feel pretty good,” she said.

Two years ago, Digre weighed 355 lb. at 5-foot-6 and could hardly move her own body weight, much less anything else. But today, a year and eight months after joining CrossFit Industrious in Lynnwood, Washington, the 36-year-old is 142 lb. lighter, three AbMats from a handstand push-up and halfway through her second CrossFit Games Open.

“It's just fun to be able to see what Dave Castro (will) throw at you and what you can do with it,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Reyes Ribera shifted his weight nervously as he stood before his dumbbell.

The 44-year-old typically used a 35- or 40-lb. dumbbell when the workout called for snatches, not the 50-lb. implement at his feet.

He glanced across the room, meeting the eyes of his coach and CrossFit Livermore owner, Matt Souza. Souza held up three fingers, indicating the final countdown, then slashed his fist through the air like a flagman of fitness. Ribera ripped his dumbbell off the ground.

As he worked, he focused on the rhythm of his breaths, trying to keep his heart rate steady. Step down, step up to the box, jump. With each leap, he felt the impact buzz through his feet. Ribera had no music to motivate him and heard neither scream nor cheer as he worked through the grueling couplet of dumbbell snatches and burpee box jump-overs.

Twenty minutes later, he’d completed 214 reps, just 11 reps short of finishing Open Workout 17.1.

Though Ribera, who is deaf, couldn’t hear his friends’ cheers, “you can almost feel the crowd’s energy, just like someone else would be able to hear it,” he said, speaking through an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. “They’re all there just wanting everybody to succeed as much as possible.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Emily Celichowski eyed the rig above her. She’d already breezed through the first 10 55-lb. power snatches of Open Workout 16.3, and bar muscle-ups were up next.

Trouble was, she’d never done one before.

She jumped to the bar, extending her body in a tight arch before shoving herself back and up, attempting to launch herself over the bar. Miss. She tried again, kipping with even more force than before. Another miss, with a slight chicken wing.

Her coaches and fellow athletes screamed their encouragement from the sideline as the clock ticked down from 7 minutes.

On her third attempt, something clicked, and she found herself looking down from the top of the rig.

“Oh my God, I’m up here,” she thought.

She proceeded to knock out eight more bar muscle-ups before the time expired.

“(Each) one was like a huge victory.”

At the time, she was a CrossFit athlete of four years and a coach for nearly as long—yet last year was her first CrossFit Games Open. Despite encouraging her athletes to participate, for three years she avoided the worldwide test of fitness for fear of looking the fool. But when she finally decided to add her name to the hundreds of thousands of competitors across the world, she was rewarded with a brand-new skill and a freshly conquered fear.

“I was definitely glad that I did it,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

For the first time in history, an Open workout began with muscle-ups.

Victor Stanley grinned before Open Workout 15.3. A CrossFit athlete of seven years, he had experience on his side and was confident he could easily kip through the 7 reps at the start of each round.

The same could not be said for Stanley’s workout partner. Though the 20-something athlete was almost a decade younger than Stanley—who was 34 at the time—he had just learned the muscle-up and lacked finesse and efficiency.

“I was happy about that one because I finally got him on one,” Stanley said after beating his younger buddy by several rounds. “The next year he had muscle-ups down and there was no catching him after that.”

This year, Stanley, now 36, will be chasing kids his own age in the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games Open as he competes in the inaugural Masters 35-39 Division.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity it presents,” he said. “I feel this makes the competitive aspect a little more fun because I actually feel like I am in the hunt now.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Time-tested truth: Proximity to the CrossFit Games Open directly influences how often your coach programs thrusters and burpees.

In the weeks before the first live announcement, affiliates across the world ramp up their skill work, resurrect past Open workouts and concoct new ones built of rep schemes and loads seen in Opens past.

But what do they do when the Open arrives and they’ve still got to program for the other days of the week surrounding the Open workout? And how do they continue to increase fitness while also leaving room to accommodate its most comprehensive test?   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

It’s the final event, and just a few points separate teams.

The DJ’s laying down beats, and the crowd is on its feet, screaming equally loudly for a team dressed in “Walking Dead” zombie makeup and a team of Regionals hopefuls.

It’s not the CrossFit Games, but the CrossFit Games Open is packed with plenty of spirit at affiliates around the world.

“It's a big huge party for five weeks,” said Mike Wuest, owner of CrossFit COMO in Columbia, Missouri.

An affiliate owner since 2013, Wuest has hosted the Open for his athletes since 2014. For the past two years, he’s done it with a twist, turning the Open into an in-house intramural competition. Though athletes still register for the Open on the CrossFit Games site and put up a score recorded by a judge, the primary purpose of the intramural Open is to create unity and have fun.

“One thing we really focused on was, ‘Let’s not worry about people being the best athlete,'" Wuest said. "We really focus on 'What kind of experience could that team or that group bring to the gym every Friday night?’”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

“No rep!”

In less than a month, CrossFit athletes everywhere will echo the two most famous words of CrossFit Games judge Adrian “Boz” Bozman.

We test our fitness in the gym every day, but once a year we keep score on a worldwide whiteboard. The best advance to Regionals and eventually the CrossFit Games, but for most of us, the Open is our Games: a chance to measure our growth, see where we stack up and note what needs improvement.

But how do affiliate owners turn accountants and nurses into Bozmanites fit to scrutinize the squat?

It’s not that athletes don’t try hard in regular classes—CrossFit is not known for attracting people who give less than 100 percent—but rather that having every rep judged can alert athletes to issues they didn’t know were there. For example, Update Show host Pat Sherwood needed a check-up himself back in 2013.

“I think sometimes people don't know necessarily that they are cheating range of motion,” said Erica Folk, owner of CrossFit Warrior RX in Crystal City, Missouri.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

MIND GAMES

“Make it a great day—or not; the choice is yours.”

For four years, that adage was drilled into my head, the daily sign-off after my high school’s morning announcements. I always rolled my eyes. Sure, whatever, I thought. As if I could control how my day was going to go.

Cut to 10 years later, when Julie Foucher tore her Achilles on a box jump-over at the 2015 Central Regional, ending her final season at regionals rather than the Games. Not more than an hour after the season-ending injury, Foucher joked about wearing a boot at her upcoming wedding and said, “I have a lot of things to look forward to.”

She made it a great day, taking to the floor in an over-sized black boot in that afternoon’s 250-foot handstand walk event and outpacing many of her peers across the floor despite having to walk to the starting mat while others ran. She smiled and waved to the crowd, while those watching were brought to tears.

I asked myself, “How the hell did she do it?”

To find out, I got Foucher on the phone, along with a man who has finished no more than three spots outside the CrossFit Games podium for the last four years, Scott Panchik, and a woman who has twice been the favorite to win the CrossFit Games and twice been held back by injuries, Kara Webb.

If anyone could teach me the mysteries of mental strength, it would be them.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

school of fitness

Like many top CrossFit Games athletes, Nicholas Paladino, Angelo DiCicco and Vincent Ramirez begin their days with a workout—the first of several daily training sessions that total six to eight hours of work.

But unlike podium finishers a few years their senior—Paladino and DiCicco won the 16-17 and 14-15 Teenage Boys Divisions of the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games; Ramirez took third in the 14-15 Division—these fitness fiends punctuate their days not with coaching or administrative work, but with English and economics.

More than 7,550 teenagers competed in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open alone, and as CrossFit athletes get younger and fitter—at 16, DiCicco matches CrossFit Games veteran Chris Spealler’s snatch PR of 235 lb.—some of CrossFit’s top teens are forgoing traditional high school education in favor of more flexible options like homeschooling and online classes.

“I've never really looked back,” said 17-year-old Paladino, who graduated in February from Penn Foster Online High School after completing two years’ worth of coursework in just six months. “This has turned out really well for me; I'm pretty happy with my decision.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

FINDING THEMSELVES THROUGH FITNESS

Haley Adams walked through the congested hallways of her high school, clutching her textbooks as students streamed around her. She heard a low snicker to the side, and braced herself. A group of male students shot a string of questions her way.

“Do you even lift?”

“Are you going to the CrossFit Games?”

“They don’t mean it in a nice way, either,” Adams said.

One boy grabbed Adams’ bicep in mock awe.

“Girls aren’t supposed to have muscles,” he said.

Adams shrugged him off. The constant taunts about her chiseled arms and devotion to training at College Hill CrossFit in Greensboro, North Carolina, used to bother her. But not since she won the Teenage Girls 14-15 division of the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. After 10 months of CrossFit, she earned her spot in Carson, California, with two first-place finishes, never placing outside the top seven worldwide.

“Now that I’ve actually got that spot, (the insults) don’t matter anymore,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

TIA-CLAIR TOOMEY'S SECOND CHANCE

Tia-Clair Toomey never expected to podium at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games. Hell, she never expected to be there in 2015 in the first place.

“Next year was my goal,” the 22-year-old said.

But after taking third at the 2015 Pacific Regional—her second regional appearance—she reached her goal a year early, and by the start of the final Games event, Pedal to the Metal, just 21 points separated Toomey, in fourth, from fellow Aussie Kara Webb, in third. Even then, her sights weren’t set on a medal.

“All my focus was simply just to stay at that position,” she said. “I honestly never went into the Games thinking I was going to win.”

Imagine her surprise a few moments later in the tunnel when a Reebok staffer gave her the good news: she had risen to the second podium spot.

