“This year, my focus is on competing with Team Kinnick at Regionals so I want to continue to improve as much as I can and not stress too much...

“This year, my focus is on competing with Team Kinnick at Regionals so I want to continue to improve as much as I can and not stress too much on my individual placing. I'll save that for 2014."

Nick Robles knows life isn’t always a piece of cake. At 16, Robles was diagnosed with bone cancer. Fast-forward six years and Robles is now a CrossFit trainer, as well as an athlete at CrossFit Kinnick.

This year’s Open is an opportunity for him to use his battle-tested mentality to continue to dominate his goals. After posting a 13.3 score of 267 reps, Robles stands tied for 95th in the SoCal Region, and is ready to take on whatever life, or CrossFit, throws his way.

A bout with cancer is difficult at any point in life, but at an age where prom and varsity tryouts are usually at the top of the priority list, Robles had to learn to grow up fast. His cancer was discovered when Robles began seeing doctors complaining of chronic knee pain in his left knee, and his treatment began immediately. 

What followed was a complete disruption to Robles’ life, as he knew it. He had to be homeschooled for his junior year of high school, and sports or hanging out with friends became afterthoughts. The treatments were long and painful, but Robles focused on remaining positive. 

“Overall, it really just wears you down and makes you really tired,” he says. “I had all the normal side effects, and I lost my hair after a few weeks. My mom would shave my head for me every week. Some days were bad, some days were good. Overall, I was able to stay pretty positive.”

Though still undergoing his final radiation treatments, Robles was cleared to return to high school to finish his senior year. Despite the continued therapy, he couldn’t resist jumping right back into the pool with his water polo team.

“I would leave in the middle of practice, dry off, hop in my car, drive down the street to the office. The radiation treatments are really fast, so I’d just pop in, the machine would do it’s thing and be done,” he says. “I’d take off, go right back to practice and hop back in the pool.”

Robles tried CrossFit for the first time just months after his radiation ended with Games athlete, Jeremy Kinnick. Robles instantly knew CrossFit would help him make a full recovery not just physically, but mentally, as well.

“I think CrossFit helped reinforce confidence in myself and in my health,” he says. “If there was ever a movement that I had to worry about, it was something I could attack, take care of on my own and that I knew was improving.”

With his positive mindset and increasing physical abilities, it’s no surprise Robles didn’t just CrossFit, he turned himself into a competitive CrossFitter. Robles looks at Kinnick as a role model and training partner, following his programming from Doug Katona.

“I have become the athlete that I am thanks to Jeremy,” he says. “He is relentless in his pursuit of getting better. I’ve been able to adopt that mindset. When I’m not in the mood to do it, he’s always right behind me making me do things that I don’t want to. He’s crazy well rounded. There’s nothing he’s bad at, so just by default, that’s how I’ve become, too.”

Kinnick returns the sentiment.

“Nick saves my butt at the gym handling a lot of things that I normally have to do,” Kinnick says. “He allows me to focus on my Games prep and acts as my training partner. He’s a very mature kid for only being 22.”

After finishing 123rd in the SoCal Region for the 2012 Open and competing at the SoCal Regional as part of CrossFit Kinnick’s 21st-place finishing team, Robles has been excited to show his improvements in 2013. When workout 13.3 was released, Robles knew it had his name written all over it. With Kinnick by his side and advice from Katona in his back pocket, Robles planned and attacked.

"My strategy for 13.3 was to get a huge set on the wall balls to start, only rest 10 seconds after that first set and keep my rest to five seconds for smaller sets,” he says. “I stuck to that really well, I got 100 wall balls in a row to start and then finished with 20, 15,15."

Robles finished with a 15-rep PR over his 12.4 score of 252, and took 33rd place in the region for the workout. His 13.3 score also helped to elevate Team Kinnick from 10th place to seventh place in the SoCal Region.

"I felt awesome going into this workout. Wall balls are a great movement for me, and my muscle-ups have improved exponentially since 12.4, thanks to Doug Katona. I was really excited to test my engine against the previous year," Robles says.

As for delaying and strategizing the workouts, or keeping scores a secret until the last minute on Sunday night, Robles and Kinnick don’t wait around for anything.

"Me and Jeremy hit it a couple hours after they announced it,” Robles says. “It was really fun to not overthink it and just stick to what we do everyday: attack the workout and put in our best effort.”

With two workouts left, Robles is sticking to his plan: extra mobility, recovery and staying stress free.

"I am sticking with Jeremy as he trains straight through the Open so we treat the workouts as one and done,” he says. “This year, my focus is on competing with Team Kinnick at Regionals so I want to continue to improve as much as I can and not stress too much on my individual placing. I'll save that for 2014."