By Chris Cobb
Neal Maddox is a good example of the emerging CrossFit top-tier athlete. He owns his own CrossFit affiliate gym, he works out, trains athletes, goes home, sleeps, and does it again the next day. Coming from a Division II collegiate football background, with a stint on the San Jose Sabercats arena football team, he has the athleticism many crave. Having found CrossFit a few years back, that athleticism vaulted him to the top of the NorCal pack in a short period of time.
In 2011, at the Northern California Regional, Maddox, the winner of the NorCal Sectional in 2010, found out what it means to be everyone’s bullseye. He was actually booed during a workout, with the crowd thinking he was shorting his reps. In CrossFit, intensity and form constantly strive against each other. Maddox says he was not trying to cheat, but looking for that magical, “sweet spot” where the optimal mix of movement, preparedness, energy, and performance are found. His focus isn’t on winning. He says he feels winning s a by-product of finding that sweet spot, and he’s always on a quest to find it.
Coming in 4th place at the 2011 NorCal Regional, Maddox reached the Games for the second time, where he was quickly overwhelmed by the caliber of the world's best. Part mind games, part preparedness, Maddox found himself in the middle of the pack and did not make the cut for the last day of competition.
“I realized I was preparing for each WOD in a totally different way than I prepared for them back at the training box,” Maddox recalls. He's changed that for 2012, going through a set routine before the start of each workout or each lift. This set routine will stay the same throughout the Games season, and Maddox believes the importance of the mental game was a significant lesson that he has learned.
Training for the 2012 Games started soon after he got back from the Home Depot Center in July of last year. Maddox included some Westside Barbell regimens into his programming, in addition to training with workout partner Jason Khalipa, a mix, which he says has proven to be very successful. “I'm in my mid-30s, but PRs are still happening.”
He's also focusing on skills this year, throwing the football and swimming, because, “we all found out last year, who knows what the Games are going to bring.” He also incorporated a break period at the end of each month where he took four to six days off, keeping in mind the season is long and he didn't want burnout to happen. As the Open and Regionals loom, he's now back at it full time.
Based on the level of athletes he saw at the Games in 2011, Maddox says he was humbled, but proud. “At the elite level of CrossFit, these are now professional athletes,” he says. “I was proud to be there last year among them, and proud to see my workout partner do well. This year I am working to find that sweet spot, and if I do, if I can reach my fullest potential for the Games workouts, then yes, I have it in me to win it all.”