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The Making of a Champion

People ask me all the time what made me fall in love with CrossFit. I can tell you that it is what I learned from this man, John Mariotti. John had a very small gym in Fernley, NV where he taught “cross-training”, Jiu-Jitsu and TaeKwon-Do (he’s a 6th degree black belt). He wanted to become a CrossFit affiliate and coach, but his place in Fernley was just too small for that. When I first joined his gym my kids and I were all taking martial arts from John and he was trying to convince me to try his cross-training class. I was hesitant to say the least. I did not want to try another new fad that didn’t work. But he was passionate and that passion eventually overcame my resistance and I decided to give this whole cross-training thing a try. My life would never be the same after that day.

To tell the truth, I don’t think John knew at the time how CrossFit would change my life and the lives of so many others. He just knew that it was an incredible training program. In 2012 he competed in his first CrossFit Games and I helped video his workouts for him. He scored very well for his first attempt. He was told by many CrossFitters that he had a chance and he should work to try to make it to the Games. That was the beginning of John’s Journey to Extraordinary.

And now John Mariotti just completed his second competition at The CrossFit Games 2017 in the Masters Division age 60+. He finished both the Open and the Masters Qualifiers 2nd place in the World. As most of you know, this is quite a feat. So I want to address the question on everyone’s mind… What does it take to be a champion? Well, as his business partner I can give you a very interesting glimpse!

In martial arts class John’s motto was, “Teaching Focus and Inspiring Transformation”. He believed in the innate ability of each person to dig deep within and find their own heart of a warrior. At the beginning of each class he would require us to recite the tenets of TaeKwon-Do. The tenets are these: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. It is these traits, along with a clear vision of a goal and a planned, regimented and followed path toward that goal that have guided him to this point in his life.

So let’s begin with a quick explanation about what this competition is and how it works. Every year in late February we begin The CrossFit Open – a worldwide competition to decipher the Fittest Man and Woman on Earth. How do you decipher that? Well, according to CrossFit, the Fittest on Earth should be able to tackle any physical feat well. So, for example, a weight lifter might not be a fast runner and a fast runner might not be a great weight lifter… but the Fittest could do it all extremely well. If fact, this person should be able to tackle almost anything you throw at them extremely well. They may not be the very best at any one thing, but they are very good at all of it.

John Mariotti 2017

In order to find the person who is the best at everything, The CrossFit Open begins with a series of 5 workouts over 5 weeks. Included in these workouts is a combination of cardiovascular endurance, strength, and skill – a broad range of functional movements, which move large loads, long distances, quickly ( Each workout has a score and contestants are ranked from best to worst according to their scores. The person who has the

John Mariotti 2011

overall best scores has the highest rank at the end of the Open. Just to give you an idea of what a contest of this stature looks like – there were over 400,000 individuals who registered to compete in the CrossFit Open in 2017. Of those, 3,500 were 60 years old and up and just over 2,000 of those were men. After all of the qualifiers were over, the top 20 Masters in each age category continue on to The CrossFit Games to compete for the title of the Fittest on Earth in their age group.

This brings us to today. Now, you have to understand where this story began… When I met John in Fernley, NV several years ago he was not the Fittest Man on Earth. You can see one of his first attempts at an Open Workout here.  Granted, even the top CrossFit athletes in the world back then were nothing compared to what they are today. CrossFit has changed all of that forever. But John was an athlete. He was working on his 6th Dan Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do and he practiced jiujitsu as well as CrossFit. He had run marathons, ultra marathons and Iron Man races in the past. Competition was not new to him. When John started CrossFit in 2012 his results were good enough that he decided to train hard for a year and attempt it again the next year. In 2013 he did just that, but the problem was that everyone else trained just as hard – and although he did improve, it wasn’t enough to make it all the way to the Games.  His stats are as follows:

  • 2012 – 53rd in the world, 3rd in the South West Region
  • 2013 – 31st in the world, 3rd in the South West Region
  • 2014 – 6th in the World, 1st in the South Central Region
  • 2015 – 23rd in the world, 2nd in the South Central Region
  • 2016 – 23rd in the world, 1st in the South Central Region
  • 2017 – 2nd in the world, 1st in the South Central Region

So here is what he learned… everybody needs a coach. As humans we are extremely fallible when it comes to judging our own abilities, and we tend to work on the things we are good at, instead of what we stink at. You also need someone who will watch your movement and figure out what you are doing wrong. And believe me – everybody stinks at something – usually lots of things. However, you can get better at anything – all you have to do is work at it. So, John hired a coach – CJ Martin and Tino Marini of CrossFit Invictus.

You might wonder what his weekly workouts look like? Well, they are very similar to yours or mine if you do CrossFit. But here is what makes John different… He always does them. Always. I have seen athletes come through here wanting to go to The CrossFit Games. I’ve even seen athletes who are working with CJ. The difference is – John does the workouts Every. Single. Time. No excuses. If he has to get up at 3am to get a workout in, then that’s what he does. I’ve even seen him complete a workout at 9 or 10pm after an incredibly busy day. Why? Because his coach told him to. No questions, no whining, no begging for more or less. And he definitely does not go do a different workout just because he thinks it will be fun or more interesting or more difficult. I mean, why hire a coach if you are going to go do your own thing anyway?

Another thing John does that makes him different from most athletes is work on his diet. Now, over the years that has meant eating paleo, adding calories (especially protein to build muscle), and eating clean – nothing from a box, grassfed meats, organic foods, etc. However, in the past year to go from 20th to 2nd he made a big change, and he now uses Buff Box. This is not just any diet program – it’s intense! He gets the foods he needs to eat in a day and he eats ONLY those foods for SIX WEEKS! Can you imagine eating the exact same thing every single day for 6 weeks? The idea is that when your body has the same thing every single day it gets used to those foods and it’s easier for it to process the food and put it to good use. And that is what has happened. He has leaned out, gained muscle and is still PRing (Personal Record) strength moves at 60 years old! Now, does that mean he never has fun? Well, in truth, no. He does get to eat whatever he wants one day per week and he will indulge in a glass of wine or two every now and then. However, those times are rare as he has work to do.

The last thing that John does to help his performance strikes fear in the minds and hearts of many… he goes to the doctor. In fact, he goes to lots of doctors. John has a primary care physician, a knee doctor who repaired his meniscus this past summer, and a hand doctor who repaired a tendon in his thumb that was preventing him from properly gripping the bars and being able to walk on his hands. He also goes religiously to Kinetik Chain, which “delivers performance therapy for high endurance athletes”. These guys – Chris Babb and Landan Webster and everyone there who works with them – have been enormously instrumental in John’s performance, recovery and all around well-being. Within the past year John has also started cryo-therapy with CryoOne as well as NOVOthor with Phoenix Regen. He has suffered a pulled hamstring, a torn meniscus, a broken thumb, a disintegrated tendon, several box jump injuries, and many more injuries over time. But nothing ever stops him. When he is injured he works out a different part of his body and stays on track – and these doctors have all helped him do this.

When I first began CrossFit I never thought I would be able to do half of the things I am able to do today. John taught me to believe in myself and work hard toward my goals and never let anything get in my way. John Mariotti had a clear vision of a goal and he planned, regimented and followed that path toward the CrossFit Games. He used Courtesy, teaching others (like myself) as he learned himself. He used Integrity by setting the example and demanding the best of those around him. He Persevered over thousands of workouts and several years using his Self-Control and his Indomitable Spirit – never allowing failure, injury or disappointment get in his way. And that, my friends, is what made this man a Champion.

Congratulations John – I’m proud of you. We are all proud of you!!!!!!

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