At the 2017 CrossFit Games, Mat Fraser delivered the most dominant performance fans have ever seen. His 216-point margin of victory was nineteen points greater than the previous record — set by him last year — and he had almost earned the title of Fittest Man on Earth before the penultimate event had even started.
As an athlete and a personality, though, Fraser is anything but predictable. Originally trained as an Olympic weightlifter, he is now best known for his cardio and endurance. And despite his overwhelming success, he’s surprisingly humble. Though he called for the crowd’s support a few times over the four-day competition, more often he was critical of himself in post-workout interviews and reluctant to make bold predictions about the events to come. Still, after he finished the final event, and was asked when training would start for the 2018 Games, the newly crowned champ replied with a smile: “Tomorrow.”
Fraser’s advice for all athletes reflects this relentless, tenacious attitude: Put in the work, and good things will come. Here’s how.
Stick To Your Plan
Once Fraser commits to an attack plan, he rarely strays from it — even when he’s dropping down the leaderboard. For example, the 27-year-old started slow during the pull-up portion of one of the long “chipper” events at the Games. “I just reminded myself, ‘It’s okay. Let’s stay calm.’ The pull-ups aren’t my strength. That’s the gymnastics guys’ game, and I don’t have to be shoulder-to-shoulder with them going into the next movement.”
Though he dropped as low as sixth place during that workout, he would still pause to take a few long breaths. He never looked rush or rattled, and that heads-down diligence paid off in the end with his first event victory of these Games.
Reflect On Your Workout
“All the athletes have a place to put our feet up in between events,” Fraser says, “and as soon as I get back, while the event’s still fresh in my mind, I make a note of what went well, and think it was because I did this all year, or that didn’t go well because I forgot to train this specific movement.” The reflection doesn’t end there, either. When he gets back to his house in Vermont, Fraser plans to review footage from the Games, as he’s done for the past few years.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
While Fraser might mentally review every workout he does, he chooses not to dwell on mistakes — even the most glaring, when he blew a 100-plus point lead in the 2015 Games, and took second to Ben Smith. Instead of sulking about that loss, Fraser unleashed hell on the apparatus that thwarted his victory: the Rogue Pig. He bought one, and every Sunday, he’d flip it alone in the gym.
Similarly at these Games, Fraser would take a quick reflection in the locker room after each event, then pivot and refocus on what was to come the next day. “It’s really just shutting the mind off and trying to get as much sleep as you can,” he says.
Over the course of four days, the CrossFit Games athletes compete in 13 events; these range from as short as three minutes to as long as 30, and start as early as eight or nine in the morning and extend to seven or eight at night. Typically, a rest day is scheduled after the first day of competition, but this year, the action was unbroken — a degree of volume that Fraser was well acquainted with: “I guarantee I train more volume than that, and I think it’s a safe assumption to make that many of the other Games competitors do.” While it’s also safe to say that you won’t be doing dozens of 203-pound kettlebell deadlifts or 350-pound cleans anytime soon, this tenet can be applied to any competition or race: train more volume than you think you need, and the event itself feels easier.
Work Out With Someone Who Pushes You
In Fraser’s opinion, the hardest part of the Games is its intensity. Though he trains for roughly six hours a day, he estimates that, if he were fresh, he could do some of the final events 20 percent faster (which shows how grueling the competition is). To prepare accordingly, he often trains with Katrin Davidsdottir, the 2015 and 2016 Fittest Woman on Earth. “A lot of times, we’ll do the same workouts,” he says, “and she’ll tell me her time or her score. Then, for me, it’s very similar to competing next to someone. I’m going into the workout knowing, okay, I have to be sub four minutes.”