Review: “First – What it Takes to Win”

I am a firm believer that learning can happen both inside and outside of the classroom. As part of my training, I am always looking outside of the gym for help and advice and all around inspiration as I get ready to compete.

This past summer, I read First: What It Takes to Win by Rich Froning. He famously holds the title of “Fittest Man on Earth” after taking first place in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CrossFit Games. The man is a beast.

His book is a quick read and provides some welcome insight into the life of such a world-class athlete. Froning has suffered a great deal of personal loss and has used that pain as a source of his personal drive and motivation.

While his writing style is lacking, the book has its merits as it reveals the method to his madness. I thought it would be worth revisiting during my training.

Here are the lessons I learned from Rich Froning that helped him become a true champion:

1.) Drink a lot of milk

Froning has an interesting diet. He doesn’t subscribe to the Paleo lifestyle and seems to subsist mainly on protein shakes and milk. In fact, he drinks 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon of whole milk per day.

Plus, he likes to have a glass of chocolate milk mixed with a BSN nutritional supplement after a workout. If they start making those “Got Milk?” ads again, Froning should definitely be asked to don the milk mustache.

2.) Work out multiple times a day

Froning usually puts in a couple of workouts per day, every day. This typically means a 1-2 hour workout in the morning, another mid-day and perhaps one for good measure in the late afternoon.

As the Games approach, when he says it’s “Really Go Time”, he will shift into “full-on preparation”, which translates to 5 workouts per day, seven days per week.

3.) Attack weaknesses

Rich Froning left the 2010 Games as a runner-up because he didn’t know how to climb a rope. Immediately after returning home, he researched the proper technique and concepts and, at the first chance he could, he got back on the rope.

Needless to say, he conquered that weakness until it became a strength as demonstrated in the 2011 Games in an event that consisted of 5 rounds of 15-foot rope climbs followed by reps of cleans-and-jerks.

He came in first. Rather than focus on the skills he was good at, Froning constantly dedicates time in the gym to the skills he needs to improve.

4.) Employ a reward philosophy

Before you assume this means that if you workout out really hard you can reward yourself with chocolate chip cookies, think again.

Froning pushes himself to train on movements he doesn’t like (i.e. running) by rewarding himself with movements he does like (i.e. Olympic lifting). He says, “Knowing that I’ll soon be lifting helps me make it through the running.”

5.) Use your gifts

Froning is a devout Christian who puts faith first. He writes in his book, “I believe God has chosen CrossFit to be the avenue through which I can best glorify Him.

I’m doing what God has called me to do, obediently using the physical and mental abilities he has blessed me with.” Putting aside any religious beliefs or debates about the efficacy of doing burpees to glorify God, I believe there is great truth in the importance of recognizing and utilizing our gifts in life.

Froning has amazing physical talents and is a true competitor. It would be a shame if he let those talents go to waste.

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