Surprisingly Relatable Training Tips from Top CrossFit Athletes Annie Thorisdottir and Rich Froning
They might be some of CrossFit's "fittest humans on earth", but that doesn't mean you don't have anything in common. Honestly, just listen to what they have to say about burpees.
Rich Froning is the first person to win back-to-back-to-back-to-back first place titles at the CrossFit Games (if you went cross-eyed reading that, that makes him a four-time winner). Not only has he charged to the top off the podium, but he’s also led his CrossFit Box, CrossFit Mayhem, to the first-place finish in the Team category three years in a row. Fellow athlete Annie Thorisdottir, from Iceland, is also a back-to-back champ, making her the first female to win first place in the CrossFit Games two years in a row. (Confused? Here's What You Need to Know About the CrossFit Open and Games.)
Still, Froning and Thorisdottir want you to know that what you see on clips of social media and highlights of the CrossFit Games are the top 1 percent of athletes.
"When people see the CrossFit Games they think, 'I can’t do that,'” says Froning. “They say, ‘1) it’s too dangerous 2) it’s too hard—but scalability is the beauty of CrossFit.” (Proof: Here's how you can scale the famous Murph CrossFit workout.) Thorisdottir agrees: “People think you need to be fit in order to start but they're wrong. CrossFit boxes are there to help you learn the movements.” (Want to give it a try? You can do this beginner CrossFit workout at home.)
Even still, at first glance, you may think you have nothing in common with the 2011 CrossFit Fittest Humans on Earth: Their muscular bodies can move hundreds of pounds with ease, and they talk about their favorite WODS (Angie and Amanda, in case you're wondering) with a casual smile, knowing that both are grueling for even a CrossFit regular. However, when we sat down with Froning and Thorisdottir at the launch of Reebok’s newest Nano CrossFit shoe (which they both helped test in the development stages), we learned these superstar athletes are more human than you think.
Here are just a few of the things you might have in common.
They think burpees are really hard.
The most deceptively hard CrossFit exercise? "Burpees," say both, without a moment of hesitation.
“You look at it and you’re like, 'oh, let me just get down and get up,'" says Froning, "But then you do a ton of reps and, eventually, you just can’t get up anymore,” (Um, too real. See why this celeb trainer thinks burpees are dumb.)
“Everyone thinks burpees are hard,” agrees Thorisdottir. When you're doing burpees AMRAP-style (as many reps as possible), focus on the exhale, says Thorisdottir: “I do a lot of breathing to keep dumping out all the Co2," to get as much oxygen to the muscles as possible, she says.
Froning, on the other hand, keeps moving: "The more you move, the more you help move some of that lactic acid, whereas if you lay on the ground [at the bottom of a burpee rep or during rest periods] it just kind of pools," he says. (Looking for more tips to up your AMRAPs? Try these tricks from coach Jen Widerstrom.)
They still get nervous—but embrace it.
While some may cower in the nervous energy of competition and high-stress environments, Thorisdottir and Froning feed off of it. "I think I’ll quit as soon as I’m not nervous anymore because that means you don’t care,” says Thorisdottir.
“Every time I compete, I still get nervous," says Froning. He says the nerves stem from the unknown: "There are the nerves that are because ‘oh this is really going to hurt,’ then there’s the, ‘I have to go fast and I don’t know how fast everyone else is going to go,’ nerves." Even though it makes him uneasy, Froning says he prefers it, since "if you didn’t [get nervous] it would be as much fun.”
They rely on tricks to push through tough workouts.
In order to be one of The Fittest People on Earth (even just once!) you need to have some serious mental toughness. But to claim that title on back-to-back years? That’s some next-level stuff. Clearly, they're not immune to nerves—but how do they stay focused and not let the nerves get the best of them?
“If it’s lifting, you have to believe in yourself and not be afraid of the weights,” says Thorisdottir. “Don't think about what’s on the bar at all and just keep moving.” (Related: How to Psych Yourself Up to Lift Heavy Weights)
When it comes to competition, trust your training: "Mentally making sure you’re in the zone is pretty much having that belief that you’ve already put in all the hard work,” she says. You’ve spent hundreds of hours pushing your limits—now it’s time to see where it’s gotten you. Froning, on the other hand, has a very different approach to getting in the zone: “It’s not even necessarily the will or want to win," he says. "It’s the shame and embarrassment of losing.” (Science backs it up: Punishment is actually a great motivation for exercise.)
They have their go-to pre-workout fuel.
When you’re training at top-CrossFit-athlete caliber, everything you do is methodical—and meals are no exception. “For me, it’s been really important to have enough food,” says Thorisdottir, who will eat oatmeal, three fried eggs, whole milk, and a glass of sparkling water with a spoon of green powders before a competition. Meanwhile, Froning practices intermittent fasting, eating between one and 9 pm. “In the morning, before my usual larger training session, I won’t eat or drink anything before but water,” he says. (Related: What Fit Women Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting)
Even they have to modify or stop entirely.
The CrossFit community is well known for giving it their all during their workouts—and indeed, “sometimes you don’t know when to call it quits,” admits Froning. (Psst: Keep an eye out for these signs you need a rest day.)
However, it’s something that gets easier with age: “The longer you’ve been doing this and the older you get, you start to realize sometimes it is better to call it quits," he says. "When you’re younger you’re usually like, 'Oh I can do one more,' and that’s usually when you get hurt.”
Unless, of course, it's game-time, says Thorisdottir: “If it’s competition, you can always do one more.”