Basketball and football players might fill their off-season with pampered getaways and late-night escapades, but for CrossFit's top athletes, there's no slowing down. Though the Reebok CrossFit Games just wrapped — with many coaches begging their competitors to take a week off — the athletes are already eyeing the 2016 season.
It's no different for this year's CrossFit Games champ Ben Smith. He's back to training at the gym he owns, CrossFit Krypton in Chesapeake, Virgina, as well as coaching and prepping for the unknown — a hallmark of the Games is that athletes don't know the events going into it. This year, those feats included 203-pound kettlebell carries, leg-less rope climbs, and performing hundreds of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats while wearing a weighted vest.
So what can mere mortals learn from a guy who can deadlift 540 pounds and sprint 400 meters in under a minute? These eight must-follow training tenets:
Train With Stronger Athletes
"Watch people better than you and try to adapt. I started doing CrossFit in 2006, and my first Games were in 2009. As the years have gone, I've been able to handle the volume and intensity through practice, and picking up pointers from people and things to help my training."
Never Settle For Average
"You're not going to change or grow if you're not challenged. Growing up, I was taught that you always want to put yourself in situations outside your comfort zone. I've done things in training that were way harder than the Games. That's how you have to prepare. Put yourself in situations that are more uncomfortable. It's about making it a little tougher — but not so tough that you can't do it."
When in Doubt, Do a Total-Body Movement
"If I could only do one move, I'd do a clean and jerk. And if you can only do bodyweight moves, I would stick with air squats, burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, and a fun place to do pull-ups. You can get fit anywhere."
Treat Muscle Aches at the Gym
"You feel better once you start moving. If I have an ache or pain, it's because I wasn't working right or got out of position. I lower the weight and get things moving again — that's when I feel better. Also make sure to sleep enough. In preparation for the Games, I was sleeping eight to 10 hours a night, which helped me recover, and be ready to go."
Know What Music Moves You
"I can't have someone screaming in my ear when I'm already tired. Rock, metal, and "screamo" are out for me. A lot of the time I find myself enjoying country music when I'm working out. Keeps me calm."
Surround Yourself With Motivation
"I keep daily reminders in front of me that keep me on track, motivated, and focused. These can be words, phrases, Bible verses, videos. Set your goal, whatever it may be, and keep the inspirational reminders in front of you at all times. Then when it comes time to make a decision that can affect your goals, you'll choose the one that brings you closer to them."
Live a Balanced Life
"You can't let training take over your life. I enjoy hanging out with my friends. We go out during the day, paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, or playing other sports. You've got to keep a good perspective on things."
Be Your Own Biggest Fan
"I've been the only person that's expected myself to win. In years past I've always had an injury. I've never been somebody who, going into the Games, was expected to win. This year I was healthy, and I truly, truly believed I could win."