Chris Cristini is a man on the edge of discovery. His CrossFit resume reads like a grocery list of accomplishments: 1st place at the GNC Sweat Equity Challenge, 3rd at the CompWoD "Best of The Best" Invitational, 4th at Overdose, 6th at the CrossFit UFC Expo, 11th at the 2011 Canada East Regional, and 116th in the World during the Open. He has a 29:50 “Murph,” a 1:38 “Grace,” and a 29-round “Cindy.”
Muay Thai to CrossFit
Even before a friend brought him to CrossFit Toronto he was a force in Muay Thai kickboxing, winning the National Championship and earning a gold medal at the USKBA World Championships.
Despite this, Cristini wanted more. "I knew there was something missing. My conditioning was always amazing, but I didn't feel as strong as I could be,” he says. “Then I went to CrossFit Toronto and saw all these jacked old guys. I couldn't figure out why they were so ripped. I thought the WOD looked easy - it was under 10 minutes. I had the mentality that I was the shit; that nobody trained harder than me … I didn't win."
That was an eye-opener for Cristini, who was well accustomed to conditioning work. Even the hours of running, the training in Thailand, the daily pad work, and the sparring couldn't prepare him for that first workout, which he still recalls three years later: dumbbell front squats x 12, medicine ball slams x 15, and L-sit rope climbs x 2, for three rounds. "I couldn't cough for a week," says Chris.
That meticulous memory and attention to detail has been put to good use since leaving Thai Kickboxing. "The second I quit, I devoted all my time to CrossFit." He's taken more time to reflect this year, and spent more time doing "things I didn't do so well" in 2011. That has meant a strength-bias phase, and some more skill work.
It's paying big dividends: at a bodyweight of 205 pounds, he just cleaned 300 pounds, deadlifted 470 pounds, and back squatted 385 pounds. Even though the numbers are good, Cristini is not satisfied and wants to improve those before the Open.
The time devotion to CrossFit hasn't been just for himself. Starting out of his carport three years ago, he's built his affiliate, CrossFit Markham, into a solid box in its own right. Now with more than 80 members, Cristini recalls, "I had 30 members training out of my garage, running down the street, doing push-ups on my lawn. Members just kept coming so I had to take the leap.”
Just Keep Going
The business side distracts many firebreathers from top-level competition, but Cristini's mind – finely tuned by his years of competitive kickboxing – stays dialled into his goal of qualifying for the 2012 CrossFit Games. "I wasn't the strongest or fastest, so I took to the mentality of, 'just keep going.'"
In Muai Thai there's a bell when 30 seconds remain in the round, and Cristini used to take that as a signal to pick up his pace, while others were slowing down. "That's when you push yourself, or you get punched. You have to just keep punching. So I conditioned myself to go into no-man's land."
He’s talking about the point where your body screams to stop, where your heart feels like it's charred, where your brain pushes against the back of your eyes. This year, though, Cristini is poised to discover the next level – the CrossFit Games.