You may not know Rich Froning's name, but he is a rising fitness star and, undoubtedly, the biggest name in CrossFit, the popular workout program that has grown exponentially since its founding in 2000.
In addition to his success with the regimen -- and with winning the "Fittest Man on Earth" title and the associated $250,000 prize two years in a row -- Froning is a committed Christian who inspires scores of fans with Bible-based messages of hope.
CrossFit is mixture of aerobic exercise, gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting that involves constantly varied, high-intensity movements that are functional for all of life. The company explains the program, which is used by many firefighters, paramedics, military and law enforcement officials, as follows:
CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.
Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.
You may also remember our past coverage of CrossFit. We reported about Hero WODs, the toughest of workouts in the regimen that are named after people who have died in the line of duty (more about that here). It's a fascinating company with some intriguing ways of helping people achieve remarkable performance, which is what drew Froning to it in the first place.
Last week, TheBlaze spoke with the champion about his fascinating career, an ongoing quest to maintain his athletic honors and his intense faith in the Almighty. Considering that the CrossFit Games are just one day away (July 22-28), Froning is in the throes of intense physical training, as he will compete to potentially capture his third consecutive "Fittest Man" win. Despite being immensely busy, he carved out some time between workouts to chat with us.
CrossFit champion Rich Froning (Photo Credit: Facebook)
Naturally, we wondered how Froning ended up becoming completely immersed in the CrossFit world, working full-time in what can only be described as an uncommon career. So, that's where our interview began.
How Froning Became the Fittest Guy on Earth
The competitor explained that he first learned about the workout regimen when he was an undergraduate student studying exercise science at Tennessee Tech.
At the time, one of his professors showed his class CrossFit videos -- clips that clearly piqued his interest. Froning soon found himself trying out some of the routines and, soon after, he was working as a firefighter, embedding himself more and more into the CrossFit world.
Here's some behind-the-scenes on his life:
In 2009, he went to the level one seminar, which provides an introduction to the movements and actions involved in the program. From there, he quickly advanced to sectionals and ended up qualifying for regionals. And, alas, Froning's performance was so stellar there that he ended up making it to nationals the next year.
But it wasn't until 2011 that he won the "Fittest Man on Earth" title.
"It's cool -- its definitely something since doing CrossFit that I've always dreamed of," Froning said of the designation. "You feel like at any given moment it could be taken away. The way CrossFit is -- anyone, on any given day, could beat you."
See Froning describe a CrossFit workout, below:
Froning also called the title humbling, mainly because so many of the people who he competes against are both capable and talented.
Froning's Intense Christian Faith
Being on top of the world, though, has its challenges. And Froning told us how his faith has been reinforced and sustained through some of the failures and setbacks he's faced.
While he ascended quickly and ended up making it to the CrossFit games in 2010, as stated, he didn't capture the top spot (he came in second). Despite performing well, Froning was devastated, as he had hoped, like any competitor, that he would win.
Losing, he said, rocked him to the core and, ironically, set his priorities in order.
"In 2010, I put CrossFit on a pedestal and then, when I failed at it and got second, it was hard for me," Froning explained. "I had to reevaluate and I came to the conclusion that Christ is the reason for everything and that's what i need to be living for."
The lesson taught him two messages that he hopes to convey to his fans. First, he noted that there are many goals and things in this world that human beings strive for -- and many of these things are meant for us to partake in. That in mind, he encouraged people not to get too caught up in these sentiments.
Photo Credit: Facebook
Also, based on his own experience, Froning wants people not to become too consumed by personal failures. He told TheBlaze that he hopes people take one, key lesson away from his personal story and his new book, "First: What It Takes to Win": "Learn how to fail." Most people struggle with a lack of success, but everyone faces these moments; dealing with them properly, he says, is paramount.
All this considered, the competitor has Galatians 6:14 tattooed down his torso. The verse reads, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" -- clearly a reminder of the lesson he learned through his 2010 loss and his faith in Jesus Christ.
"For me, that's really how it is. It doesn't matter what I've done," Froning told TheBlaze. "When I retire or when I walk away from competing from CrossFit, I won't have it anymore [but] Christ will always be there."
"The worldly stuff is not always going to be there and it could be taken away at any moment," he added.
Watch the fitness star discuss fitness and his faith:
Froning said that he surrounds himself with like-minded people and that he regularly reads his Bible; his fellow Christians help keep him both grounded and accountable.
He also has switched from secular to Christian music of late, which he says can best be explained in terms of "positive in, positive out." By filling his mind with sustaining and uplifting messages, he notes that it has helped change and reinforce his worldview.
The CrossFit champion also credited his wife, Hillary, with keeping him grounded.
What He Wants His Fans to Know
In addition to his faith message, Froning wants anyone who admires him and wants to reach his level of success to know that they can't be "afraid to work hard."
CrossFit isn't easy, but it's rewarding, he says. As for the challenges, consider the competitor's typical day: He gets up around 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. and proceeds to do between six and eight hours of workouts (broken up into a number of sessions throughout the day). It's clearly pretty intensive.
His diet, too, is also controlled, with his heaviest eating taking place in the evening.
Will all of his faith and hard work lead Froning to be crowned the "Fittest Man on Earth" for the third year in a row? We'll have to wait until after next week's games conclude. Regardless of what happens, his story of strength, endurance and faith is an inspiring one.
For more about CrossFit, visit the company's website. Fun fact: It was founded by Greg Glassman, a libertarian (his story can be read here).