Surge

The Salt Games Body: How CrossFit Athletes Get Game-Ready

By Roger Yale

For The Surge

Tips on what to do to get picture-perfect abs
Tips on what to do to get picture-perfect abs

The Native Sons Salt Games descend on Myrtle Beach this weekend, transforming the Boardwalk area at Ocean Boulevard flanked by 8th and 9th Avenue North into a beehive of sports and entertainment events.

The Salt Games [www.thesaltgames.com] is touted as a competitive beach festival featuring a dizzying array of options for participants and spectators alike – from a 5K beach run, surf-offs, wrestling, and lifeguard games to volleyball, skateboard competitions, yoga and paddleboard races. Add in entertainment and food vendors and the fact that locals and tourists will be converging here, and you have a something-for-everybody summer event.

Did we mention that CrossFit is a huge component of the Salt Games?

The Up Dog Summer Challenge, hosted by CrossFit Up Dog/Core Fitness, promises to bring in hundreds of competitors from across the state and beyond for team and individual events – vying for the chance to win their share of $7500 in cash and prizes and, of course, bragging rights.

Athletes from many CrossFit boxes [gyms] are training at fever pitch to achieve their games-ready bodies.

Core Fitness/CrossFit Up Dog owner Judy Langfitt [with husband Bill Langfitt] said that testing the workouts – or WODs – for the event has been an ongoing process.

“Before we put a workout in a competition we test it with our athletes, because you have to make sure that the workouts are able to be modified for the scaled divisions [lower divisions] and that they are hard enough for the Rx [prescribed] division,” she said, adding that that a given workout is put to the test to see how long it takes the athletes to do it – and if the weights used are sufficient for the general public to get through the workout.

There are also standards in place to make sure the events run smoothly.

“We plan on putting on a great event, and we want people to be challenged – but we also want people to be able to finish in a timely manner. Sometimes we have to put a time cap on a workout, like you have to finish this in ten minutes, or you need to be in a different division.”

Every competitor knows exactly which WODs will be used.

“We send them out to every athlete and every box,” she said. “Up Dog is not getting an unfair advantage. We post the workouts ahead of time with a standard video so everybody can see it.”

This year, Langfitt said the team component will have four people instead of two previously. Teams will compete all day Saturday, leaving the individual competition for Sunday.

“The teams of four are fun because you can do all male, all female or co-ed,” she said. “When you work in a team, you are still working really, really hard – but you actually get a little bit of a break in your workouts because someone else is working on reps.”

She said that individual numbers are lower than normal.

“It just goes to show you that if they are doing four workouts in one day, they would rather do it as a team. Misery loves company.”

Misery indeed – but there are still those crazy enough to compete alone.

The Surge spoke to a handful of competitors across several boxes to see how they are getting into shape for the Salt Games. What we found was a diverse cross-section of men and women with the eye of the tiger who are in the best shape of their lives.

WOD BULLIES / CrossFit Myrtle Beach

Christian Bindlechner, 43, is competing in the Summer Challenge for a second time this year. He has also competed in the Vengeance Games, another CrossFit competition in Myrtle Beach. He has been involved with CrossFit for a bit more than four years.

He said he has always been active and grew up competing – starting with skiing because his parents were ski instructors. He also lived in Hawaii for ten years surfing, hiking and biking.

All his life he heard from others that after 40 it was all downhill – but he didn’t pay much attention to that sort of talk until he hit 39 and his metabolism started to slow down.

“I had gained like ten pounds,” he said, adding that he had a friend in Hawaii that was involved with CrossFit. “I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not going out this way. I am going to get back what I had.’ Little did I know that once I got into it, I got back a lot more. I am in the best shape I have ever been in.”

He said he always competed as well as he could in CrossFit, so his workout routine has not changed a lot in preparation for the Salt Games, but he has fine-tuned his already decent eating habits. He gave up alcohol nearly two years ago.

“Leading up to the days before, I will rest more than I normally do,” he said. “Right now I go five times a week – so to make sure my muscles aren’t sore and that they are ready to go, I will cut back on the weightlifting. I don’t change a whole lot when I am setting up for the game because I think I am always at my peak.”

It is safe to say Bindlechner is already in competition mode.

“I am primed every day, it seems like – and I go all out. I won’t do a whole lot differently.”

Real estate attorney Kara Keith is relatively new to Myrtle Beach and has been doing CrossFit for nearly three years. This year will mark her first as competitor in the Up Dog Summer Challenge, but she served as a judge last year.

“I always played sports before college and all of that. When I got into law school I needed something to keep myself healthy and sane, so I started CrossFit,” she said.

She thought it would be fun to compete together with her group at CrossFit Myrtle Beach, so she took the plunge into preparation.

“I am currently on a strict diet schedule, essentially counting macros – counting how many grams of protein, fat and carbs that I eat every day. I do the daily workout and then I do extra work on top of it to get better at certain things that I am not the best at – just working on my weak systems.”

The extra work can include lifts or working on gymnastics movements that will be a part of the Salt Games workouts – or muscle-ups [a pull-up followed by pushing yourself above the bar] and ring-dips.

Proper sleep is important as well.

“I have to sleep or I can’t function at work,” she said. “I need my brain at work, and I also need it to get the right kind of workout. You generally can’t make any gains if you are not getting the right amount of sleep.”

She enjoys the camaraderie at play with her peers at CrossFit Myrtle Beach.

