Even if you’re not an avid CrossFitter (don’t worry, plenty of us aren’t), the accomplishments CrossFit athletes rack up in the box (CF speak for the gym) are no joke. For instance, switching off between 400-meter sprints and 45 muscle-ups on some seriously unstable gymnastic rings. It’s that kind of athleticism that’s downright inspiring. These athletes do open water swims, walk on their hands and hoist hundreds of pounds over their heads. And whether you love them or hate them, they’re turning the sporting world on its head with a whole new kind of competition — The Reebok CrossFit Games. With the 2015 Games kicking off this weekend, here’s what you need to know before tuning in. Who knows — maybe you’ll want to sign up for some introductory classes — or try these beginner CrossFit workouts at home.
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The Rise of the WOD
Back in 2007, the CrossFit Games — a nationwide competition that consists of various strength, cardio, plyometric and calisthenic exercises — had only 70 athletes and was held at a small ranch in Northern California. Today, there are thousands of individual and group teams vying for a spot (and ultimately, victory) at the Games, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch, too.
CrossFit’s Mass-ive Appeal
What’s most compelling about the CrossFit Games is that anyone (yes, even you!) can compete for the unofficial title of the Fittest Man or Woman on Earth. To back up, every February, CrossFit HQ kicks off its annual CrossFit Open, a series of five workouts unveiled over five consecutive weeks to boxes across the globe. This year alone, Reebok reported a record-breaking 5,000 entrants. Total scores are tallied; then the top competitors head to area Regionals, an intense weekend of seven unique events. Once through Regionals (a serious feat in and of itself), the athlete receives a bid to the Reebok CrossFit Games, which are being held again this year at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. There, the top 40 individual men and women, along with the top male and female team divisions, will battle for victory — and a prize purse of over $2,000,000.
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But don’t just take our word for it. Before you start following the madness, here’s what you need to know about the athletes sprinting and snatching their way to the finish.
5 Reasons to Watch the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games
1. It’s the fiercest kind of athleticism out there. Even if you’re not in fighting shape, there’s plenty to see here. “It’s the closest thing to modern-day gladiators straight out of the Coliseum,” says CrossFit star Noah Ohlsen, who placed eighth at last year’s competition. “Real life warriors that have been training all year long are hitting the field, fighting for their lives and leaving nothing left in the tank.” You’ll get in on the action — without the battle wounds.
2. You’ll see nine insane events over the course of four days. Reportedly, this year’s Games promises to be the toughest yet, with open water swims, heavy sandbag carries and obstacle course sprints. As with the weekly challenges that begin in February, though, many of the events go unannounced — perhaps not even until right before the exact competition begins. It makes everything that much more exciting, not to mention who’s leading the pack can change at any moment.
3. There’s a search for a brand-new sheriff. For the individual men’s competition, you’re going to want to remember the names Mathew Fraser, Noah Ohlsen and Daniel Tyminski. All three of them are seriously focused on making it to the top of the podium, and Fraser’s the only one who’s placed in the past. With five-time individual champ Rich Froning out of the individual competition (opting for the team division instead) the top spot is officially there for the taking.
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4. A rookie female is chasing the podium. Women are having a moment in sports this year, and the Games are no exception. During the highly-anticipated individual women’s competition, you’ll want to pay close attention to Brooke Ence. Despite her rookie status, Ence shocked fellow CrossFitters in Event 7 of the California Regionals when she killed the clean ladder — and ended up besting CrossFit veterans like Lindsey Valenzuela and Chyna Cho. Still, Valenzuela shouldn’t be ruled out. She’s seriously upped her training since being eliminated from Regionals last year, and from her performances thus far, you can tell she’s in it to win it.
5. There’s no “I” in (but all eyes on) teams. Imagine being on the Amazing Race — but with brutal partner deadlifts and crazy moves like handstand push-ups. (Yes, those exist!) The team competitions, introduced in 2008, have increasingly brought a group dynamic to the otherwise individual-centric Games. And with star Rich Froning moonlighting as just one part of a team for the first time, this exciting division is sure to make headlines — and turn fans’ heads more than ever before. NorCal CrossFit, CrossFit Mayhem Freedom and Ute CrossFit are three teams that you’ll definitely want to watch closely. Each box has some major CrossFitting all-stars, who performed well in Regionals, too.
Watch all of the action go down by following the livestream on ESPN3 or YouTube; parts of the Games will be shown on ESPN and ESPN2 as well. For exact programming details, click here.