THE JEFFREY ADLER SERIES
When Jeffrey Adler decided to seriously pursue competitive CrossFit for the 2017 season, he wasn’t ready to make it his full-time career yet.
Adler’s training schedule revolved much around his construction job. He would finish work around 3:30 p.m. and rush to the gym to train before the group class. Adler would then join class and sometimes train a bit more afterward before heading home to eat and go right to sleep.
But that training schedule wouldn’t be enough if he wished to compete at the CrossFit Games.
“It was just like, ‘OK, well, if we were to continue and want to … make it to the Games or whatever, we're gonna need a space,” Lambray said. “So at that point, we decided we wanted to have our own (space) so that (he) can develop as an athlete, we can have a gym, a community, and kind of grow from there.”
The couple opened CrossFit Wonderland in 2017 in the heart of Montreal, Quebec, giving Adler the space to train and Lambray the space to pursue her passion — sharing CrossFit.
At the time, Adler was still working his construction job, and Lambray was in school finishing her PT diploma and working full-time at Fairmont Hotels. Gradually, they were able to grow the affiliate enough to make it their full-time jobs, with both Adler and Lambray coaching in between training sessions.
Caroline Lambray and Jeffrey Adler at CrossFit Wonderland in 2017 | Photo courtesy of Caroline Lambray on Instagram
After a year under Lambray’s guidance and focused training, Adler jumped up to 30th in the Canada East Region in the 2017 CrossFit Open, just 10 spots out from a Regionals-qualifying spot. In 2018, he earned an eighth-place finish and his first ticket to Regionals.
At 24 years old, Adler had entered a fiercely competitive field of seasoned Games athletes. But he was ascending the leaderboard at accelerated rates, beginning to threaten the very athletes he took pictures with while volunteering at Games.
Patrick Vellner and Jeffrey Adler at the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games | Photo by Meg Ellery
Qualifying for the 2018 Regionals had been Adler’s and Lambray’s only goal that year, so it took all pressure off the table at his first in-person CrossFit competition. In fact, the East Regional was the first time he had competed in front of a crowd in any sport, so he soaked it all in.
He finished in 18th. Advancing to the CrossFit Games would be next year’s goal.
Adler qualified for his first CrossFit Games in 2019 and has qualified for every CrossFit Games since. By the end of 2019, he had stopped coaching at his affiliate to focus solely on training for the CrossFit Games.
“I had more time now to recover, sleep, make my food, or have a really routine schedule,” Adler said.
Tia-Clair Toomey, Mat Fraser, and Jeffrey Adler at the 2020 CrossFit Games
Training Like a Champion
The sign of progress as a CrossFit Games athlete rides on your overall placement in the season. The goal is to improve each year. Adler received the best finish of his career when he took fifth at the 2020 CrossFit Games. But in 2021, he dropped to 13th.
That is when Lambray decided it was time to bring in some reinforcements for the 2022 season.
Lambray had been learning from Chris Hinshaw’s aerobic capacity content online and applying it to Adler’s training for years. But after the 2021 Games, Lambray reached out to Hinshaw — known as one of the best endurance coaches in the world — to see if he would be willing to help Adler perfect his endurance for the 2022 season.
She wrote on Instagram:
“I’ve gained and applied as much knowledge as I could from what he provides online over the years, but its not the same. I dont have all his knowledge and experience so Im basically always one step behind. So i took a chance this year (2022) and reached out to see if he would be willing to help me/ Jeff.”
Caroline Lambray, Jeffrey Adler, and Chris Hinshaw after the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games | Photo courtesy of Caroline Lambray on Instagram
Training a Games athlete takes a lot of time and effort. One workout can take up to four hours for Hinshaw to program, so he doesn’t work with a lot of people. He trialed Adler and Lambray, putting together a Google Doc with workouts for Adler to tackle. After testing the new programming, Lambray would insert detailed results under each workout for Hinshaw to observe.
“It was a level of detail that I’ve never seen from any other athlete I’ve ever worked with,” Hinshaw said. “I realized, Jeff Adler is the guy I want to work with, because of the coach.”
Adler went through rigorous endurance training, testing his aerobic capacity a few times a year through a VO2-max test, which is a “maximal exercise test performed on a treadmill or bike while connected to a machine capable of analyzing your expired air. Your test provides data on how much oxygen you use as you exercise and determines the maximal oxygen you can consume during exercise,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“My offseason was way different than what we've done in the previous years,” Adler said. “At many points, I was asking myself if we were doing the right things because it was so new to me. And now going back to it, I can't wait to do it again.”
Jeffrey Adler during Event 1 at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games | Photo by flsportsguy photography
Just Stay Above the Cutline
When the 2022 CrossFit Games arrived, Adler was back on track, matching his career best with another fifth-place finish. The goal for the 2023 season? Podium at the CrossFit Games.
It didn’t matter where Adler stood in any of the first three stages as long as he qualified for the Games. Despite that, he won the 2023 CrossFit Open.
But when you’re at the top, it’s harder to stay there.
“I was like, ’Oh, well, Quarterfinals, I should be up there,” Adler said.
Adler took second in the North America East region in the Quarterfinals before heading to Orlando, Florida, where he would face a stacked 60-man field at the North America East Semifinal.
“The most stressful is Semifinals,” Adler said. “If you're qualified (for the Games), it's fine. It doesn't really matter where you qualify, because the goal is to be above the cutline.”
With only 12 Games-qualifying spots up for grabs and veteran favorites such as Noah Ohlsen, Roman Khrennikov, Dallin Pepper, and Jayson Hopper hoping to snatch one, the fight for a ticket would be tough. A first-place Open finish would mean nothing if Adler were to end his season before reaching the final stage.
Jeffrey Adler at the 2023 North America East Semifinal | Photo by Charlotte Foerschler
The North America East Semifinal was the first of the seven in-person Semifinals, which meant Adler could not observe any other athletes’ performances before taking the floor. This was beneficial for Adler, though. He didn’t have the pressure of comparing his fitness to other athletes quite yet.
“I think for us, it was kind of good because it's like, ‘Well, we'll get the information (tests), we'll assess, we'll make a game plan, we'll attack, and then we'll see where we fall on the leaderboard,” Lambray said. “Ideally, he was fit enough to qualify, so it wasn't too stressful.”
For the second time, Adler took home first at the North America East Semifinal.