March 19, 2013
Mitch Barnard: Balls to the Wall
By Brittney Saline

“I want to win. I’m super competitive about everything. The goal is top five in the Central East, and make it to the Games.”


Mitch Barnard beat Dan Bailey, the sixth fittest man on Earth, by 16 seconds on 13.1. After throwing down 367 reps in 13.2, he stands fourth in the Central East and fifth in the world.

With only eight months of CrossFit experience, the 22-year-old says his rapid success has more to do with the mind-over-matter philosophy of stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, than an innate knack for CrossFit.

“I just try to keep going when I’m tired,” he says. “A lot of the agony is your subjective reaction to it. People get it in their heads that they can’t do a heavy weight or go a long time. You just have to battle through it.”

When it comes to effort, Lacrosse was Barnard’s first instructor. After placing first in the National Lacrosse Combine in November 2012, he was scouted by the Buffalo Bandits, a National Lacrosse League team. He spent a grueling month in the team’s intensive training camp.

He didn’t make the cut, but he says things are looking up.

“One door closed, and another opened,” he says. “(Getting cut) led me to CrossFit, and I’m pretty happy it did.”

An Ontario native, Barnard is a philosophy and psychology double-major at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., where he trains out of the college gym.

“I want to win,” he says. “I’m super competitive about everything. The goal is top five in the Central East, and make it to the Games.”

But he’s not relying on sheer pain tolerance to get him there.

Following programming sent by his coach, Raul Cano, from his home box, CrossFit Barrie, he trains three times per day, six days per week. The seventh day isn’t for rest, he just cuts the volume down to one or two workouts.

Although he can link 14 muscle-ups, hit a 300-lb. clean and jerk and back squat 420 lb., “Nothing came naturally,” he says. “I put in a lot of work to get where I am now, and there’s a lot of work left to do to get where I need to go.”

In his first 13.2 attempt, Barnard completed 352 reps, going “balls to the wall.” Most would have celebrated after that. Not Barnard. He sat down with a whiteboard and concocted a plan to beat himself.

“All this stuff is about learning,” he says.

On his second attempt, he made sure he was off the box and at the bar every 50 seconds, saving a reserve of energy for an explosion of speed in the last two minutes.

When he’s gassed, and in that moment where the mind wages war against the body, he focuses on the inscription inked on his right bicep: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this, you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

“A strong internal fortitude gets you a long way,” he says. “I’m either gonna get to where I need to be or collapse getting there.”