March 9, 2013
All In: Marcus Hendren
By Cindy Young

“When I first told my dad I was leaving the farm to try and win the CrossFit Games, he wasn’t pleased at all … he thinks it’s silly and kind of immature … But I don’t feel like that. I feel like if you have a dream, you should chase it.”


Marcus Hendren quit the family farm.

“When I first told my dad I was leaving the farm to try and win the CrossFit Games, he wasn’t pleased at all … he thinks it’s silly and kind of immature … and it’s time (for me) to grow up,” Hendren says. “But I don’t feel like that. I feel like if you have a dream, you should chase it.”

After taking seventh at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, he’s confident his dream is within reach. That is, if he gives himself enough time to train.

Last year, he worked on his family’s dairy farm during the day practicing pistols and handstand push-ups alongside his tractor. When his shift ended, he trained alone in the evenings.

The farm didn’t exactly make for the perfect training environment. Yet the former Cornell University football player improved. He qualified for the CrossFit Games after taking fifth place at the 2012 Central East Regional, behind CrossFit Games champions, Rich Froning Jr. and Graham Holmberg.

Although he took the last qualifying spot at the Regional, he managed to make it into the top 10 at the Games.

His worst performances were on Pendleton 1 (32nd) and Pendleton 2 (20th). For the rest of the competition, he performed well and racked up six top-10 finishes. The rookie stood out from the crowd on the Clean Ladder with a 365-lb. pull, and the Double Banger, where he finished second.

While he wasn’t able to make up for his performances at Camp Pendleton, he left the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games with a greater sense of himself as a competitor and the knowledge of what he needed to work on for 2013.

“I want to be good at everything,” he says. “I totally obsess about it.”

Now, Hendren trains at CrossFit Polaris in Columbus, Ohio, six days per week.

His whiteboard is full of weaknesses, both single movements and specific pairings that have torn him apart or left him particularly sore.

“I found out last week that hollow-rock holds for two minutes were a weakness … So, I did it again yesterday, and I will do it again today until I’m good at it,” he says.

He’s also training to consistently move heavy weights, even when he’s exhausted at the end of the workout.

“I have to get better at being at my strongest at the end of the workout,” he says. “My strength needs to last just as long as my lungs do.”

To develop that kind of strength, he does every-minute-on-the-minute strength work immediately after a met-con.

He’s proud of his gains. His max-rep pull-up number is up to 63 from 48, and his 30 muscle-ups for time is down to 3:04.

“I tried a heavy Amanda at 185 lb. last year before the Games and my time was 12:30. I just redid it and now my time is at 5:51,” he says.  

Still, no amount of technique or practice will overcome another athlete’s raw drive to win, Hendren says.

“I know that my form isn’t perfect. I’d love to be perfect on every lift, but I am not going to be,” he says. “If I sacrifice technique for intensity — and maybe that is something that is going to lone itself to injury — I am willing to take that risk if it can make me better and faster. I really don’t think I'm ever going to be that guy that just dominates on the bar when we’re going for a max load with any movement. I just gotta do better than I think I can and set a PR and be better overall.”

Farming and Fitness

Hendren’s family still isn’t ecstatic about his CrossFit career, but he says they're coming around. A $250,000 payday would certainly sweeten the deal. But he blames himself for their inability to grasp his future plans wholeheartedly.

“I want a farm and a gym, with people coming to eat the food that I raise,” he says.

The plan, Hendren says, is to educate farmers and consumers alike. His future farm will be an example, a place where he can teach the manufacturing practices he believes are crucial for the highest quality products and a place that doesn’t separate the importance of quality food from quality fitness.

Hendren hasn’t ended a tradition by leaving the farm. He has postponed an eventuality. A responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

“Last year, I was at the bottom of a hole, at the end of a shovel, and I won’t forget where I come from,” he says. “(In) 2013, if I don’t do better, it's no one’s fault but mine.”