How fast are CrossFit athletes?

Posted on October 2, 2017

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Mat Fraser is the most dominant CrossFit athlete. One could make an argument the most dominant ever.

In 2015, he was nicknamed toast in the sprint events. 60 minute mark is his heat:

There were two sprint events back to back. Out of 40, he got 24th and 37th place. Guy was so uncoordinated running, he looked like an unusually thick baby learning to walk by chasing their sippy cup.

Then in 2016, he crushes it. Second place by only .27 seconds. Very exciting race, orange shorts, 50 minute mark:

This was a huge deal for him. He talks about his training for sprinting in this interview:

After 2015, he hooked up with a nearby track coach to improve his sprinting. Fraser mentions he regularly ran against a kid named “Chike.” Best sprinter on the team. Thought process being put Fraser against the best guy; try to run him down and get faster.

-> This is often a poor idea. It’s a great way for your athlete to pull a hamstring and have crappy form from overexerting themselves. Plus, high level sprinting is about relaxing. Not merely trying harder.

Fraser remarks he never came close to beating Chike, who was a junior. But hey, Chike “I think he went on to win the state championship his senior year. Legit athlete. He blew me out of the water every time.”

This is when we remember Mat Fraser was training in…Vermont. Saying someone is fast in Vermont is like saying someone is great at skiing in Florida. Prrrrrobably not.

I grew up in Jersey. While small size wise, Jersey has the 11th most people in the States, and thus has serious athletes. (Vermont has less than 700,000 people!) We used to regularly make fun of other states in the northeast. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, in college any football teammate from Connecticut was deemed “lol.” Most of these states have athletes who are big fish in little ponds. There just aren’t enough people to have real competition. Only once in a blue moon a big name will make it out of a small state. More people => better athletes.

-> China is an exception. While they do dominate some sports, it’s such a homogenous country they can’t dominate many. For instance, they’re good a lifting; suck at running. (Long torsos, short limbs.)

This is one of the hardest realizations parents have when it comes to their delusional love affair with d-1 scholarships. It’s also a comical aspect of people saying, “Hey, I played pretty serious. I was varsity in high school.” Most have no concept the level of competition out there, because you just don’t see high level athletes that often.

Think about the average NBA height, 6’7″. How often do you see a person that tall walking around???

Furthermore, television can’t regularly convey the disparity. We don’t watch freaks take on average people. We see freaks against freaks. When a freak in high school takes on The Unchosen, it’s like watching an 18 year old play against 10 year olds. Just think about what routinely happens when Alabama’s football team plays a small division 1 school. The score is 50-3, with Alabama coasting the fourth quarter. Now picture Alabama playing against a team of players who couldn’t even make it to college.

-> I highly recommend the documentary Trophy Kids. One father quits his job to train his kid to get a d-1 basketball scholarship. His son is in Redondo Beach. (Anybody who knows SoCal and basketball is laughing.) His son’s senior year, there is a game where they play Long Beach Poly. (SoCal people are really laughing now.) You can just see the weight of the world hit the father as he watches man-child after man-child posterize his son every-damn-play. His kid can’t dunk, yet these dudes are throwing alley oops from half court. Ten years of dreaming was destroyed in the first half. By definition, most parents will either have this experience, or forever be confused why no college recruiters ever came by.

-> Watching high school highlights can often get it across too. Here’s Reggie Bush breaking fifteen tackles a play:

I’ve echoed this sentiment with CrossFit. As of now, everyday people are who end up becoming CrossFit athletes. (Maybe ten dudes are making a living from it.) They’re like most everyday people- they just don’t comprehend what elite athleticism is. I’ve given a lot of praise to Fraser in past posts, but think he’s drinking the Kool-Aid a bit now too. While Fraser has jumped through the wall, it’s time to

In this regard, one of the beauties of track and field is you can immediately, obviously, compare athletes. You look at times. (I actually think this makes it more boring from a fan perspective. There’s little to argue over.) And you understand this is what a mere 1% difference looks like:

(In other words, you don’t assume “Oh yeah, I could easily take a second, or 10%, off my 100 meter time.”)

One of the nice aspects of high school track is statistics are kept quite well. I set out to find Chike.

It was pretty easy. I typed in Vermont high school track and field rankings.

In 2016, automatic timing, non-wind aided, Chike was ranked third in the state.

According to his bio from Athletic.net though, his PR is 11.37. Yet he doesn’t show up with that time in any of the state rankings. Maybe that’s just a glitch, or maybe the 11.37 was hand timed. We’ll give benefit of the doubt and use 11.37.

-> Hand times are ~.25 faster than automatic timing.

Fraser said he never came close. Let’s say Fraser could run 12 seconds.

Anybody who knows track already stopped reading based on these times, but let’s keep going.

In 2017, in California’s outdoor season, 499 guys ran 11.37 or better.

That’s one state. In America, in 2017, three thousand and seventy eight high school males ran faster than 11.37.

Let’s say half that list is juniors and half is seniors. So every year then, 1539 guys get added to the list. Let’s say juniors are 17 years old and seniors are 18 years old.

If we accept a guy could maintain this speed until he his 30 years old, then

  • 17 years old = 1539 guys faster than 11.37
  • 18 years old = 1539 guys faster than 11.37
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • 30 years old = 1539 guys faster than 11.37
  • 14 age groups * 1539 guys = 21,546 guys CURRENTLY who are faster than 11.37.

That doesn’t include all the guys playing sports requiring speed, but not participating in track. Or the 200 and 400 meter guys who could run that time, but aren’t running the 100 meters.

Oh, and this is one country. CrossFit is an international sport.

And that’s just someone who Fraser couldn’t beat. Again, Fraser was the second fastest guy in the 2016 CrossFit games. He’s about as fast as they get. He maybe could run a 12 second 100 meters. Upwards of 10,000 *high schoolers* can run faster than that. Meaning there are 140,000 people between the ages of 17 and 30 who could. At a minimum.

Let’s say we have the average Jane / John focusing on lifting, running or sprinting regularly. They’re not a pro, but they don’t half ass it either. Relative to them, CrossFit athletes are better than average lifters, average long distance runners, and below average at sprinting / change of direction.

If you put them in a rec league, they’d do well in lifting, ok in middle distance running, and get worked on a rec soccer field / [insert most (any?) team sports].

Relative to professionals at any of these activities, CrossFitters are Vermont competing with California. Where any CrossFit athlete, or fan of theirs, seriously saying they can mess with these pros, is a comedian.

Most of the world’s benchmark for athleticism is soccer. In America, it’s football, to a lesser degree basketball and baseball.

That is, overwhelmingly we consider athleticism based on our ability to accelerate and change direction. A good miler is someone we call a good athlete, but not someone we call particularly athletic. Michael Phelps is a great swimmer who’s not at all athletic.

I enjoy CrossFit. I think Mat Fraser is a charismatic, good dude. But CrossFitters are good athletes with, at best, mediocre athleticism. Which is perfectly fine. Their sport doesn’t require much athleticism. However, the sports world enjoys shitting on golfers any time they attempt to hint their athletes, because there’s so little athleticism present. That’s all we’re doing here. Keeping egos in check.

This is worth doing because there has been a push on the internet lately of “You can train everything and be really good at everything.” (You can train strength, speed and endurance, and excel at all of them.) Whether that be CrossFit or other terms like Hybrid Training. These people are selling a unicorn. Do some lifters worry too much running will hurt their gains? Sure. But that doesn’t mean they’re capable of being more than second-rate runners. Just look at CrossFitters.

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Posted in: Sports