March 6, 2012
Two More Reps: Chris Exarhos
By Dan Hollingsworth

Chris Exarhos missed the 2011 North West Regional by two spots. Instead of feeling defeated by coming up short, he used his near miss from 2011 as motivation for 2012.

Chris Exarhos played hockey for the University of Wisconsin, pursuing a lifelong dream.

Missing the North West Regional by two spots in 2011, Exarhos has his sights set on 2012.

Last year, Chris Exarhos entered the 2011 CrossFit Games Open without a lot of grand expectations. A once very competitive hockey player, Exarhos had fallen into the same trap many former athletes find themselves in. He remained active, exercised frequently, even ran eight marathons, but he knew that he was just a shadow of the athlete he had once been. 

In the late summer of 2009, Exarhos and his wife began training at Kitsap CrossFit. Chris dedicated himself to this new way of training, and after several months, felt that he was in the best shape of his life. When the 2011 CrossFit Games Open rolled around, he wanted to see where he stood. When the smoke had cleared and all the results were in, he finished in 62nd place in the North West Region, just 2 places shy of qualifying for Regionals.

Instead of feeling defeated by coming up just short, Exarhos used his near miss from 2011 as motivation for 2012. Here is his reflection on the last 12 months.

Tell me a bit about your hockey career.

I had a very successful youth and high school career. I was selected for the USA Hockey Select 16’s and was offered a spot on the Minot Americans in the SJHL. I felt I was not physically ready to play in that league (if only CrossFit was around back in 1988). My senior year of high school, I was the only forward in the state of Wisconsin recruited by the University of Wisconsin. That was a huge thrill. They ended up winning a national championship that year.

I played two years of junior hockey before attending college, playing in the NAHL and USHL. I ended my juniors career 8th in the league in goals and 17th in points. After playing juniors I pursued my childhood dream of playing for the University of Wisconsin. I knew going to school there would end my career (due to their depth), but I was fulfilling a dream. As a result, I didn’t see a lot of action, which diminished my skills.  After college, I had a tryout with the Milwaukee Admirals in the IHL. As luck would have it, I broke my left hand three days before reporting to training camp.  As a result I failed my physical, thus ending my pro career. 

In 2011 you missed qualifying for Regionals by two spots. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from that experience?

Pick up the bar and do two more reps! Obviously, there are a number of reasons why I didn’t qualify for Regionals, but ultimately it came down to me not doing one or two more reps in any of the six Open WODs and finishing in 62nd place.

I honestly didn’t have any expectations of qualifying for Regionals, let alone the Games, I just wanted to do my best on each WOD. When all was said and done, I missed qualifying by 18 points and two spots. It was nice to see where I stacked up against the competition, but it has been a long year. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about doing two more reps. That alone has made a huge difference in my mindset and pushes me during every WOD. No matter how I feel, I hear the constant echo in my head, “Get two more reps. Get two more reps.”

What have you focused on for 2012?

Nutrition, improving strength, and the Olympic lifts. Nutrition-wise, I ate fairly well, but was known for my vices - Guinness, wine, pizza, ice cream, and tortilla chips. Since January 2012, I’ve been following a strict paleo/Zone diet and have seen significant physical and performance improvements. 

I’m pretty average with the big lifts and have been working on improving my overall strength. I haven’t hired a coach or dedicated several hours a week working on these, but I have been sprinkling in extra sessions to work on them as time permits. 

I’ve also been doing a lot of Olympic lifting, really focusing on form. I’ve increased my snatch by 40 pounds in four months. I haven’t spent as much time on cleans, but my clean is up 15 pounds in the same time period.

Most important change you have made with regard to your preparation for 2012?

Nutrition, without a doubt. I am often teased for having once said, “I’m way more paleo than those who aren’t,” but now, I’m strict paleo-Zone and I’m weighing and measuring everything. This is a huge change for me. Living the 90/10 paleo lifestyle was convenient, but there was no way I was eating enough vegetables or as disciplined as I am now on the Zone. 

I recently competed at the Bellevue Interbay Throwdown and had the opportunity to compete against some of the top men in our area. I set a goal of making it into the final 12 and ended up placing 4th overall. This showed me that my nutrition plan was working.  My training has remained pretty consistent with the amount of time spent in the gym following our regular programming and mixing in some additional strength work. It’s the nutrition portion that has dramatically changed.

What is your goal for 2012?

My goal is to qualify for the 2012 North West Regional. If I make Regionals, the goal will be to qualify for the Sunday WODs. But again, I just want to perform to the best of my ability.

Exarhos took one big step toward his goal with Open Workout 12.1. He completed 135 burpees. On Workout 12.2, he completed 72 snatches. He is now in 26th place in the North West Region.