Future Games Competitor

Johnnie,

As a future Games competitor, I wanted your opinion on how many days do you think I should do Crossfit Football. I train in a garage in Florida and I want to show the world, that although affiliates are GREAT, you can get it done in your garage WITH ONLY CROSSFIT PROGRAMMING. I currently follow main site but I want to get much stronger so I just want your opinion.

Sherman


Sherman,

I think your best bet is to train hard, train smart, be consistent and be ready for the competition when it presents itself. With that said, I think (and I could be wrong, I usually am) the days of the average person coming out of nowhere to win the CrossFit Games is behind us. There is too much money, too many great athletes and too much exposure to CrossFit for someone to be able to win the Games without special programming and an athletic pedigree.

I am the last one to stomp on someone's dreams but lets break it down.

To be a competitive CrossFit athlete you have to have a big engine, incredible physical capacity and almost a uncanny ability to recover. You have to be strong enough to make everything look easy, but not too strong that it skews the balance. I would say 5'7"- 5'10", 165-185 lbs is about the build, with a 250 lbs clean, over body weight snatch, 400 lbs squat, 500 lbs deadlift and 50+ pull ups. You need to be 800 meters fast, not 100 meter fast. Do you know the difference? A elite 100 meter sprinter can hold top speed for 10-11 seconds and then they shut it down. You need a sprinter that hold top speed in the 800 meters. And a nice skill set that allows you to handle anything from swimming to basic gymnastics moves.

Everything is measurable. There are dozens of benchmark workouts to measure yourself against. There are 5 years of CrossFit games workouts to perform and times to beat. If you are not competitive with the best CrossFitters in the world, what are you going to do increase your chances? If the best in the world can do a workout in 3 minutes and you are at 12 minutes, how competitive can you be?

This is similar to Olympic weightlifting. If you are an Olympic weightlifter with the goal of making the Olympics, you can look at the totals of the world's best and see how you stack up. If you are 100 kilos behind the top guy in your weight class, are you realistically going to make the Olympics? No. You hit some local meets, tell some lies and compete in your sport. Most people have no concept of how cold and hard professional sports are. There is no thought of feelings or self-esteem, it is based solely on can and can not...win or lose.

And when you can no longer compete at a high level you are cast off to the island of misfit toys.

Most of the top CrossFit athletes have done something in their past that required a high level of capacity, daily training and freaky genetics. Whether it be track, wrestling, football, swimming, NSW, rugby or gymnastics, many of these athletes were athletes before CrossFit decided to test for the "fittest man/woman in the world."

Next, can you survive the training? The volume of training needed to be competitive is extremely high. If you can't survive the training, you might never get the chance to compete.

And lastly, can you suffer? Physically and mentally? Can you go to that uncomfortable place, turn your brain off and just go?

If you answered yes to these questions, and are competitive in your lifts and numbers, keep training and don't lose sight of your goal.

John

John

John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and creator of Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year starter in the National Football League and NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early and retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL and other professional and Olympic athletes. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete and the CrossFit Speciality Seminar: Sports Specific Application. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie or at Power Athlete.

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Posted in Talk to Me Johnnie, Training | Tagged , , | 43 Comments

43 Responses to Future Games Competitor

  1. Matt S

    Thank god someone finally said this. Too many dip shits with 225# squats talking about making the 2012 games.

    John, love your programming.

    Swartz

  2. Couldn’t agree more with this post. My only experience with a legit games competitor was Becky Conzelman. Becky trained at my gym and it was impressive to watch her day in and day out. She was a former olympic level cyclist and brought a lot to the table when she walked through the door. She busted her ass every workout and was able to answer yes to these questions and be competitive. However, her willingness to suffer and just take it was what impressed me the most. She was a bull.

    I wish Sherman the best.

  3. Good honest post John. I’ve competed in 3 Crossfit comps and I’m most likely done. The effort needed to prep for one is pretty fucked up and the 4-5 events in one day just wrecks you. It’s a bucket list thing.

    Sherman, I wish you all the best. But you should realize that the top athletes aren’t doing “random, constantly varied”. Most of them are using a periodized macro, meso,micro set up to build and taper for the games. They are drilling skills and not just bashing away at themselves every day, redlining every workout. It’s a high stakes game and they treat it like so. If you don’t know how to program a year long program, get a solid coach who does. You’ll be glad you did.

  4. Heavy Evy

    Why would any one want to run 800m………….uggghhh. I break into a pretty vomitess walk after about 400m.

