July 2, 2012
Motivated Master: Jerry Hill
By Jeremy Brown

Photo courtesy of Matt Mendelsohn

He made a makeshift outdoor gym at an I-95 underpass. Every morning he swept broken bottles out of the way, hung up his rings, and started training...


Jerry Hill shot to the top of the Leaderboard for the men’s Masters 45-49 division after Open Workout 12.1. He sat comfortably there for the next four weeks. His lowest placing for the Open was eighth place. Basically, he dominated the Masters competition. 

Seven and a half years ago, when Hill first discovered CrossFit, he was a personal trainer. He trained his clients out of various local globo gyms in the Philadelphia area. As he began experimenting with the main site workouts and methodologies, he discovered the difficulties of doing CrossFit in a globo gym.

At the time, there were no CrossFit boxes in the area, so he made a makeshift outdoor gym at an I-95 underpass. He woke up every morning, swept broken bottles out of the way, hung up his rings and a swinging pull-up bar, and started training himself and his clients. Programming was partly determined by what sort of equipment he had access to.  

Now, early mornings are still part of Hill’s routine. Now, instead of sweeping broken glass out of the way, he wakes up at 3:30 a.m., heads to work and opens the doors to Old Town CrossFit, the box he owns in Alexandria, Va. 

“I always woke up first thing in the morning and trained,” Hill says. “I loved training first thing in the morning. So, sometimes those first sessions of the day aren’t necessarily a WOD. It could be interval training on the Air-Dyne or the [rower], or some two hundred meter runs and back extensions and GHD sit-ups. I call it almost my pre-hab work. Maybe I’m working to keep my core strong or [get] some aerobic type work in. And then the mid-morning session is always my tough work.”

Hill rounds out his mornings by teaching three classes and doing some mobility. By the time noon rolls around he has taught four classes, hit two workouts and done mobility work. 

After going team last year, Hill set his sights on the individual competition at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games and in December of last year he hired James FitzGerald of Optimum Performance Training as a coach to help him reach that goal. This was a big step for Jerry, because it meant for the first time in his athletic career he wouldn’t be in charge of his own programming.

“I power lifted for nine years and I had folks I’d go to meets with, but I did all my own programming and in CrossFit I followed the dot com the first year and then I just did my own programming,” Hill says.

Hill describes himself as motivated. “I didn’t want to do three a days and just burn myself out. But, if I had somebody that I had to be accountable to that was to look at my programming, that would help,” he says.  

He’s described FitzGerald’s help as being a huge benefit extending even beyond programming to include everything from breathing techniques and mental approaches to insights stemming from his own experience with the Games.

After putting in all that work Hill was ranked first in the world for his Masters Division in the Open. With results like that, the pressure and expectations of his performance at the Games are raised. 

“It’s been fun since the Open. I get tons of Facebook messages or e-mails from long time CrossFitters, or new CrossFitters, or Masters CrossFitters or folks that just congratulate me and say ‘looking forward to seeing you win the Games.’ It’s always that. It’s not ‘See ya at the Games’,” Hill says. “My response is the first half of the job is over: to qualify for the Games. It wasn’t necessarily to win the Open. It was to qualify for the Games, that was the first half of the job. I had two jobs to do. One I had to qualify, and two, I had to win the Games.”

As with many competitive CrossFitters he manages to focus on winning, but not at the expense of others. Hill wants to win. Not because his competitors failed, but because he went out there and did the best job he was capable of.

“As long as I step out there at the Home Depot Center in the best shape I can be, leaving no stone unturned I’m happy.”