“The main reason I truly believe I have been able to come back so fast this year—faster than any medical professional told me I could have—is because I changed my mentality. I have really tried to find the positive in every single negative.”
On any given day at CrossFit Center City, you may find Paul Buono warming up with a hula-hoop, singing a tune or lifting in tighty-whities.
“His bright lacrosse shorts can sometimes be a little jarring at first glance,” said CrossFit Center city owner Erin Davidson. “He’s also short and jacked, so there’s that.”
Twenty-three-year-old Buono stands at 5-foot-3 and has a spirit bigger than his size, despite spending most of the last year rehabbing an injury that was worsened at the 2013 Mid Atlantic Regional.
All jokes aside, Buono is a serious competitor. After placing 88th in the 2012 Open, Buono said he was “hell bent” on becoming a regional athlete and chasing the podium the next year. All of his dedication and effort paid off when he placed 17th in the 2013 Open, earning a bid to regionals.
Two weeks prior to regionals, Buono popped his wrist out of place, but decided to push through the pain in pursuit for the podium. A few days before the competition, Buono was practicing for the three-rep overhead squat, when he internally rotated his shoulder, resulting in a torn labrum. Once again, Buono opted to ignore the pain and compete in the weekend’s events, finishing in an impressive 17th place overall.
Post-regional, Buono underwent labral repair surgery. The typical post-op recovery to return to sport is six to eight months, but since this was a repeat surgery, a 12- to 16-month recovery was to be expected. And it was still a question as to whether or not he’d be able to return to competition at all.
Buono spent the months following surgery completely focused on rehabilitation. He attended up to three sessions a week of physical therapy and had chiropractic adjustments and massages several times a week.
After physical therapy, Buono continued with massages, added in ART and Crossover Symmetry, worked with Roop Sihota of San Francicso CrossFit to develop a mobility plan and hired remote coach Jason Leydon of CrossFit Milford to gain strength in his legs. Buono was cleared in late December for training and has made up significant ground on the road to recovery.
“This year I am focused on having fun,” he said. “I don’t put stress on anything except getting my shoulder better.”
Today, he power snatches 225 lb.—15 lb. more than before surgery—and cleans 320 lb.
“With Paul, the primary goal was to rehab his shoulder and keep him mentally in the game during this process,” Leydon said. “We weren’t focusing on any sort of prep work for this season. It was 100 percent rehabbing with a focus to return to regional competition in 2015.”
After three Open workouts, Buono sits among the top 48 on the Leaderboard in the region.
When the first few workouts posted, he had practiced only a few of the movements in his post-op training, “playing” with chest-to-bar pull-ups for a few minutes and light touch and go snatches in a warm-up once, he said.
“Every week, right before Dave Castro announces the workout, I feel like I’m getting punched in the gut,” Buono said. “I wasn’t happy when 14.2 was announced, but I had to take a step back and remember what my goal was for this year. The movement I am still waiting to see is the muscle-up. That deep catch position isn’t very comfortable.”
Davidson said she has never seen anyone take the motto “your training is only as good as your recovery” so seriously.
“His injury is a big part of the development of his maturity as a competitive CrossFit athlete,” she said. “It has forced him to learn how to be involved in the sport for the long haul. Paul isn’t a phenom because he is lucky; he’s succeeding because he was willing to do the work the right way.”
Big-hearted Buono rallies the spirits of the CrossFit Center City community on a daily basis with his positive attitude.
“The main reason I truly believe I have been able to come back so fast this year—faster than any medical professional told me I could have—is because I changed my mentality,” Buono said. “I have really tried to find the positive in every single negative.”