Twenty-three-year-old Patrick Fitzsimons is a trainer and co-owner at CrossFit Active in North Sydney, Australia.
Over the past few years, CrossFit Active has built a reputation of being one of the top boxes in Australia, and is also home to the ninth fittest man in the world, Chad Mackay. With his success at last year’s Games, CrossFit Active has seen a number of young and hungry CrossFit athletes wanting to follow in Mackay’s footsteps. Fitzsimons is one of them.
Fitzsimons has always had a strong sporting background, playing soccer competitively until he was 13. It was in high school when he stopped playing soccer to concentrate on rugby. After playing two years in his hometown, Armidale, a small country town in New South Wales, he moved to Saint Josephs College in Sydney to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete.
“My dream was to keep playing rugby, and hopefully one day have a professional career,” Fitzsimons says. “I finished school and moved to Ireland to keep playing rugby at a good level. After a year, I moved back to Sydney, where I started playing for Easts.”
It was during his time at the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Club when he met Luke Starr, who was the strength and conditioning coach at the time.
“That was the first time I heard about CrossFit, through Starr,” Fitzsimons says. “Then I injured my back, and that was the end of my rugby career. I didn’t plan for that to be the end, but it was.”
With Fitzsimons’ dream of becoming a professional rugby player beginning to fade away, he became even more intrigued by CrossFit and started looking into it more online.
Soon he started doing workouts at the rugby gym, and after about a year, he decided to enter a local CrossFit competition. Here, he met Starr again.
“We were in the same heat, it was pretty funny,” Fitzsimons says. “I went up to him and said – ‘Hey Luke!’”
A short time later, Starr, Mackay and a few others opened CrossFit Active, and shortly after that competition, Fitzsimons bought into the business, as well.
In 2011, Fitzsimons competed for the CrossFit Active team at the Australia Regional, before going Individual in 2012 and finishing 24th overall.
“The goal for this year is to improve on my last year’s score, and push as best as I can for a spot in the top three,” he says.
“Our training is much more structured this year and I’ve certainly improved as an athlete.”
Fitzsimons has changed his preparation over the past 12 months, mainly in his diet and programming.
“Last year, we did the Open workout on a Thursday night, and then did it again on Monday morning (Australia time zone),” he says. “During the week, we only did one WOD, where we included movements we thought might come up in the Open workout the following week.”
In regards to his diet, Fitzsimons says milk has been one of his secrets to improving. “When I first started CrossFit, I ate really strict. I lost a lot of weight, and that was great in the beginning. But as soon as I increased the volume of my training, it just wasn’t enough,” he says.
“About six months out from the Open, I started to drink a lot of milk. I wanted to put on some weight and get my lifts up so I drank about four litres of milk a day during that six-month period, and added about 15 kg on my bodyweight. I did a DEXA scan before and after, and it showed that I added about 10 kg of muscle. It was pretty incredible to see those numbers, and needless to say, my lifts went up, as well.”
This year, the CrossFit Active crew have a much more structured plan for the Open season.
“Ultimately, the goal is to perform well at Regionals, so the training during the week of the Open is just as important as the Open (workout),” Fitzsimons says. “Most of us do the Open (workout) on Friday afternoon, and are back into training straight after, usually with some lifting and squatting.”
“We follow the programming of Starr and Adam Pirri (co-owners of CrossFit Active). They have a dedicated group, ‘Active Units,’ which is for our competitive athletes. This group follows a different programming to the normal classes and the sessions normally go for about two hours.”
“Usually, they will start with some form of squat. This could be heavy singles or more volume like four sets of six to eight reps. After squatting, we’ll hit an Olympic lift then one or two met-cons and finish off with a skill — 50 strict toes-to-bars, for instance. Met-cons normally go for five to 10 minutes, and normally include a barbell and a gymnastic movement.”
After week four of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Fitzsimons sits in 18th in the Australia Region, after completing 104 reps on 13.4.
And with just one workout remaining, he’s hoping to stay inside that top 48, and qualify for his second Regional competition as an individual.
“I think a lot of guys in that top 400 are going to have very similar scores, so it will be important to have a good game plan,” he says.