“I can't believe I was able to pull out second,” she said. “I'm still struck by it.”

Less than five months later, after Toomey helped the Pacific Team to a third-place finish at the 2015 CrossFit Invitational in Madrid, she lifted her way into the top qualifying spot for the 2016 Australian Olympic Team, snatching 83 kilos (182.9 lb.) and clean and jerking 111 kilos  (244.7 lb.) with a 58-kg bodyweight (127.8 lb.) at the Australian Open in December. This July, she hopes to compete at both the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games.

“I always wanted to go to the Olympics; it would be such an honor,” she said. “And to make the CrossFit Games (also) would be unreal...I would do anything to just be there for both of them.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

DUCT TAPE AND DETERMINATION

Last Friday night, thousands of CrossFit athletes across the globe gathered to compete in Open Workout 16.4. They loaded their barbells and adjusted their footstraps before facing the wall, arms up like crooks, to get measured for handstand push-ups.

Kelsey Whirley, a 20-year-old athlete from Hoosier CrossFit in Bloomington, Indiana, had a bit more to do. Perched upside down against the gym wall, her judge drew white boxes in chalk around each of Whirley’s hands. After, she wrapped her medicine ball in neon orange duct tape.

It wasn’t just for show. At 15, Whirley was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an incurable genetic disorder that causes retinal cell death, resulting in vision loss and eventual blindness. The markings on the floor showed Whirley where to put her hands, and tricking out the black and red medicine ball helped it stand out from the red target above.

The diagnosis ended an almost lifelong ambition to play professional basketball. But in CrossFit, Whirley said, she’s found new purpose and a potential career path.

“I had a huge hole in my heart from losing my dream of playing basketball,” she said. “I didn't think I would ever get over it, but CrossFit overflowed that empty space.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

fitness in the raw

It was overcast and about 50 degrees Fahrenheit—perfect burpee weather. Barni Böjte stepped outside and cranked his iPod to Stellar Revival, full blast. He introduced himself to the camera and dropped a thick Rogue bumper onto a clunky metal machine that looked more typewriter than scale.

“Exactly 20 kilos,” he said with satisfaction, adjusting the counterweight. A few moments later, his father called, “Három, kettő, egy megy”—“three, two one, go” in Hungarian—and Böjte lunged his way through the dirt and around discarded corn cobs holding 95 lb. overhead as he completed the first few reps of Open Workout 16.1.

“My first plan was to do one round every two minutes, and if I couldn’t hold that, really just don't die,” the 18-year-old said.

Clad in a Lacee Kovacs jersey replica, Böjte lunged the 25-foot course dividing piles of scrap wood and metal, capping each lap with eight burpees and eight chest-to-bar pull-ups. The dusty, uneven grass was marked with a white spray-painted line every five feet, and with each butterfly pull-up, the wooden masts of a homemade pull-up rig threatened to tear themselves from the side of the shed to which they were mounted.

When the time expired 20 minutes later, Böjte collapsed to the ground, 247 reps in the bank, wheezing as he shoved away the kisses of his small black dog, Malac (Hungarian for “pig”).

“The first 10 minutes were OK, but at the end, I almost died,” he said.

Böjte lives with his parents and baby sister in Sàrpatak, a small town cradled between the Transylvanian Alps and the Eastern Carpathians in the center of Romania. Though he lives almost 100 miles from the nearest CrossFit affiliate, that hasn’t stopped him from doing CrossFit—or competing in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. After discovering CrossFit online about two years ago, the teenager built a gym out of concrete and wood, and with a little determination, he plans on qualifying for the Meridian Regional one day.

“Next year,” he said, laughing. “Next year.”    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

AND FITNESS FOR LIFE

Last January, Daniel Casey became a CrossFit sensation. At a bodyweight of around 400 lb.—down from around 550 lb. after a year of CrossFit—he competed in the inaugural scaled option of the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, completing each of the five workouts for a 5,202nd-place finish in the Central East Region. His story inspired thousands across social media, many of whom contacted Casey and credited him with motivating them to join their local CrossFit affiliates.

It took courage for Casey to share his story. It felt like his first day of CrossFit all over again.

“When I first started, I was afraid to walk into the gym, thinking, ‘People are gonna look at me, people are gonna laugh at me …’ and that was just a gym in a relatively small city in a country area of Tennessee,” he recalled. “What happens when a picture of my 400-lb. butt doing a snatch, with my fricken stomach hanging out, goes worldwide?”

Before his story came out, he had a heart-to-heart with one of his coaches, Brett DeBruin, who lost 145 lb. doing CrossFit before becoming a coach at CrossFit East 10 in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Casey recalled DeBruin saying, "'You realize I’ve got people that come in here and they see my before and after picture and they’re like “Wow, if he can do it, I can do it … But that’s just a few people; you have the ability to send this whole thing worldwide … and you can't be worried about the people that are gonna hate on it."' And the massive outpouring of support just made it all worthwhile.”

The Open came and went, and CrossFit athletes went back to their daily lives. Casey went back to his, too. And while the Open is a time to celebrate our accomplishments, life is as much valleys as peaks, and Casey’s toughest tests were yet to come.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

AND FITNESS FOR ALL                                                                           

Just more than a year ago, Daniel Casey couldn’t find a scale that could weigh him.

Knowing he weighed more than 300 lb., the limit for most conventional scales, he tried the scale at the local fitness center in Johnson City, Tennessee. It bottomed out at 400 lb.

Local obesity clinics only had scales measuring up to 450 lb., so he went to Walmart. The manager led him through a set of double doors to the store’s warehouse shipping scale. Expecting to see a number around 500 lb., Casey blanched when the screen read 550 lb., flashed “error” and went dark.

“I walked in to CrossFit the next day and I went harder than I had ever done,” Casey recalled.

That day was in October of 2013. Casey joined CrossFit East 10 a few weeks prior, and his first workout—3 rounds of step-ups, wall push-ups and air squats to a bench—“completely destroyed” him, he said.

Today, 13 months later and around 150 lb. lighter, the 23-year-old is preparing to compete in the inaugural-scaled option of the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open.

“I can call myself an athlete now,” he said.    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

 

From Pirouettes to Pistols

Brooke Ence left behind a lifetime of dance to discover a new passion in CrossFit.

It was the ninth event of the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games, and Brooke Ence couldn't see. Competitors to each side sported sunglasses to block the California sun's piercing gaze; Ence, a rookie, had none.

Athletes had two 20-second windows to establish a max clean-and-jerk. In her first window, Ence put 227 pounds on the board. Feeling lightheaded as she locked out the weight, she was tempted to go for a more modest 235 pounds on her second attempt instead of the 242 pounds her coach, Michael Caza-youx, had prescribed. After all, she’d hit her lifetime PR of 245 pounds just two weeks prior, and that was without two days of CrossFit Games events beforehand.

She shook off her doubt. “I thought, Nope, he gave me that number for a reason,” Ence recounts. She loaded her bar with 242 pounds and asked to borrow her judge’s sunglasses. After a slight bounce to wind up her hamstrings, she pulled the weight and dropped in a squat, popping the barbell to regrip after she rose. Four seconds and one deep breath later, she dipped, drove and locked out the weight. Breaking into a grin before she’d even finished the lift, she slammed the bar to the ground and tore off her weight belt in celebration.

At 2 pounds more than four-time Games competitor Lindsey Valenzuela would lift, Ence’s score was good enough for first place. She went on to earn 14th overall in her debut Games appearance with two event wins and four top-10 finishes. 

“I’ve literally watched that video so many times because the clean is so sexy,” the 27-year-old says, laughing. “It was just gratifying, and it proves that I was at the Games because I was supposed to be there and I earned it. I’m just as good as anybody else.”    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

ONE HELL OF A COMEBACK

All three women on CrossFit Jääkarhu's team have faced afflictions that threatened to end their competitive careers, from heart and hip surgery to cancer, and nonetheless emerged not only unscathed but fit enough to qualify for the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games. 

While Ingrid Kantola's heart surgery happened years ago, Karen Pierce and Jessica Estrada returned to CrossFit training after chemotherapy and hip surgery, only a few months before the 2015 South Regional. 

"It has been a roller coaster, to say the least," Michael Winchester, the team coach and co-owner of the 8-month-old affiliate.    CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

THE WEIGHTLIFTER'S MINDSET

It was Saturday evening at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games as Lucas Parker prepared to take the platform for Clean and Jerk, and he had to pee.

“Dang, I just went to the bathroom like 30 seconds ago, why do I have to pee again?” he asked himself.

Though it was his fifth Games appearance and he was no weightlifting rookie—his 2013 British Columbia Provincial Championships snatch record of 132 kilos (290 lb.) still stands today—he felt jittery, his heart throbbing in his throat. He reminded himself this was a good thing.

“These are just the things that happen when you’re a caveman running away from a sabertooth tiger,” he said. “The fight or flight system is kicking in, and this is what I want.”

He took a deep breath and shook out his legs, adjusting his privates to get “loose and comfortable” as the countdown boomed throughout the tennis stadium:

Three, two, one, lift.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

DEADLIFTS OVER DEATH

It was June 19, 2013. The Tennessean air smelled of summer, and Jeff Goebel went to the lake. Along the way, he stopped for a fifth of Jack Daniels.

He’d just buried his deceased father’s best friend, Tim, a beloved mentor for the three decades since his father passed. Tim lost his battle with cancer two days before Father’s Day that year.

