March 4, 2013
Staying Sane With CrossFit: Mark Stewart
By Anne Talhelm

"If I didn't do CrossFit, I'd probably go nuts."

Photos by: Anne Talhelm

A day in the life of Mark Stewart can be summed up in two words: full schedule.

As a full-time student carrying two jobs and preparing for the Open, 27-year-old Stewart lacks free time.

“Basically, my life sucks right now. My truck is my closet,” he jokes while driving from night school to work.

Stewart doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s humble, encouraging of others, focused and driven.

His day starts at 5:30 a.m. coaching classes, and ends waiting tables until midnight. Workouts follow coaching a class, on a study break, or at 11 p.m. on a Sunday.

Balancing coaching, studying and bartending means Stewart uses his two hours of commuting to think and strategize his programming.

“If I didn’t do CrossFit, I’d probably go nuts,” Stewart says. “More often than not, my workout is my mental break. It’s too hard to think about anything besides breathing. Doing the WOD is one of the few times where I can just go to a different place and not worry about school, work, finding a career before graduation … or girls.”

With a background in MMA cage fighting, Stewart knows about mental toughness.

“It’s about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he explains. “You have to be able to flip that switch from ‘Mr. Nice Guy.’ No one’s in it for second place, period. I compete at everything. I play to win. I have to walk in thinking, ‘I can beat you.’”

In a recent local competition, Stewart placed 12th. He had mixed feelings about this.

“The (competition) showed me I can compete with the top 150 individuals in the South Central Region,” he says. “They’re not untouchable. I’m comin’ for them.”

Stewart is focused on securing an individual spot this year at the South Central Regional.

“Last year’s Open taught me that I’ve got to be on point for every workout.”

A difference of four more reps in 12.1 would have landed Stewart in the top 30, compared to 67th overall in the region. He went on to compete on the CrossFit Lake Charles South affiliate team.

In southern Louisiana, the CrossFit community comes together as several different boxes take turns hosting weekend get-togethers. From New Orleans to Alexandria, Lake Charles and Lafayette, every weekend is a chance to come together to workout.

“My favorite part about the Open, hands down, is getting together with other gyms,” Stewart says. “It’s the opportunity and honor to go and compete against the people who challenge me the most. My training partners are my family.”

No matter what his placing, as long as he can coach, Stewart will be happy.

Coaching makes me better,” he says. “Without a doubt, coaching other athletes makes me a better athlete. Coaching challenges me to lead by example (and) reinforces accountability. (My athletes) have to trust my credibility. It’s seeing the victories, watching eyes light up when a house mom snatches or does an overhead squat — things they’ve never done before. It’s the thanks they give, the interaction. That’s the best part of my day.”