  5. So, if we’re going to be real about this, to compete at the top level in the CrossFit Games essentially means not doing CrossFit as it was originally conceived & defined. This isn’t a criticism as much as it’s openly acknowledging that things like periodization and non-randomized programming works. I’ve heard the opposite from various people in the CF organization and I disagree with them.

  6. craig descoteaux

    how about the height and weight for women?
    thank you for the insight and coaching John. I took your cert a while back, and we have kids loving the program.

  7. Rob

    Crossfit = gateway drug

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  9. freddy c._one world

    I’ve been through two Games seasons now with my girlfriend, Chyna Cho. Though she didn’t qualify last year (due to the stupid tiebreaker rule), I can attest to everything John is saying because I’ve seen it all. The ups the downs. The good days and the bad. John is totally right. It isn’t just physical (2+ hours of training a day six days a week). It is just as much mental. Just like there are only a few blessed subjects in the world who play professional sports, there are only a few peeps in all the CrossFit world who have what it takes to compete in the Games at a high level.

    Keep your dream Sherman. Hopefully you got what it takes, but you are going to need solid programming to get there. BTW- Anyone in the Games who says they are doing only “CrossFit” to be at the top of the pack is likely sponsored by Reebok.

  10. CHYNA CHO

    AMAZING ARTICLE JOHN. I DON’T THINK ANYONE COULD HAVE SAID THIS BETTER THAN YOU JUST DID. BADASS.

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  12. Chad

    How do we know that Sherman isn’t a BAMF with a 500 lbs squat, a 2 minute 800m, and a double bodyweight clean and jerk? How do we know that Sherman’s times are not competitive?

    No offense John, but unless you know Sherman personally, from the way this reads, it seems like you’re assuming and inferring alot here. And while pro sports may be cold and hard, Crossfit is far from a pro sport. Heck, it’s not even as competitive as some college, minor, and junior leagues. (the OHL jumps to mind)

    I know a Force guy who did Fran in 2 minutes his first attempt, finished the last pullup, and when someone shouted out his time, he asked, “is that good or bad?” He also runs 3 miles in under 15 minutes while smoking, I kid you not.

    Not every genetic freak is playing pro sports, and some of these guys just come out of the woodwork.

    I think the better message here would’ve been that if you are training for a competition, you must first learn the difference between competing and training. Not every workout has to be a max out, balls to the wall competition. Furthermore, when you know your event date, periodization wins over randomized workouts.

    Sherman, look at the what the top guys are doing, and copy it. Anyone saying they do nothing but the main site WOD is full of it. Mikko is a great example, the guy does a ton of strength and endurance work, and does not do the main site WOD every day. Same thing goes for Josh Everett. Good luck with your goals, and good luck with your training!

  13. alex@oneworld

    Oh Chad
    I’m one hundred percent sure that Sherman is not squatting 500 lbs and running 800 meters in 2 minutes (if he had a double body weight clean and jerk no coach in their right mind would ever let them run 800m at that 2 minute pace you assume exists) and that force guy that looked at you after a 2 minute fran has weaknesses like all other competitors. So the message here was right on and usually is Chad……. to get to this dance you need a whole lot of purposeful training, a whole lot of knowledge to get you there, and some gnarly determination with freaky athletic prowless. So copying what other people are doing as you suggest to follow Mikko and Everett, isn’t gonna benefit you as much as working on your specific weaknesses, while increasing your strengths. The message was clear in my mind, it takes more than this perceived notion that you can just will yourself there…. the true test is the 364 days of what more did you do than the other guy to deserve that reservation to carson city. To say that getting to Carson CIty isn’t competitive, clearly shows the lack of understanding and poor preparation scheme on your part Chad, read the article again you might think twice about what you wrote on here. Nice article as usual John,

  14. alex@oneworld

    Oh Chad
    I’m one hundred percent sure that Sherman is not squatting 500 lbs and running 800 meters in 2 minutes (if he had a double body weight clean and jerk no coach in their right mind would ever let them run 800m at that 2 minute pace you assume exists) and that force guy that looked at you after a 2 minute fran has weaknesses like all other competitors. So the message here was right on and usually is Chad……. to get to this dance you need a whole lot of purposeful training, a whole lot of knowledge to get you there, and some gnarly determination with freaky athletic prowless. So copying what other people are doing as you suggest to follow Mikko and Everett, isn’t gonna benefit you as much as working on your specific weaknesses, while increasing your strengths. The message was clear in my mind, it takes more than this perceived notionment

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  16. Daz

    Great article,
    100% correct. The more exposure I get to elite athletes [of different sports] the more i realise its less about the training and more about the individual. Just like NFL linemen & Rugby Props, they are born not made. CrossFit Games competitors are the same. I don’t think CrossFit is making them, they are testing them.