Goebel paid for the liquor and drove to the shore.

Driving, he replayed the bitter words exchanged with his daughter, just feet away from the freshly upturned dirt where he left Tim to rest. She no longer loved him, he thought, and that made two children lost.

Two days earlier marked what would have been the 17th birthday of Goebel’s son, Jake. A failed attempt to induce a high via partial self-asphyxiation ended Jake’s young life two and a half years prior.

 

Goebel parked his car and sailed his boat across the lake. After dropping the anchor, he unpacked the pills, pain medication to treat the spondylolisthesis in his back, remnant of an old military injury. Goebel hadn’t needed them since starting CrossFit in 2012, but still he filled the prescriptions, just in case.

 

He swallowed them all, chasing the pills with all 750 milliliters of the acrid spirits.

“The last thing I remember saying out loud was, ‘Take me home, I want to be with Jake,’” Goebel recalled.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

FAITH IN FITNESS

Dave Castro announced, seconds before the men took the floor for the last time at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games. “You will do 60 reps for time.” Dan Bailey smothered a grin. The first time he performed Grace (30 clean-and-jerks for time), he finished in 1:34. For Bailey, Double Grace was a welcome finish to a gnarly weekend. “I was pumped,” he told CrossFit Media after he won his heat to take third in the event. He caught the 135-pound barbell with shallow power cleans, driving without pause into snappy push jerks. He repped them out into metronomic singles, finishing in 5:09, the fastest time yet. 

In the final heat, Jason Khalipa beat Bailey’s time by 1.2 seconds. Rich Froning won the event in 5:05.6. “He’s tough to catch,” Bailey says now of the four-time CrossFit Games champion. Which is not to say that Bailey hasn’t been trying. In fact, he has been chasing the four-time Fittest Man on Earth since 2011, when Bailey took sixth at the Games. Since then, Bailey has bested Froning in nine Games events, but the podium has remained stubbornly just beyond reach, with Bailey scoring sixth-, eighth- and 10th-place finishes in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Froning’s retirement from individual competition following the 2014 Games means Bailey will never have the chance to share the podium with the champ. “But I never let that discourage me too much,” Bailey says.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

MORE THAN A GAMES ATHLETE

The air was cold as four-time CrossFit Games athlete Michelle Kinney and her girlfriend, Emily Schromm, stepped into a swaying gondola at Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado, snowboards tucked under their arms. It was late on a Sunday morning, yet the crowds were thin, and the dusty slopes in the distance promised a good powder day.

Two days earlier, Kinney hosted Open Workout 15.3 at her new affiliate, CrossFit Park Hill in Denver, where she moved to be closer to her girlfriend of a year. Sidelined from the 2015 season due to several injuries, ranging from torn labrums in her right hip and left shoulder to a partial tear in her left rotator cuff, Kinney clutched a judge’s clipboard as the clock counted down.

“I got chills as if I was about to do it, and then I had a reality check,” she said. “It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow.”

When the 14-minute AMRAP of muscle-ups, wall-ball shots and double-unders was over, Kinney signed off on Schromm’s 318 reps. Now, as the steel cable tugged the pair toward the white peaks of the Rockies, Kinney sipped coffee from a paper cup as she remembered the joy of cheering for her girlfriend.

“All my sadness from not competing goes away when I watch her,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

ELEVEN YEARS AFTER MOSUL

Maj. Scott Smiley had been in Iraq for only six months before he lost his vision.

Back then he was a first lieutenant with Alpha Company of the U.S. Army and led a 45-man, 4-Stryker vehicle platoon in Mosul, Iraq. Assigned to help secure and rebuild the city after the U.S.-led invasion, most of his time was spent training Iraqi police, and helping civilians by providing food, electricity and gasoline.

But on April 6, 2004, his unit was ordered to locate a vehicle loaded with explosives in the two-million-person city. The afternoon sun beat its 90-degree heat onto the Stryker that day as he wove through the dusty, unkept streets.

Near a small marketplace, he noticed a silver Opel sedan with its rear bumper strangely low to the ground.

“That could mean two things,” he explained. “It could be that the shocks and suspension are out or that there’s something heavy in there.”

With his Stryker parked 30 yards away from the sedan, Smiley went to the turret and told the driver to exit the vehicle. He watched as the driver raised his hands from the steering wheel and glanced over his shoulder before shaking his head.

Smiley repeated the command and watched as the driver shook his head once again before releasing the brake on the sedan and pulling forward. In response, Smiley fired two warning shots into the ground with his M4 rifle before it all went black.

The driver had set off the bomb, disintegrating the sedan and sending pieces of shrapnel through both of Smiley’s eyes, blinding him. One piece lodged in the left frontal lobe of his brain, and the other cut through his optic nerve.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

DANCING WITH (DIS)ABILITY

Sam Dancer held his breath as he watched his athlete, James, wrap his thumbs around the 45-pound barbell, settling into a partial squat. The heaviest thing James had ever held above his head was a PVC pipe, and the snatch is no novice’s movement.

Looking straight ahead, James inhaled and pulled. The weight floated upward; he caught it overhead and sank into a deep squat. After he dropped the bar, he gave Dancer a bone-shattering high-five.

“He did an Oly lift, and it blew me away,” Dancer said. “I can’t teach some 20-year-olds who have been playing sports their entire lives to snatch like that.”

James, 27, is a CrossFit athlete of about four months. He loves to deadlift, bench-press and jump rope, and he also has Down syndrome. Once a week, he trains with Dancer — who took 10th at the Central Regional this year — at QTown CrossFit, Dancer’s affiliate in Quincy, Illinois.

“I like CrossFit because I’m good,” James said. “I also have lots of friends here. But mostly because I’m good.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

MEMORIAL DAY MURPH AT 41 WEEKS

Steely gray clouds hung over CrossFit Praus, an affiliate nestled between a truck maintenance center and plumbing service shop in a dusty industrial lot on the outskirts of Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was Memorial Day, and Nicole Schwanz, 28, was on her final 800 meters of a half-“Murph.”

She had survived the first 800 meters, followed by 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups and 150 air squats. Now, as she strode along the sidewalk for the final leg, she felt a cramp in her abdomen. But Schwanz, a CrossFit athlete of two years, knew how to push through discomfort.

Shrugging off the dull ache, she finished at around the 42-minute mark. Less than two hours later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

SURVIVING THE IED

Army Combat Engineer Nick Koulchar was hit by an improvised explosive device when insurgents seized Sadir City in Iraq on Aug. 26, 2008.

He survived.

On the night of the explosion, Koulchar was providing cover from the roof of his truck while comrades scouted for bombs. Suddenly, everything went dark as a cloud of dust erupted around him.

He crashed to the center of the truck, legs collapsing beneath him.

“I’m thinking, ‘Damn, my legs are broke. Why does dumb stuff always happen to me?’” Koulchar said.

He urged his commander to tend to the driver, seriously injured and trapped behind the truck door, which was welded shut from the explosion’s heat. But as medics struggled to secure tourniquets to his bleeding legs, he realized just how bad it was.

“I remember the air was really cool, and I was staring at the stars and thinking to myself that I wasn’t gonna die,” he said. “I kept telling myself that my brother was not gonna bury me.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

THE WOMEN OF THE LIVESTREAM

At the 2014 Southern California Regional, cameras panned to Josh Bridges in Event 4. CrossFit fans all over the world watched as his chest hit the ground for his last 3 burpees before he screamed in triumph, taking the event record in 8:18.

But Bridges wasn’t the only one working that day. While he pumped out strict handstand push-ups, front squats and burpees, Kathy Elder stood in a production truck nearby, sipping her coffee as she called out commands.

The four women on her team carried out her every request.  

“We are the live stream team,” Elder explained. “What that means is when people sit down with their computers at home to watch the live stream … our team is making that whole thing happen.”  CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

PUNCH, SHOOT AND SNATCH

Frank Trigg’s heart hammered as he fled, sprinting as fast as his heavy boots and fatigues would allow. Bullets pelted the air to his side. He pulled his hat low to meet his sunglasses and returned fire, twisting sideways to aim his rifle at the cops to his left as he tore across the strip-mall lot.

He felt the shot before he heard it. His chest folded in as he flew backward into an 8-foot plate-glass window, landing lifelessly on a bed of glass shards in a small trinket shop.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

GREG PANORA

Greg Panora had it made.

An American record-holding powerlifter in the 242-pound weight class, he was living the life most lifters only dream of, training at Westside Barbell with legendary powerlifting coach Louie Simmons. But after suffering a major stroke at age 29, he felt lost — until he found CrossFit.

Panora started lifting weights to get better at sports. Throughout high school, he dabbled in shot put, wrestling, football and basketball, trying to find his place. But when he bench-pressed 405 pounds at age 16, he realized he’d already found it.

“I was better at lifting weights than any of the sports I was playing,” Panora said.

During his senior year in the small town of Stow, Massachusetts, Panora was recruited to play college football. But he had a dream to become a professional powerlifter. His dad told him to go to college instead.

So he went to the University of Maine, studying to become a high school history teacher. Though he continued to lift, breaking the junior world record at age 21 with a 940-pound squat, a 600-pound bench press and a 800-pound deadlift, four years in the classroom brought him down from the clouds. He resolved to join the ranks of the 9-to-5 working class.

Even after Simmons himself asked Panora when he planned to move to Columbus, Ohio, to train at Westside, Panora was unyielding.

