CrossFit Maximus has sent a team to the CrossFit Games twice. This year, they hope for a third trip. If all goes well, they will be joined by a couple of individual competitors, as well.
“I think it’s the water,” team coach Nathan Spitz says with a laugh.
At the end of the Open, CrossFit Maximus held onto first place in the Central East. The gym also had the region’s top-ranked woman in the Open, Jennifer Smith, as well as the region’s 10th-ranked man in the Open, Chris Walker. CrossFit Maximus member, Eric Oxley, finished in 46th place and will compete, as well.
Whether it’s the water or the training, CrossFit Maximus has repeatedly shown something is working.
In 2010, Maximus took third at the Central East Regional and 44th at the Games. After missing qualification with a seventh-place finish at the 2011 Central East Regional, Maximus put in the training necessary to do better than ever in 2012. They went on to make their comeback with a second-place finish at the 2012 Central East Regional, and a 19th-place finish at the Games.
This year, they’re in it to win it.
Although competition is a big part of their box, the group also has a strong community.
“The community is the heart and soul of the gym,” owner Matt Sharp says. “Competition is an extension of that. If you have a great community, you’ll hold onto great competitors.”
Walker enjoys training around the team even though he’ll be competing as an individual.
“There’s stuff I’m not great at that people on the team are good at,” Walker says. “And it’s great to have that other person pushing you. It gives you that edge to push yourself harder.”
Walker is a former member of the team, but felt this year was his year to go individual.
“If I’m ever gonna have the opportunity, this is the year to do it,” he says. “Even though I’m up against a lot of incredible athletes and talent, I’m not getting any younger.”
Walker isn’t the only former Maximus teammate who’s going individual this year. Smith is also going solo to see where she stands in the Central East.
To prepare for her individual debut, Smith has followed the programming and remote coaching of CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Trainer Doug Chapman. Of course, she is sharing what she learns with the team.
“They’ll go and do Doug’s training (with Smith) occasionally and come back and do the team stuff,” Spitz says. “So they’re sort of mixing and matching, but I’m alright with that because Jen has grown leaps and bounds with Doug’s programming, so I graciously bow and defer.”
Since it’s hard to find time when everyone is free, the team doesn’t get to train together very often. Spitz worries their lack of team training may put them behind other teams. But after the announcement of the 2013 Regional Events, Spitz dropped his concerns.
“There’s a lot less partner interaction,” he says. “The only (event) where you have to be in constant communication and be side-by-side is Event 6. It evens the playing field for us.”
Prior to the revelation of the Regional Events, the team focused on individual weaknesses, like high-rep heavy barbell movements, conditioning and muscle-ups. When teammates managed to get together, they practiced transitions on the rower or rings, or holding static positions.
After the Regional Events were released, Spitz put the athletes through time trials to determine who would do what.
“The biggest thing is we don’t want to burn them out on these workouts,” Spitz says. “We want them to perform at high capacity when they get there, but you have to balance that with them feeling comfortable.”
Part of making the team comfortable is preparing competitors for the mental aspect of Regional-level competition.
“We’ve got some people who have to deal with the mental side of being on the big stage,” Spitz says. “But luckily, we have enough veterans that everyone will be prepared for what’s coming. The veterans are helping to calm everybody’s fears and get everyone excited about what’s going to happen.”
With four veterans (Mike Deime, Chris Sweat, Kelli Cramer, and Lisa Hill), and four rookies (Jordan Baker, Aric Johnson, Jennifer Bradford, and Erica Maryman), the team is evenly split.
To prepare for the big show, Spitz takes his athletes through all conceivable scenarios.
“What happens when an athlete gets tired and slows down, how do you adjust on the fly?” Spitz says. “What if you get no-repped — do you stop and ask the judge? When you’re in competition, anything can happen and if you don’t react well, you can lose seconds.”
While the team works on group strategy, Walker is working on his mental toughness. As an individual competitor, he’s going to put in more volume than the team.
“I think a lot of people’s biggest weakness is their mental capacity to endure pain,” he says. “You’re gonna have 10 to 20 times during a workout where you have to make the choice of, ‘Am I going to set that bar down?’ If you can train yourself to make the decision to keep going, you’re gonna be a better athlete.”
To toughen up, he puts himself through long workouts. For example, he may do a 20-minute AMRAP of five pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 wall balls.
“It used to be about how many reps (I can do),” he says. “Now my mindset is, ‘Can I do the whole thing unbroken?’ If I want to compete at a high level, that needs to be my mindset, because these other guys aren’t going to stop.”
This weekend, the competitors from CrossFit Maximus will compete for the friends and family who have supported them.
“They’re not just doing it for themselves,” Sharp says. “They have all these people supporting them and they want to rise to the occasion and go out there and make everyone proud.”
“When you can think beyond yourself and know that your training and what you represent is more than just you, it gives you a different motive,” he says. “I’m competing as an individual, but I still have the Maximus name on my chest, and I’m representing them.”