March 9, 2012
An Unexpected Leader: Michael Barousse
By Eddie Malone

"After days of anticipating Workout 12.2, I was discouraged ... My one-rep max snatch is only 195. I thought the guys with huge snatches would dominate this workout."

After Week 2 of the CrossFit Games Open, Michael Barousse stood atop the Leaderboard for the South Central Region. It was a different kind of feeling from the one he experienced at the start of the competition.

The product of Ragin’ CrossFit in Lafayette, La., admits his heart sank when he saw Workout 12.1. At 192 pounds, he didn’t consider burpees a forte. “My first thought was ‘Great, the first Open workout will place me near the bottom,’” he says.

Barousse’s strategy was “to keep a steady pace” during his first attempt, which would hopefully lead to a different, and better, strategy for a second attempt. “I knew that to reach my goal of just doing better than my previous attempt, I had to complete at least nine to 10 burpees every 30 seconds without stopping,” he says.

The strategy worked pretty well as Barousse finished with 128 burpees, good enough for 32nd place in South Central. He had another “oh no” moment with the release of Workout 12.2 because of his inexperience with the snatch.

“After days of anticipating Workout 12.2, I was discouraged to see another single repetitive movement that I wasn’t most experienced in,” he says. “My one-rep max snatch is only 195. I thought the guys with huge snatches would dominate this workout.”

Barousse set a goal of 90 reps. On his first attempt, he reached 85, but felt hampered by a late night on the job, where he works as a surveyor.  Barousse rested a couple of days, tightened up his diet – he Zones – then tried again, managing four extra reps and earning a 9th place finish in the region.    

After two weeks of competition, this relative newcomer is now leading a pack comprised of seasoned CrossFit veterans. It’s an impressive feat, considering the 28-year-old has only been CrossFitting for 14 months. Six of those months, he trained by himself at a globo gym where he also garnered his first competition experience.   

Barousse took a step up in competition when he entered Austin’s The Fittest Games in January this year. It was his first opportunity to “witness Games veterans killing WODs.”  Barousse wasn’t able to compete directly with those veterans, as only Regionals qualifiers from 2011 could compete in the pro division, but in the amateur division he finished a respectable 10th out of 43 athletes.   

With the 2012 Open, Barousse doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. His goal for the rest of the competition is to be as consistent as possible and take each Workout as it comes.  If he makes it to Regionals, he admits it would be a shock to the system. 

“The thought of competing with professional athletes at Regionals astonishes me,” he says. “I never in a million years thought of myself as athletic. I never excelled in sports and I tried all that my community allowed: baseball, football, track, cycling and triathlons.”

Before the Open, Barousse would supplement daily workouts at Ragin’ CrossFit with work on the Olympic and Strongman lifts. Additionally, he did extra work to address weaknesses in his core. 

With the competition season in full bloom, Barousse finds that his training schedule now revolves around the Open. On Sundays, he’ll hit a bodyweight met-con after attending church. On Monday and Tuesday, he’ll do the daily workout, but tone down the intensity because he doesn’t want to be too sore for Thursday, his first crack at the Open Workout. Friday is a rest day on which he tweaks his strategy with an eye toward a final attempt at the Open Workout on Saturday.

On the last couple Saturdays, athletes from neighboring affiliates have descended on Ragin’ CrossFit to compete and cheer each other on. “Being surrounded by fellow firebreathers brings me to another level,” Barousse says. “It’s like nitrous to me.”

If he continues to perform at an inspired level, Barousse may very well be heading to San Antonio, Texas for the Regional, where he can finally share the stage with the South Central Region’s top CrossFitters.

Whatever happens, he’s pretty happy with the life he’s carved out for himself.

“I'm just a coonass [a term of endearment for Cajuns] from south Louisiana that enjoys competition. I'm also a big family man. I enjoy taking care of my wife and two children. My life revolves around God, family, work and CrossFit.”