As an average Joe when it comes to CrossFit, I have been fortunate to be able to meet a few talented and hard working CrossFit Games athletes in my quest to find out what makes these high level athletes tick. I am always awed and inspired by what they have to say about the mental and physical preparation required for competition.



Cole, Ben, and Cody during last year's CrossFit Regionals.


Recently, I chatted with the three top men from last year’s NorthWest CrossFit Games Regionals: Cole Sager, Cody Anderson, and Ben Stoneberg. I discovered a common thread running through how these athletes train. Applying what they’ve learned to your daily routine and overall goals could make the difference to escalate you to your first muscle up before next year’s Open.

Breaking Muscle Shop


Going Into the Open

While these three athletes train year-round like they are headed to the Games at any given moment, evaluation of where they are at physically and mentally is a daily constant. When it comes to pushing the “submit” button online when they sign up for the Open, they are confident their training will hold up.  


Cole Sager explained that after the 2014 CrossFit Games, he was able to identify some clear strengths and weaknesses in his abilities and performance. The main thing he drew from his first Games experience was that striving for “being the Fittest on Earth means training at a high level year round, not just when the Open, Regionals, or the Games approach.”


"The ongoing theme among all three of these athletes is having fun while being consistent."

For any person looking to test him- or herself in the Open, all three athletes said it is critical to remember to have fun. Cody in particular encourages his fellow gym members and athletes to embrace the unique opportunity the Open presents to build relationships and camaraderie within a gym community. He warned against taking the Open too seriously, no matter where you are in your CrossFit journey and regardless of whether it’s a recreational or competitive endeavor for you. “The Open for the average person is about celebrating the progress you have made and testing yourself to see what you are really capable of.” Remember that perspective, Joes.


Cole said something that rung true to me and speaks to the heart of a person pushing through a nasty workout. “The Open is one of the most enjoyable things I can be a part of. The average person motivates me just as much as the highest level Games athletes. I love seeing people pour their hearts out into workouts.” True story. Me, too.


Pro Tip: As an average Joe athlete, you may not think you are inspiring to anyone, but you never know who may be watching, so do your best.

Listening to the Body

What the athletes reported in regards to their rest and nutrition philosophies was also quite similar. Cole seemed to be the one with the most structured meal planning from drawn from his time spent as a collegiate athlete. But he warned against abuse of the “cheat day” when it comes to nutrition. “I believe that there is a time and a place for cheat meals but most individuals would benefit from a structured meal plan or lifestyle habit,” he shared.


Cody during a snatch workout at the CrossFit regionals.


And while Ben admitted to a couple cheat meals through his week, he generally focuses on meat, vegetables, and responsible carbs, similar to what the others reported. Sounds like a decent base plan that an average Joe could also apply. Note taken.


Pro Tip: Stay on point with your diet and don’t abuse your cheat meals. enjoy every bite, but leave it at that.

Upping the Burn

As the Open season approached, all three athletes say they upped their mental and physical game, for certain. “When the Open comes along, I add more light weight AMRAPS,” Ben shared. “I try and keep up the strength training but add more burner workouts. Every repetition counts!”


Cole matched Stoneberg’s sentiment. “I believe that consistency is the biggest component to strength gains. I work to keep my metcons constantly varied and I have a structure to gymnastics practice, skill development, and cardiovascular development.” Joes, you hear this? Consistency is key.


"The Open for the average person is about celebrating the progress you have made and testing yourself to see what you are really capable of."

Pro Tip: Even for the average Joe, keeping the number of workouts steady, yet varied, will provide you with the best spread of training possible.

Have Fun, But Work Hard

Don’t anyone dare play heavy metal to Ben during a workout. He will just start laughing. Cody listens to Rend Collective radio on Pandora. And Cole likes Christian rock but mainly goes with the flow of the music at the gym.


Ben getting the green light from a judge during CrossFit regionals.


All three agreed that whatever is in the background gets squashed out of the sensory department once all energy is focused on the task at hand: getting ready for their next competitive workout.


Pro Tip: Take note, Joes - if you can hear the music, you aren’t working hard enough.

Putting It All Together

The ongoing theme among all three of these athletes is having fun while being consistent. Whether it is your diet or your workout schedule, keeping things in perspective and being aware of how your body is feeling can make all the difference during your next Open experience.


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Photos: ©2015 CrossFit, Inc. Used with permission from CrossFit, Inc.