From the 2010 to 2011 Games
That changed very quickly. Excluding a misstep on the Max Overhead Squat Event, Austin finished in the top 10 in every event that year. He ended up 6th overall, just 7 points behind Mikko Salo, the previous year's champ.
However, 2011 was very different. When Austin arrived at the Home Depot Center, a great deal of attention and expectations were attached to his name.
The attention was well founded. Besides the 2010 Games, Austin had excelled in the 2011 Open and Regionals. He took 5th place worldwide in the Open. At Regionals he not only won, but also took 1st or 2nd place on five out of six events. Austin's 2:56 time on Event 3, the 315-lb deadlift/ 30-inch box jump couplet, was the fastest at any Regional. The 2:56 time came with an added benefit; his goal had been "to beat Annie Thorisdottir's time," and he did, by one second.
His diligent training had also paid off in better WOD times and stronger max lifts, including a 570-pound deadlift at 167-lb bodyweight. On paper, he was a fitter and more experienced competitor than in 2010.
Disappointment in 2011
Austin's performance at the Home Depot Center didn't meet his expectations.
The first two events threw some surprises at him. He took 22nd on the Beach Event and struggled with the first Skill event's L-sit, softball throw, and handstand walk combination.
Event 3, however, consisted exclusively of two CrossFit staples: rope climbs and clean and jerks. Looking at the 2010 results, and his main site performances, one would have expected a top performance from Austin on this couplet.
Nonetheless, Austin came 22nd in the Rope/Clean, finishing 1:40 behind Rich Froning Jr.'s winning performance. Austin reflected that he "wasn't happy with my rope climb/ power clean workout."
It wasn't all disappointment. He excelled in the Triplet Sprint and Killer Kage events, taking third and seventh respectively. The dogsled event, though, also fell short of his expectations. Austin went into it thinking that the combination of double-unders, overhead squats, heavy sled pushes, and handstand push-ups was in his wheelhouse, but he ended up taking 17th.
At the end of 7 events, Austin found himself in 18th place overall, 6 spots short of qualifying for the final three events.
Learning from the Letdown
Austin was not happy with this result. In fact, he said he was "very disappointed" in his performance. In addition to letting himself down, he felt that he let "others" down as well. The disappointment motivated a deep reflection on his training and lifestyle.
Austin's ticket to the Games was an indomitable work ethic and focus. He trained multiple workouts daily, swore off alcohol, ate a strict Paleo/Zone diet, and made sure to get to bed early every night to maximize his recovery.
In 2011, though, Austin took his discipline a little too far. When he arrived at the Games, he felt "a bit over trained and mentally burnt out."
For one, Austin realized that he was training too much volume. This year, he has decided to train with lower volume and try "to get more out of each session."
Bringing in the Best
In order to correct his Olympic lifting technique, Austin has brought on CrossFit HQ Seminar trainer EvaClaire (E.C.) Synkowski as a coach. It's paid off so far; Austin reports that he's hit some new PRs in the lifts from drilling his form weekly with E.C.
Beyond adjusting his training, Austin has returned to an old CrossFit staple: playing sports. One lesson he learned at the 2011 Games was that he "spent too much time in the gym and not enough time applying my skills." In response, Austin has returned to playing ice hockey, a sport he competed at in high school.
For programming, Austin has turned to another CrossFit HQ Seminar Trainer, Adrian Bozman. He appreciates the reduced stress that comes from not having to worry about what workouts to do.
When he works out, Austin often trains with Spencer Hendel, a three-time Games athlete who most recently finished 9th at the 2011 Games. Spencer is also a coach at Reebok CrossFit One, and he and Austin work out together as often as possible. Their strength and weaknesses complement each other well. Spencer is an excellent Olympic lifter with a 300-pound snatch, but he tends to slow on gymnastics and longer workouts, whereas Austin is strong at gymnastics, slow lifts, and met-cons, but less proficient at the snatch and clean and jerk.
Balancing Work and Training
Besides revamping his training, Austin has another challenge to tackle this year: finding a balance between his professional and athletic goals. While he's still a competitive Games athlete, he's also the Head Coach at Reebok CrossFit One and a CrossFit HQ seminar trainer.
Running the Reebok CrossFit One gym is a large task by itself. More than 400 Reebok employees train at the gym. They recently had to expand to a larger facility – 12,000 square feet – in order to “accommodate for all the volume.” Making sure that 400 people get quality training is hard, but Austin also is “pulled into meetings” to give his input on upcoming Reebok shoes and clothing. According to Austin "working here at Reebok is a lot more work than any other affiliate in the past.”
In addition, Austin works as a CrossFit Level One Seminar trainer. Three weekends a month he travels the world teaching people the fundamentals of CrossFit. This November, Austin travelled to India for CrossFit. His mission was to help CrossFit trainers on the sub-continent become better coaches as well as to introduce over 40 Indians to CrossFit for the first time.
Ironically, Austin, who once was known for his live-in-the-gym lifestyle, is now famous in the CrossFit community for traveling the world. And, he’s taking the chance to apply his fitness in ways that he never had the time for, such as ice hockey. But don’t count Austin out of the Games yet. With a renewed passion for training, improved Olympic lifts, and some top-notch coaches and training partners, Austin Malleolo is still a top name to watch for in 2012.