On July 31, 2015, Lindsay and I sat down and watched something called the CrossFit Games on ESPN. The next day we went to CrossFit Ignis, met Kelli and Chris, signed up for OnRamp and I’ve been an addict ever since. A guy named Ben Smith won the CrossFit Games that year. The winner of the Games earns the title, The Fittest on Earth. So cool. Smith is one of only 3 guys to hold the title, Fittest Man on Earth, in the last 9 years. Only 3 different winners in 9 years. Smith only won once. The winner of the four CrossFit Games post-Smith’s victory…Mat Fraser. The winner of the four CrossFit Games pre-Smith…Rich Froning.
Froning is, by far, the most popular CrossFit athlete. Arguably, he is the greatest CrossFit athlete of all-time. In my book, there is no argument. He is G.O.A.T. The guy has his own documentary, Froning: Fittest Man in History. I’ve watched it countless times. He’s been to the CrossFit Games 10 times in his career. Five appearances as an individual. Five appearances as a team (CrossFit Mayhem Freedom). In those 10 appearances, he has 8 first place finishes and 2 second place finishes.
His home is Cookeville, Tennessee. He is the owner of CrossFit Mayhem. Athletes from all over the world have moved there to train with and around him. In fact, the reigning fittest man on Earth (Mat Fraser) and fittest woman on Earth (Tia-Clair Toomey) reside in Cookeville. Mat moved there from Vermont. Tia from Australia. Sara Sigmundsdottir moved from Iceland and trained there for a year. Haley Adams, the Fittest Teen on Earth, moved from North Carolina to Cookeville. She has enrolled in college there and trains with Rich and his team daily. These are the fittest athletes in the world, but there is something about Froning that people gravitate towards.
Froning has parlayed his success and popularity into a brand. He hosts weekend experiences for CrossFit athletes known as Train with Rich. He has hosted 17 of these events. All 17 have sold out and they aren’t cheap. For my 40th birthday present, Lindsay surprised me with a ticket. I was going to Train with Rich!
It’s funny because when I started CrossFit, I knew nothing of Froning. His days of an individual athlete were already over, but it didn’t take long for me to hear his name. Then I did my homework. I’ve watched all of his old Games performances. Several times. I became an expert in all things Froning. So when I received this gift, I was beyond excited!
The weekend of July 10-12, I attended Train with Rich 17. To say the least, it was amazing! Allow me over the next few minutes to share my experience.
The setup: Friday evening, A full day on Saturday, Sunday through lunch
Workouts: 8 grueling CrossFit WODs in a span of less than 48 hours
Professional athletes in attendance: Team Mayhem Freedom: Rich Froning, Scott Panchik, Chyna Cho, Tasia Percevecz. As well as: Haley Adams, Kristin Milller, Elly Kabboord, Taylor Streid, Carol-Ann Reason Thibault, Samuel Cournoyer, plus a cameo from Tia-Clair Toomey.
If you’re interested in the WOD details, this next section is for you. If not, skip feel free to skip ahead.
Teams of 2
– 90 strict handstand push-ups (split between partners)
– 30 synchronized bar muscle ups
– 30/24 cal row (each partner)
– 30/24 cal bike erg (each partner)
– 60 DB squat snatches (75/50) (split between partners)
* 5 min rest then REPEAT
WOD 2: 9:30am (At “the pond”)
– 30 min AMRAP
– 400m run
– 50 air squats
– 150m swim
WOD 3: 11:30am
– 3 Rounds for Time
– 5 legless rope climbs
– 50 GHD sit-ups
– 150 ft handstand walk
WOD 4: 3pm
– 2 Rounds for Time
– 50 Wallball shots (20/14)
– 100 double unders
– 25 thrusters (95/65)
– 100 double unders
WOD 5: 4pm
– 4 person teams
– 2 Rounds for Time
– 50 cal assault bike per teammate
– 60 yard lunge with 500# worm on
WOD 6: Noon
– 10min AMRAP
– 3, 6, 9, …ascending by 3
– Sandbag cleans (150/100)
– Box jump overs (24/20) (jump over the box, no touch on top of box)
10 min rest
WOD 7: 12:20pm
– 10 min AMRAP
– 3, 6, 9…ascending by 3
– DB bench press (70/50)
– Strict pull-ups
10 min rest
WOD 8: 12:40pm
– 10min AMRAP
– 3, 6, 9…ascending by 3
– Squat snatch (135/95)
– Toes to bar (double reps – 6,12,18…)
Upon arrival, I met other participants from literally all over the country. States represented include: Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Texas, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and probably some others. We were all there for one thing, to train with Rich. The workouts didn’t disappoint. They were intense to say the least. True to CrossFit, athletes could scale appropriately. Athletes were able to work the same muscle groups, but with movements or weights they could handle, which allowed them to get the same stimulus, just on their level.
