“The Open is a fantastic time of the year when everybody in the box comes together for the workouts and performs beyond what they thought would be their limit. I just adore that.”
Frosti Gylfason has come a long way since having what he describes as a “typical trucker’s life.”
An Iceland native, Gylfason was virtually unknown in the world of CrossFit until this year’s Open. Now, the 35-year-old truck driver is making his presence known, currently ranked eighth on the Europe Leaderboard heading into the final workout of the 2014 Open.
Gylfason trains at CrossFit Centrum in Sandnes, Norway. So far, his best performance was on 14.3, where he finished ninth in the region with 160 reps.
Gylfason’s first experience with CrossFit was in summer of 2011 after he moved to Norway.
“A friend told me about this CrossFit. I looked it up on the Internet and it looked fun,” he said. “I then watched some videos and it also seemed easy, so I went to the local box, CrossFit Centrum Sandnes.”
“I remember the first (workout): some sit-ups, wall-ball shots and deadlifts,” he continued. “Everything went wrong. I got the ball on my face and tore my pants on the sit-ups. I signed up immediately. I was not up to being defeated.”
At the time, Gylfason was overweight and had developed some heart problems and high blood pressure. He admitted he hadn’t seriously practiced any sports, ever. He drank and smoked, leading “a trucker’s life,” he said.
“I made good progress right from the beginning. But the real change came when I started to pay attention to nutrition,” Gylfason recounted. “You have to keep in mind that I weighed 120 kg (265 lb.) when I started CrossFit. Naturally, everything was scaled for me during my first months. Strength was not the main problem—gymnastics and cardio was. My first toes-to-bar came after six months, and the first muscle-up more than one year after I started.”
Gylfason, who is 178 cm and now weighs 95 kg, said he believes his progress in CrossFit brought about major improvements to his life.
“Inside of me I felt that I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I just wanted so much to improve that I forgot about drinking and smoking. Feeling better with myself, I also felt that I was becoming a better husband and a better father.”
Last year, Gylfason registered for the Open for the first time and finished 69th. Disappointed in not qualifying for regionals, Gylfason was ready for a change. He started to work with a new training partner—a decision that would change his experience with CrossFit.
Christer Idland, 27, is arguably among Europe’s strongest CrossFit athletes. He finished seventh at the Europe Regional in 2012, and fifth in 2013.
Idland met Gylfason during his initial CrossFit classes and was shocked when they met back up, 18 months later.
“When I came back from Oslo, I was looking for a training partner and I was surprised to see the impressive development of Frosti,” Idland said. “I soon asked him whether he was interested in training together.”
Idland said Gylfason is best characterized by his willpower.
“The ability to stay positive during the most painful workouts and just keep going,” Idland said of his training partner. “I remember one exhausting workout with pull-ups, barbell and rowing. Half into the (workout), me and another athlete were sitting on the rower, breathing hard and feeling the pain. Frosti started singing out loud, ‘Row, row, row your boat.’ This motivated us all. That is the way Frosti is.”
Gylfason and Idland have been following CrossFit Invictus programming since March of 2013. Gylfason said it is his training with Idland that allowed him to improve so much.
“Idland is one of the most amazing athletes,” Gylfason said. “His attention to movements is just incredible. It is not just that he pushed me to go harder while using the right technique, but he also inspires me to the point that I strive to be a better athlete.”
Finding time to train can be a challenge for Gylfason, whose full-time job is driving a crane truck.
“I used to drive a concrete pump truck, which was much harder physically and entailed longer hours of work,” he said. “I changed jobs to have more time to train, but now I get a smaller salary.”
He trains at least four or five times a week, but he’s trying to increase that to six or seven.
“I need to manage my time cleverly with a full-time job and a family,” he said. “Sometimes my boss allows me use the truck, so if I am close to the box I park my truck there and I am in for a little (workout).”
Gylfason admitted the goal in registering for this year’s Open was mainly to have some fun and qualify with the team at his box. At this point, he’s still not sure whether he’ll compete as an individual or go team.
“Christer puts some pressure on me to go individual. Once I finish the Open, I will see what I do,” Gylfason said. “The Open is a fantastic time of the year when everybody in the box comes together for the workouts and performs beyond what they thought would be their limit. I just adore that.”
Gylfason said he doesn’t feel any pressure being at the top of the Leaderboard.
“I am enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel that I am giving the best of myself, just like the 60 other people at my box that are all competing in the Open.”
As for strategy on the final workout, he said: “Just like for the other workouts of the Open, there is no plan. I am just doing my usual thing …”
Gylfason’s personal bests include a 210-kg (463-lb.) deadlift, 95-kg (210-lb.) snatch, 180-kg (397-lb.) back squat, 155-kg (342-lb.) front squat, and 120-kg (265-lb) push press.
He said he feels the greatest victory is the support of his family, friends and staff at CrossFit Centrum. Gylfason has two children, ages 13 and 5. And while his wife, Sonja, often joins the classes, his children play at the box.
“My wife and kids love CrossFit and they think that it is awesome how I changed my life,” he said. “They are my biggest fans … Sometimes when I have a running workout and my daughter sees that I am struggling, she comes to grab my hand and says, ‘I will help you finish, dad.’ Imagine how blessed I feel.”