“People in CrossFit are always very encouraging across the board – but I just love this group of people, and I guess that’s what keeps you going.”

PIRATE BOOTY / CrossFit Up Dog

Shannon McDaniel, according to Up Dog’s Langfitt, is one of the crazy ones doing both team and individual competitions. Practicing CrossFit for only 18 months, this will be her second Up Dog Summer Challenge – but McDaniel was already a weightlifter and used to be a personal trainer.

She became motivated to try CrossFit when she was already a member of Core Fitness. At that time, she had just given birth to her fifth child.

“Six months after having my first one, it was harder for me to get the weight off,” she said. “I was struggling, but as soon as I started CrossFit the weight just flew off with very little effort. My muscles were more defined. I am stronger, healthier and in better shape now at 40 with 5 kids than I was at 25 with no kids.”

She said CrossFit completely changed her body.

McDaniel said she is a very competitive person, having done competition-level gymnastics for years – so the idea of competing again just clicked for her. She has done several CrossFit competitions this year.

“The number one thing for me is nutrition. I think 80 percent of it is nutrition and how you eat is very important, especially getting ready for a competition. Eating very clean and healthy makes you feel better.”

She said her cardio levels are in great shape for competition, but that she is working on form, technique and strength-building. Right now, coming to the box twice a day is nothing out of the ordinary.

But she doesn’t stop there.

“I train outside in the heat at least two or three times a week,” she said. I run in the heat of the day and on the beach to get ready for the heat. One of the biggest factors that most of us don’t take into consideration is that June at the beach in South Carolina is very hot – and you are out there all day.”

Teammate Amy Shroff played Division 1 soccer, so she said she loves the competition inherent in CrossFit. This year will be her fourth Summer Challenge.

Now a busy mom and a homeschooler, Shroff said the functional training of CrossFit appeals to her – and she likens the functionality to something she does on a daily basis – squatting down to get her kids in and out of the tub. She also enjoys the fact that the training is different every day.

“I don’t have to prepare it for myself,” she said. “It’s already done for me, and then I have that element of competing with other people, so it kind of got the juices flowing again.”

Shroff broke her back in college, and she said CrossFit has helped her tremendously.

“I am working different muscles every single day, which helps me because my spine is still shattered. The core muscles around my spine are super strong because of CrossFit, and this gives me stability where I don’t have it in my spine.”

To get ready for the games, Shroff, 38, comes in for the workout five or six days a week – almost always at the 5:15 a.m. class.

“I don’t have a lot of freedom to come in during the day, so if it needs to be done, then I have to do it early in the morning.”

Shroff also advocates eating healthy and clean every day and getting proper sleep – and runs with her older children when she gets home from the box in the morning.

Team Epsom Salt / CrossFit Driving Formations

Andrew Appel, 48, will be competing for the first time this year – at the behest of Driving Formations owners Tadd Rubin and Dwayne Harris. He has been doing CrossFit for more than three years.

He said he used to be in pretty bad shape – smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for nearly 30 years. When he hit 41, he gave up smoking and started running 5Ks. When he started CrossFit, he still had to overcome what he called the eating habit.

“I was working out, but wasn’t losing weight,” he said, adding that he could see other results in his physique. Once he started being mindful of what and how he ate, the weight started to come off.

“I have got a lot of genetics to fight against, but I just put my best foot forward and try to grow every day and be consistent.”

In addition to hitting up his box four times a week, Appel was given tasks to accomplish at home for cardio, specifically rowing, air biking and jumping rope.

Eric Tatro, 37, started CrossFit in November because he was looking for a change.

“I was going to the gym and lifting, and I was getting stronger, but just picking things up and putting things down wasn’t like a full-body strength,” he said. “I wanted something that would push me a little bit harder and get me into overall better shape.”

Although he said he is a bigger guy and that he is a little bit overweight – he also said CrossFit changed his body a lot in seven months.

“I have dropped 25 pounds so far since January – and the change in my body has been way more noticeable than even 25 pounds. I fit into clothes that should fit me when I am another 15 pounds lighter.”

When Harris and Rubin asked him to compete, he wasn’t really sure what the competition was.

“I looked it up online and saw there was a surfing competition and beach volleyball, but they said there was a CrossFit competition.”

Tatro said he is a competitive guy.

“I like having a goal to work towards, but it was just another excuse to work a little harder and push yourself a little bit more, so I did.”

He was also given extra workouts by his coaches, who will also be his teammates.

“Putting in the extra time and doing the extra stuff they gave us to do has made a huge difference,” he said. “I have more endurance. I have always been very strong, and I can put up heavy weights and stuff like that – but to do it for 20 minutes straight and doing different exercises have not been my strong point – so I have done a lot of endurance training. I went from going four times a week to now six days, adding in a whole bunch of other things just to try to be prepared for it.”

HERE COMES THE JUDGE

Stephen Schuessler, co-owner of CrossFit Myrtle Beach, will be present as a judge at the Up Dog Summer Challenge.

“The judging duties deal with making sure each athlete performs the movements to the standards that have been put out prior to the competition and making sure it is a fair competition,” he said.

At his box, Schuessler said the participants usually do one or two workouts per day. The Up Dog Summer Challenge will include, he said, four workouts and a possible fifth.

“Each athlete is doing a lot more work. They are perfecting the movements to make sure they perform to the best of their ability. You see the nervousness of wanting to do well. They are performing in front of a crowd and they want to make a good showing and not let their teammates down.”

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