Run at challenges. You don’t get better when stuff is easy. Find good mentors or people who will hold you accountable. Enjoy the hard days, not every day is going to be fun but the days that are hard is when you get better. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or better than you in areas you are deficient in. Find something bigger than yourself to do it for.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Froning Jr. Froning was dubbed the Fittest Man in History after winning four back-to-back individual CrossFit Games championships (2011–2014). He is an expert in the field of health and wellness and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Fitness and Wellness from Tennessee Tech University. Rich has been featured on notable outlets including Men’s Health, Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal. He also hosts his weekly podcast, Froning and Friends, where he speaks with guests on the most pressing issues and topics in the industry. Rich owns and operates the CrossFit Mayhem gym in Cookeville, Tennessee where he also resides with his wife, Hillary, and their three children: Lakelyn, Trice, and Violet.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
I grew up playing sports. I played baseball and football until I dislocated my shoulder during my junior year. I always enjoyed the training part of baseball. I went to play college baseball and decided it wasn’t for me. I worked in a factory for six months and was a firefighter in Cookeville for several years. They paid my tuition, and I got a lot of life experience during that time that helped me grow up. I had to be fit to perform as a firefighter because other people are relying on you to be qualified to do the job. The last semester in college, the head strengthening coach at Tennessee Tech showed me some CrossFit videos, and I started the workouts. I trained with my cousin and opened a gym together. We found out about the CrossFit competition and thought we should give it a shot. My cousin chickened out, but I signed up for the CrossFit games that winter. You had to get in the top 15 to transfer to regionals, and 75 guys were competing. I thought I would get destroyed. After the first workout I was in first, and after the first day I was in first place, but I ended up taking second, losing the entire games by three points. After I worked through the depression that came with feeling like I failed because of placing second, I was motivated to try again and came back to win the next year.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
In 2010, my first year at the Games I was in the lead going into the final three events. About two hours before those events the top 18 men and top 18 women were taken to a room with no contact to the outside world. We were taken out six at a time to an unknown event and an unknown number of events. After a couple of hours, we were finally lead from out holding room out onto the competition floor (which was 120+ degrees) where we were read our first event: 30 hand release push-ups, 12’ wall climb, 21 overhead squats, and 12’ wall climb with a 7-minute time cap… I was the only one to finish, however in the meant I was trashed for the next two events I didn’t know we had. It all ended with a workout that included 20’ rope climbs. Which I did not think I would have a problem with, until I realized I had no grip left and had no technique to climb the rope with my feet. Long story short I fell from the top of the rope a couple of times and ended up getting second place by three points (three places over the entire weekend of 10 events).
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My faith is a huge motivating factor for me, but before my “failure” at the CrossFit Games it was a very selfish faith. A “what can you do for me” faith in God, I would be asking for things instead of asking God “what I could do for Him” with the talents he’d blessed me with. Lucky for me I had a good group of guys around that I looked up to that asked me some tough questions and challenged me. I had let CrossFit become my identity and I’d put all my self-worth in that, and had failed… I felt like a failure. What I realized was that CrossFit wasn’t what defined me as a human being, it was the sacrifice that Christ made for me and all of us that defined who I was. That for me was a huge weight off my shoulders and allowed me to perform knowing that win or lose I would be ok.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
I won the CrossFit Games as an Individual in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and on a team in 2015, 2016, and 2018!
So, how are things going today? 🙂
2018 was a good year as my team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom won the affiliate cup championship at the CrossFit games for the third time.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
1. Run at challenges. You don’t get better when stuff is easy.
2. Find good mentors or people who will hold you accountable.
3. Enjoy the hard days, not every day is going to be fun but the days that are hard is when you get better.
4. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or better than you in areas you are deficient in.
5. Find something bigger than yourself to do it for.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
Both of my parents are the two hardest working people I know, I used to hate the chores I had as a kid but now I’m grateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I tell as many people as I can about Jesus.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are a lot of obvious choices here with the way our world is going today, but for me with my expertise, I think it was be getting kids started on healthy habits from a young age.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m not much of a quote guy but I have something I try to go by every day and I have it tattooed on my side.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
This verse definitely keeps me humble and helps me remember where the importance is.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram / @richfroning
Twitter / @richfroning
Facebook / @RichFroning
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.