“I’m ready for the next phase in my life,” he said.

“Well, if you want to be the best in the world, come see me,” Simmons said to Panora.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

FITTER AT 51: JERRY WILSON

Moments before the Leaderboard closed after the inaugural Masters Qualifier, Jerry Wilson poured himself a glass of scotch.

Though his wife and two adult children sat around the dinner table hitting “refresh” on their smartphones, Wilson couldn’t bring himself to look at the Leaderboard. He made that mistake last year, celebrating prematurely before watching his name fall to 21st place in the Masters Men 50-54 Division after the 2013 Open, just one place short of qualification for the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.

“I ran out of the house, yelling, ‘Honey, I think I’m gonna make it!’” Wilson recounted. “Then it jumped to 21st and I just sat at the computer and put my hands on my head. Refreshing didn’t help after that.”

But this time, his name stayed put when the minute turned over. Finishing in eighth place in his division, the CrossFit athlete of seven years is headed to Carson, California, for his CrossFit Games debut.

His drink lay forgotten on the table, ice melting in the glass.

“I was so excited,” he said. “I was running around like a little kid.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

COMPETING IN 270 SQUARE FEET

Though the temperature was only 30 degrees in West Lafayette, Ind., Erika Ugianskis cracked the window in her garage late Sunday morning. About to take on the brutish chipper of the fourth Open workout, she knew she’d be sweating soon enough.

She placed her iPod on its stand, flicking to her favorite Pandora station—a mix of Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia.  

There was no caution tape to hold back a throbbing crowd; indeed, there was no crowd at all as she pushed off for her first pull on the erg. A garage CrossFitter of six years, Ugianskis is used being her own cheerleader.

“I’m a very self-motivated individual,” she said. “I am my own fiercest competitor.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

FITTEST AT 15

She moved like a machine.

Wall-ball shots, power snatches, box-jump-overs, pull-ups … the movement didn’t matter. Each rep looked identical to the previous, and she only got faster as her rep count climbed. Her face a model of composure, she embraced victory after victory with quiet humility.

No, her name is not Julie Foucher. It’s Sydney Sullivan, and in the inaugural teen competition at the CrossFit Games, she won six out of seven events to take the gold in the Teen girls 14-15 division. She sealed the victory even before the competition ended, entering the final event with a 70-point lead over Megan Trupp, who placed second.

“It’s awesome; it’s really exciting,” Sydney, 15, said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

ALL IN: JOHN FORTUNE

While most of the small city of Geneva, Ohio slept, John Fortune pulled the last few strokes of a 10,000-m row. Moonlight streamed in from the bay doors of A-County CrossFit and glanced off the clock. It was just after 1 a.m. 

Working 60 hours per week as a firefighter and paramedic, running an affiliate and training for the 2014 Central East Regional, Fortune can’t afford to waste time on luxuries like sleep.

“My friends call me ‘Petri Dish,’” Fortune said. “They say I was genetically engineered because I don’t sleep and I’m so energetic.”

He kicked out of the straps and called it a night. Thankfully, his commute was short—the CrossFit athlete of just more than a year sleeps in a 12-by-12-foot, bare concrete room tucked behind his affiliate’s storage closet.

“I live in my box,” he said. “I put all my life savings in here, so when I say CrossFit is my life, literally, it’s my life.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

#NOOGASTRONG

On July 16, 2015, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire at two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor. Though Abdulazeez’s father had previously been investigated by the FBI and put on the terrorism watch list, he was later removed, and Abdulazeez, a former high school wrestler and promising electrical engineer, had an unblemished record.

The attacks shook the Hixson community, a quiet suburb in a town of less than 200,000 people.

“It’s the kind of place you can go next door and borrow eggs from your neighbor,” said Eric Griffith, a 41-year-old Chattanooga resident. “I can’t go to the grocery store without seeing six people I know.”

Griffith had been kayaking on the Tellico River the day of the attacks, darting across rolling rapids fed by a week’s worth of rain. Pausing in a quiet eddy, he flicked on talk radio to the tune of tragedy.

“It threw me instantly back to 9/11, me being at work and hearing the same radio chatter, not knowing what’s going on,” he said. “I just remember being in shock.”

On the drive home, his phone chirped with the sound of a new text message.

“What are we going to do?” it read.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON

It was a Monday when nearly 23,000 runners gathered for this year’s Boston Marathon. Just under five hours into the event, shouts of mid-race jubilation turned to cries of terror as explosions ransacked the finish line area. The blasts killed three people and injured over 170 others.  

Jennifer Murray, owner of CrossFit Justice in Milford, Mich., was half-a-block away from the site of the first explosion.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

JUSTIN BIEBER ('S SOUND GUY) TAKES ON THE OPEN

It’s been nine months since Arnie Hernandez has seen the inside of his home box, CrossFit VTG. Days off don’t come easy when you’re the head sound guy for Justin Bieber’s world tour.

Each week, the 41-year-old roadie completes the Open Workout in a different box

“Some will have nice equipment, some are more stripped down, but the vibe in each is the same,” he says. “A common thread is the hospitality that they’ve all shown to me as a foreigner.”

Although he lives on a bus, he never misses a workout, carrying a barbell and plates with him on the road. On days off, he drops in at a local affiliate. On show night, he works out while the band warms up.

“When the opening acts are setting up, I’ll pull out my barbell,” he says. “While they’re doing the sound check, I’m at the front of house, squatting.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

RECOLETA GOES BIG, FAST

A peculiar sight stood out among the stray dogs and unmarked vans surrounding the grounds of the Chimkowe Event Center: a bright green double-decker filled most of the Peñalolén street.

The bus’s exterior read BIGG on the Road to Regionals, and inside were 70 members of BIGG CrossFit Recoleta holding drums and flags in their laps as they finished their 26-hour journey from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to support their regional team BIGG Friends.

“Every achievement we make is important, but the most important thing is to prove we’re a big family,” said affiliate owner Ignacio Alsogaray.

Dancing and singing in the stands, the family celebrated all weekend long as though the three-day regional competition was the CrossFit Games.

“We came to Chile to be in the top three … but we never thought we were gonna make it (to the Games),” Alsogaray said.

But the 9-month-old affiliate exceeded its own expectations. When the weekend ended, their team stood at the top of the podium as Latin America’s sole representative at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

BIGG Friends placed in the top five in the majority of the events, including three first-place finishes. But two low finishes nearly let another team pass them in the overall standings. On the final day of the regional, BIGG Friends and CrossFit SP Hulks had to fight for the top spot, and BIGG Friends came out ahead by just 1 point.

“When (the results) were official … it was like pure joy,” said team captain Titus Thut. “It’s like a dream coming true.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

FIT TO TEACH

At 16 years old, Meredith Davis (then Wittman) was strong.

A ballerina of 12 years, her thick, sinewy thighs propelled her nimbly across the floor as music swelled overhead. Her back muscles rippling as she extended in a graceful arch, she looked to her instructors for approval.

“‘Your legs look like tree trunks,’” Davis quoted her teacher. “‘You should stretch them out a bit, because we don’t want to look like that.’”

The callous remark was the prelude to a 10-year battle with distorted body image and eating disorders. But when CrossFit taught Davis to love PRs more than pants size, she ended the war and took up a cause. The dancer-turned-science-teacher would use CrossFit to forge an army of fit educators—the role models she never had.

“It’s important as an educator to set a positive example,” she said. “Your body is meant to do things. It’s not just meant to hold clothing or to look a certain way.”

 CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

REIGN ENDER

Orlando Trejo was the Rich Froning of Latin America.

The region’s Open and regional victor for two years, it seemed Trejo’s reign might last forever. But when he took second to Leonidas Jenkins in the Open this year, fans wondered: Could Trejo be defeated?

Conor Murphy and Joel Bran, last year’s second- and third-place regional finishers, were the favorites to take Trejo’s place. Newcomer Mark Desin also looked to make an impression after taking third in the Open this year.

But when the Leaderboard shifted for the last time in Santiago, Chile, a new name held the top spot: Emmanuel Maldonado, of CrossFit SJU in Puerto Rico.

He took the podium quietly, earning the sole qualifying spot without winning a single event. Finishing in the top 10 in all but one event, he proved his fitness with consistency.

As Maldonado looked into the stands from his perch atop the podium, he was just as surprised by his victory as the crowd was.

“I was expecting to be in the top 10, but it was more than a shock to win,” the 24-year-old said. “It was an awesome feeling.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

THE MAN WHO CHALLENGED FRONING

“In every workout, I’m looking to beat him,” Scott Panchik said of three-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning.

Before Nasty Girls V2 at the 2014 Central East Regional, commentator Bill Grundler guessed the race would come down to the pistols. But in the end, it came down to an un-prescribed push press.

Through the three rounds, Froning and Panchik were never more than a few reps apart. Froning was faster on the pistols, but Panchik made up for it on the hang power cleans. In the final round, the men met on the mat for the last 10 hang power cleans. Panchik caught up with Froning and they finished their final rep in unison.

While Panchik tossed the barbell to the ground, and paused before jumping over the bouncing bar, Froning popped the barbell over his head to step onto the finish mat a fraction of a second before Panchik.

“That’s why he’s the champ,” Panchik said with a laugh. “Only Rich would think to throw it over his head.”

