Meet CrossFit’s Fittest Man on Earth

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Rich Froning secured his fourth consecutive title as Fittest Man on Earth

Froning: Our bodies weren't made to sit on a machine and do single joint movements

CrossFit also includes running, swimming, rowing and biking

Life by DailyBurn —  

Picture it: A four-day competition, with two to four workouts a day that consist of running, swimming, muscle-ups, 345-pound squat cleans, handstand push-ups, rope climbs, double unders, handstand walks, 245-pound overhead squats and more, against 43 of the most in-shape competitors you know, all with the title of Fittest on Earth on the line.

Now imagine doing it four years in a row — and winning every time. That’s what Rich Froning did as he secured his fourth consecutive title as the Fittest Man on Earth at the CrossFit Games this past July.

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Froning, who has been said to do up to eight workouts a day, had the pressure of 200,000 live spectators as well as the world watching on his shoulders (on top of 310-plus actual pounds) as he made his way through the grueling Games.

We caught up with the four-time CrossFit champion to learn what it means to be the Fittest Man on Earth, his training and supplement regimen, and where he went for his celebratory burger post-Games.

Can you put into words what it means to be the Fittest Man on Earth for the fourth year in a row?

It feels good. It’s what I train for all year – it’s the ultimate goal. The title’s just the title. Winning the CrossFit Games is what I’m most happy about. Fittest Man on Earth is cool, but Crossfit champion is what I most like.

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CrossFitters say CrossFit is a great sport for anyone. Why is that? Do you think all people should try it?

Maybe not even as a sport, but as a fitness program, it works. Pick things up and put them down; run; carry stuff. It’s what our bodies were made to do – not sit on a machine and do single joint movements. Those are good things if that’s what you want to do – it’s better than sitting and doing nothing.

People get too caught up sometimes in thinking the traditional CrossFit circuit is [all there is to it]. But CrossFit is lifting heavy weights, being strong…and it’s also running, it’s swimming, it’s rowing, it’s biking. It’s getting outside the gym.

I think we did a lot of outside-the-gym CrossFit this year, and that was a little different than years past. Picking up heavy objects and running with them, pushing the sled. A lot of us get caught up in just “gym CrossFit.” Probably because it’s fun. I like it, too.

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In terms of injuries, do you think a CrossFitter is his or her own worst enemy? What do you need to look out for so that you don’t get hurt?

Yeah, I think people start out too quickly and say things like, “Rich does several workouts a day so I can do several workouts a day, too.” No, you need to ease into it and find a good coach. Plenty of people have started CrossFit without a coach and not got hurt, but the best-case scenario is doing it with a good coach and learning the right movements.

And also, I hate to say it, but people sometimes think they’re injured when they’re really just sore. You have to be smart about the workouts, but realize you’re going to be a little sore the first few times you do CrossFit.

For me, doing bodybuilding-type workouts using single-joint movements led to more injuries and more flair ups than I’ve had doing CrossFit. I had shoulder surgery before I did CrossFit, and my shoulder has never been stronger, so I think it’s great.

Every day you’re pushing your body to the limit and constantly challenging yourself. What do you do to recover?

I continue to work out, which usually helps with the soreness, but maybe just take the intensity down. I feel better when I move. When I sit or don’t do anything is when I get more sore or feel more sluggish. This year swimming actually helped a lot. It’s a great workout, great breathing – but doesn’t beat you up as bad as say lifting a barbell 60 times over your head. So I’d say swimming was a good recovery this year.

Do you take ice baths?

At the Games I’ll do some ice baths every once in a while, because this year it was hot, a lot hotter than the years past. It’s just so much of a pain to do an ice bath at the house. Let’s be honest…an ice bath is not pleasant.

What workout supplements do you take?

In the morning I don’t really eat a lot. I’ll take some type of creatine – not a lot though. Then throughout the day I’ll have a protein shake or two, depending on the workouts I’m doing. I usually don’t eat that much during the day and then at night I eat a lot.

What’s a typical dinner for the Fittest Man on Earth?

Anything. Whatever my wife Hillary decides to make, or we go out to eat. I’m not real picky and at that point, since I usually haven’t eaten a lot and have been working out all day, food is food. Sometimes it’s not that healthy. But I try not to be ridiculous.

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What was your celebration meal post-Games?

Oh man, what did I have that night? I think it was a Five Guys burger. And then we had some pizza, too. You can’t beat a good hamburger or steak – some red meat, you know?

What is a typical day at the gym like for you?

Usually I wake up around 9 or 9:30, and I have a crew of people that I work out with. And we just kind of go by what we’ve done the days past or how we feel or what we need to work on, and do some type of workout. Then I’ll do some strength training depending on what strength cycle I’m on, but really it’s just how I feel or what we’ve done in days before or what has to be worked on. There’s no real schedule to be honest.

If you looked at any given day, it would be six or seven workouts, but really it’s three or four sessions, that are anywhere from one hour to three hours…whatever we can get in.

Do you still love CrossFit and working out or do you look at it as a job?

Before the Games I looked at it as a job. Now I’m starting to have fun again, and enjoy working out and staying healthy.

You’ve mentioned you’re going to move over to teams this year. Are you not ready to be done with the sport, but individual is just too much commitment to do again?

Yeah, that’s basically what it boils down to. It takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work. And you’ve got to be a little bit crazy to be the best in the world at anything. We just adopted a baby girl and I don’t to want to let other things sacrifice or that. I’ve made a good living for what I’ve done so far.

But I want to have some fun on a team. I grew up a team sport guy and I want to try that aspect of it.

DailyBurn: See the full interview with Rich Froning