You’ve heard of Shark Week, right? Well, it’s FRONING WEEK here at Barbell Shrugged. We’ll be bringing you some of our favorite moments spent hanging out, talking and training with The Champ over the past four years, and it all starts with this story.
We had the pleasure of lifting barbells and eating donuts (Yes, donuts!) with Rich just before his 3-peat performance at the 2014 Crossfit Games. During these sessions I had the chance to watch him program, warm-up, do work, flow and recover with relative ease. It was enlightening, to say the least.
Overall, if I had to sum it all up with just one word, it would actually be PLAY. I hope you enjoy the story.
I never pictured myself in such an unflattering situation.
There I was, shirtless, staring down and mean-mugging another shirtless man. The situation itself wasn’t all that unusual. After all, I’ve been in a few fights in my time. Whether they’ve occurred on the street, or on a playing field, apparel is usually one of the first casualties. I should also add that this wasn’t really a fight at all. I was in front of a video camera filming a spoof intro for TV show. So, no, this wasn’t much of a fight or flight moment.
I should also add that the other shirtless man wasn’t just your average dude. He happened to be, quite literally, the fittest man in the world. Rich Froning, Crossfit Games legend.
Mano a Mano…With donuts.
If I could go back in time and share this bit of news with my teenage chubby self, he would be absolutely mortified by my actions and poor decision making. I can easily imagine a fiery response along the lines of, “You did what? But, why? He’s gotta a six-pack!? Great.” To which my current form would respond, “Young Chris, trust me, people are going to love this!”
We arrived at Rich’s garage gym at about ten o‘clock or so in the morning. His hometown, Cookeville, is about four and a half hours east of Memphis. You could feel the whole garage buzzing and humming with motion upon approach. Walking inside, there was Rich, hustling through what might have already been his second tough training session of the day.
The workout was a combination of push presses and fast meters on the standing ski-erg machine. I must have seen him go five or six rounds without a break, but there’s no telling how much work was done before we arrived. He welcomed us between ski strokes. “Hey, ‘sup guys? Come on in.”
What was far more memorable than that WOD was his recovery from it. I turned away from a huffing, completely sweat drenched Rich to chat briefly with one of the other guys training that day. We couldn’t have shared more than a few lines, really. Just as I turn back around a few minutes later, I notice a completely calm, dry, at ease Rich casually walking across the gym, stacking plates and cleaning up his mess. In just a few minutes, he seemed to have completely recovered.
Rich, immediately following a WOD 🙂
This incredible capacity is what allows the guy to then go for a quick run, which could easily be a few miles, then he completes a few more workouts after that! The schedule seemed punishing. That actually was the topic of one of my questions to Rich later on in our interview.
“Oh, it’s definitely tough. I just don’t think people realize what kind of challenge it is.”
“Oh yeah? What do folks say?”
“Well, there are a lot of people who think they would be great too if all they had to do during the day was train. But they don’t realize that I’m out here all day, from eight or nine in the morning, all the way to five or six o’clock at night. It’s not easy. It’s a full-time job.”
Hey, I will be completely honest. Having never met Rich prior, I was guilty of some assumptions. First, the line about training full-time has crossed my mind a time or two. But I will say, that’s completely out of jealousy.
There it is, I’m a jealous man.
Second, I might have been a bit skeptical of his good guy persona. It’s hard not to do so when someone has had so much success so quickly. But I must say I was completely impressed with Rich’s presence and his attitude towards the people in the room. It was evident that he had a very clear vision of where he needed to go, and what he needed to do to get there.
On land, in water. It doesn’t matter. Rich is Rich.
My assumptions remind me of a very old Indian proverb about a few blind men who were sent to examine an elephant, all to the King’s amusement. One man grabbed the tusks, one each took the trunk and tail, and the last guy rubbed his hands against the animal’s side. The men were then asked by the King, “Well then, what sort of animal is an elephant?”
The men replied that the elephant was, “Like a plow, or a granary, or a brush, or perhaps a mortar.” The men then did as men do when they can’t let themselves agree on anything…they fight over silly shit that doesn’t really matter. But I can at least understand the assumptions they were making after experiencing just one side of the elephant. It’s the kind of thing you believe after looking at a person only through a few dozen sponsorship and endorsement filters. You’re just not seeing the whole picture. You’ll never quite appreciate it fully.
Listen, you can fight all you want, but nothing’s ever going to run towards you until you unclench the fists and let go of that urge. You have to be OK with what you are, where you stand. In the face of everything that’s challenging you, judging you, holding you back, or whispering in your ear about how you’re really not good enough. You have to remain as you are. You have to remain appreciative of how far you’ve come in order to get to where you’d like to go.
I won’t bullshit you. Even if you do manage to remain present and patient as your capabilities improve, there’s no guarantee that you will ever be half as fit as the champ. But fortunately, for all of us, that’s of little consequence. You’ll still be aware, happy, balanced, and more successful. That’s not a bad deal.
This story first appeared in Way Past Strong. Read more…
Maybe you first have to be willing to grab every part of the elephant, so to speak, before you can move along. Take the time.
In the end, the highlight of the day came as Rich and I were wrapping up that intro video shoot. Just at the peak of the scene we each dramatically raised a giant butterscotch glazed donut and took a giant bite, not unlike something you would see in a professional wrestling match. We finished our pastry, chasing it down with a carton of whole milk. And there it is – The Champ, less than a week away from defending his title yet again, taking the time for a goofy moment and to enjoy a donut after yet another workout.
Call it Ying and Yang in action.