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  18. I really like this line:
    “And when you can no longer compete at a high level you are cast off to the island of misfit toys.”

    Along with the lines preceding it, for that matter. This is not Field of Dreams or Remember the Titans or Invincible. It’s a bottom line business. Pay to play. The finish line and point totals don’t care about your struggles, the work you’ve done, or how far you’ve come. Despite what mythology tells us, inspirational speeches don’t win games.

    This isn’t to discount anyone’s guts-out and emotionally fulfilling training. Far from it. I love being around technically average athletes who work their asses off day-in, day-out, without any expectation for glory or extrinsic reward. There’s a lot of transference to battling it out in the tedium and trenches of regular life in that mentality. I see mediocrity more as a state-of-mind than anything else; mediocrity implies a casual indifference towards performance, and it’s worth fighting against. But if you expect material payoff for what you’re doing, or think that it’s only worth training hard everyday because you might get the equivalent of a gold star at the end of it, you’re hosed.

  19. Sherman

    Thanks for the insight John! I’m continuting to train hard and I dont have a 500lb squat or 2 min 800m….lol. I will continue to train hard and hopefully I can compete with the best soon. I hope to make the Football Cert in Tampa if possible.

  20. Chad,

    Did you read the question at the top of the picture? And I amazed that you took this article so personally, not sure if this hit too close to home.

    If he had a 500 lbs back squat as a CrossFit athlete he wouldn’t have told me “I want to get much stronger,” as how many CrossFitters do you know with a 500 lbs back squat? And if he had a 500 lbs back squat he would not be asking me how many days he should follow CFFB, as he already knows how to train. You just don’t happen to stumble upon a 500 lbs back squat like a lost penny outside the supermarket. And I assumed Sherman did not have a 500lbs back squat as he follows only CF.com programming exclusively. To squat 500 lbs you have to put into some serious strength work squatting 2-3 times a week and you won’t get that on CF.com.

    True not every genetic freak is playing pro sports. But is damn hard to play in the NFL without freaky talent. Whether it be size, speed, reaction, intelligence, desire or accuracy or some other trait that is coveted in football. Average people do not just win a contest to play in the NFL. Even Vince Papale was a gifted athlete and pretty good sized. He attended St. Joe’s on a track scholarship and pole vaulted 14’6″ to win the USAT&F championship as a junior. Yes, I met Vince several times while playing for the birds.

    And to direct someone to look at the top guys and copy what they do is the worst advice I have ever heard. The only time that ever made sense was coming out of AJ Robert’s mouth. AJ holds the WR in the 308 lbs in powerlifting. He told me that if he wanted to get better he would just do what the guy who was stronger that him did. But it only makes sense in an environment like WSB, but not here.

    Every person who has ever picked up a weight or challenged someone in a foot race has strengths and weaknesses. You have to address your weakness but not the determents of your strengths. Your strengths are what make you, you and never abandon who you are as an person or athlete.

  21. EJ

    Kudos to Chad for having the stones to throw himself out there like that. I think it’s going to be tough coming out of nowhere to even make the Finals, but it’s a hell of a story and a lofty goal. I’d love to hear about the “The guy from his garage” because I’m that guy too.

    At the end of the day it’s about having a good time, pushing yourself and doing hard shit. You’re always going to be limited by what God gave you, so push yourself as hard as possible and see what you’re made of.

    I do agree with John about copying the best athletes because everyone has weaknesses. While it might appear that they just focus on their strengths, I can assure you they spend plenty of time trying to improve.

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  23. Rob

    Sherman,

    Go for it. A guy named Jesse Disch(sp?) has been doing mainpage Crossfit by himself in his garage for years and he qualified this past year. Jeff and Charity Vale do the same and are in that top percentile.

    I’m of the opinion that its not so much the programming but the mindset of the individual that ultimately makes the difference. John pointed that out by asking if you could ‘go to that place’. Only you can answer that. Best of luck.

    Rob
    CF Camas

  24. Greg

    Very well said. Nice job, John.

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  26. Chad

    John,

    I didn’t think this one hit close to home, but I suppose it did. I’ve been told all my life that I don’t have the genetics. But I feel like people focus way too much on genetics.

    Without dragging out my entire life story, here’s the highlights. My parents 5’3″ and 5’2″ and both are about 100 pounds. Just a few years ago, I was 100 pounds myself, and unable to do even one pullup. I’m probably the only person to have ever gained mass doing Crossfit.

