"I've known since a young age that I was called to serve, not from behind a desk, but in an environment where it's required to be physically involved, taking on tasks that most people would not or cannot (do)."
Firefighter, paramedic student, CrossFit coach, and South East Regional athlete are just some of the roles played by Tommy Caputo, 22, of CrossFit Pure in Dacula, Georgia.
Caputo finished the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open in 28th place and is now hoping to add “CrossFit Games athlete” to his résumé.
Caputo has been a firefighter since October 2013 and is currently in school to become a paramedic. He is in an accelerated program through October 2014 that calls for 40 hours of training and schoolwork per week. He also completes a 24-hour shift with the fire department almost every other Saturday.
“I’ve known since a young age that I was called to serve, not from behind a desk, but in an environment where it’s required to be physically involved, taking on tasks that most people would not or cannot (do),” Caputo said.
The sport of CrossFit is a benefit to many first responders. Well-known athletes like Rich Froning, Jr., and Samantha Briggs are among the many who have chosen the sport to reinforce the level of fitness needed in their career.
“Along with the challenges of being a firefighter and working in the EMS field, you never know what a call will be like, how heavy someone will be or what kind of physical challenge will be brought,” Caputo said. “In order to be prepared, you have to be great at everything. Preparation calls for placing yourself in uncomfortable positions, tailoring training to what you might expect, and putting your body under load at high intensity. A huge part of it is knowing how to lift properly.”
Despite a busy schedule, Caputo trains five days a week, twice a day. His schedule at paramedic school allows him to get a workout in on his lunch break, and then he returns to CrossFit Pure for Round 2 at the end of the day. Prior to the Open, he was also coaching one or two days a week.
He said he gets through the long days by eating large amounts of food.
“I’d rather get extra calories throughout the day than accidentally come up short,” he said. “I eat clean and I allow for a few cheat meals, maybe about three times a week.”
Caputo started CrossFit almost three years ago when a friend told him that he seemed built for the sport. Caputo’s athletic background included baseball, basketball, football and wrestling, but he had never heard of CrossFit.
“I had no idea what he was talking about,” Caputo said. “I had never heard of CrossFit, and I thought it was strange that I hadn’t.”
Curiosity got the best of him, and a few months later he tried a workout he found online—21-15-9 deadlifts at 225 lb. and handstand push-ups—also known as Diane. Caputo was in a college gym that had walls made out of glass, and he was hesitant to kick up on the walls for the handstand push-ups. Instead, he had someone hold his ankles for him while he did the handstand push-ups in the middle of the room. He recalls his time being sub-3:00.
“I laid down on the floor after that workout, and that was something I had never done before,” he said. “I was surprised by the pain factor.”
Chris Brown, owner of CrossFit Pure, said he knew immediately Caputo would become an elite-level CrossFit athlete. The first time they worked out together Brown said he was confident in the workout, as it was one that played to his strengths.
“Caputo came in and lapped me by two rounds, and it was a five-round workout,” Brown said. “He was faster than our best guy, and I knew instantly that he would be someone we could develop to be at one of the highest levels in the gym.”
Caputo said he approaches every workout with the mindset of “leaving the baggage at the door.”
“I set things aside that don’t need to be in the gym and always make sure my mind is clear,” he said. “I have the ability to do that pretty quick. I don’t bring anything with me. All our competitors train as a group and motivate each other, and I will notice if anyone is carrying something. It’s understood that you have to drop it and get back to work.”
Brown concurred and said Caputo completes each workout with an extremely level head.
“What I’ve always noticed about him is that he is very methodical, composed, calm and put together. He has patience because he knows exactly what he can do, and he does it,” Brown said. “He’s confident, sets a game plan prior to, and runs with it. Most of the time he is in a good position to win, and in the last moments will really turn it on. We’ve talked about turning it on faster.”
“I get in a zone, and when I know I can pick it up, I do,” Caputo added.
In preparation for regionals, Caputo said he will continue training the way he trained for the Open: “By practicing as many movements that I thought could be tested and using past years workouts in my training to be prepared for recurring movements, similar rep schemes and weights used.”
He is looking forward to his first regional experience and is excited to test himself alongside the best athletes in the South East.
“I’ve decided for myself I am going to train very hard for the rest of my life, and I need to test myself continually, and CrossFit is a great outlet for this,” he said. “I try my absolute best and invest everything I can.”