At this year’s 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Rich Froning, the barrel-chested fitness phenomenon, won the national series for the fourth year running. This wasn’t a shocker to any fan of the high-intensity sport. Despite slow starts on the initial events this year, Froning dominated the latter half of the competition with his combination of power, speed and seemingly endless capacity to endure pain. But what works for a champion isn’t necessarily gospel for the rest of us. We asked Froning for his top fitness tips, and got a handful to follow — and three you should probably ignore.
6 Ways to Get Fit and Stay That Way
1. Have a go-to bodyweight routine.
A bodyweight workout you can automatically do on a travel day or when you’re stuck inside is essential, Froning says.
Here’s his: 5 rounds of 20 reps each of push-ups, squats, burpees, pull-ups and pistols (similar to a one-legged squat, where you try to sink down as low as possible)
2. Find friends to suffer with you.
Froning loathes running, so to psych up for it, “I make people do it with me, so I’m not suffering by myself. And that helps me, because the competitive aspect comes out. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to get beat,’ even though it sucks.”
3. Don’t put a ceiling on what you can do.
Think there’s a limit to how fast your mile time can be? The weight you can squat? Froning calls bullshit. In CrossFit specifically, where sprint times have crept down and the amount of weight up, “I don’t think we’ll see a plateau or a limit. Your body’s an amazing machine and it’s created to do stuff. See what you can get out of it.”
4. Redirect your attention when you want to give in.
For “The Fittest Man on Earth,” that means not thinking of himself when he’s staring at a loaded bar he doesn’t want to pick up. “My gift from God has been my talent, my genetics, and the people around me. And that motivates me if I’m struggling, being able to shown them what I can do — my wife, my daughter.”
5. When you can, make it fun.
“I came up to New York for a photo shoot, and got done late. A few of us were here, and wanted to get a workout in, so we ran from our hotel to Central Park, and every time we came to a stop light, one of us would call out a movement — squats, push-ups, pull-ups on scaffolding — and we’d do that until the light turned. It was a really good time, actually. And, you know, you get some sightseeing and exercise in.”
6. Skip the steroids — you don’t need them to win.
Froning says he doesn’t need performance enhancing drugs to win the CrossFit Games. “I don’t take them. I work my butt off. And I think people who accuse other people of using … well they could be jealous, or just lazy. They can’t imagine doing the work that it takes. We’re also tested regularly too. People say, ‘Oh, you can fake a test easily,’ but I don’t know how to do it, so it can’t be that easy.”
…And 3 Things That Only Froning Can Get Away With Doing
1. “I don’t really have a routine. I make it up on the fly, or whatever feels right, I’ll do.”
For most of us, that means hitting snooze or doing anything else besides go to the gym. That feels pretty right. While brainstorming a workout plan seconds before the warm-up may work for Froning, an overwhelming amount of research indicates that you’ll be more likely to actually exercise — and you’ll push yourself harder and longer when you’re there — by writing down exactly what you want to accomplish, starting with a long-term goal, then breaking that down into short-term goals with week-by-week benchmarks.
2. “I don’t eat before a workout, or a lot throughout the day. I eat a lot at night.”
If training first thing in the morning on an empty stomach works for you, fine; the research is mixed on whether fueling up before AM exercise affects performance (unless you’re working out for longer than an hour; if that’s the case, you’ll want 150 to 200 calories beforehand, and best if it’s a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, like a banana with a tsp of peanut butter). After a workout, and throughout the day, however, you’re better off constantly refueling to feel sated — not full — with a mix of good fats (nuts, avocado, oily fish), protein (eggs, lean meats, greek yogurt) and complex carbs (whole grains, vegetables, beans). Load up with food at the end of the day, and you can tank your metabolism and encourage your body to hold on to more fat.
3. “I don’t take rest days.”
Maybe we don’t have to talk you out of following this one? Froning’s superhuman genetics may allow for nonstop training, zero recovery, and constant gains, but the rest of mankind should take at least one, if not two, complete days off each week to allow muscle repair, and to keep seeing results.