Froning won the regional, as expected, but he seemed to have a true challenger. Panchik forced Froning to go faster than he wanted, and repeatedly forced the judges to pick a winner based on fractions of a second.

“It’s always a good feeling to look over and see him next to you,” Panchik said. “It tells you that you’re doing something right.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Robert Caslin was about 100 meters away from the shore at Lake Monona when he heard a sputtering scream about 20 meters behind him.

“Help! Help! I’m drowning!”

Caslin—a two-time CrossFit Games athlete in the Masters 60+ Division—had to make a decision: Keep moving and leave it to someone else to come to the rescue, or turn back and throw away his first score of the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

*Please note: All scores are unofficial pending video-review process, which will be complete on Oct. 16.

The 2017 CrossFit Team Series, presented by Compex, is done—and the streak is over.

For the last three years, 2015 CrossFit Games champion Ben Smith has been on the Series’s winning team, with six-time Games veteran Scott Panchik at his side for two of the three.

Though Smith and Panchik looked poised to continue the tradition as a duo, finishing Week 1 in the top spot for male pairs, the Reebok legacy came to an end on Monday night when team Training Think Tank—composed of four-time Games veterans Noah Ohlsen and Travis Mayer—bested team Reebok Legacy by 7 points to win the division. Training Think Tank earned the win with five top-five finishes across the eight workouts.

“No matter who it's against, it always feels good to win,” Ohlsen said via email Tuesday night.

In the female-pair division, the Dottirs reigned supreme. Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir—both consecutive, two-time CrossFit Games champions—surprised nobody with their victory, taking first place with three wins and six top-three finishes.

Similarly, Team XPN World (Alex Vigneault and Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault) maintained its Week 1 lead to finish the Series at the top of the mixed-pair division, winning four workouts and notching seven top-three finishes along the way.  

In addition to bragging rights, the winning team in each division will take home a bounty of US$10,000.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Week 1 of the fourth annual CrossFit Team Series, presented by Compex, is done.

Like last year, teams had five days to complete four, separately scored workouts. Unlike last year, teams were comprised of two athletes instead of four, and competed in one of three separate divisions: male, female or mixed.

Though the teams look a little different this year, the leaderboard after Week 1 is topped with familiar names: Leading the men’s division is Reebok Legacy, comprised of 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games champion and nine-time Games veteran Ben Smith and six-time Games veteran Scott Panchik.

Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir lead the female division, at the same time making Team Series history as the first team comprised entirely of CrossFit Games champions—and back-to-back ones at that (Thorisdottir won the Games in 2011 and 2012; Davidsdottir took the title in 2015 and 2016).

Holding the top spot for the mixed division is Team XPN World, represented by Alex Vigneault and Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault, two- and three-time CrossFit Games athletes, respectively.

All athletes belonging to the top three teams of each division have competed at the CrossFit Games, with the exception of Caroline Dardini, partner to Alec Smith on Team Winter Is Coming, which currently holds third in the mixed division.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

It’s been two years since Angelo DiCicco’s seen the view from the top of the podium, and he says it still feels just as sweet.

“It’s kind of an old and new feeling,” said DiCicco, the winner of the Boys 16-17 Division, who returns to the podium after winning the 14-15 Division in 2015 and taking third in the older age group last year.

“But you don’t remember it … it feels kind of cool and after that it’s back to normal,” he continued, after sealing the top spot with an event win in Final Couplet, his fourth win of the week.

In a fitting display of dominance—he trains at CrossFit Mayhem, home of four-time CrossFit Games champion, Rich Froning—DiCicco earned the gold with four event wins and eight top-three finishes, ending the competition with a 106-point lead over Guilherme Malheiros, who took second.

He gave a nod to the Mayhem crew for teaching him the focus of a champion; little did he know he was a similar source of inspiration for Dallin Pepper, the rookie champion of the Boys 14-15 Division.

“I saw the Games in 2015; saw Angelo DiCicco and Nick Paladino (the 2015 and 2016 Boys 16-17 champion) and I’m like, ‘Man that's cool,’” Pepper recalled.

The competitive baseball player—Pepper plays catcher—started CrossFit in January of 2016, and now, just a year and a half later, he matched DiCicco’s event win tally of four to win the 14-15 Division. Pepper earned his first CrossFit Games championship with 68 points more than Amir Fahmy, who took silver.

“It's a dream come true, and just knowing that hard work will always pay off is super cool,” Pepper said.

While the Girls 14-15 Division saw three new podium names—Chloe Smith, Devyn Kim and Ellie Kerstetter each took home medals—the 16-17 Division sported a familiar look: Its top two finishers—Kaela Stephano and Haley Adams—finished in the exact same positions last year in the 14-15 Division.

“It feels amazing. I just can’t believe it,” Stephano said after clinching gold.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

It’s after midnight, and John Lynch is in the emergency room. One patient needs to be intubated. Another won’t stop bleeding. An ambulance carrying another patient is just minutes away.

In moments like these, Lynch draws on his CrossFit training.

“It’s really similar,” the 45-year-old masters athlete said after taking fifth in Vest Triplet Saturday afternoon. “It’s the same type of high-intensity environment, (expecting) the unexpected—and you know that sometimes you want to quit but you know you can’t; you just put your head down and you do it.”

Lynch, sixth in the Masters Men 45-49 Division after six events, is just one of dozens of CrossFit masters athletes juggling families and careers alongside their training. It’s a lifestyle that requires a delicate balance and unyielding commitment, said Masters Women 50-54 athlete Leka Fineman.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

Just because you didn’t qualify for the CrossFit Games doesn’t mean you can’t work out while you're there.

The Sport of Fitness is known for having the fittest fans, and Games week is no exception. From official Fittest Fan workouts—like the Bike Event or Run Swim Run, wherein fans can experience the same pain Games competitors endured during Thursday’s events—to open gym-style sessions at the Age Group Pavilion, spectators can get their swole on between heats of their favorite CrossFit Games athletes.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

FIRST-PLACE FRASER

Mat Fraser hates second place.

“Fuck second place,” he said in “Fittest On Earth,” a CrossFit documentary about the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games, directed by Heber Cannon, Marston Sawyers and Ian Wittenber. “You’re the fucking winner of losers.”

Though he had been in the lead going into Event 8 (the Soccer Chipper) at the Games last year, failure on the legless rope climbs after fatiguing from the 100-foot, 560-lb. Pig flip resulted in a devastating tie for 32nd in the event—which Ben Smith won— and proved to be more lost ground than Fraser could make up. For the second year, Fraser earned silver at the Games.

“I just remember going back to the athlete area to an empty room and it just being like a devastating feeling,” he said in the documentary. “I wanted the Games to finish surrounded by friends and family; hugs, everyone happy, but it was the exact opposite. I finished it by myself in an empty room with nothing but disappointment.”

Ten months later, at the East Regional in Albany, New York, first place was still on his mind.

“(After) training all year round to be the best, anything less than that is a disappointment,” he said.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

matter of the mind

Sometimes the best perspective comes from a stint in the stands.

Sheila Barden and Jennifer Smith will return to the Games after a year—two, for Smith—of being on the outside looking in. Both athletes missed qualification in 2015 by just one spot, while Smith missed by two in 2014. And for both women, it was a mindset metamorphosis that brought them back to the top.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

THE PROFESSOR'S GRADUATION

At the West Regional, Brent Fikowski took almost 4 seconds to walk the 10 feet between his barbell and the finish mat after Event 6’s last 225-lb. overhead squat. He could’ve taken 17 seconds longer and still won the event; his leisurely finish at 10:06.74 also swiped the event record from Noah Ohlsen, who finished almost 4 seconds slower.

Fikowski let the weight bounce once on the floor, looking left and right before stepping to the mat, pounding his chest twice above his heart. He walked with the assurance of an athlete who knew he couldn’t be caught—and he wouldn’t be. The 25-year-old accountant won the West Regional by a margin of 70 points, taking two event wins, five top-three finishes and never placing outside the top seven.

“It was a surreal ride; a perfect mix of complete relaxation and total focus,” he wrote on social media Monday night.

Though he’ll be a rookie in Carson, his Games qualification was years in the making. After starting CrossFit in 2012, he took sixth in his first regional appearance in 2013 at the Australia Regional. He hovered near qualification for the next two years, taking third in Canada West in 2014 and seventh in the West in 2015, coming within 1 and 2 points of qualification each year, respectively.

“I try not to look back on it with too much anger or resentment or regret,” he said. “It's not healthy, and that sort of mindset would impact the rest of my life, and I think it would maybe impact my performance as well.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

NEW FACES IN THE SOUTH 

Like an encore one year later, two-time Games athlete Roy Gamboa and 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet reprised their 2015 roles as regional victors with top podium finishes in the South Regional last weekend.

What wasn’t as set in stone was which individuals would take the other eight tickets to Carson. All weekend, second through fifth place on both the men’s and women’s leaderboards jumped around like popcorn, and when the dust settled, six rookies earned their first tickets to Carson.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY 

bIG WAVES IN THE PACIFIC

While one hemisphere of the CrossFit world slept, the Pacific Regional crowned its fittest athletes, the five women, men and teams that will represent Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Asia in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games. It was no surprise that veterans like four- and five-time Games athletes Kara Webb and Rob Forte reclaimed top qualifying spots; what made the biggest waves in the Pacific was the fact that 50 percent of the individual qualifiers are rookies.   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

CENTRAL EAST UPDATE DAY 1

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio]

Fifth Third Arena is big. But not big enough to hide the elephant in the room: For the first time since 2010, only three men will qualify for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games out of the Central East Regional.

