the spaz of fitness has arrived

The Curious Case of Rich Froning

In Training, WOD on September 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

This morning, LionHeart’s team of badass coaches is getting the awesome opportunity to learn from Olympic gold-medalist Tara Nott. She took gold in the 2000 Summer Olympics in the women’s 48kg category. There, she snatched 82.5kg– over 180 lbs. At 48kg bodyweight, she’s smaller than me– a wee 105 lbs. I can’t even back squat 180lbs, let alone hoist it overhead in one absurdly explosive movement. Anyway, because the coaches are otherwise occupied today, the box was closed and we little Lionhearters were left to fend for ourselves. I dusted off the home gym and got to work:

Buy-in: Hill sprints: 10x sprint uphill, walk back down (short hill)

As a general rule, I hate the mountainy Pennsylvania roads here, which make biking anywhere a hellish experience– and ensure that this little English instructor arrives to teach her summer classes in a fantastically authoritative sheen of sweat. However, the many hills around my neighborhood do provide awesome variety for my sprint workouts.

WOD: 12 minute AMRAP

7 Dumbbell thrusters (my wimpy dumbbells max out at 24lbs, so I had to stick with that)

7 burpees

7 knees to elbows– I’m connecting my kips! Finally!

Cash out: 2 sets of 25 hollow rocks


Unfortunately, I’ve reached the point where I really just can’t tolerate whey in any form whatsoever. I’ve suspected that my protein shake has been tearing apart my stomach for a while, but I’ve been in denial about it since I’ve seen such great strength gains on this particular brand, and I didn’t want to undertake the long investigation process of finding a replacement. But… I really just can’t live with this degree of discomfort, so I cut it out and feel at least digestively better. However, as I experienced before, without the post-WOD shake, my recovery is worse. I’ve requested samples from Sunwarrior, which makes a brown rice protein. I know nothing really substitutes for whey, but if it won’t decimate my stomach each day, it’s probably worth the small backslide in progress…. probably.

Recently, I was browsing the latest issue of The Box magazine, which features an interview with Rich Froning (it also contains far more interesting interviews with Katie Hogan and Dave Lipson– two phenomenal CrossFit athletes who fell short of the Games this year for different reasons). But I wanted to focus on the Froning interview because it irritated me a bit. I know a lot of CrossFitters who rail against him  for being “arrogant.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, the reporters and a lot of CrossFit media love to portray him as this “humble,” deeply religious figure. I won’t accuse him of either because I think it’s impossible for us to gauge anyone’s personality from secondhand sources. But… if you’ll indulge me, and if I could be presumptuous enough to speculate, he strikes me as neither arrogant nor humble. He strikes me as a man who has never been humbled. Yes, he works… absurdly hard. The magazine details a “day in the life” of Rich Froning as:

7:30amm Wake up, read the Bible (seriously)

8:15am Warm up on the Airdyne, begin first WOD

9:00am: train with a group of professional motocross athletes (and occasionally participate in their workout)

11:45am: Work with a Tennessee Tech football coach on his big lifts, Then WOD with him

3:00 pm: Practice O-lifts and WOD

Evening: Interval workout on a Concept2.
According to this magazine (and many other interviews), Froning doesn’t have much of a training plan, nor does he follow a diet. In fact, he works out so often, he can only fit in spoonfulls of peanut butter and jelly and glasses of milk and Progenex throughout his day. On the one hand, yes, five workouts a day is a grueling regimen. On the other, it doesn’t sound like effort for this man. He doesn’t plan, he trains as he wishes, and he’s blessed with the genetics that just adapt perfectly to his freeflowing methodology. This is the polar opposite of this year’s second-place finisher, Matt Chan, who has his diet (Paleo-Zone) calculated to a science, who has strategized every bit of his training to whittle away his weaknesses and fortify his strengths. It’s a far departure from most CrossFit athletes. Talayna Fortunato works with Rudy Nielsen from Outlaw CrossFit. Katie Hogan hired a powerlifting coach to prep for this year’s games, and when she didn’t make it, she became Rebecca Voigt’s weightlifting coach. Other athletes have discovered their weaknesses and addressed their demons. What makes Froning a strange phenomenon is that he doesn’t seem to have any. That, I think, will be his Achilles heel. The fact that he can so easily hop into a wide array of workouts so many times a day so many days in a row is what makes him so perfect for CrossFit– The Games, after all, are just back-to-back days of successive WODs. But someday, there will be a talented all-around athlete who has become what he is through self-diagnosis– who has been forced to confront the strange intricacies of his body and to strip it of its shortcomings one by one, who will be able to keep apace of Froning– and I wonder then how he would handle the pressure. I think, only then, could anyone really make a statement about whether he’s “humble” or “hardworking”– or conversely, whether he’s thickheaded and arrogant. Strangely enough, I think the Fittest Man on Earth is just yet untried. I look forward to meeting the athlete who comes along to test him.

  1. I guess because I’m so new to the whole Crossfit thing, I don’t really have any undying loyalty (I mean, Aja is now my “favorite” insomuch that he’s my coach.) But I find myself rooting for everyone. I get that people are really offput by Rich but I love the guy. He’s clearly not the most scientifically trained athlete (unless there are some unknown benefits to shooting fruit with shotguns then swimming in a nearby, near-freezing lake), but his workload is just utterly mesmerizing. I often wonder if maybe he is some sort of super human, like ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes – his lactic acid eventually DECREASES as he’s running 50, 100, 200 miles at a time. Does Rich have the same kind of thing, but more suited for his sport? The guy just never seems to burn out.

    • Yeah… honestly, when I watch the games mostly I’m just hoping everyone does to the best of their ability. Part of what’s so awesome about the spirit of CrossFit is just how all the athletes seem to support one another. I guess I’m just more impressed by athletes who’ve honed their training than ones that sort of stumble into greatness– though I shouldn’t begrudge Rich his natural talent… or, natural inhuman ability in this case.

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