Four-time CrossFit champ reveals his ultimate motivation
Dubbed the "Fittest Man on Earth" four years running, physical endurance and a diet consisting of abnormally large amounts of milk and peanut butter are not all that keep Rich Froning motivated during his brutal CrossFit workouts.
Strong enough to deadlift over 240 kilos, squat 190, bench 150, clean and jerk 150 and snatch 120 yet also as aerobically fit as an Olympic swimmer, Rich earned his title consecutively at the 2011 through to the 2014 gruelling CrossFit Games.
Most recently Rich led team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom to victory at the 2015 CrossFit Games, winning the Affiliate Cup.
"CrossFit is a real life fitness program combining weightlifting, gymnastics, running, biking, rowing, swimming – it's the full gamut of fitness activity in one program," Rich explained to SweatRX magazine.
"Mental strength outweighs the physical by far. There are people who are a lot more physically gifted than myself, but you have to be able to push past that point when you want to quit, when you think you can only do so much, when you think you can't do anymore," he says. "The mental aspect is huge."
Rich is familiar with pushing himself to the limits, training hard for football, baseball and hockey teams growing up and then for the demands of four years as a fire fighter before starting CrossFit in 2009.
While performance played a part in his motivation, he admits that physical appearance and an extremely competitive nature lead to him feeling like he needed to prove himself to others.
"I would pray that God would help me and give me strength and all that," he says.
“Mental strength outweighs the physical by far ... you have to be able to push past that point when you want to quit”"Basically [I competed] for self-glorification for myself and to make myself look better, to show people my appearance and my fiancé, my friends and close family that I could do this – basically for myself."
Rich says he believed he was a Christian because he attended church with his mom from a young age, but he knew that he was putting himself first instead of God. Thus, he was disobeying Jesus' command to love God first.
With his heart set on winning his first CrossFit Games in 2010, Rich felt devastated when he finished second.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself after the games and I didn't want to compete anymore," he recalls.
After taking time to reflect on why he was doing what he was doing, Rich says he realised that CrossFit should not define him but instead be used as a platform to reach out to people.
"I came to the conviction that it's not about me, it's bigger than me and that I should train to glorify Christ and to show people that you can do CrossFit and still believe in Jesus and God," he shares in a YouTube clip about his faith and fitness.
"If you are in a workout and something happens and you fall off a rope it's not the end of the world because Jesus died for us and this life is temporary. This body is temporary but while I am here I want to get as much out of it as I can and do the best that I can to glorify Christ and just use what God has given me to reach out to people. That's why I train."
From a young age Rich knew that Jesus Christ had paid the ultimate price on the cross for his wrongdoing but he came to the realisation that it was not enough to just believe it, he actually needed to live out his faith by making God his number one priority in life.
In 2011 Rich had 'Galatians 6:14' tattooed on his side, referencing a Bible verse that says, "As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died."
"I feel like putting Christ first in my life relieved a lot of pressure," he says.
"God couldn't care less if I won the CrossFit Games but I think He uses me to reach people and show people that you can live your life for Christ and not for yourself.
"It doesn't matter what I've done. When I retire or when I walk away from competing from CrossFit, I won't have it anymore, [but] Christ will always be there," he said openly in an interview for TheBlaze.com.
He further shared with SweatRX magazine that he once wrote Bible verses on his feet like Matthew chapter 27, verse 17-56 – a reminder to Rich of Jesus' death and suffering on the cross for him.
"When I was getting tired or feeling weak, I would look down and think 'what I'm going through is nothing compared to what He went through for us'. So that was great motivation," he recalls.
Knowing that his life and success are only temporary, Rich says he is further motivated to live differently to society's expectations – free of sexual immorality, drugs, alcohol and hard partying.
"You are living for something else, not living for earthly things because once this life passes what do you have?" he says on this topic.
By being obedient to God, Rich says he hopes to break out of the negative stereotypes some people have of Christians and instead encourage others to live their dreams for more than just themselves.•