May 20, 2012
Derek Toshner: From Competitor to Coach
By John Koenig

"2012 was going to be my year of CrossFit."

After a strong performance in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Regionals, Derek Toshner tailored his training program for this year’s Open and Regionals. He was injured during the Garage Games in Naperville, Illinois in February, when he ripped his right pec from the bone. Now, at the 2012 Regionals, Toshner is coaching Andrew Kuechler, a young, upcoming CrossFitter.

Is coaching as satisfying as competing?

Derek Toshner grew up a wrestler. The mental toughness necessary for that grueling sport is the foundation of his life.

“I always thought I would be a collegiate wrestler. I grew 6 inches one year and suddenly was good at track,” said Toshner.

A torn ACL in his senior year scared away the big colleges who had been knocking on his door. At UW-Lacrosse, Derek was National champion in the 44 meter hurdles three times, ran at the World Trials in 2003 and 2005, and the Olympic Trials in 2004.

After graduation, Toshner was bored with exercise and his brother introduced him to kettlebells. He immediately lost weight and got back into shape, and was hooked. Today he’s completed the Level 2 Seminar, competes in KB snatching, and owns and operates TNT Fitness in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.

In 2010 one of his kettlebell instructors told him he should try CrossFit, which Derek had never heard of. That year he won the MadTown Challenge, showing up without any specific CrossFit training.

“I thought I had this CrossFit thing figured out,” said Toshner. “I began training for the Games that year, but when I was introduced to Fran, I quit! I couldn’t do it.”

The following year he won MadTown again, now with a year of CrossFit training under his belt. He only began learning kipping pull-ups and handstand push-ups a couple of weeks before 2011 Regionals, but held his own, winning one event.

“2012 was going to be my year of CrossFit,” said Derek.

Surgery in February shelved Toshner’s CrossFit season. He was discouraged, wondering at the age of 30 how many competitive years he has left. Andrew Kuechler, an intern working on his degree in exercise science, came to TNT Fitness with a bodybuilding and hockey background. His relationship with Derek turned his attitude around, giving him a CrossFit project while he runs his business, rehabs himself and thinks about next year.

“Andrew is freakish. He will wall-sit and watch a movie,” said Toshner.

Kuechler made it to Regionals this year, a raw athlete with great potential. Toshner has coached him along the way, taking pride in him. He’s happy to have found the drive to help others within himself.

“I still take more satisfaction from competing than coaching,” said Derek. “Maybe this injury is a wake-up call, telling me my elite competitive years are ending.”

Derek Toshner plans to return to Regionals next year as a competitor. He’s going to train with Andrew rather than coach him.

“We’ll coach each other, train together, and compete with each other. It will be fun,” said Toshner.