June 12, 2012
Defined: Dan Bailey
By Josh Bunch

"I have only been here for a little over two years and I have seen it go from Regionals in a field in Logan, Ohio to cameras and ESPN. It's really a testament to CrossFit's methods."

Dan Bailey is an accomplished Olympic lifter, proficient gymnast and a met-con powerhouse. Not to mention, a consistent, top performing CrossFitter. But that is only the exterior. There is much more to a book than the cover confining it lets on.

The Beginning

In 2010, the CrossFit world met Bailey at the Arnold Classic. Bailey was judged well before he entered the first couplet of that game-changing day. Many thought he wasn’t the right size to be competitive in CrossFit – he’s so muscular, he’d probably gas out long before other, more svelte athletes would. At least, that is what everyone thought until 3, 2, 1 … Go!

Per the usual, Bailey ignored the crowd reminiscent of his track running days at Ohio University. He did as he always did … he worked. He outworked everyone taking the CrossFit Sectionals – now the Open – by storm.

It would take Bailey another year of refinement to make it past the Regional competition after missing the cut in 2010. Bailey is more than willing to learn from experience. Experiences that have led him since to the CrossFit Games in 2011 where he took sixth place overall.

His Spiritual Side

Bailey loves challenges that test every piece of his resolve. But it’s not what defines him. His willingness to become very uncomfortable helps with his physical ability, but he credits his spiritual side, as well.

Bailey is one of the best competitive CrossFitters today, yet CrossFit is not everything to him. His spiritual calling is front and center, leaving CrossFit, and everything else a distant second.

“Sports are a great way to meet people all over the world,” Bailey says regarding his role with an organization called Athletes in Action. “We don’t throw the Bible at them, we share in something we all enjoy, and it becomes so much more.”

Athletes in Action Sports Ministry is a worldwide organization “Building spiritual movements everywhere through the platform of sport so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus,” according to its mission statement.

Bailey’s spiritual mission, which has led him to Fiji on three separate occasions, precedes his CrossFit mission. “You might not think Fiji has a lot of needy people, put there are poor and hurting people everywhere,” he explains. “Jesus told us to take care of people. It doesn’t matter if they know God or not, we still take care of everyone.”

Bailey has been on several mission trips with Athletes in Action. “We help people, Christian or not,” he says.

The athletic prowess, and dedication Bailey nurtures daily is exhibited in his life’s mission. “The most rewarding part of the work we do is seeing the changes in people that we get to meet, knowing your making a difference,” he says.

Brothers in Arms

It’s his faith that led him straight to his training partner and 2011 CrossFit Games champion, Rich Froning.

Bailey’s faith, combined with his pursuit of a Masters degree, landed him at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn.

“Working with Rich has been the best thing for me,” Bailey says. “I have added volume, and even though I take a little more rest than he does, you can’t help but get better training beside him.”

However, training with the champ can be distracting. “We are both busy of course. Sometimes I hear him go out into the gym when I am trying to work, and even though I really should be working, I just can’t help it and I go join in,” Bailey says.

The pair trains multiple times a day, focusing morning sessions on mono-structural work like running or rowing. That is followed by heavier strength, while later in the day they’ll hit an every minute, on the minute workout to build volume. Typically, the duo will wrap up the day with a team workout or endurance work.

“I usually work very intensely for two to three weeks in a row, three to four sessions a day,” Bailey says. “After that, I scale it way back for three or four days – even a week. No more than one to two sessions a day. It all depends on if I am hitting my goals and how I feel. If I start in on something and just feel too far off, I am not afraid to just walk away, rest and come back when I can really make a difference.”

Regionals and CrossFit Growth

Bailey took the Central East Regional by storm coming in second only to Froning. His record-breaking Diane at 1:35, bested legend Chris Spealler’s previous time by 17 seconds.

That isn’t what Bailey remembers most about the weekend, though. “Regionals [are] a little nerve-racking, sure, but not because of the workouts,” he explains. “It’s because of CrossFit’s growth and where it has come from. I have only been here for a little over two years and I have seen it go from Regionals in a field in Logan, Ohio, to cameras and ESPN. It’s really a testament to CrossFit’s methods.”

The kind of thankful, genuine feeling that Bailey gives off is no fluke, and it doesn’t come easy. To Bailey, it has never been about taking the easy way out. It has always been about making his own way and being at his best.