April 4, 2013
Training Smarter: Brennen Colwell
By April Johnson

“Being able to train alongside top-level CrossFit athletes allowed me to understand the importance of efficiency and mental toughness.”

Photos courtesy of Tim Dougherty

Like many others, 2012 Regional competitor, Brennen Colwell, is hoping to get to the North East Regional again this year. He has taken a different training strategy and believes it will pay off. After four Open workouts, Colwell sits in 40th place in the North East. At this same time last year, he was in 59th place heading into the final workout.

His background as a college kicker prepared him for intense training and competitive situations, but he had only been doing CrossFit for seven months when the Open came around last year, and he had no idea what to expect.

“I wasn’t prepared for what the Open would bring and what qualifying would actually mean,” Colwell says.

After one week of the 2012 Open, he found himself in 113th place and thought it was over. Then, week two landed him in 39th place overall.

“The next few weeks were really tough. My conditioning wasn’t there for the triplet,” he says. “I had no idea how to approach workouts.”

After three attempts at both 12.4 and 12.5 last year, he squeezed into a Regional spot, qualifying in 56th place.

“I wasn’t training anything other than Open workouts for five weeks straight. That wasn’t good prep for the Regionals,” Colwell says.

The Regionals was the wake-up call he needed. After finishing 19th and missing his goal of 18th place by one spot, he knew he needed a different strategy for 2013.

“Even though I wanted more than anything to be in Event 6, by the end of Event 5, I’m not sure there was anything left in me to perform.”

Colwell was serious about improving his performance for the 2013 Games and decided to attend a CrossFit camp. It was a major turning point.

“Being able to train alongside top-level CrossFit athletes allowed me to understand the importance of efficiency and mental toughness,” Colwell says.

Since then, Colwell changed the way he trains.

“For the 2012 Games (season), I trained like crazy, but not smart. I trained all the time. I didn’t take rest days. I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt.”

This year, his focus is on efficiency of movements and conditioning, rather than pushing himself to the edge of injury. The possibility of making it back to the Regionals also keeps him focused on his training goals. He trains regularly at Monroe County CrossFit, but since July has exclusively used programming from CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus.

“To be competitive, I have really had to focus on making my movement more efficient,” Colwell says.

Quite simply, Colwell believes this year is all about training smarter. He now soundly believes that any other way is not going to get him the best results.

Beyond competition, Colwell feels CrossFit has made him a more disciplined person. From planning meals, to avoiding vending machines at work, to getting both work and homework done so he has time to train, he believes CrossFit has given him the push he needed to continue to improve in all areas of life.

“Training is what I love to do. I have to be good at what I have to do in order to get to do what I love,” Colwell explains. “Coming out of high school and college athletics, what you miss the most is being on a team. Game day is great, but the day-to-day grind of showing up, doing work and watching your teammates do well is the best part for me.”

When asked about his favorite workout, he laughs.

“Well, everyone else would say it’s Diane, although I haven’t done it again since Regionals.”

After winning his heat in Diane at the 2012 North East Regional with a time of 2:03, he found himself among impressive company.

“Those guys ... Hendel, Maleolo, Tyminski ... were probably thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’”

Even though they all finished ahead of him, he still recalls it as the best part of the Games.

“They all stayed until I finished,” he says. “It was really great.”

That community spirit is also what keeps Colwell coming back and training smarter. He loves how the CrossFit Games bring everyone together. He feels whether you are a competitive athlete or just there to cheer for your teammates, the atmosphere is contagious.