Justin Medeiros is the current Fittest Man on Earth and the winner of last year’s CrossFit Games, which was only his second appearance at the sport’s annual flagship competition.
Over the course of the weekend, Medeiros showed a similar consistency as the previous Fittest Man on Earth, Mat Fraser. Of the 15 events, Medeiros finished outside the top 10 only twice, which allowed him to edge out veterans of the sport, like Pat Vellner, Brent Fikowski, and Noah Ohlsen.
This year, the former wrestler and football player is on track to do it all again. He placed third in the Open, the online, worldwide competition that serves as the first stage of the CrossFit season, and he won the next stage, the Quarterfinals. If he can maintain that dominance through the Semifinals in May, he’ll be back at the Games in August and a likely favorite to win again.
So, we sat down with the 23-year-old, who’s currently training out of Vancouver, Washington, to discuss lifting, nutrition, motivation, and how to choose what to improve on in a sport that encompasses nearly everything.
CrossFit has a fairly long season, and the workouts for the Open are quite different from what comes up later. So, give us a sense of where your training is at the moment.
Every training day’s different. Throughout the whole week, we try to touch on all of our bases, so we normally have two track sessions and machine work every day (the rower, the Rogue Echo bike, the C2 bike, and the ski erg). Each day, training’s broken up into two sessions, one in the morning and one at night. They can range anywhere from two to three and a half hours. I start off with strength and then do METCONs, that machine work, and maybe some accessory work.
As the season goes on, that’s when you start ramping up the volume because you’ve got to be able to handle multiple workouts in a day, like at Semifinals, or even 15 workouts in a weekend, like at the Games.
That’s a lot of intensity. What would you recommend to someone who’s new to CrossFit or to fitness training in general?
Consistency is the biggest thing. You get people that hit it hard one week and then fall off the next week and then try to hop back on the wagon the week after. It’s all over the place. From the beginner level all the way to the elite level, the body loves having consistency and repetition. So find two or three days a week and make sure that you get into the gym and make progress that way.
That consistency can be tough, especially when you first start and you’re so sore from a workout two days ago that you can barely walk. What’s your advice for still getting into the gym?
I think that there’s always those days where you feel so good and give it 100%, but all of us, especially me, have those days where you go in and you don’t have that kind of juice in the tank. And those are the days when you’re going to get better and push through by working on your mental discipline.
That being said, even though I’m not training every day, I am active. And on those active recovery days, I want to do something that’s obviously low impact on the body and kind of fun, right? So I’ll go on walks or go for a jog or a hike. Or I’ll go to the park and throw the football or frisbee with friends, or try to incorporate things like swimming and biking, anything to make sure I’m going out and moving around and getting fresh air.
What motivates you to get into the gym when you really aren’t feeling it?
A huge part of this sport is training your weaknesses, but that isn’t always the most fun thing to do every day. So, sometimes, if I want to go in and have some fun, I’ll give myself a home run workout and program everything I’m good at so my friends see how fit I am.
I think that having a good time while you train is huge, especially because that’s what’s awesome about CrossFit — you get to go in every day and do it with a group of friends. You have that community that you do these workouts with to help you hold yourself accountable.
I’ve trained by myself the past couple years. I mean, obviously there are other people at the gym, but I’m the only one who is doing my training. Going into this new season, I really want to have a training partner that I can do the sessions with so it’s not just me who’s going through these workouts. There’s some conjoined suffering, and I have someone to pull me along.
What does your nutrition look like at the moment?
I’m training six hours a day, so I’m never going to overeat. I’m always in a caloric deficit, so I’m eating as much as I possibly can. I try and make sure they’re well balanced, but I don’t follow anything too strict.
What do you suggest for non-elite athletes?
Again, consistency is huge, and you have to adjust your diet based on your level of activity.
One of the tough things about CrossFit is that there’s always a dozen skills you should be working to improve. How do you decide what to focus on?
I just did a seminar with Chris Hinshaw, and he was saying that, in a training cycle, you should identify three different movements that you’re trying to improve. One of those is the primary movement, which you should focus on 50%, and then you choose two secondary movements, and you give 25% of your focus to each. Other than that, it’s kind of hard to focus on too many more.
What are your movements at the moment?
That’s a secret. I’m not going to tell everybody what I’m doing bad, but I’ve got lots of stuff to work on, especially running and higher-level gymnastics.
For high-skill movements like gymnastics, how do you balance refining your technique without letting the rest of your training suffer?
When I’m practicing doing muscle-ups, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to program a workout that has a bunch of muscle-ups in it and try to work on it there. I have a separate piece of training where the goal for this work out specifically is to practice my technique. I won’t refuse to do muscle-ups at all because my technique isn’t perfect. It just means that I need to also dedicate some time to practice that technique. In CrossFit, you’re doing everything for time, so going as quick as possible, and it’s easy to let your technique suffer.
Is that a common mistake you see, people neglecting their technique?
We have so many different types of movements, and there’s a lot of people that come into the sport and are already really good athletes. They can muscle their way through things, but that’s not always the most efficient way and often leads to injuries. So every time I’m learning something new or doing something different, I just always make sure that my technique comes first because you don’t want your strengths to limit what you can do.
What has helped you the most to improve your technique?
Having a good coach is obviously one way, but also set up a camera and film yourself, especially on the more technical movements. I just remember filming myself doing muscle-ups and going and looking at footage of the CrossFit Games and watching Mat Fraser and Rich Froning. I’d put the videos side-by-side and see what I was doing differently than them. There are so many videos out there online. Look up Olympic weightlifters doing snatches and clean and jerks, slow them down to super slow motion, and notice things that you didn’t see.
What’s your advice for athletes who are considering competing for the first time, whether it’s a friendly throwdown at their gym or trying to make it into the Quarterfinals or Semis?
Re-evaluate what you did last season and pick one or two things to improve on. Confidence comes in preparation, so when the next season rolls around, you want to know that you’ve done all you can to get better.
The more I competed, the more I thought that the nerves would go away. They haven’t. When doubt creeps into your mind, when you’re scared you won’t perform, that’s when you have to remember all that you did to prepare.
Routines are such an important part of training. What do yours look like?
The night-time routine is huge for me. About an hour before bed, I try to wind down and make that routine as consistent as possible. I have an app called GOWOD, and you can pick a routine that’s 9, 15, or 20 minutes. That helps you stretch the muscles that are tight. Right when I finish that, I take cbdMD, which has melatonin and a few other things to help you calm down and relax. I’m also a hot sleeper, so I use a mattress that I can adjust to keep cool. Combining those three things every night has been huge for me because sleep is the biggest thing that helps me.
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