“I’m very proud to be the guy that’s taking Brazil to another level of acknowledgement in CrossFit,” said 21-year-old Guilherme Malheiros. “I have a lot of people in Brazil cheering for me, sending me messages, supporting me … . It’s been awesome to be the guy that’s carrying the Brazil flag in high-level CrossFit competition.”
Malheiros, who earned the title of Most Improved at the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games, first appeared on the scene as a teenager in 2017 when he took second place in the Boys 16-17 division. As an individual athlete, Malheiros shot from 48th place at the 2019 Games to seventh this year. With three event wins in 2021, including Event 12 when he executed a flawless 305-lb. snatch, Malheiros represented his country well in Madison, Wisconsin, last summer.
And he is damn proud of it.
CrossFit’s Expansion in Brazil
In a country of more than 211 million people, Brazil’s fitness industry is on a steady upward trajectory, and CrossFit affiliates are at the forefront. Of the 646 CrossFit affiliates active in Brazil today, the oldest, CrossFit Brasil, opened in May of 2009, meaning CrossFit has welcomed an average of 53 affiliates per year in the country.
Additionally, Brazil plays a large part in the CrossFit Games season. In the past, the country has hosted the Latin America Regional in Rio De Janeiro, and the Brazil CrossFit Championship was a CrossFit-sanctioned event in 2019 and 2020. Currently, the Brazil CrossFit Championship takes place in the third stage of the season, serving as one of CrossFit’s Semifinal events, qualifying athletes to the CrossFit Games, and showcasing the continued growth of the Sport of Fitness in the world’s fifth-largest country by area.
Malheiros remembers a time when many Brazilians didn’t even know what CrossFit was.
“When I started CrossFit I was 14, so I grew up (alongside) CrossFit in Brazil,” Malheiros said. “At that time, people in Brazil didn’t know a lot about CrossFit. We just knew we had to finish the workout on the floor.”
CrossFit General Manager of Global Affiliates Gary Gaines said CrossFit’s growth in Brazil is a product of the resiliency of the country’s residents.
“Brazil is traditionally one of the largest and most passionate communities within CrossFit, and to see someone like Guilherme represent and exemplify all that’s great about its culture is so refreshing,” Gaines said, noting he hopes Malheiros’ success will inspire even more athletes in Brazil to try CrossFit.
As CrossFit continues to expand its international presence, special attention has been given to the economic situation in Brazil and other countries such as Mexico and Thailand. In 2020, CrossFit CEO Eric Roza announced CrossFit would reduce affiliate fees in these locations to better promote the accessibility of CrossFit and encourage the overall health and fitness of the global population.
“The community has been through a very challenging 36 months, but what’s apparent is its resiliency and desire to rebuild — our job is to provide the resources and support to accelerate that,” Gaines said.
Malheiros said CrossFit’s support of his home country is extremely encouraging.
“For some (affiliate owners), CrossFit is very expensive,” he said. “They’ve got to have 400-500 people in the gym to pay only the affiliation fees … so reducing the fees is very good. We also had our Open fees decreased, which is great.”
Malheiros’ personal journey to find CrossFit started when he was still in high school in Rio de Janeiro.
“(As a kid) I was always climbing trees, climbing windows, riding skates. I was a very active kid. I practiced judo, skateboard, BMX, surf, parkour, and basketball,” he said. “I used to play basketball before CrossFit. In 2014, I got into CrossFit to improve my basketball game. At the end of the year I got better at CrossFit more than I did at basketball.”
Malheiros’ family recognized his talent and dedication in CrossFit and encouraged him to pursue it, even if it meant shifting his focus to training more than school.
“CrossFit was, at that time, more important than school to me,” Malheiros said. “I missed some classes and days so I could train. I didn’t fit in at school. My dad knew, so he told me, ‘Just focus on what you’re good at. Just pass in school. Go mediocre’ … . I was relieved. So I went to school just to pass, and in my remaining time I was working out.”
Malheiros was clear that he wouldn’t encourage young athletes to prioritize CrossFit over school, but for him, it was the right path.
“I didn’t want any of the normal things that people think people should do,” Malheiros said. “You gotta go to school, then find a job and work until you die, and that’s it? I just wanted to do what I was good at with my body. Move my body.”
On American Soil
For the 2022 CrossFit Games season, Malheiros is bringing a little Brazilian flair to the Cookeville, Tennessee-based training crew at CrossFit Mayhem. On the heels of his most impressive individual performance at the CrossFit Games this year, Malheiros moved from Brazil to the U.S. to live out a dream that is years in the making.
