March 12, 2014
Mack Unruh Walks the Walk
By Ashley Nicolas

“I want to strive to be as healthy and fit as I can be to set an example for people.” 

Photos courtesy of Bobby Ragasa

Mack Unruh is one busy guy.

Co-owner Beartooth CrossFit in Billings, Mont., Unruh is also a full-time student at Montana State University Billings where he’s studying exercise physiology, he works at Ace Hardware and he coaches aspiring CrossFit athletes and recreational baseball players.

Oh, and he’s competing in this year’s CrossFit Games Open, currently sitting in 34th place in the North West Region after 14.1 and 14.2.

Crossed Paths

Unruh’s journey to CrossFit traveled directly though his career path as a baseball player. Two and a half years ago, a teammate introduced Unruh to the Sport of Fitness.

“He reported to practice extremely sore and barely able to walk,” Unruh said. “He said his condition was the result of this thing called CrossFit.”

Tired with the traditional gym routine, Unruh was intrigued. 

“I spent the evening on YouTube looking up the sport and fell in love before I even finished the first video,” he said.

Unruh did his first workout in July 2011 at CrossFit Salem in his hometown of Salem, Ore., and he hasn’t stopped since.

Athlete Troubles

Unruh’s time as a competitive CrossFit athlete has not always been easy.

While he participated in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Unruh also pitched for the MSUB Yellowjackets. Completing the weekly Open workouts proved challenging, he said.

“Playing baseball in Montana means a lot of traveling because of the weather,” he said.

On the road, he attempted to do the Open workouts around his game schedule.

“I would play my four games and then try and find a CrossFit gym in the town and ask to do the Open (workout) before we left,” he said. 

Unfortunately, the schedule proved too difficult to juggle and, after being unable to complete the fourth workout by deadline, Unruh’s hopes for a ticket to regionals were destroyed. 

“Submitting my score usually came down to the last hour, barely making it in time,” he said. “I missed the fourth (workout) because the town we were in had no box to get into. It ruined any chance I had at doing well in the Open.”

Renewed Focus

After skipping last year’s Open to concentrate on his last year of baseball, Unruh is back for the 2014 season with a renewed focus.

“Now that baseball is done and I have my own box, Beartooth CrossFit, I am very excited to give my all in this year’s Open, without any distractions,” he said.

A lifelong competitor, Unruh is excited to take part in the Open and go head-to-head with seasoned veterans. He hopes the mental toughness he has developed over the years will give him a competitive edge.

“Having many years of success and failure in sports has made me mentally tough ... knowing that the mind can achieve far more than the body can,” he said.

With a sub 30-minute Murph, 400-lb. back squat and 2:09 Fran, Unruh is hoping his Open performance will be enough to allow him to compete at the regional level.

“Everyone wants to be the best,” he said. “The only way to do that is to compete against the best head-to-head.”

Setting an Example

Scheduled to graduate from MSUB this spring, Unruh has a keen appreciation for human movement and performance.

He’s fascinated by the potential of the human body and hopes to continue to dedicate his life to “helping people change their lives for the better through exercise."

Throughout his college career, time as a baseball player and CrossFit experiences, he says his family is his main motivator.

“They have always looked to me for health and fitness guidance,” he said. “I want to strive to be as healthy and fit as I can be to set an example for people.”