    My advice to copy what the top athletes do is based on my own experience, and I’d say that’s far from the worst advice. According to Glassman you can deadlift 700 lbs in just 2 years by following the main page, so I’d say advising someone to follow the main page is worse advice than recommending that someone try to train like Mikko or Josh. I had the great opportunity to talk to Josh Everett, and as a result I cut down the frequency of my metcons, put more focus on Olympic Weightlifting and sprinting, and learned the value of not killing myself every single workout. End result, that 100 pound kid who couldn’t do a pullup, now weighs 69 kg, snatches 85 kg, clean and jerks 105 kg, back squats 160 kg, deadlifts 415 pounds, runs a 5:30 mile, and bangs out 24 strict USMC PFT rules pullups. And as for Crossfit, my Grace, Fran, Diane, Isabel, and Elizabeth are all right around 3 minutes.

    I’m done with Crossfit because it’s just not conducive to my personal goals, but I think alot of people would’ve discounted a 100 pound weakling had he said “I’m going to learn to O lift and clean 100 kgs in just one year.”

    As for Sherman, I was sure he’s not back squatting 500 lbs and running a 2 minute 800m or else he’d be doing bigger and better things than Crossfit, but my statement was really just meant as hyperbole. As in, how do we know that he isn’t a phenomenal athlete? Just because you aren’t a pro athlete today doesn’t mean you don’t have the potential to be one. It’s my personal experience and belief that incredible athletes can come out of nowhere. When I was in the OCS pipeline, we had a guy who struggled to do 3 pullups and run 3 miles in under 24 minutes. In six months, he was running 3 miles in under 18 minutes and doing 20 pullups. What would that kid have been like if he had quality coaching or was in a gym atmosphere like California Strength?

    Odds are, you’re right. You’re probably completely 100% correct, and most people don’t have the genetics or the mental tenacity to become CF Games competitors. But one could say the same thing about becoming a Navy SEAL. Odds are, 80% of candidates won’t complete BUD/S, but I’ve never heard a Navy SEAL tell anyone that they can’t do it. And look how many pro athletes have washed out at BUD/S while nerdy skinny geeks have prevailed. You can quickly assess a man’s size and strength, but heart is only revealed in our darkest moments.

    “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. Sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”
    -Vince Lombardi

  27. Jeff

    I think everyone is forgetting that one of the top crossfit games athletes trains in his garage. Ben Smith does his own programming, works out on his own in his families garage, and was 8th last year and 3rd this year. No reason that someone else can’t have the same success with the same training method.

  28. McQ

    I have heard plenty of SEALs tell people that they can’t make it. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I’d expect from a lot of them. And what John was saying, is that it takes more than just heart to get to the top. Maybe 60 years ago “trying real hard” would get you to the show, but not anymore. Science has killed that. Nobody smokes on the sidelines anymore. The conversation has gone far from where it started. Nobody said “no”. The message was, “here is what you need to be there”. Best of luck to Sherman.

    Great article, John. The programming and advice is second to none. Thank you.

  29. Wyatt

    Awesome article as usual!

    One reason I love watching Ben Smith, Is he does train out of his home, and does all his own programming! But he Has some damn fine natural strength and ability to go with it!

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  33. James

    Johnnie,

    Great piece. The perspective you’ve put on CrossFit as a competative sport is free of the fluff and hyperbole you often come across on the topic. There is no, “do your best ra-ra, work hard and you’ll get there” crap here. As you said, you either can or you can’t, you either do or you don’t. You’ve quantified the necessities and dropped a truth bomb on us; this is something that most of us need, especially as we swirl in the disillusion of how hardcore we are as CrossFitters.

    With that said, I think there is something to take away from the Sherman’s and Chad’s of the CrossFit world. I think that there is a ‘fuck you’ attitude there that anyone whose whispered to themselves, “death before DNF” during a workout can identify with. I think that has to be appreciated to some degree.

    It may be the KoolAid talking, but as CrossFitters we like to believe that if we lack the physical capacity to be an athlete, we can sure as hell try to make up for it in heart and enthusiasm. And yeah, maybe the heart of a lamb dressed as a lion won’t get you to the Games, but on some level, for some of us, it has to be enough.

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  37. Trustedagent

    John,

    Nice post. I appreciate the honesty and bluntness. All too often in this day and age people tend to coddle others.

    I workout at a great box with people who have aspirations to “make it to the games” and I agree with you that now The Games have hit a critical mass where it will be VERY DIFFICULT if not impossible to make it to the games unless you sacrifice other parts of your life in order to pursue the goal of competing in the games.

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