Inspired by an exuberant friend who lost weight doing CrossFit, Matt Lefave started doing his perception of CrossFit at a globo gym – he'd run 10k, and mix up his bench presses and pull-ups. It lacked the intensity of his old hockey drills, but it was new, and he liked it enough to sign up for the 2009 Ontario Challenge.
“That was my first real CrossFit experience,” Lefave says. “I was big. I was the leanest I've ever been in my life. It crushed me. I had no power or strength.” After being “destroyed” by the first event Lefave still calls it his “best CrossFit experience ever” because it forced him to take the sport seriously.
“When I'm about to start an event I try to dissociate as much as possible,”
Taking the Sport Seriously
That “terrible showing” has helped him in the long run. Lefave finished 5th in Canada East during the Open season last year, before slipping to 10th at the Canada East Regional. “I had a poorly-addressed issue with handstand push-ups,” he says. “I thought I was doing them correctly. I wasn't.”
Blaming inexperience, Lefave also laughs about wearing Vibrams instead of having weightlifting shoes for the Thruster Ladder Event in 2011. “I just got platform shoes, and they're never coming off my feet,” he jokes.
After a tough lesson on the first workout at the Regional event, Lefave regrouped and did exceptionally well on Days 2 and 3, winning the deadlift/box jump workout. Where most competitors would have lost their ability to concentrate and come back strong, Lefave excelled.
“When I'm about to start an event I try to dissociate as much as possible,” he explains. “I go somewhere else. I really enjoy the moment before the event. I find it serene, like the calm before the storm.” When the bell rings, he's 100 percent focused. Lefave does counting exercises rather than focusing on the pain of the workout.
“I believe you get a panic response if you focus on your suffering. That just makes it worse,” he says. “You defeat yourself if you worry on what's in front of you.” Instead, Lefave clears his mind and tells himself, “Do the next 20 and then you get three relaxing breaths.
“A buddy of mine made a good point that really stuck with me. Ten seconds of rest isn't going to make that much difference, and 30 seconds isn't going to help you recover more than 20 seconds does. The difference is only psychological. I couldn't agree more – resting isn't going to help.”
Recently, Lefave’s been winning more. He took 3rd place at Overdose, a big event at Element CrossFit that attracts top-level competition. “It always makes me better to be neck-and-neck with the best, and Alex's events are always a great show,” he says. “The programming is well-balanced and the turnout is fantastic.”
Lefave’s motivation to CrossFit comes from more than a competitive nature. “My little brother is the biggest sports fan I know. He comes to watch everything I do,” he says, adding that his brother has Alstrome Syndrome. “He always knew everyone on my sports teams; he came to every game. That helps me maintain perspective. I want to do the most I can with the ability we have, but we're exercising here; we're having fun.”
If winning is fun, then Matt Lefave may just be in for a treat in 2012.