Three years ago, Rich Froning and Graham Holmberg pre-qualified for the 2011 Games, leaving the top three regional spots for Dan Bailey, Joseph Weigel and Nick Urankar.

After 2010 and 2011 champions Holmberg and Froning each qualified alongside Bailey in 2012, Scott Panchik and Marcus Hendren claimed the two additional spots. The two former champs did it again in 2013, sending another total of five men to the Games last year.

The women of the Central East tell a similar story, as three-time CrossFit Games athlete Julie Foucher returns after a year focusing on medical school to compete against 2013 qualifiers Jennifer Smith, Lindy Barber and fellow three-time Games competitor, Michelle Kinney.

Grab the (Paleo) popcorn.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL EAST TEAM REPORT DAY 1

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio]

The Central East’s got new digs.

After three years calling the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus home, the Central East Regional has moved more than 100 miles southwest to the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena, home of the Cincinnati Bearcats volleyball and basketball teams.

With 360-degree stadium seating, there’s room for hundreds to scrutinize Rich Froning’s hang snatch from every angle. And if anyone managed to find a bad seat, they could just look to the live broadcast on the jumbotron suspended above the heads of the fittest in the Central East.

“It’s a lot bigger, and very nice and professional,” said Angela Satterfield from her perch in one of the arena’s upper balconies. “We’ve got great seats. We’re looking forward to watching everyone from up here.”

The teams of the Central East were the first to break in the new regional floor.

Only three of the top ten regional teams from 2013 were seeded in the top ten going into the weekend this year: CrossFit Naptown, CrossFit Maximus and CrossFit Mayhem.

The latter two teams each vie for a return trip to the CrossFit Games, while CrossFit Naptown will attempt to atone for a narrow miss -- the team placed fourth by just two points after the final event last year.

But this year, there’s a new team at the top: CrossFit Conjugate Black.

The worldwide winner of the 2014 Open, CrossFit Conjugate Black is composed of six competitors who qualified as individuals for the Central East Regional. Though the affiliate sent a team to the regional in 2013, the team has a new roster and numbers to stand on, after taking three first-place finishes in the Open this year.

And for CrossFit Conjugate Black, winning seems to be a trend, taking first place in the first three events of the weekend.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL EAST UPDATE DAY 2

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio}

Though Fifth Third Arena was packed with more than 4,100 bodies for the day’s events, a chill swept through arena this afternoon.

It was only partially the breeze; the main cause of goosebumps was Day 2 fever. The welcome party is over and it was time to get serious.

On both the men’s and women’s sides, past CrossFit Games athletes began the second day of competition uncomfortably far from the podium. While Marcus Hendren, Graham Holmberg and Michelle Kinney went into Events 4 and 5 less than 10 points away from third place overall, 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games athletes Jennifer Smith and Lindy Barber would have to claw their way through 19- and 20-point gaps over two events to end Day 2 in podium contention.

“Today, shit happened,” Barber wrote in a post on social media Friday night. “But tomorrow is a new day. A brand new day and a fresh start that I can't wait to have. I learned last week from Stacie Tovar that if I'm not smiling, I'm not having fun. So tomorrow I promise I will keep smiling and keep winking.”

And though the strict handstand push-ups and legless rope climbs of the day’s two events favored experienced veterans, the crowd would leave Fifth Third Arena with new names on its radar.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL EAST TEAM REPORT DAY 2

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio]

Yesterday, team CrossFit Conjugate Black became the Rich Froning of the team competition, turning a 30-team event into a one-team show. The team went three for three on event wins on Day 1, snagging an event record (in Event 2) to boot. 

With muscle-ups, heavy barbells and handstand walks in first three events, the Cincinnati team left no doubt that it’s built of athletes who each have the skills and the strength to hold their own as individuals -- in fact, if CrossFit Conjugate Black teammate Sam Dancer had been competing as an individual, he would have taken home an event record with his 295-lb. hang squat snatch. 

Today, the hometown powerhouse had to prove that they’re not just six talented CrossFit athletes in matching neon shorts, but that they have the savvy to negotiate the floor as one team.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL EAST UPDATE DAY 3

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio]

Two years ago, Rich Froning and Julie Foucher claimed the top podium spots at the 2012 Central East Regional. Today, the duo brought us back in time, re-creating their 2012 finishes with top spots in 2014.

For Froning, 2014 marks his third consecutive regional win.

"It's hard fought. Gets harder and harder every year,” Froning said.

Though Central East fans never tire of watching the champ do his champion thing—like taking five first-place finishes and one event record across seven events—on the men’s side, the 2014 Central East Regional was all about Scott Panchik.

In his second successive silver-medal finish, Panchik finished his third regional with one tie for first and three second-place finishes. With 10 points between him and Froning, it’s the closest anyone has come to touching the champ since Dan Bailey took second place in 2012.

A new face will join veterans at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games. In his second regional appearance, Will Moorad placed third, edging out Graham Holmberg by just one point.

On the women’s side, Julie Foucher makes her triumphant return. After a year spending more time in the library than the gym, she reclaimed her top spot with 14 points and four first-place finishes across seven events.

In second place, newcomer Nicole Holcomb from CrossFit 812 will make her debut at the CrossFit Games in California, alongside veteran Michelle Kinney, who edged out Alyssa Ritchey by a threadbare three-point margin.

“It's another dream come true,” Kinney said.” I really value going to the Games so much, so every trip out there is a complete blessing and I just cherish every moment."  

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL EAST TEAM REPORT DAY 3

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Central East Regional—Cincinnati, Ohio]

At the start of the season the Director of the CrossFit Games, Dave Castro, said that the Open was designed to determine the fittest.

The Open seems to have done its job.

After eight regional events, the teams representing the Central East Region at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games are the region’s top teams in the Open, CrossFit Conjugate Black (21 points), CrossFit NapTown Blue (46 points) and CrossFit Maximus (48 points).

"It's still in that point that it's hard to put words to it,” said CrossFit Conjugate Black teammate Hunter Britt. “We hoped for it, but now it's actually happened so it's pretty nice."

The podium finish came as sweet relief for CrossFit NapTown Blue, who missed qualification last year by two points.

CrossFit NapTown Blue teammate Peter Brasovan described the feeling as "incredible, incredible absolutely,” after the team secured their first trip to the Games.

With a barrier of just seven points between CrossFit Maximus and fourth-place team SPC CrossFit before the final event, CrossFit Maximus can finally relax, now that they hold their ticket to Carson.

"I kinda feel relieved,” said teammate Jennifer Bradford. “We had so many ups and downs this week, so I'm kinda relieved right now and pretty excited."  

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA TEAM REPORT DAY 1

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

Latin America is done playing kid brother.

As the stands in the Chimkowe Event Center in Santiago, Chile, trembled under the weight of scores of bellowing spectators—and one small drum corps—it was clear CrossFit is fully-grown below the equator.

Just five years ago, you could count the number of Latin American affiliates on one hand. Today, the region boasts nearly 500 from more than 17 nations.

Some athletes, like Reebok CrossFit St. Thomas teammate Jessie Murphy, traveled thousands of miles to compete with the fittest in Latin America. She spent an entire night on a plane two days before Day 1, stretching her hamstrings with a mobility band at the airport gate.

Murphy said “mobilization, Tiger Balm and Z-Quil” was her strategy for staying fresh during the 10-hour flight.

As the region has grown, so has the competition. Only nine teams competed at the 2012 Regional in Cali, Colombia; this weekend, 26 will vie for the podium.

For the past two years, Team CrossFit 7 Mile has dominated the regional competition, not only winning the single team spot at both the 2012 and 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, but also taking first place in 12 out of 13 combined regional events for those years.

However, the powerhouse from the Cayman Islands disbanded this year, leaving one question in its wake: Which team will be the next to represent Latin America in Carson, California?

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA UPDATE DAY 1

[2104 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

This morning, team BIGG Friends from Argentina took Latin America by surprise with two event wins to start the day.

But after teams and individuals swapped places on the competition floor, all eyes were on former two-time South West Regional competitor Leonidas Jenkins of CrossFit Coco Beach in Costa Rica, the first-place finisher in the Open in Latin America this year.

After placing 14th in the South West Regional last year, Jenkins became the first man since 2012 to best two-time CrossFit Games competitor Orlando Trejo in the Open. Ten points separated Jenkins from Trejo, who finished the Open in second place.

However, fans should soak in the spectacle while they can.

Jenkins, a former wrestler, triathlete and mixed-martial artist said his first year as an individual in his new region might also be his last.

“I have been competing in individual sports my entire life,” Jenkins, 31, said. “I have never been a member of a team, really, and if I compete again I would like to be able to share the experience with other people.”

The afternoon began with heavy load overhead.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA TEAM REPORT DAY 2

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

The party came back to the Chimkowe Event Center on Day 2.

CrossFit BIGG and CrossFit Tuluka brought back the drums, and a legion of giant purple flags to accompany them. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the stands, fans of CrossFit BEF waved a 10-foot banner to support their team.

With muscle-ups, handstand walks and strict handstand push-ups required of teams within the first two days of competition, this year’s regional events send a single message, loud and clear: the fittest teams of 2014 will be the most well-rounded.

