On Friday, May 16, New Zealander Zach Morton-Adair will compete at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong, Australia, in his second straight individual appearance at the Australia Regional.
The 23-year-old qualified for the second phase of this year’s CrossFit Games Season after finishing the 2014 Open in sixth place in region.
During five weeks of the Open, Morton-Adair showed very few weaknesses with consistent performances in all workouts. His best finish was 14th in 14.4, while his worst performance was in the deadlift/box jump couplet of 14.3, where he finished in 27th place.
Growing up in the seaside town of Mount Maunganui in New Zealand, Morton-Adair spent his junior days competing in swimming and surf-lifesaving. As he became older, he found a passion for weight training with more traditional bodybuilding routines.
“I was pretty much a gym rat before I found CrossFit,” he said.
After competing in the 2012 Open
, his first CrossFit event three years ago, Morton-Adair’s improvement in the sport has been quite remarkable.
In 2012, he finished the Open in 376th position, but competed with his affiliate, Mount CrossFit at the Australia Regional, with the team ending the weekend in 24th place.
A year later, the Kiwi qualified for the regional as an individual and went on to finish in 28th place in Australia, beating the likes of Chad Mackay, Rob Forte and Brandon Swan in some of the seven events.
In 2014, Morton-Adair will enter the Australia Regional as the sixth-best qualifier.
But preparation for this year’s regional has been a lot different for Morton-Adair. While he is still competing in the same region, he’ll be doing it from Perth, Australia, rather than New Zealand.
In addition to changing his base of operation, Morton-Adair has also switched to a full-time regimen and is following a new, personalized training program.
“Last year I was just training once a day and doing the daily (workout) at the box,” he said. “To reach the levels of the top guys, I knew I had to do a lot more.”
To allow for this increase in training, Morton-Adair has also given up his full-time job.
Now, a typical week consists of three sessions a day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with one session on Thursday. Each training session lasts between two and two-and-a-half hours.
“Sundays are my active rest day,” Morton-Adair said. “But, I recently started doing more traditional bodybuilding movements to help strengthen my foundation.”
Three-time regional competitor and head coach of Range of Motion CrossFit, Dan Williams, is in charge of Morton-Adair’s programming, and came up with a strategy at the start of the year to prepare him for the demands of the 2014 season.
“With all my clients, including Zach, I start by using My Fitness File to profile his work capacity,” Williams said. “The profiling and testing reveals the weaknesses that he needs to work on, and a program is done accordingly to address those weaknesses. It is effectively weakness-biased programming.”
Williams found that even though Morton-Adair lacked raw strength, he had a lot of strength endurance and a big engine.
“(Morton-Adair) is also technically sound, and moves efficiently,” Williams said. “His biggest strength is his mental capacity and ability to keep moving through discomfort and pain. If there is an event that involves a lot of pain and the limiting factor is cardiovascular endurance, Zach will perform well.”
“I really enjoy the long, mind-fuck WODs, where it comes down to sheer determination to keep going,” he said.
“I really enjoy the pain of the longer (workout). I smile and joke a lot during those longer (workouts),” he added.
This was evident during the 2013 Australia Regional. Morton-Adair’s two best scores were in the two chipper events.
He finished 19th place in Event 6
, while his 14th placing in Event 4
, the 100s, saw him beat Mackay, Keegan Wolfenden and fifth-place finisher Kevin Manuel.
“When I started doing the pistols in the 100s, my training partner, who was in the stands, started paying out on me,” Morton-Adair said. “So I kept going, smiled and talked smack with him for the rest of the event.”
Morton-Adair’s gymnastic ability was also evident in Event 3
, where shortly after the overhead squat complex, he completed 30 burpee muscle-ups in a faster time than eventual qualifiers Rob Forte and Brandon Swan.
With endurance and gymnastics two of his strong points, Morton-Adair has spent the past few months working on building his overall strength to become a more rounded athlete.
“There is also a focus on transferring that top-end strength to moving loads under fatigue,” Williams said.
A typical session for Morton-Adair consists of a strength and Olympic lift component followed by a short metabolic conditioning workout.
“It would be a heavy barbell-based met-con, quick short met-con with breaks, and then going again,” Williams said.
“Some of the sessions I do are for developing skills like weighted muscle-ups and handstand push-ups off parallettes,” Morton-Adair said.
“There will always be one sprint (workout) during the week, as well. I would go to the park or track and just do sprint intervals or drag a sled,” he added.
In the lead up to the Australia Regional, Morton-Adair’s training program has changed, with the focus on skill work and “keeping fresh.” The timing of his training sessions and sleep patterns have been adjusted to account for the time difference between Wollongong and Perth, which is two hours.
“There will be lots of skill work and he will be training for the events, and not necessarily doing them,” Williams said. “Choosing our battles, knowing what can be improved in a short time frame, knowing what can be maintained and knowing what to avoid to keep his central-nervous system fresh.”
To keep him sharp, Morton-Adair has also been training with fellow regional competitor, Denae Brown, who finished the Open in fourth place in Australia.
With the events now revealed for the upcoming regional competitions, Morton-Adair has identified elements he can work on to prepare himself better.
On Day 1 of competition, he is looking forward to the new iteration of the classic CrossFit workout Nasty Girls V2
, as well as the handstand walk in Event 2
. But the opening event
is a bit concerning for him.
“The hang squat snatch is different and is going to be a bit of a struggle compared to the other boys,” Morton-Adair said.
With a snatch PB of 100 kg and a 122-kg clean and jerk, Morton-Adair’s Olympic lifting numbers are lower than what the other top male athletes in Australia are posting.
Mackay has a 130-kg snatch and a 150-kg clean and jerk, while eighth-place finisher at last year’s regional, Wolfenden, lifted a massive 135-kg hang snatch in training earlier this month.
On Day 2, Morton-Adair has identified the rope climb and the change of movement standards for the handstand push-ups as elements he can work on.
“The strict handstand push-ups in Event 4
is a bit of a change up, and the legless rope climb is a killer,” he said.
But Morton-Adair is looking forward to Day 3 the most.
“The chipper (Event 6
) is awesome,” he said. “But the couplet will be a challenge just because you cannot come off the bar (in the 64 pull-ups).”
With his increased dedication to training so far this year, Morton-Adair’s goal for the 2014 season has been revised.
“Last year, my goal was to reach regionals. This year, my goal is to place in the top 20, and, depending on the weekend, maybe push top 15,” he said.
“I definitely don’t want to do worse than last year.”