Training With Games Athletes

I would assume that most people who are handed a one-week fall break from their job would most likely take the time to relax or possibly go on vacation. Instead, I decided to head west and spend one

I would assume that most people who are handed a one-week fall break from their job would most likely take the time to relax or possibly go on vacation. Instead, I decided to head west and spend one of my days off training with CrossFit Games athletes. Counting this past Tuesday, the last three times I’ve seen Sam Dancer and Jenn Nobis-Dancer would have been in Chicago, Los Angeles and now . . . Quincy, Illinois? I know that there are very few CrossFit Games athletes from the 2014 Games who are currently living in Illinois. Excluding Masters athletes, I could only think of five. Elisabeth Akinwale and Alex Nettey live in the Chicago area, and the other three are currently residing in Quincy as members of QTown CrossFit. These are the aforementioned Sam Dancer and Jenn Nobis-Dancer and their new head coach Hunter Britt. The three of them made up half of the second fittest team on the planet, CrossFit Conjugate Black. After the Games, the Dancers headed to California for the summer and then came back to settle in their hometown of Quincy. Hunter was brought on, moving from Cincinnati, and became a new coach and head trainer for the couple at QTown. Because of their current addresses, these athletes could be potentially competing in the North Central Region during the CrossFit Open later this winter. But that is a topic for another time. I made the 90-minute drive on a Tuesday when all three would be around so that I could maximize the experience. As I got close, Sam informed me that there would be a slight change of venue; we’d be meeting at a local YMCA for what he was calling “accessory work.” Once there, he rotated us through lifts, including cable pulldowns, dips, shoulder presses of all variety (some using machines), and bench presses involving dumbbell work and decline bench, which I’m sure I hadn’t done since high school. The basic message I got was “strength is strength” and that these movements were designed to target specific areas of the chest, upper back and shoulders. Although I really don’t do training like this anymore, I know that these three finished in second place at the CrossFit Games and I’m just a 40-year-old grinder. So “when in Rome . . .” or in this case, Quincy. Once we finished the extra reps, we headed to QTown. There is nothing flashy or fancy about their place, just a former parking garage and storage area turned into a CrossFit box. Hunter led the class through stretching and warm-ups, and Sam bounced around and did various lifts and training around the perimeter of the box. Jenn retired to the office to take care of some of the business side of things. We next spent about 20 minutes going through gymnastics movements in which Hunter helped me with my muscle-up progressions as he rotated around the room to assist others with everything from repeat muscle-up work to strict and chest-to-bar pull-ups. After that, we all worked on free-standing handstand holds (something I hadn’t spent much time with) and progressed into attempts at assisted free-standing handstand push-ups and walks for distance. This was challenging, scary and fun. Sam had rejoined us at this point and was demonstrating his ability to do handstands, handstand push-ups and walks — not in a “show-off” kind of way but more to model what the movements looked like when properly executed. Next up was the WOD, which was a 12-minute AMRAP triplet made up of five burpees over the rower, 10 one-arm dumbbell snatches (50/35 pounds) and 15 calorie rows for rounds. This was a quick but challenging workout that seemed simple but really burned because the movements were all in short bursts and the weight was light so I kept grinding through it. I’d say I stayed with Hunter and Sam for about a round and a half until they got on the rower a second time and then they blew me away. I hung out and talked with them and other members of QTown for another hour or so while Jenn returned from the front office and jumped in the next class to take down the WOD, too. One main thing I took away from this experience is that these athletes, especially Sam, never stop doing stuff. These three spend most of their days at the box, and they just keep floating around lifting stuff, working on things like deficit handstand push-ups when they feel like it, but always moving and training. They rest when they need to rest. They grab some food when they get a little hungry. But all in all, they just keep moving, lifting and training and having a great time while they are doing it. If you get a chance to head to the banks of the Mississippi and spend time with these elite athletes, I’d highly recommend the experience. If you had the day to train with Games athletes, whom would you train with? Leave your idea of an ideal training day in the comments on the Facebook page. Stay on the Grind Jamie Toland CFL-1 Trainer Twitter @JTolgrinder