For five weeks, Regional hopefuls around the world worried over the leader board during the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, re-doing Open workouts and adjusting their training schedules for optimal results. Torey Throop hung drywall instead.
Set to open in April, CrossFit in the D had walls to be painted and mats to be laid. And so while his competitors rested and prepared for each week’s workout, Throop, the new affiliate’s general manager, spent his Open deep in the belly of a nine-story parking garage in Detroit, lugging heavy rolls of rubber to outfit the 12,000-square-foot space.
“Having a part in the build makes you respect the place more,” the 26-year-old said. “You appreciate stuff more when you put your own sweat into it.”
To help affiliate owners David Finlay and Jason Swafford prepare Detroit’s second affiliate for the public, Throop reduced his training from five hours per day to just two, done in one late-night session after a day full of hauling and installing. Still, he managed a top-20 finish in the Central East, taking 15th place after five workouts and earning a spot at the Central Regional.
The trip will mark Throop’s third Regional appearance. But with the stakes raised after CrossFit HQ adjusted the number of qualifying athletes from 48 in most regions to just 20, he said the victory this year is the sweetest so far.
“This year, it’s definitely an honor,” he said. “I’m excited to combine the regions and compete against the best guys not only in the Central East but in the North Central, as well.”
A former collegiate golfer and basketball player, Throop discovered CrossFit online in May 2012 while studying elementary education at Rochester College. Accustomed to the globo-gym standard — a 20-minute cardio session followed by “back and bi’s” — he had never done any gymnastics or Olympic weightlifting.
“I was in decent shape, but I only weighed 175 pounds, and I wasn’t strong,” he said. “The only thing I could really do was box jumps and running.”
He bought a barbell and some steel plates, spending the summer following CrossFit.com with a friend in his parents’ garage. The pair’s first attempt at “Fran” lasted well over 13 minutes.
“We were both in some serious pain afterward,” Throop said.
He joined CrossFit DV8 that fall. Though at first he struggled to back-squat 135 pounds and could barely overhead-squat 95 pounds, after six months of training, he took 67th place in the Central East in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. In 2014, he improved his Open rank by 55 places, taking 12th in the Central East and finishing his Regional debut in 25th place. Today, he can back-squat and snatch 425 pounds and 275 pounds, respectively.
“It just came down to hard work,” he said. “I don’t know if I took a day off the whole year. There are guys who have been doing this for six years, and the only way to make up that time is to put in the hours.”
But he didn’t just put the hours in under the barbell; he put them in at the head of the class, taking the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course in the summer before the 2014 season and discovered a passion for coaching.
“My favorite class was the 9 a.m. with all the soccer moms,” he said. “Just watching them develop, people who can’t do a push-up, and in six or eight months, they’re getting a handstand push-up or climbing a rope for the first time, that’s awesome. ... That’s where you really see CrossFit.”
Having found a vocation where he had expected only sport, when Finlay and Swafford offered him a chance to coach nearly full time at CrossFit in the D, he knew he had to make the move.
“It was something that allowed me to do what I love for a longer period of time,” he said. “If you love what you do, you don’t feel like you’re working.”
When he wasn’t coaching, Throop spent the past year working on weaknesses exposed in the 2014 Regional events, like handstand walks, strict handstand push-ups and high-rep barbell work at moderate loads. And despite spending more time in the past month building pull-up rigs than doing pull-ups on them, the effort paid off in the Open this year with three top-30 finishes and a fourth-place finish in the Central East in Open Workout 15.5.
Less than two months remain before the Central Regional in Minneapolis, where Throop will throw down against the best of the Central East and North Central. And though his goal is to earn his first trip to the CrossFit Games in Carson, California, his focus remains on the everyday athletes he coaches — whether that means cutting a training session short to help an athlete get her first muscle-up or spending a weekend with a hammer and nail to make his gym better.
“I value the coaching more,” he said. “No one cares if I made it to the Games and I was a horrible coach … it’s all about the journey, and you have to love doing it. I don’t know any other way to do it.”
Photos by Peggy Throop