Arguably the greatest athlete in the history of the CrossFit Games, four-time champion Rich Froning manages to retain an air of calm at all times. It’s a quality that infuriates his competition yet endears him to his teammates and brands alike. It turns out 10 years of hoisting barbells overhead is the perfect preparation for carrying the weight of an entire sport on your shoulders.
MH: Let’s go back to the beginning. What first drew you to CrossFit?
RF: Growing up playing sports says a lot about who I am as a competitor. I’m one of 32 first cousins on my mum’s side, 25 of us are boys and the girls are just as competitive as us. And so, my whole life has just involved some type of competition. After college, I was a firefighter and I was kind of missing that competitive piece. Then I found CrossFit.
Honestly, I just enjoyed working out. My undergrad degree was in exercise science and I didn’t even know there was a competition until about a month or two into doing CrossFit.
I was like, “Oh, all right, let’s see how this goes”. As they say, “The rest is history”.
MH: Why do you think CrossFit fosters a ‘cult’ community more than other sports?
RF: Well, the cool thing is I’ve been all over the world to different CrossFit gyms, spoken different languages and things like that, but it’s the same community and it attracts the same type of people. It’s a super supportive community. And I think there’s that shared suffering. You’re doing a similar workout and you know everybody’s suffering together. People may not be able to do the exact same movements, but they can do a similar type of workout and scale it and they just feel more connected. Back home you could play football and go play out in the yard, but you can’t strap the pads on and see where you line up against the professionals. With CrossFit, you can actually do a workout that we do and see where you stack up, which gives you a little bit more connection. Because you understand what we’re going through as top-of-the-line athletes. But as top-of-the-line athletes, we understand what somebody who’s just walking into the gym feels like too. It’s pretty cool.
MH: You’re notorious for your chocolate milk-based diet. Has your approach to diet changed?
RF: The last year I’ve also taken to intermittent fasting. I love it. I do the 16-8. I feel great. Blood work has been done and come back a couple of times and I’ve done really well. It’s also worked really well for my schedule. My big problem was I would eat in the morning, get busy throughout the day and wouldn’t eat until night. Now, we’ll start training about 9:30, go to about 12:30-1, then again from 3:30 until about 5:30-6. I start eating at 1 and then I’ll try to eat once or twice or take a shake or two within that two-or-three-hour period between training sessions. That was the big thing. Now I feel good for that second training session where I used to just feel run down.
MH: What do you credit your CrossFit longevity to? Is it the diet?
RF: I think genetics is a huge part of it. But also trying to take care of my body, especially the last couple of years as I’ve got a little older. And just being able to go get some body work done once a week versus waiting until things snowball so bad that I’m pushing an injury.
Read more in the January issue of Men’s Health, on sale now.