But stellar skills are just the foundation. Brawn is just a tool; it’s brains that wield it.

Events 4 and 5 forced teams work as single entities, two athletes becoming a human squat rack while a third worked in the couplet of thrusters and rope ascents.

Event 6 was all about strategy—was it better to complete all the reps, or get the best-penalized time?   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA UPDATE DAY 2

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Though legless rope climbs have appeared in CrossFit.com WODs and videos dating as far back as 2009, new CrossFit athletes may not have considered them until the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Event, Legless.

The event rewarded athletes who took note last July and took to the rope over the year. Those who dismissed Legless as a stand-alone event or parlor trick only performed on the big stage at the Games, paid the price for their disregard.

But first, athletes had to prove that CrossFit is about more than kipping.

In the descending triplet of handstand push-ups, front squats and burpees, the handstand push-ups had to be performed strict.  CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA TEAM REPORT DAY 3

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

Latin America will send one family to represent nearly 500 affiliates at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games: the BIGG Friends family.

Named after Bigg CrossFit Recoleta’s foundersIgnacio Alsogaray and Barbara Mazzoni—team BIGG Friends sealed its spot at the CrossFit Games with 39 points after eight events, one-point less than second-place finishers, SP CrossFit Hulks Team.

Though Bigg CrossFit Recoleta has only been open a year-and-a-half, its team finished in the top 10 in seven events, including two first-place finishes in Events 2 and 3.

“We are really happy,” said team member Nacho Perillo. “We (made) a great effort. This is our first competition, and we (showed) to all that the sacrifice (was) rewarding.”

The team’s fans, clad in white capes reading “BIGG,” erupted in song after the team tied CrossFit SP Hulks Team for second in Event 8 and taking first overall: “No puedo parar este sentimiento (I can’t stop this feeling) … ole, ole, ole!”

The win meant just as much to the team’s community of support as it did to the athletes on the floor.

“We are really excited about going to (the) Games,” said a fan and member of the affiliate. “We are really close as a community, that's (why we are called) ‘BIGG Friends.’ To us, athletes are everything.”   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

LATIN AMERICA UPDATE DAY 3

[2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Latin America Regional—Santiago, Chile]

An epoch has ended in Latin America, as two-time CrossFit Games athlete, Orlando Trejo, will not return to Carson, California this year.

Emmanuel Maldonado, of CrossFit SJU in Puerto Rico, will take his place as the sole representative of the region at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

“I've been training a lot for this regional in order to be strong,” said the 24-year-old victor. “I left home, my box, my community (and) Puerto Rico, and I came here to give my best.”

After beginning CrossFit in 2012, Maldonado took seventh place in his first regional appearance in 2013, finishing two events in the top 10.

This weekend, however, he only fell outside the top 10 once. Though he did not win any events, his victory proved consistency and well roundedness trumps all.

“I’m ready to represent Latin America,” Maldonado said.

Trejo’s fate was all but sealed at the end of Day 2.

After a 42nd-place finish in the Event 5—10 rounds of legless rope climbs and sprints—he began the final day of competition in seventh place overall with a 28-point barrier between him and the podium.

“You can't know how your body is going to react,” Trejo said after all was said and done. “You don't know for sure when you are going to feel great or not. For me, this was the year that I failed. But I will keep moving forward, training and training. And I'm really glad because everyone has improved a lot and that's the most important thing.”

On the women’s side, Wanda Brenton can now call herself an individual CrossFit Games competitor. This will be her first year going to the Games without the aid of her team, CrossFit 7 Mile.

The overall winner with 23 points, Brenton took home three event wins and two second-place finishes over the seven regional events.

“I've gone on a team to the Games already, but I really, really wanted to try this as an individual,” Brenton said, “so I'm very excited. I'm gonna have a lot of work to do!”

“I started in 2010, and at that time there were four or five girls competing … so to see that (growth), it’s incredible,” Brenton added. “This was a great experience.”

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH TEAM REPORT DAY 1

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

Two years after the first CrossFit Games on the Ranch in Aromas, California, the regional was born. The regional model has evolved over the years, but with few changes as notable as what happened this season. Now the top athletes from two or more regions combine at the regional level to compete for the five qualifying spots to the CrossFit Games.

“I think it’s really cool,” said spectator Angela Falcone. “Our region is the South Central, and we’re excited to see those people be pushed by people like Camille (Leblanc-Bazinet).”  

This weekend, South Central, South West and Latin America athletes gather at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, to form the South Regional, and the teams were the first to hit the floor. Of 39 teams, six of last year’s qualifiers vie for return trips to Carson, California. Only five will go and each wants the top spot.

Defending first-place South West team CrossFit The Club is out to prove its seventh-place finish at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games was no fluke, while team OPEX Red, a new force from the South West, made a statement with its eighth-place worldwide Open finish. But if they want gold, both teams will have to get past Ute CrossFit.

The Salt Lake City affiliate has sent a team to the CrossFit Games every year from 2009 to 2013. In 2013, it qualified two teams—Hack’s Pack and the Ute All-Stars—with Hack’s Pack winning the Affiliate Cup for the second consecutive year. The pack split last year and affiliate owner Tommy Hackenbruck took sixth as an individual in his sixth Games appearance. This weekend, the team returns to reclaim the podium. Though only two original teammates remain—Hackenbruck and Taylor Richards-Lindsay—Hack’s Pack “2.0” is stacked with experienced Games athletes as well as top regional-level competitors.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 1

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

Dallas looked a little like Carson, California, on Day 1 of the South Regional, as CrossFit Games athletes from across three regions made their first match at the regional competition.

Joining 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet are two-time Games athletes Margaux Alvarez, Amanda Goodman and Tiffany Hendrickson. Three-time Games athlete Jenn Jones is also out to prove she can keep her stake on the top spot even in the company of a champion.

“It doesn’t matter who is going to be there from an (athlete’s) perspective,” Jones said before the competition. “We all go out there and lay what we have on the line … (Leblanc-Bazinet) is just another one of the many great athletes that this sport has cultivated.”

Challenging the veterans are two fresh faces: former gymnast Alexis Johnson who finished the Open in 29th place worldwide, and 18-year-old Maddy Myers who’s a member of Team USA Weightlifting’s Junior World Championship team and Junior American record holder in the women’s 58-kg weight class. Myers took 32nd place worldwide in the Open.

On the men’s side, just three 2014 Games qualifiers return to compete in the regional triumvirate, making room for up-and-comer Travis Williams and former Ute CrossFit team member Adrian Conway.

In a trade of CrossFit Games legends, six-time Games athlete Matt Chan follows a near-fatal mountain biking accident in 2014 with an attempt to match Chris Spealler’s seven-time Games career. Spealler, however, kept his promise to retire when he signed off in 2014.

“There is a part of me that wishes I was still out there,” Spealler said in the days before the regional. “(But) the time I've had to spend with my family and dedicate toward other things has also been a good and needed change.”

To test the toughest athletes, the day began with the toughest test: a full day of Heroes.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH TEAM REPORT DAY 2

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

Teams began the day with a sprint to nowhere, as female/male pairs took on a couplet of running and wall-ball shots. It has been three seasons since we last saw running programmed at the regional level, with team athletes asked to run 0.5, 0.4 or 0.3 miles on the TrueForm Runner, a curved treadmill with no motor or flywheel.

With no help to move the belt, athletes had to find a pace that allowed them to keep momentum without burning out. Athletes who got gassed on the run were forced to break up their wall-ball shots, causing a bottleneck as the following teammate waited on the treadmill, unable to advance.

The first team to finish within the 20-minute time cap came from the second heat, Latin America’s CrossFit Moema, but the biggest noise came from CrossFit The Club. Though The Club began the day outside of a qualifying position in seventh overall, the team was able to jump three positions to fourth overall with a single event win. The win added 100 points to its total, which bumped them 1 point ahead of OPEX Red. With a time of 17:34.9, The Club broke the event record of 17:45.4 set by RAW Training at the Atlantic Regional earlier today.

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 2

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

If the CrossFit world forgot about Roy Gamboa when he left Carson, California, in 2013 with a 22nd-place finish, it got a crash-course refresher after Day 1 of the 2015 South Regional.

With second- and first-place finishes in the first two events, Gamboa showed that while the competition may have forgotten about him, he hasn’t forgotten about the competition.

While Games athletes Patrick Burke and Jeff Germond were within striking range of qualifying positions, in sixth and ninth places, celebrated veteran Matt Chan began Day 2 in a hole after 14th- and 20th-place finishes in Events 1 and 2.

On the women’s side, the race remained tight between 2014 Games champ Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and two-time Games athlete Margaux Alvarez. At the end of the day, the two women switched places on the overall leaderboard leaving Leblanc-Bazinet at the top and Alvarez in second, 33 points behind.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH TEAM REPORT DAY 3

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

It was standing room only on the final day at the 2015 South Regional. Six people deep, fans pressed against the rails on all sides of the competition floor this morning to see which team would be named the South’s fittest—Kevin Ogar among them.

“It’s fun to pick out the athletes from my region and see how everyone stands up against each other,” Ogar said. “I used to only be able to watch athletes from other regions on the ‘Update’ show. It brings up the level of competition quite a bit.”

CrossFit HQ’s Tommy Marquez knew the answer a week ago when he predicted the 2012 and 2013 Affiliate Cup champion team Ute CrossFit would take the top spot.

