June 27, 2013
Being Behemoth
By Karen Feiner

“Knowing (Dave) Castro and how he likes to top himself year in and year out, it will be both a blast and a nightmare to see what he pulls out for us this year.”

Aja Barto came in second at the 2013 South Central Regional, just four points out of first place. At 26 years old, he’ll be heading to the CrossFit Games for the third consecutive year.

But he came into Regionals apprehensive of the outcome.

“I felt that this was going to be an extremely tough Regional for me to qualify out of, considering the workouts programmed,” Barto admits. “Everyone could do everything. I didn't believe there were any ‘separating’ workouts to be honest. Unlike last year’s 30 hang cleans at 225 lb. that made a lot of athletes cringe, every event this year was pretty much programmed to bring the best CrossFitter to the top. All in all, I'm very proud to qualify again, but there is still one final stage to perform at come the end of July.”

Barto says he looks most forward to the Games.

“Training for the Games is a lot more fun because it allows me to get out and apply my fitness, and do things that may not necessarily be seen in a Regional setting,” he says. “Increasing my aerobic base will be the main focus, so that means longer sessions in the pool and on the trails, and really just out working for longer periods of time consistently. The volume has picked up and now I stick to one full rest day with the other being more of an aerobic restoration day.”

Dominating Regional Events 5 and 7 and struggling in Event 4, Barto acknowledges he is not a big fan of the longer sessions.

 “I've gotten much better over the years at enduring them, but as a whole that is where my game is lacking,” he says.

He is anticipating a triathlon-like event this year.

“Knowing (Dave) Castro and how he likes to top himself year in and year out, it will be both a blast and a nightmare to see what he pulls out for us this year.”

As someone who has gone to the Games for the past two years, Barto’s game plan remains the same.

“Each year, I go out there and have a goal to be the best athlete that I can be and to perform the way I believe I can,” he says. “Sometimes that plan doesn't always play out the way you see it, but that is life. All I am concerned with is what I can control and those are my efforts. If I give it my all, then I believe the results are pre-determined. It's not about the end result, but rather what you put into it. Last place or first place, I want to be better with each event and the best I can be come Sunday.”

Barto says his training is smarter this year.

“I’ve trained smarter rather than harder. Since opening up Behemoth CrossFit this past year, training has had to split time with working with my own athletes and growing Behemoth to what it is today,” he explains. “I've changed expectations and dedicated myself to being the best I can be in both realms rather than just one. I think experience at the Games level is always a plus. The first time, the experience can sometimes be overwhelming, but the more you go back, the easier it is to get comfortable with everything that’s going on.”

According to Barto, there are a few more essentials necessary to competing at the Games.  

“My mom and dad, Tim and Elaine. My brother, Aryan. My girlfriend, Leah. My healer, Chris Canada and his wife, and a handful of my athletes and members from Behemoth. All the essentials needed for the best support crew anyone can have,” he says of his support team.

He’s got the box, the training, the support crew … what else could he want? What almost every other CrossFit Games competitor thinks about when they are not training or coaching: food.

“I love food, specifically, deliciously prepared meat, so most weekends you can find my girlfriend and I unwinding at an all you can eat Brazilian steak house. Rarely is there a time we don't eat them out of business.”  

Barto, always humble, always friendly, towers over the competition at 6-foot-5. The word “tower” being quite literal.

“I'm the tallest to make it to Carson and I take great pride in that. Regardless of the speculation that this sport isn't a big man's game, I relish in the fact that I've been able to prove that wrong consistently over the past few years,” he says. “I know there are a ton of other behemoths out there that are grinding away to make it to the Games, and I hope I can provide inspiration to show them that it's possible for anyone. I, like everyone that does CrossFit, love the challenges that the sport provides. I don't let body type, length, weight or whatever get to me in any movements, workout or competition. I simply go out and focus on performing and let everything else take care of itself.”