July 23, 2013
CrossFit Invictus: Lessons from the Veterans
By Jaimie Bougie

“The veterans always remind us to go out there and have fun ... Stay calm and remember why we do it — because we love it.” ~Heather Hippensteel

With the CrossFit Games approaching year seven, there is a whole slew of athletes bringing years of competition experience to the stage. But there is some new blood, as well.

Team Invictus of CrossFit Invictus, who placed fourth at the Games in 2009, 2010 and 2012, and 14th in 2011, finds this year’s team an equal division between veterans and rookies. Each brings their own lessons learned to share with the others.

Veteran Shane Farmer, who has competed on Team Invictus since 2010, says maintaining a better balance between commitment to training and commitment to outside relationships has helped keep him from burning out after years of competition.  

“Going into my fourth season of competing at a Games level, I decided to maintain a better balance between commitment to my training and commitment to the relationships I have outside the gym — my family, my girlfriend and my friends,” he says. “I stopped obsessing about the training.”

Nichole DeHart, who took third at the 2007 CrossFit Games, has spent the last four years competing with Invictus. She credits her ability to last through these years to her community and the programming.  

“Our training environment really helps us with keeping training fun. We are all fortunate that our schedules allow us to all train together with CJ coaching us. It helps everyone be supportive. We keep our volume reasonable throughout the year. Compared to a lot of other programs that other athletes do, our volume is very reasonable and we don’t run our bodies into the ground and prevent injuries,” she says.

Hank Lopez, who took seventh at the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional, has learned a lot about training during his first year as a team player.

“Last year, I didn’t belong to a gym so I ended up overtraining. This year, training with a team and a coach has taught me how to train smarter. I know that other people depend on my health,” Lopez says.

The ability to train as a team on a regular basis has helped the rookies assimilate into this veteran team, emphasizing communication, support and full effort.

“My biggest piece of advice to the new athletes on our team is communication. Great communication during the workouts and transitions, and to be absolutely 100 percent supportive of one another,” DeHart says.

Santino Marini, who took 17th at the 2011 Europe Regional, finds inspiration in his veteran teammates’ work ethic to help push him to the limits.

“The old school veterans have set a work ethic standard and us rookies have tried to follow suit,” he says. “They constantly give 100 percent effort, even during training sessions, even if they are having an off day and it sets a good example for us rookies.”

Nineteen-year-old Lauren Fisher, who placed 12th as an individual at the 2012 NorCal Regional, finds team competition a lot more fun than competing as an individual.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from our team veterans is how to be calm in the face of pressure, whether it’s in competition or even during practice,” she says. “Everyone has their bad days, it’s not the end of the world and to stay positive throughout our training.”

Nuno Costa, an endurance athlete, competed for CrossFit SoCal in 2009 before joining Invictus in 2010.  During the offseason, he competes in fun events such as Ragnar races with the Invictus Endurance Team. When serious training starts back up, however, Costa continues to keep it fun.

“More than anything, I try to not take it too seriously and have fun. I mess around with my teammates a lot and I try to make fun of them as much as possible,” Costa says.

Keeping training fun was one of the big lessons that the veterans tried to instill in the rookies this season.  

This is Heather Hippensteel’s first year competing in CrossFit and having the constant support of her teammates made all of the difference in her performance at Regionals.

“The veterans always remind us to go out there and have fun. It’s just like a training session at our gym, except we are just doing it in front of people,” she says. “Stay calm and remember why we do it — because we love it.”

With a first-place finish worldwide in this year’s Open and their third consecutive first-place finish at the SoCal Regional, Team Invictus is ready to give full effort in Carson this month. They’re hopeful that their combination of experience and freshness has made them ready to tackle any surprises that come up at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.