March 1, 2013
No Pain DeGain
By Brittney Saline

“The beautiful part of the Open is that everyone has the opportunity to decide whether to pump the brakes or go to a place they’ve never gone before. That’s the spirit of the CrossFit Games.”

Joe DeGain doesn’t back down from a challenge.

DeGain is the owner of 810 CrossFit and a member of the Level 1 Seminar Staff. When he finds free time between his affiliate and raising four children, he trains in preparation for the CrossFit Games season.

“I’m really excited to compete,” he says. “I’ve been very focused mentally and physically, and I’m just excited to see what I can do personally.”

Last year, the former collegiate wrestler qualified for the Central East Regional — just barely. At the close of the final Open workout, he was in 60th place.

“To think I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have that fun if I had been one burpee short,” he says. “I learned that at this level, there can’t be any holes in your (regimen). If you really want to go that far, you have to make sure everything is really dialed in.”

At the Regional, he came in as the underdog and left in 14th place. The climb to the top 20 was a difficult one for DeGain.

“I was doing (a round of) shoulder-to-overhead, and I thought I was gonna collapse on the ground, I was so tired,” DeGain says about Event 4. “I was trying to muster it up to not put the bar down.”

Through a haze of fatigue, he saw one of his athletes in the stands cheering for him. That was the drive he needed to keep going. He finished the workout in 21:25, placing 15th.

The workout took DeGain to the “dark place,” he says. “That state where it hurts so bad and your mind is muffled, and it’s all gray and fuzzy and nothing makes sense.”

Training for 2013

DeGain acknowledges the competition is stiff in 2013, but he trains for two-and-a-half hours per day as though he already has a ticket to the Games.

While he describes himself as a well-rounded athlete, he says he has a lot of room for improvement in gymnastics movements. He turned to fellow Seminar Staff member, Doug Chapman, to help him fine-tune his training and make sure he doesn’t leave out movements he dislikes, like muscle-ups and toes-to-bars.

“I’ve been looking at a lot of his programming and taking it into heavy consideration with what I’ve been doing in the gym,” he says. “I think Doug’s program does a good job of not leaving anything out. “

Entering the Dark Place

“(The Open) is a chance to hone in on mental and physical fortitude,” DeGain says. “I think it can and should be for every single CrossFitter in the world.”

“It’s a great opportunity for athletes not at that (elite) caliber to muster up the courage to go to that dark place,” he adds. “Normally, we lower the weights or band them up, but now comes the time to have someone stare at the bar for a while. To slow it down and really have to work for eight minutes and try as hard as they can to get their chest to the bar. If they pull it off because the pressure is on, they had to muster up just as much courage as the firebreather.”

Following DeGain’s lead, the athletes at 810 CrossFit are excited for this year’s season.

“I had the opportunity to attend the Regionals last year and watch Joe perform,” 810 CrossFit’s Allison Emmerling says. “He did a fantastic job pushing his limits and in return, inspired me to bring back that energy to 810 CrossFit.”

This year, Emmerling plans to compete in the Open for the first time.

DeGain has taken on the nickname “No Pain DeGain.” The “dark place” is by nature painful and difficult. Though, braving it is not without reward, he says.

“Some of us are going to get kicked in the butt, and I think that’s where the lesson is,” DeGain says. “Down the road, after the Open, it might be one month or six months later, you become a wiser CrossFitter. You eventually do it … you get that muscle-up because you’re basically cramming for a test right now.”

He adds: “The beautiful part of the Open is that everyone has the opportunity to decide whether to pump the brakes or go to a place they’ve never gone before. That’s the spirit of the CrossFit Games.”