CrossFit likes its dark horses—the athletes that seem to “come from nowhere” to blow everyone’s minds . This year’s Games promises a whole new set of talented newcomers, including 23-year-old Gary Jones, training out of CrossFit Paradigm Performance in Rochester, N.Y.
A Natural Talent
A Cornell University graduate and decorated Division 1 NCAA track athlete (triple jump is his specialty), Jones approached head coach Tony Ronchi at Paradigm because he was looking for a new lifting regimen.
It didn’t take long for Ronchi to realize he was dealing with a natural talent. Jones got a muscle-up on his third try; squatted 315 pounds on one of this first days at the gym. “Frankly, I couldn’t believe it when he went on to snatch 215 pounds, by accident,” Ronchi says. “With a back squat and deadlift over 500 pounds and a 300-pound bench, he certainly doesn’t lack power.”
And despite only having a few months of CrossFit exposure under his belt, convincing the competitive athlete to participate in the Open wasn’t a tough sell. “When he found out the winner won that much money, he said, and I quote, ‘are you fucking kidding me?’” laughs Ronchi.
A Different Kind of Training
Jones’ training at Paradigm is tailored, but he still works out with the group. “He does everything everyone else does, so he can experience it all,” says Ronchi. “He’s in our Games prep program—there’s a big strength component and an individual assessment. But he’s doing the daily workouts alongside the soccer moms too.”
Jones says the atmosphere, support, and relationships he enjoys at Paradigm have been a huge part of the experience so far.
“Now I’m trying to expose him to as many elements as possible,” Ronchi says, including competitions like a recent powerlifting event in Connecticut. “He doesn’t have exposure to many different training modalities, and he only has one gear—fast. Our focus right now is on pace and lactate threshold.”
Jones says he’s also still incorporating some traditional track training a few times a week, including interval and mobility work.
A Winning Attitude
Jones’ athletic background certainly gives him an edge going into the Games season, but his attitude may prove an even bigger asset. “What stands out about Gary is that his athletic ability is balanced by a strong work ethic. He’s naturally gifted, but also willing to put the hard work in. Nothing will sway him from what he needs to do,” Ronchi says.
Jones’ strategy for the Open is to “do the workouts on Saturday, just once. It will be too fatiguing in the long run if I try to each workout repeatedly.”
Although he does admit it might be tough not to repeat the workouts after seeing other athlete’s scores. “Every time I go online I look at the top guys and I try to envision competing next to them. Visualizing like that helps me excel; I always do that before a competition.”
As Jones has only been practicing CrossFit for a few months now, his biggest challenge will be in mastering a range of technical skills. Jones admits he has work to do: “Two weeks ago I couldn’t do more than two double-unders in a row. Last Sunday I was in the kitchen with my girlfriend, Sarah, who had an Excel spreadsheet open counting my reps; now I can do over 50 consecutively.”
Coach Ronchi isn’t worried, citing the speed with which Jones has been picking up new skills, adding, “Anybody can do anything, especially in the Sport of Fitness.”