February 26, 2012
Out of the Shadows: Jon Alexander
By Meggin Kremer
No longer a dark horse, Jon Alexander comes to the 2012 season prepared.
No longer a dark horse, Jon Alexander comes to the 2012 season prepared.

Jon Alexander. You may remember the name from its place at the top of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games Open Leaderboard for the North Central region.

"I was not even expecting to make it to the Regional level, let alone finish near the top."

Jon Alexander on the Navy Pier

Alexander took 1st in North Central in the Open, but ended his road to the Games after dropping to 7th place at the 2011 North Central Regional.

The 24-year-old competitor discovered CrossFit as a teenager in 2005. He got hooked on CrossFit after meeting a girl named Angie.

The relationship started off fast in the basement of a detective’s building. Alexander had heard about Angie through friends and, as a lifelong athlete, he initially wasn’t intimidated.

After his 74th pull-up, Alexander discovered that he didn’t yet have what it takes to make it with Angie.

“They had both finished the WOD and ran a mile by the time I completed my 74th pull up,” Alexander says, “After that, I was hooked! I knew I could do better and that drove me to work harder. I was embarrassed that I didn’t even get close to finishing that WOD!”

For two years following his initiation with Angie, Alexander did all his CrossFit training in a globo gym. He watched CrossFit.com’s movement explanations and demos and taught himself the common movements. In 2007 Alexander joined CrossFit Iowa and stayed there until their close in 2010. Since then, Alexander splits his time between CrossFit Des Moines and CrossFit West Ames.

Last year, Alexander signed up for the Open on a whim, a mere two days before it started. It was his first CrossFit competition, and he had no idea what to expect.

“I am still not sure how I finished first in the region,” Alexander says, “I just threw what I had at the [Open] WODs, picked a number in my head and then tried like hell to beat that number.”

His strategy worked. Alexander finished the Open in 1st place, earning a spot in the 2011 North Central Regional. There, on the Navy Pier, Alexander found himself in deep water.

“I was not even expecting to make it to the Regional level, let alone finish near the top,” Alexander says, “I was not prepared for the 100’s WOD. I neglected pull ups leading up to Regionals, and I couldn’t recover well enough after Saturday.”

Training for 2012 

In an effort to be better prepared this year, Alexander has turned the control of his programming over to his girlfriend and fellow North Central Regional competitor, Kelli Barkela (22nd, 2011 North Central Regional).  

“Jon does a great job finding WODs that suck, but he often forgets to include things that frustrate him,” Barkela says,  “He would find WODs that he liked and then decide that day what he wanted to do.”

Barkela has a more organized, systematic approach to training and targeting weaknesses.

“I prefer following a system,” Barkela says, “I know the things that he
struggles with, what frustrates him, what he enjoys, and what areas need a little tweaking. Putting all of that together, I have tried to find a balance to work those weaknesses and skills while still making him feel successful.”

A typical day in the gym for this busy athlete includes a skill-based warm-up, strength session, a WOD incorporating a heavy weighted element, a second WOD focusing on conditioning and bodyweight movements, and core work.

“We both only get to the gym once per day, so we have to make it count,” explains Barkela.

As a police officer in metro Des Moines and competitive athlete, Alexander puts in long hours. Most days begin around 4:30 a.m. and end around 8 p.m. after work and training.

The surprise winner of the North Central region is taking a more methodical approach to the 2012 Season. We’ll see how it pays off.