Chris Spealler is the only individual competitor to be competing in all five of the CrossFit Games. In this interview, Spealler discusses how he's grown as an athlete from 2007 to 2011 and gives some words of wisdom to Games hopefuls.
This year, you are the only individual athlete competing at the CrossFit Games for the fifth time. What have you learned over the years?
That I need to go in setting the goal of winning and putting that expectation on myself is OK. But in order to get there, I can’t worry about anyone else. I can only focus on what I know how to do and what I need to do. Also, you don’t have to win any one event in the Games to win. You need to be consistent, and you never know what is going to happen, so never quit.
How have you grown as a person and an athlete over the past five Games seasons? What moments stick out to you as particularly meaningful turning points?
I think I’ve matured quite a bit mentally, as a competitor. Even since my experience with wresting. I am in a much better position mentally to allow myself to perform to the best of my abilities.
I think of two meaningful turning points. One is the 2009 Games where I think HQ learned a lot about programming for the Games. I think it was a great competition, but they learned how to program for a better event and competition for the 2010 and 2011 Games seasons. Second was the move to the Home Depot Center and the involvement of Reebok. This is going to be a professional sport, and in some ways, it already is for some of the athletes. Personally, I think it’s one of the best things for the competitive side of the community.
Do you consider your Games experience an advantage over other, less experienced competitors?
Absolutely. I think I am more in tune with my nerves, the venue, and how to manage the workouts as well as time in between them. Even little things like what hotel to stay at are all things that I don’t worry about and have a bit of a system in doing.
How is 2011 Chris Spealler different from 2010 Chris Spealler?
The only thing different is that I am more fit. My numbers have improved on both ends of the curve.
What do you hope to do differently in competition?
I really don’t want to do anything differently this year, as far as my approach and focus. I went to win the Games last year, and I’m going to do that again this year. I think I did learn that I need to stay mentally focused on every workout. Last year, with the sandbag WOD, I found myself a little less focused with the time of night that I did and being outside my element. Working to not let that happen this year.
Do you ever plan on taking a break from competing or will you compete as long as you qualify?
I think if I ever took a break, that is when I would ‘retire’ – if you could call it that – from competing. At this point, I don’t think you can take a year off and just kick around your training for fun and hope to come back another year.
Competition is stiff and the demands being placed on the athletes are getting more and more difficult. As long as I have the desire and my fitness is improving, I’ll be showing up for competitions on an individual basis. And when that starts to go to the side, I’ll do everything I can to get on a team.
Some people say as long as they try their hardest, they’re happy with their performance, no matter what the outcome. Do you agree with that?
I do agree with that, but if that is the only thing competitors think of, then why are they competing? I compete to win. And if I do my best and fall short of that, so be it. I will allow myself to be discouraged by that. But the only way you can win is if you allow yourself to believe you can win, and you never compare yourself to any of the other athletes. If you compare yourself to others, you will only be as good as they are. I want to be the best.
If you could give someone just getting into the sport a piece of advice, what would it be?
Be patient. Your fitness level is something that is going to generally take a long time to get to where you think you want it. And when you are there, you will want it higher.
Don’t define yourself by your numbers and your times. Define yourself by who you are and what you are about. CrossFit is something that you do, it is not who you are. That can help keep things in good perspective.
Finally, find your weaknesses, make friends with them, then beat them to death.