"There's no room for errors."
CrossFit is getting big, quickly. In just a few short years the CrossFit Games have gone from a loose, informal affair in Aromas, Calif., to a Reebok-sponsored, ESPN-broadcast professional event at the Home Depot Center. However, the basics of what it takes to be successful within the sport haven’t changed.
Finnish athlete Mikko Aronpää, 6th in the Europe Region after the 2012 Open, trains mainly by himself at a globo gym in the winter, and in his backyard in the summer. (The harsh Finnish winters aren't ideal for outdoor workouts.) Aronpää does his own programming, recording himself to keep an eye on technique.
“Sometimes it’s tough to train at globo gym with the lack of some equipment and people running around all the time, but that's how I've been doing CrossFit since day one, so I'm used to that,” Aronpää says. “I like to think that training for CrossFit at the Regional/Games level is more about attitude and work ethic than great, top-notch training facilities.”
Aronpää is a former track and field athlete who competed at the national level in Finland until 2008. He started CrossFit in 2009 and placed 2nd at the 2011 Europe Regional and 34th at the 2011 CrossFit Games.
After a taste of the experience at the Home Depot Center in 2011, Aronpää is anxious to return. “It was a great experience and it was awesome to compete with the best in the world,” Aronpää says. “The beach workout was the most memorable moment of the weekend and I was happy with my performance on that event. I struggled with some technical movements such as rope climbs and muscle-ups.”
This year, Aronpää has stayed focused on his ultimate goal — the Games. Unlike many competitors who redid the Open workouts multiple times, Aronpää said he didn’t pay much attention to the Open. Except for workout 12.4, he did each of the workouts only once. His strategy paid off.
Aronpää typically trains two times a day for three days in a row, and then he takes a rest day. After the Regional Workouts were released, Aronpää incorporated the movements into his training, but says he doesn’t fixate on them too much. “I don’t do those WODs all the time like a crazy, but I play around with those movements and try different strategies.”
Aronpää’s favorite movements from the Regional Workouts are the hang cleans and dumbbell snatches, and he also likes pistols. Despite his experience, Aronpää isn’t taking anything for granted. “Everyone has an equal chance [of] making it to the Games,” he says. “It all comes down to who can put a best effort on that Regional weekend. I’m just trying to stick to my game plan and focus 100 percent on each of those WODs. There’s no room for errors.”
When he’s not training for CrossFit competitions, Aronpää enjoys watching track and field, ice hockey and martial arts. Typical of his relaxed approach, Aronpää doesn’t follow a specific diet, but eats clean to get the right nutrition to help him recover from his workouts. He battles a fierce sweet tooth, and struggles to restrict himself from sugar during competition season.
This garage CrossFitter doesn't get caught up in the voodoo of having a certain type of equipment or a brand of recovery drink. He knows that good facilities and coaching do help. However, “At the end of the day it more depends on yourself and how much you want it,” he says.