May 14, 2013
Practicing Precision: Colin Jenkins
By Jaala A. Thibault

“In my first CrossFit Games, everything was new to me ... At the time, I went by CJ. Well, CJ Martin was competing next to me in a heat, so I used his fans to motivate me to do better when I was struggling. I pretended they were cheering for me.”

Top photo by: Jerry Jenkins

At the close of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Colin Jenkins sat in 25th place in Southern California. As a result, he received an invitation to compete in his fifth Regional competition.

From afar, Jenkins looks like a typical Regional-level CrossFit competitor. He snatches 265-lb., cleans 335-lb., and can complete 40 unbroken chest-to-bar pull-ups and 49 unbroken strict handstand push-ups.

However, his repeated Regional experience sets him apart from other competitors. He has competed in Regionals every year since 2009, where he finished in 15th place. Aside from 2010 when he finished 33rd at the South West Regional, he has seen steady improvement in his standings over the years — he was 15th in 2011 and seventh in 2012.

Regardless of his skills, strength and Regional finishes, Jenkins admits these things have not come easily to him.

“It has always been pretty hard for me to quickly pick up new skills,” Jenkins says. “If I want to get good at something, I have to spend an incredible amount of time focusing on it. It took me six months to learn butterfly pull-ups.”

Dan Eggersten, a member at Jenkins’ affiliate, CrossFit Ventura, explains it is Jenkins’ determination and work ethic that help him excel.

“Colin is self-admittedly not a natural athlete,” Eggersten says. “Yet he’s been able to overcome that in the world of CrossFit with laser focus, dedication and by working smarter, not necessarily harder, than most athletes out there. Every time I see him in the gym working out, I think about all he’s accomplished without having the God-given natural gifts some of his competitors have. It’s inspiring when you meet someone who has found something they truly love. Colin has found his love, and he is dedicated to becoming great, rolling over every obstacle that gets in his path.”

Jenkins explains that certain skills have given him trouble, but that logging a lot of time working on those once tricky movements eventually makes them second nature.

“This year, I spent a lot of time on parallette handstand push-ups. I struggled with (these) for months upon months before I finally dialed in the technique. Now, I can do 50, 10-inch parallette handstand push-ups in under seven minutes,” he says. “I don’t have to practice them so much anymore.”

Though working on weaknesses takes time, Jenkins says that there is a benefit to his precise practice.

“Some athletes get worried if they haven’t done a movement in several months,” he says. “(But) I don’t have to worry because I have put the time in to ingrain that movement thoroughly in my brain. After so much practice, those skills become easy.”

Jenkins’ first experience competing in CrossFit was not easy, but it was memorable. In 2008, he competed in the second CrossFit Games. At the time, he was a scrawny teen who struggled with pull-ups in the chest-to-bar Fran event.

“In my first CrossFit Games, everything was new to me,” he says. “I didn’t know anyone, and most of the skills were new, too. At the time, I went by CJ. Well, CJ Martin was competing next to me in a heat, so I used his fans to motivate me to do better when I was struggling. I pretended they were cheering for me.”

After experiencing the excitement and camaraderie of the sport, Jenkins decided he wanted to compete in the Games a second time. For the past five years, he has been chasing that dream.

In 2012, at the Southern California Regional, Jenkins came the closest he ever has been to competing in the Games again with a seventh-place finish. However, after cramping up severely in the fourth workout and falling five places in the standings from second overall, his dream of making the Games was shattered for the fourth year in a row. He knew he needed to do something to change the pattern in 2013.

So this year, Jenkins has worked with his coach James Fitzgerald on his biggest weakness: aerobic capacity.

“This year has only been about specific prep for Regionals,” Jenkins says. “It has not been about general fitness or what (would be) tested in the Open. (My training) has been about volume and the type of workout we’ll likely see during Regionals weekend.”

In addition to imprinting certain skills in his mind, he has also had to train his body to love long, grinding workouts.

“For me, I needed to train my body to go at a higher output for a longer period of time without burning myself out,” he says. “(So) I did rest-to-work intervals at sub-maximal capacity to build up my intensity over time.”

By focusing on improving his engine and practicing more efficient breathing, he hopes that when it comes time to go through a workout that requires these skills at Regionals, he is ready.

“I trained so that if anything comes up [in Regionals] that is long, I’ll be able to breathe and pace it well enough to get through it,” Jenkins says. “In the past, these types of workouts have killed me. Now, I have trained to address that [weakness].”

Besides working on skills and aerobic capacity, Jenkins put plenty of time into training.

“I trained for about five hours a day, five days a week for much of the last year. In the morning, (I) typically spent about three hours in the gym and at night trained about 90 minutes to two hours. Each training session was different, but I worked specifically on the things I needed to focus on. Since I was already strong, I only lifted about one to two times a week.”

With all of that time spent training, he also had to change his diet to keep up with the calories he burned daily.

“When I first started CrossFit, I ate Zone. After a while, I switched to paleo. Now, I like to call my diet the ‘athlete diet.’ I pretty much eat anything I can to replace the calories I have used. I eat more white potatoes and white rice than I used to. I love ice cream. The only thing that I absolutely do not eat is gluten. Gluten seems to be the only thing that affects my recovery. Otherwise, anything else I eat is fine.”

With Regionals just a few days away, Jenkins, his family, and friends are all anxiously awaiting the weekend.

“I am excited to see what I can do,” he says. “When there is a big crowd, my performance is elevated to another level and that makes Regionals very fun for me ... this year I am excited to see where I finish when the weekend comes to a close.”

Christopher Ball, a coach at Jenkins’ gym, is also excited to see how Jenkins does at Regionals.

“I have seen Colin train and his work ethic is something that inspires everyone around him; not only does it make you want to be better at CrossFit, it makes you want to try harder in everything you do,” Ball says. “Seeing the sacrifices he has made to reach his dream is an inspiration. No matter what happens, he will have succeeded.”