March 19, 2013
A Rookie Takes the Lead in North Central
By James Toland

“I just have to focus on 13.3. There’s no reason to start talking about Regionals or Games ... If I do that, I’ll lose focus. I’ve got to wait for 13.3, see what it is, get my plan together and do my best. If, at the end of the next three weeks, I’m in the top 48, then I’ll celebrate."


There’s a rookie at the top of the North Central Leaderboard: Michael Bodi.

The 27-year-old carpenter from Chicago, Ill., has been training at CrossFit North Wall for only one year. Just over a year ago, his martial arts instructor told him if he wanted to get fit enough for MMA, he should try training at a CrossFit box.

“I went home, looked it up online, watched a couple of videos and that was it. I realized right then that this was the thing I had been looking for my whole life,” he says.

Starting with his first workout at North Wall, Steve Schwab could tell there was something special about Bodi.

“He came to visit us on the first Saturday after we opened and never left. He is an amazing athlete. He has wonderful kinesthetic awareness that enables him to pick up on things that take most people much longer to grasp,” Schwab says.

Once Bodi got into CrossFit, he lost interest in MMA. Since then, he has been making rapid gains, even in extremely technical movements like Olympic lifts.

“Our Oly coach, Rob Ogle, worked with him quite a bit this past year and the work shows. (Bodi) can tell exactly how a lift went and he can correct any flaws in the movement immediately,” Schwab says. “In terms of WODs, he can pull back on the throttle when he needs to and immediately shift into a higher gear without any issues.”

Bodi credits his swift gains to his background in martial arts.

“My bodyweight stuff has always been great because of my background in Judo and MMA training,” he says. “Learning the lifts and training all the CrossFit-specific (workouts) has come along quicker than I even thought it would.”

He has also spent a lot of time addressing his weaknesses over the last year.

“I have really tried to focus on running and sustaining my cardio. I’ve been focusing on sprints, longer running and mid-range runs, to develop speed … while also being able to slow my breathing and work on slowing my heart rate.”

The Open

He’s trying to stay calm despite his mind-blowingly rapid ascent to the top of the North Central Leaderboard. Although he’s a rookie, he has managed to put in scores that contend with the best in CrossFit.

With 364 reps on 13.2, he took first in North Central and came just four reps shy of the reigning champion, Rich Froning Jr.

On the worldwide Leaderboard, he’s ranked ahead of CrossFit Games champions, Jason Khalipa and Graham Holmberg.

While a lot can change over the next three workouts, Bodi is enjoying every moment of his lead. A self-described “Leaderboard junkie,” he’s constantly checking to see what scores the top athletes are turning in on the workouts. He calls the multi-year Games competitors his heroes.

Although he is just one year into CrossFit, he has taken the time to see how he would have stacked up in 2011 and 2012.

“I did all the (workouts) from the 2011 Open and based on my scores I would have finished in fifth place in our region. Then in October, I did all the 2012 Open (workouts) and I would have finished probably around 18th place,” he says.

He doesn’t think performing the workout at his box readily compares to the experience of live competition. It’s apples and oranges, he says.

“I’ve done all the (workouts) from last year’s Regional, too, and I think, based on my scores, I might have finished anywhere from fifth through 10th, he says. “It’s hard to tell because I know the times and scores, but being there with the crowd, around all those great athletes, I think I really could have pushed myself to the next level.”

For now, he’s keeping his attention limited to the Open. He knows he has to take it one stage, and one workout, at a time.

“I just have to focus on 13.3,” he says. “There’s no reason to start talking about Regionals or Games or anything crazy like that right now. If I do that, I’ll lose focus. I’ve got to wait for 13.3, see what it is, get my plan together and do my best. If, at the end of the next three weeks, I’m in the top 48, then I’ll celebrate. Until then, it really is one thing at a time. People around me want to talk about the Games and winning the Open, and that’s fine for them. I can’t worry about that stuff. I just have to do my best to be good at everything.”

His coach agrees.

“I think he is actually a little surprised at how well he has done, though. He downplayed the ability to make the Regionals for the last few months so now he is downplaying the ability to make the Games. We'll see what happens in the end. Either way it is such a thrilling ride right now that we are all savoring every moment.”