As far as Rich and the pros working out, I haven’t seen anything like it. So fast. So efficient. So strong. Beyond impressive. Greater than that, the pros would finish, walk around, encourage and cheer lead. Despite their lofty status as professional athletes, they are just regular people. Except fitter then you could ever imagine.
Saturday morning, we started at Rich’s parents farm, where it all began. From his training sessions in that barn, to his swims in the pond. A cool tour, but even better…a swim WOD in the pond was on tap for us that morning. One problem, I’m an average swimmer at best. Probably a novice. Chyna Cho, a member of Mayhem Freedom, the reigning Fittest Team on Earth, gave me some tips and a game plan for that Saturday morning swim WOD. That was super cool. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. Immediately after the WOD, she came to find me and asked how it worked out. She legitimately became excited for me when I shared my score with her. A couple high fives later and we were chatting it up the rest of the weekend.
Speaking of interaction, most of you know faith is one of my pillars in life. Faith is a core value at CrossFit Mayhem and for most of their athletes too. I was able to spend a few minutes talking to Rich and then Scott Panchik about faith. However, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time talking faith with Tasia Percevecz. I was just impressed with their openness and willingness to engage in actual conversations with others. It didn’t have to be about fitness. It could be, but they wanted to get to know you. Really impressive.
We also had two Q&A sessions over the course of the weekend and a Sunday morning devotional. In the Q&A’s, we could ask Rich and any of the other professional athletes anything. Common themes that continued to rise to the surface in nearly every answer: faith and willingness to sacrifice for one another. Each member of the team spoke of how they work harder for each other than they do for themselves. If it was just an individual workout, maybe they would slow down, take more rests or lose focus, but because the other 3 are depending on them they are willing to suffer in ways most wouldn’t. That is the Mayhem Mindset.
Panchik, who is known as Mr Consistency because of his top 10 finishes at The Games annually, spoke of how he has become fitter since joining the Mayhem Freedom team. Again, another testament to Rich and his training methods. Speaking of Rich’s training, he trains 6 hours a day 6 days a week. The team takes a rest day on Sunday, but Rich uses that as a cardio day. Zero days off for the champ because that’s what works best for his body. On Sunday, I was having a conversation with Haley Adams and ask her to compare their daily training versus the actual CrossFit Games. Her reply, “our training not only prepares you for the Games, it’s harder.” As a result, this teenage lady finished 6th overall at the 2019 CrossFit Games. A feat that had never been accomplished prior to her. Which brings me back to Rich. In his documentary it is said of him, “No one has figured out how to beat him because they haven’t figured out how to out train him.”
As far as the team, they are just good people who happen to be fitter than 99.9% of the people in the world. Rich stated CrossFit Mayhem’s core values all weekend: faith, family, fitness, service. It was evident.
There was also another guest with us the entire weekend. Soon to be CrossFit CEO, Eric Roza. He participated not only in the Q&A, but worked out with us the entire weekend. The future of CrossFit is in good hands. This guy is impressive. He has a vision and big plans. I’ll let Roza share those with the community when he officially takes over as CEO.
On Sunday, Rich and the team stayed around until all athletes got all the individual pictures that they wanted. I was able to share that experience with my family, as Lindsay and the kids came down with me on Sunday. All in all, this was and will likely be the greatest CrossFit experience of my life. Thankful for the experience. Thankful for the memories. Grateful for a loving wife and the best birthday present of my life!