Shawn Ramirez has been in the fitness industry for 22 years—longer than some of his fellow individual competitors in the South East have been alive.
At the end of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Ramirez, who turns 40 in May, sits in first place in the worldwide Men’s 40-44 Masters Division. Just as impressive, he finished in 10th place overall on the South East Men’s Leaderboard.
Despite qualifying as an individual athlete, Ramirez does not plan to compete as an individual at the South East Regional.
“I want to compete as a masters competitor at the Games,” he said. “I understand my options but also realize I am 40 years old. Key word: old. My recovery just isn’t the same. ... (My) body just doesn’t hold up like a 20-something-year-old.”
But Ramirez said not to count him out as a competitor in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I’ve got to wait to see the final (team) Leaderboard after the reshuffle following the regional individual slots that are accepted,” Ramirez said. “If (CrossFit BRx) makes it, I’m definitely going team.”
CrossFit BRx is currently tied for 46th place in the South East, and will therefore need 16 teams to drop out of the top 30. It’s a long shot, but if CrossFit BRx makes it in, Ramirez will gladly suffer alongside his friends.
“I wanted to go team because of the regional experiences I had the past two years,” he explained, “and wanted to share this experience with those I grind it out with every day at CrossFit BRx.”
After finishing inside the top 10 of his division in every Open workout, Ramirez sealed first place overall. The only man who came close to him in the Open was Northern California firefighter Chad Augustin. Ramirez finished the Open with 26 points, while Augustin followed with 31.
Ramirez’s Open win has been years in the making, with notable changes that have upped his game in the last few months. In 2012 and 2013, Ramirez qualified for the South East Regional as an individual where he finished in 39th and 31st place, respectively. In order to fulfill his dream of becoming the fittest on Earth in his masters division in 2014, he hired a remote coach.
“For the first time, I have a remote coach who designs my program, sets my goals and keeps my focus on point,” Ramirez said. “Chip Thorndike with Strength House Performance has been spot on with programming, filling in my holes and further (helping me become) a complete and well-rounded athlete. He has me building strength, working skills, tapering off and peaking at just the right time.”
Achieving his dream of becoming the masters champ takes more than just the right coach and programming.
“I know it takes dedication, hard work and a clear vision no matter what you aspire to do,” Ramirez said. “Write down your goals, see it before you’re going to be it and never lose sight.”
At one point in time, Ramirez’s goals were less ambitious. In fact, they were as simple as being able to walk.
Ten years ago, Ramirez suffered a fall on the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, which left him severely injured and lucky to be alive.
“I suffered multiple injuries and a calcaneus fracture that left me in a wheelchair for quite some time where some doctors believed I would never walk again,” he said.
A calcaneus fracture is a fracture of the heel bone, which occurred when Ramirez fell and hit his heel on a cliff that jutted out near the bottom of the mountain. Typically, the fractures are severe and result in long-term problems.
“My orthopedic surgeon here in the U.S. stated that I would have a physical disability … This fueled my fire,” he said, “and it was then that I made a choice to prove all of them wrong and persevere through this difficult time.”
With nothing but his determination to motivate him, Ramirez proved them wrong.
“Three months later, I was out of the wheelchair, in crutches with partial weight bearing,” he said. “Two months following that, I was back on my feet competing in the Beach Volleyball Pro-Amateur Series.”
To this day, Ramirez uses his near-death experience as motivation to finish any and every CrossFit workout.
“Whenever I find myself hitting that threshold or pushing my body to its maximum capacity, wanting to throw in the towel, I always remember this experience, and how anything is possible and to never give up the fight,” he said.
Since his accident, Ramirez married his childhood sweetheart, and the couple has three sons. Now, his family motivates him to be the best husband, father and athlete he can be.
As the Wellness and Fitness Coordinator for Miami-Dade County Parks, he hopes to show his boys the importance of lifelong health. As CrossFit BRx co-owner, coach and competitor, he wants to set an example of hard work and dedication.
“They inspire me beyond anything I have yet to experience,” he said. “The moment I feel that redline coming on or that threshold creeping in, I look for them in the crowd and a surge of energy rushes through me that is indescribable.”
Ramirez said he is confident he’ll be going to Carson, Calif., this summer even though he still has the new Masters Qualifier to get through.
“I think (Dave) Castro will throw out a regional format, testing all the masters who advance to make sure we are complete athletes,” Ramirez said. “This will consist of a benchmark workout—some nasty girl; a strength test—clean and jerk or snatch; a couplet or triplet of some sort, and some skill gymnasty test, as well.”
“The competition is stiffer this year, and (Castro) wants to make sure the right masters are showing up in Carson this go-round,” he said.
Ramirez said he is not concerned or focused on those he considers to be his main challengers in his masters division.
“I have my sights set on one thing, and one thing only,” he said. “And there is nothing I want more right now than to accomplish that feat.”