The team did not disappoint. After seven regional events, the teams that will represent the South Regional at the Games are Ute CrossFit, CrossFit Lubbock, OPEX Red, Backcountry Black and CrossFit Jääkarhu.

“We’re going to the Games, bro!” Jacob Hutton of Ute CrossFit exclaimed. “Leading into this competition we didn’t train together as much as we would have liked, but we have good relationships and we work well together as a team. We are looking forward to buckling down and working together going in to the Games.”

For CrossFit Jääkarhu and CrossFit Lubbock, it will be their first Games appearances.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Nick Shelton of CrossFit Lubbock said. “We all knew we had the potential to do it.

“This is everything,” Ingrid Kantola of CrossFit Jääkarhu said. “We have an amazing coach that has coached many regional teams before us. … We have had a huge year, we have opened gyms, beat cancer and now made it to the Games. We are so excited to start training for the Games.”   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

SOUTH INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 3

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional—Dallas, Texas]

One year ago, Roy Gamboa missed qualification for what would have been his second Games appearance by just 1 point. Today he qualified for the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games with 99 points to spare.

“It took a very long year of training, but it sure tastes good now,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa, a former collegiate linebacker and current coach at CrossFit Abilene in Abilene, Texas, took the top spot with two event wins and one second-place finish. Across seven events, he never fell below the top 10.

Taking fourth in the South, CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff member Adrian Conway finished with 518 points. Thirty-one points separated him from Jordan Cook, who took third, while just 4 points made the difference between Cook and Travis Williams in second. Chad Cole took the final qualifying spot with 478 points.

In his first CrossFit Games appearance, Cole will compete alongside his father, Dennis Cole who qualified for the Games in the Masters 50-54 Division.

"It's overwhelming,” Cole said. “You put so much into it, it's been a year in the making. To finally be here, to make it—it's overwhelming.”

On the women’s side, the top four qualifiers are all returning Games athletes, beginning with the 2014 defending champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet with 650 points. She took home two first- and three second-place finishes, never placing below the top five.

Following her were Margaux Alvarez in second (572 points), Amanda Goodman in third (557 points) and Jenn Jones in fourth (539 points). The fifth and final qualifying spot went to newcomer Maddy Myers with 478 points.

Just 18 years old, Myers, a former competitive rock climber and weightlifter, has been doing CrossFit for a year-and-a-half. Not only was this weekend her first regional, this Open was also her first and in July, she’ll compete at her first CrossFit Games.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Myers said.

“The goal was to have fun and finish all five weeks,” she added. “I never imagined the day I would be competing with so many respected Games athletes, including the fittest woman on Earth, would come this quickly in my CrossFit journey.”   CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

CENTRAL TEAM REPORT DAY 1

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Central Regional—Minneapolis, Minnesota]

Far beneath the city streets in the core of the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Midwest’s fittest teams came together to compete.

All but one of last year’s Games teams from the Central East and North Central Regions have returned to fight for another trip to Carson. Missing from the lineup was CrossFit Conjugate Black; the team that took second at the 2014 Games disbanded after one year, sending three of its teammates—including Sam Dancer—to compete individually this weekend.

CrossFit Mayhem Freedom, the team led by four-time fittest man on Earth Rich Froning, enters the competition as the heir apparent for the top of the podium.

However, the event wins didn’t fall where expected today. Both events went to a little-known team from Davenport, Iowa. In its sixth regional competition, Team Rollins - QCCF racked up 200 points on Day 1 and set an Event 2 record to boot.    CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 1

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Central Regional—Minneapolis, Minnesota]

After two weeks of combined regional competition, we’ve seen the difference a little integration can make. Last week, perennial Games competitors Valerie Voboril, Josh Bridges and Brandon Swan failed to qualify out of the California and Pacific Regionals. Christy Adkins missed what would have been her seventh trip to the Games the week before that.

Scott Panchik and eight other men who have qualified for the Games in past years will contend for five Games-qualifying spots this weekend. Though famed as the only man to challenge Rich Froning at the Central East Regional last year, Panchik was confident the champ’s absence wouldn’t mitigate his drive.

“One workout at a time with one goal in mind: make it back to the Games,” Panchik said before the regional. “I try not to think about one person, because when you do someone else starts creeping up on you.”

The women’s division is complete with Games veterans, rookies, last chances and dreams of redemption. Julie Foucher has never finished the Games outside of the top 5, and says this will be her last season in the sport before she turns her full attention to her medical career. Stacie Tovar, fresh off a year absence from the Games after a five-year run, is determined to not let that happen again.

“Although it was very upsetting not making it to the Games last year, it was definitely a turning point for me,” Tovar said. “I've done everything I can to make it back to the Games. Nothing would make me happier than to be standing on top of the podium at the end of the regional weekend.”    CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 2

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Central Regional—Minneapolis, Minnesota]

Foucher has been known to excel at the long, grueling events. Anything that Dave Castro programs to be almost unfinishable, one can look to Foucher to get it done.

Like Froning, Foucher has mastered the pacing. She keeps it at a slow burn and moves past her competitors as they flame out.

From the very start, Foucher seemed restrained. She held the same relaxed jog throughout the 1-mile run and seemed unfazed by Anna Rode, Brooke Wells, and Grace Dresher’s advancement to the overhead squats ahead of her.

Once Foucher got to the barbell, she completed one and a half 95-lb. overhead squats for every one of her peers’.

Dresher clung to her lead with rapid-fire GHD sit-ups and little rest, but burned out considerably with 30 reps to go. Foucher quietly moved into the lead, with her final sit-ups at the same pace as her first.

At the top of each rep, she let herself slowly fall backward, using the momentum of her fall to bounce straight back up. She lifted herself off the cushions of the GHD every 5 to 10 reps presumably to give her midline a break.

Foucher could not be caught through the double-unders or sumo deadlift high pulls, though Wells tried, attempting to string her high pulls into twos and threes. But after getting no-repped for lack of extension, Wells sat in a squat, forced to rest and re-evaluate her plan.

The crowd cheered when Foucher approached her box. Finally, she stepped on the accelerator, bouncing swiftly from one side of her box to the other and rebounding into the next rep.

But 30 reps in, a phantom road block rose up to meet her, and she stumbled on the edge of her box. The crowd did not understand why she stopped jumping, reaching for her judge with a pleading glance.

“Something felt like it snapped, and I (couldn’t) really jump off of it,” she said.   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL TEAM REPORT DAY 3

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Central Regional—Minneapolis, Minnesota]

After three days and seven events, the team with a champion became the champion team. Never finishing outside of the top 10, CrossFit Mayhem Freedom took the top podium spot with four event finishes within the top-three, including one event record. 

“Everybody fought,” Rich Froning said. “I'm proud of everyone.”

In its third regional appearance, CrossFit 417 held onto second place overall for all three days of competition. With one event win and two second-place finishes, the Missourian team earned its debut in Carson.

Seth Connelly of CrossFit 417 said qualifying felt “amazing.” 

The final three qualifying spots went to returning Games teams CrossFit Maximus, CrossFit Kilo and CrossFit Grandview. The victory was sweet for Grandview, which hasn’t sent a team to the Games since 2012. 

“All this hard work finally paid off,” said Grandview’s Joey Tortora. “We came in here, we fought back. We knew we were going to get stronger going into these later workouts; we executed it like we were supposed to.”   CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT

CENTRAL INDIVIDUAL REPORT DAY 3

[2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Central Regional—Minneapolis, Minnesota]

A veteran and a rookie stood atop the men’s and women’s podiums at the end of the Central Regional.

Though 2014 Games competitor Jacob Heppner commanded the top spot for most of the weekend, it was three-time Games athlete Scott Panchik who won gold. Though he did not win a single event, Panchik never finished outside of the top 10.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Panchik said.

Rookie qualifier Alex Anderson, 2011 Games competitor Nick Urankar, and six-time Games competitor Graham Holmberg rounded out the top 5.

For Urankar, the reward is sweet after missing qualification for the last three years.

“This was going to be it,” Urankar said. “If I didn’t make it, my wife told me on the way here, ‘If you don’t make it, you’re done.’ I thought I was done after Event 3, but I guess you’re never really done until you decide you are, and I just didn’t decide to be.”

Nineteen-year-old Brooke Wells won the women’s division with five placings within the top 4, including one event win.

“It's crazy,” Wells said. “I honestly came here for the experience, and after the second day I was like, ‘Wow, I want to have fun and win.’”

Wells was joined on the podium by four veterans. Nicole Holcomb, Stacie Tovar, Elisabeth Akinwale and Lindy Barber will return to the Games. For Tovar and Barber, who missed qualification in 2014, this is their reward for a long year of training.

“Words can’t express the way I feel right now,” Tovar said. “I’m so happy … I’m so excited to see what can happen this Games season.”

“It means everything,” Barber added. “This year has almost been a hellacious year of training ... last year at regionals was really, really hard for me. But I used it as fuel to relax, reset, (and) refocus my training ... and it's all paid off.”

Akinwale, who has a history of earning the top spot on the regional podium, said she was “pretty happy” to take fourth in the competitive combined regional.

“It’s stunningly different,” Akinwale said. “Sometimes it's hard to know if it's you that is different or just the competition. I knew coming in that I’d possibly be taking a few low finishes, which is different from prior years … so emotionally and psychologically, it’s very tiring. I guess I never thought I'd be happy to take fourth, but I'm pretty happy.”  

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT