Exclusive: Ben Smith Reflects on 10 Years at the CrossFit Games
“I don’t look at it as 10 years. I look at it as a lot of single days of hard work.”
In June, Smith took third place at the CrossFit Games Atlantic Regional. In doing so, he became the first athlete to ever qualify for 10 consecutive CrossFit Games.
I don’t look at it as 10 years. I look at it as a lot of single days of hard work.
“It’s a ridiculous amount of training if I really look back at it. But honestly, I don’t look back at it,” he says.
“Day by day, I’m training and building good habits and proud of the person I’m becoming, qualifying 10 times isn’t really what I’m thinking about.”
“Each day is its own day. Today I’m focused on today. Tomorrow I will be focused on tomorrow. Sure, it’s cool it’s my tenth trip, but that doesn’t get me any points.”
And Smith came to Madison to score points.
“I’m here to compete. I’m here to compete hard,” he affirms. “I want to be in it until the end and put myself in the position where I have a chance for the title of Fittest Man on Earth. If I’m fixated on the past and the anniversary, then I’m not dedicating myself to the task at hand. The task at hand is to win the CrossFit Games.”
If I’m fixated on the past and the anniversary, then I’m not dedicating myself to the task at hand. The task at hand is to win the CrossFit Games.
Was that also the task these nine years prior?
“Yes,” says Smith without hesitation. “Every time I step on the competition floor, the goal is to win. The goal is always to win.”
He pauses for a moment.
“It confuses me when athletes come to the Games not trying to win.”
“I think about it like this. If I’m going to college and my goal is just to get C’s, then that’s the best I can do. If I’m going to the Games, why would I try to just get a C? Why would I come in trying to just finish twentieth? If that’s your mindset, the best you’re going to do is finish twentieth."
“Set your goal high. If you fall and you miss it… hey, I’ve done that. I’m still here.”
Although Smith’s daily thoughts don’t center around Games’ past, he has spent some time thinking about which factors have propelled him to qualify over and over.
He believes how and when he first started CrossFit has proven a major factor in his success.
“I started doing it by myself on CrossFit.com. I was 16,” says Smith. “They didn’t have affiliates when I started. There were maybe two in California.”
“Back then, CrossFit was something that nobody else was doing. It made me very uncomfortable and that’s what I liked about it.”
It made me very uncomfortable and that’s what I liked about it.
“I was taught at a young age that if you want something, be disciplined and work hard. Work harder than everyone else. So that’s what I did with everything in my life. I wanted to be a great baseball player and I thought CrossFit could be the differentiator that got me there.”
“If you want to be the best at something, you have to do something a little different. CrossFit was definitely different.”
That was 2007.
At the time, no one was making a career out of CrossFit besides maybe CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman. The first ever CrossFit Games took place that same year.
“From the start, what I loved about CrossFit was how seamlessly it translated into my everyday life,” Smith says. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, know how to attack obstacles when you’re presented with them.”
“Becoming a ‘CrossFit athlete’ wasn’t really a thing back then. The thought didn’t cross my mind. I was doing CrossFit because I enjoyed it and because I understood the value it could have on my life.”
Becoming a ‘CrossFit athlete’ wasn’t really a thing back then. I was doing CrossFit because I enjoyed it and because I understood the value it could have on my life.
18.5/11.6 Video link in bio! Wanna go back in time and compete against me in 2011? I was 20 years old in this video, and I'll be beating my score later today! Not much has changed, still doing the same old @crossfit workouts just in different places and against different people :) #InTheOpen #InATimeLongAgo #InACulDeSacNotSoFarAway @roguefitness @progenex #CrossFit And @csmithkrypton38
A post shared by Ben Smith (@bsmit13) on Mar 23, 2018 at 6:39am PDT
Today, in 2018, we’re seeing more and more athletes put their jobs on hold or delay college as they attempt to qualify for the Games. There are individuals who have been able to build careers as professional CrossFit athletes.
“It’s weird for me to think about,” says Smith who views himself as a gym owner and a coach over a professional athlete. “It’s cool that’s possible but it’s weird to process.”
“A few years ago, I knew it was headed in that direction,” he adds. “It’s the evolution of any sport. More money comes in, more sponsors come in and people can make lifestyles off it. It’s cool we’ve gotten to that place.”
Smith, however, views his humble CrossFit beginnings as an advantage he holds over his competitors, many of whom only know the sport in its modern form. He thinks how he found CrossFit has left him with a stronger understanding of the methodology and programming than other Games qualifiers.
“You have to keep it at its roots. You have to remember what CrossFit is at its core.”
“CrossFit is about intensity. CrossFit is about preparing people for the unknown and for the events of life. That has always has been my focus—training myself for whatever life will throw at me. The Games is just one thing it throws at me.”
That has always has been my focus—training myself for whatever life will throw at me. The Games is just one thing it throws at me.
Smith mentioned viewing himself as a gym owner. He opened his gym, CrossFit Krypton, in Chesapeake, Virginia, the year after he graduated college.
“My dad helped with the business side of things and I did everything in the gym,” he reflects.
“When I first opened the gym, I coached every class. From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., you’d find me there.”
He grows serious for a minute.
“It was very difficult in the beginning. I’m not going to lie. But it was what I wanted.”
Now, when Smith looks at what Krypton has become, the word that comes to his mind is “grateful.”
“Community is everything,” he says. “That gym has given me a support system through all of this. Every athlete here should be saying that. No one does it by themselves.”
The community Smith has built at Krypton speaks for itself. The gym recently expanded into a larger facility, and this past June, Krypton had four men competing in the final heat of the Atlantic Regional. Smith, of course, was one of those athletes. The other three: his two younger brothers and his longtime training partner and fellow Krypton coach Adam Klink.
“Adam’s been there from the start. I couldn’t have done any of it without him,” says Smith of his friend.
A post shared by Adam Klink (@adamklink) on Jan 8, 2018 at 4:43pm PST
“What I have, the group of guys and girls I get to train with every day, is a really solid group."
“Every day, they all want to get a little better. And because of that, I’m still getting better.”
Every day, they all want to get a little better. And because of that, I’m still getting better.
Because of the training volume required to be competitive at this elite level, many Regionals and Games qualifiers do a lot of their training solo.
Smith says that’s not for him.
“I’ve done it and it’s hard,” he admits. “I didn’t like that.”
“To me, it felt selfish. It felt like I was just focusing on myself. Why am I in the gym by myself day after day? Why am I not training with other people? Why am I not out in a community? CrossFit has always been about community."
“To me, being part of a training group feels like a more balanced life. It keeps it fun. I think that’s what leads to long term success. It has for me.”
To me, being part of a training group feels like a more balanced life. It keeps it fun. I think that’s what leads to long term success.
Smith is hopeful that as much as he has gained from his training partners, they’re simultaneously gaining as much from him.
“I do have Games experience and competition experience,” he says. “If I’m able to share that with others and help them, then I should.”
Thanks to the Internet, Smith is now sharing that experience beyond his box
“One guy came up to me at Regionals and told me he’s been following my online programming, and look, he made it to Regionals. He was there competing right next to me. That was cool.”
Wednesday through Sunday of this upcoming week, Smith will be one of the forty individual men taking the floor for the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games. He says he's ready.
“Training between Regionals and the Games has been great. The preparation is very similar every year. The intensity now may be a little higher because I’m fitter.”
“When you do well in the sport consistently, clearly you’re doing something right, so we try to repeat that.”
When asked what he’s most excited about, he answers: “Day one.”
“Dave [Castro] said it’s supposed to be the toughest day one of the Games in CrossFit history.”
“I’ll be the judge of that. I’ve been here for most of them. I’ll be the one who can really let him know if it was the toughest.”
Dave said it’s supposed to be the toughest day one of the Games in CrossFit history. I’ll be the judge of that.
A post shared by The CrossFit Games (@crossfitgames) on Jul 29, 2018 at 12:20pm PDT