July 4, 2013
Silent But Deadly: Michael Mogard
By Dexter Keasberry

“I started like everyone else — I did Fran and it took me well over 10 minutes. I felt sick, questioned my existence, the usual.”

Michael Mogard, recently crowned fittest in Asia, went to South Korea with only one goal in mind: win. 

He came out strong from the start with a convincing victory in Jackie, and remained consistent throughout all the other events. It was a strategy that earned him a tremendous reward: one of the 48 coveted spots at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif.  

For the Iowa native and owner of CrossFit 673 in Brunei Darussalam, a small Sultanate in South East Asia, the candid journey began back in 2006.

“I remember being in a gym back home. There was this guy working out next to me, grunting while doing handstand push-ups and sprinting, and I thought to myself, This guy is always so tired, why would anyone ever want to do this?”

As an avid fan of the Hawkeyes, Mogard was heavily involved with baseball, playing at the collegiate level with the University of Iowa.

“I really benefited from the strength coaches I had around me,” Mogard says. “They believed in me and really taught me the foundations in strength training.”

However, a torn meniscus in each knee and torn labrum/rotator cuff soon shortened his aspirations of playing baseball at the next level. Mogard eventually found himself working as a personal trainer, honing his skills in powerlifting.

“I used to do some powerlifting — heavy deadlifts, bench presses and squats — but because of the constant big weight, I really beat myself up and ended up taking three years away from training and just focused on training others.”

CrossFit heavily influenced the methodology Mogard used with his personal clients.

“It just made sense, it was good science,” he explains. “While training people at a health club, and like many others have experienced, I caught some flack for not buying into the typical personal training system. I just really believed CrossFit was best for my clients and didn’t want to train them any other way.”

Surprisingly, Mogard had not actually tried CrossFit before teaching its principles to his clients, but the success they were having with the programming caused him to give it a go himself. When he saw his clients benefiting, he just couldn’t stay away.

“I started like everyone else — I did Fran and it took me well over 10 minutes. I felt sick, questioned my existence, the usual.”

With the wide range of movements involved, he discovered he was able to overcome old baseball and wrestling injuries that had dogged him from years before, eventually turning him into not just a CrossFit believer, but a practitioner, too.

“A short while later I got my Level 1 and did Fran in five minutes. All I needed was a little progress and I was hooked.”

So how did Mogard end up in the middle of South East Asia? Having been on holiday in the Philippines in 2010, a friend of a friend connected him to an American family living in Brunei. He decided to pay a visit to the small Sultanate in December 2010 and saw huge potential to expand CrossFit throughout the nation. Along with his wife, Emily (who also coaches at 673), and their three children (with another on the way), the Mogard family finally made the move in February 2012.

CrossFit 673 is only nine months old, but the American has already become a key recognizable figure in the development of CrossFit for Brunei. Armed with various certifications, CrossFit 673 has become a beehive of activities with classes for adults, kids and teens, six days a week.

Mogard’s first taste of Regionals began last year. He worked through the Open Workouts and eventually found himself qualifying for the Asia Regional, where he took fourth place overall. Not a bad result for his first time.

“The 2012 Asia Regional was my first CrossFit competition. I had a lot of fun ending fourth in 2012, and I found that I definitely had a natural ability for the sport,” he says. “This last year, my priorities were with my growing family and trying to get the box off the ground. I have worked hard enough to make some good gains and feel good about the progress I’ve made in the last year.” 

Clearly Mogard’s hard work paid off. Asia’s No. 1 now has his eyes fixed on the upcoming Games. Since returning from the Regional, he hasn’t taken his foot off the gas pedal.

“I have been training my body hard, but training the mental game is a priority for me right now.”

Known for his seemingly quiet demeanor and calm composure, Mogard’s determination and attitude draws from a deep well of faith. 

“God is my sustainer. When I am locked in to His Truth and connected to His Spirit, there is no anxiety, no pressure and no fear. Any athlete will tell you CrossFit hurts — it hurts a lot. And those same athletes will also tell you that the fear of that intense pain can keep them from those last reps or that consistent pace, greatly limiting their potential. My goal is to live above that fear — God has conquered fear, and He has enabled me to do the same.”

With his sights set on the Games, Mogard will be ready.

“The Games can throw anything at you. Locking into that place of peace, the place where there is no fear, that’s my game plan. ”

Throughout the Open and the Asia Regional, members from the CrossFit 673 community have faithfully gathered together around him; from packing out the box during the Open Workouts, to pre- and post-Regional barbecues, to meeting up at the box to watch live streaming events from South Korea.

“Korea has amazing 4G, so one of our members was streaming a live feed back to our box. It was really incredible to see our members rally behind me and give their full support, we really have a special community.”

Asia’s top spot holder has a bright future ahead of him and aims to focus on building the sport in the country and sharing his vision.

“I’d love to be better at this sport when I’m 40 than when I am 30, so we’ll see if I can defy the odds of age. Most importantly, I will see how many people I can bring along with me to do the same. It’s more fun to do it together.”