July 12, 2013
Fitness is Not a Job: CrossFit Mayhem
By Lauryn Lax

“I think we have to remember that this is fitness, not a job. There are a handful of folks in this world that make a living lifting weights fast. We are not them. We love each other and we love making ourselves better.”           -Thomas Cox

In 2012, when CrossFit Mayhem was CrossFit Faith, several dark spots in the team’s training were illuminated on the Central East Regional floor. The team left in fifth place overall.

This year, Team CrossFit Mayhem left the Regional as the champion, right alongside their coach and two-time CrossFit Games champion, Rich Froning. 

“We have had a full year to think about and practice the things that we needed to get better at,” teammate Jackie Cox says. “The main difference this year is probably the fact that our female athletes have improved. For instance, last year only two of the three females could do muscle-ups at Regionals (one of which got her first one the week before). This year, we entered with all three females being able to do them and we ended up taking first in the muscle-up (event).”

The team finished Event 3 — burpee muscle-ups — with 103 total reps, nine more reps than second-place finishers, CrossFit Rutherford.

In the 2012 Regional, teammate Jennifer Hoffman couldn’t lock out her elbows on the muscle-ups.

“Personally, the disappointment from last year has fueled my training to become a better athlete,” Hoffman says. “You can't get better at something if you never do it. So the individual efforts put in by the team (whether on their own or in a group workout) has made a world of difference, and I am especially glad we took first in the Burpee Muscle-up Event.”

Cox, who has been with Froning and crew for three years, also credits the team’s success to having a box of their own. Prior to CrossFit Mayhem’s opening, the athletes of CrossFit Faith trained out of Tennessee Tech University or Froning’s garage gym.

“There is some great competition at Mayhem,” Cox says. “In fact, this year we had four girls and five guys fighting for a position on the team … Even though five of the six team members ended up returning from last year, all nine athletes are very talented and that made each of us push even harder to earn one of those six spots.”

The six athletes who made the cut to Carson, Calif., aren’t taking it for granted.

Lauren Neal, Jackie and Thomas Cox, Jennifer Hoffman, Darren Hunsucker and Ben Rogers are a melting pot of ages and abilities, and they’re thankful for the chance to represent CrossFit Mayhem. Their plan is to keep working as a cooperative unit, rather than a one hit wonder.

The team had an exceptional Regional weekend this year. In Event 3, they earned a first-place finish and immediately followed that with first place in Event 4. They rallied for an Event 7 finish of 16:14 — good enough for second place.

“We are at our best when we are together,” Neal says. “When we are separated, it is a different story. I don’t think it is because we are weak, but because we don’t really have specialists. We are equal in so many ways with each person having certain strengths and weaknesses. This is where we excel as a team, we compliment each other.”

In his first year competing, 19-year-old Rogers says there was no doubt in his mind that the team would advance.

“I had no idea what to expect (at Regionals), but all I knew is that we had to go out there and give it our all, and that’s exactly what we did, and what we do,” he says.

Jackie Cox adds that the team is prepared for anything as they look forward to the Games.

“I don’t think there is anything that they are going to throw at us that we can’t physically do,” she says. “We may not be the very best at it, but we won’t be held back because one or two people can’t perform a certain movement.”

Before the Games

As the six athletes prepare to show the world what they are made of, they are taking cues from Froning, their head programmer.

“Rich programs most all our workouts,” Thomas Cox says. “We are training together as a team about three days a week right now. Otherwise, we are all doing a lot of Airdyne bike to get up our endurance and continuing to refine our Olympic movements. The men of the team do the same strength program we have been doing all year alongside Rich.”

The men’s strength program includes shoulder presses on Monday, front squats on Tuesday, deadlifts on Wednesday, bench press on Thursday and back squats on Friday. The rep scheme varies depending on the week. Sometimes it's triples or sets of five, and sometimes it's as high as 10 reps, as heavy as possible.

Froning has also created a program for the women to work into their own busy schedules. It’s complete with at least four days of strength work, and typically followed by conditioning and trimmed with endurance efforts (such as the Airdyne) of various times.

In addition to individual training, the team enjoys training as a unit.

“We really are just training and working on everything, always trying to get stronger and more proficient,” Neal says. “I still take my rest days. At 39, I have learned how my body works and at what capacity I need to train, and when I push those limits and don’t rest, it isn’t a good thing.”

Aside from their programming, the team looks to Froning for support. After all, he isn’t the champ because he’s lucky.

“Rich is not a huge pep talker,” Thomas Cox says. “But he stays positive and encouraging before and after each workout regardless of how we place, especially since he knows that a low placement in one or two events doesn’t put you out of the running.”

Froning also offers the team advice through faith and prayer. Before each event, coach and team bow down to get built up.

Whatever the final results at the Games, team members say they are most excited about making memories for a lifetime and spending time with one another. Over 40 fellow box members from CrossFit Mayhem are also headed to the Games to cheer on the team, and of course, Froning and Dan Bailey.

“I think we have to remember that this is fitness, not a job,” Thomas Cox says. “There are a handful of folks in this world that make a living lifting weights fast. We are not them. We love each other and we love making ourselves better.”