“In 2017 when I started my competitive career — competing and training full time, dedicating my life to it — my goal always was to come here, to train with Rich, to train in Cookeville, to train at Mayhem,” Malheiros said.
“In 2021, I demonstrated some interest in coming here to train with Rich and the Mayhem crew … and Rich accepted,” he continued. “My decision to come here was to improve my game. I wanted to change my environment and become more of a learner, to have challenges every day, to have someone to push me every day, to work with people who are better than me that I can learn from.”
Four-time individual CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning leads the Mayhem crew.
“To be here training with Froning — he’s a legend. I was always aiming to come here,” Malheiros said.
And though it’s only been a few weeks since Malheiros became a Mayhem athlete, he said he’s already seeing improvement.
“It’s been great to be (in Cookeville). There’s nothing to do here, but that’s the point. We just sleep, train, eat, sleep, train, eat, and that’s all. It’s been awesome for my career,” he said. “It’s the best environment to become a champion, and that’s my goal. I always knew that (I wanted to be in Cookeville). Here I am and thank God for it.”
Since coming to Cookeville, the intensity of his training has ramped up, Malheiros said.
“The intensity is much higher than I was used to … . Everyone pushes the pace and pushes each other … . We learn from each other … . I’m not training more or less (than I was in Brazil), but I’m training more efficiently,” he said. “And mentally, I’m gaining knowledge and sharing some knowledge … . I’ve only been here two weeks and I already feel physically and mentally stronger.”
Increased intensity calls for better recovery, Malheiros said, and he’s taking full advantage.
“I didn’t used to give respect to my rest days. I always went to surf or do whatever … . Now, I am giving all the respect to rest. Every rest day … I’m just laying down on the couch watching Netflix and eating all that I can,” he said. “Sometimes I play some Playstation 4 … . I feel 100 percent recovered, so it’s very good for the next day in the gym.”
When asked about his nutrition regimen, Malheiros said, “I didn’t used to think in macros. I’ve never tracked food. But here, they all speak in macros language … . I’m starting to get used to it. With the volume and intensity that we’re training, we have to fuel the body.”
Malheiros currently works with M2 Performance Nutrition to keep his diet dialed in.
“My mindset around food has changed a lot,” Malheiros said. “I’m having good quality food like vegetables, meat, protein, carbs, and then I have to have the quantity when I can just fuel the body with calories. I love Frosted Flakes ... . We have waffles, ice cream, acai, all of it. But we are moderating.”
“Training with Rich is like having a teacher who has the whole model that I need to follow,” Malheiros added, noting Froning has stood on the podium more times (11) than half the years Malheiros has been alive (21).
And the nutrition and training changes aren’t the only adjustments Malheiros has made since joining Mayhem: He’s also learned a new language in just a matter of weeks.
The Upcoming Season and Spirituality
Today, the offseason is non-existent for CrossFit Games athletes. For most, the “offseason” consists of a maybe two-week period following the CrossFit Games in which athletes take a vacation, eat doughnuts, and don’t even think about doing a squat.
Malheiros is embracing that new normal with a busy agenda leading up to the start of the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games season. He is set to compete in the Rogue Invitational (Oct. 29-31), Mayhem Desert Heat (Nov. 12-13), Dubai CrossFit Championship (Dec. 16-18), and Wodapalooza (Jan. 13-16, 2022).
Malheiros has some advice for youth hoping to break into the sport of CrossFit: “Run a lot. Swim a lot. Row a lot. Bike a lot. Listen to your coaches. Set a very high goal. Believe in yourself. Dedicate your life to it if you really want it. Lift sometimes. But the most important is to run a lot,” he laughed.
Malheiros’ faith is an important aspect of his career, he said.
“I’m Christian, so all of this, without God, wouldn't be possible. Because all that’s happened to me since the first day that I decided to get into CrossFit was God's work,” he said. “I did my job, of course, but all the opportunities, all the sponsors, all the fans, all the support — if not for God, I wouldn’t be here. I'm grateful to have God as my friend and as my father because he did all those things. My position right now is to spread his existence, spread his word, and spread the love that he brought to us.”
Malheiros said he’s grateful to be joined in his beliefs by much of the Mayhem crew, and although his ticket to Cookeville is open ended for now, he’s enjoying it as long as he’s there.
“Cookeville has been awesome,” he said. “No traffic, no noise. Just peace and nature.”