Brandon Phillips: One Goal

January 31, 2012

Douglas McClure

The high school wrestling coach hopes to return to his fourth Games.

Three-time CrossFit Games athlete Brandon Phillips--who finished 6th in the South East in last year’s Open, 3rd at the South East Regional and 31st in California--was forced into more than a month off after a back injury in November. Phillips trains at CF Kennesaw, and according to his coach Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw CrossFit, the 29-year-old is already back looking like the 2010 version of himself, a season he concluded with an 11th-place finish at the Games. 
In a recent interview with the 5’11”, 214-pound former wrestler and rugby player, Phillips talks about balancing being a teacher and wrestling coach with his own training - and making sure every meal involves eating bacon.
What would you say has impressed you the most with the growth of the Games?
The programming and the qualification process every year just gets more competitive. You can’t just come out and say, ‘Hey I’m going to qualify for the CrossFit Games,’ you have to really prepare yourself now. No lack. No deficiencies.
How are you able to keep growing and training to make it every year?
I’m a schoolteacher; I get the summer time off. I can train all the time. During the fall and winter, I do all the strength and conditioning, and I’m the wrestling coach, so during those seasons I can only train once a day. I focus on strength and some weaknesses like gymnastics. Then once wrestling season is over, I start picking back up with endurance work, and two-a-days here and there. I get a good CrossFit periodization where I can peak for the Games.
Would you say that’s contributed to your longevity in the sport and your continuing success in the sport?
Yep. Plus, one of the biggest things is you just have to have fun. That’s what it’s all about, and this is throughout the pursuit of the elite levels of fitness. I think if you change that mentality, you can get engulfed in numbers, looking at other people’s times, comparing yourself to others constantly … that can wear you down. 
From January 2009 (when Phillips started CrossFit) to now, has your training changed?
Honestly, it really hasn’t changed that much. The main focus of my programming is strength. You look at the top competitors now, they’re all in strength programs. You develop the skill work on the side as you come along. You can’t just go into the gym and have 30 muscle-ups for time in under 3 minutes. That’s a skill-set that you have to work on, but you can get stronger. We’re constantly changing our strength program. Usually going in four-, six-, 12-week cycles throughout the year, always doing something different. 
No huge volume of training to help you prepare for the volume of the Games?
No, we generally stick to Monday through Thursday, Friday off. Saturday is Olympic weightlifting normally and Sunday rest day. You don’t have to go do three WODs a day to go prepare for the Games. Then I usually do a local competition once a month when I get out of wrestling, beginning in March. Having that volume on weekends, that’s what helps you. Going out there doing six WODs in a weekend, coming back, recovering, getting into your cycle, then going out and doing it again. You’re body has to be able to handle that work capacity, I think that’s what those local competitions are perfect for – to test yourself.
Are you strict with your nutrition?
My body responds well when I eat a lot. I tried doing the whole Paleo thing last year and I think it actually had a negative impact on me, my strength numbers, and everything else. Seventy percent of the time, I’m eating good. I have my pizza, I have my ice cream every now and then, but I get good results when I’m going both ways. Rich (Froning) eats peanut butter and drinks chocolate milk all day.
How do you maintain your mental strength or spiritual strength?
Everybody has to have their faith in something. What we put our faith in defines us as a person. When it comes to my Christianity, I know who I am in Christ and that motivates me all the time. I’m a big family person. I love my family very much and they support me. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded people. When you do that, you’re able to continually grow and find motivation. That’s what I love about CrossFit, it’s just one big family. No matter what our background is, when we’re training together we all have one goal ... we just want to be better people. Some days I don’t want to go to the gym, but I have friends there that will encourage me when I get there, and I want to be there for them as much as they want to be there for me.