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The runner up in the 2014 CrossFit Games and 2014 CrossFit Rookie of the Year, Mathew Fraser is the favorite to win it all in 2015. Fraser has only been doing CrossFit for two and half years and he’s already skyrocketed in the sport. He was the top performing athlete in this year’s East Regional and is working towards starting a new era in CrossFit since four-time Games champion Rich Froning announced his retirement last year.
M&F caught up with the Nike-sponsored athlete to talk about his preparation for the 2015 CrossFit Games, which take place on July 21-26 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
M&F: What’s your background in Olympic Weight Lifting?
Mat Fraser: I started when I was 12 years old. The day that I graduated high school, I moved out to the Olympic Training Center and was a resident athlete there for two years. Then, in 2009,I broke my L5 in two spots, got surgery and moved to Northern Michigan, where the Olympic education center is. I did all my recovery after surgery up there. I lifted there for two years and that’s when I retired from weight lifting. I moved back to Vermont and fell into CrossFit.
M&F: What’s your CrossFit box?
MF: Champlain Valley CrossFit. I met them before I started CrossFit. I just showed up and said ‘I’m Matt and I’m an Olympic weightlifter, do you mind if I use your bar and bumpers?’ I would do some snatches, some clean and jerks and some squats in the corner and then head home. Then after I moved home, I started going there more just to lift. I got dragged into a couple of metcons and it took off from there.
M&F: Have you adjusted your training in any way since the back injury?
MF: My back doesn’t bother me at all anymore. It’s not a factor when I go into training. My training has changed a little bit. I’m doing more volume. I used to be in and out in one hour, but now I’m staying after and doing some extra work.
M&F: How often are you doing Olympic lifts these days?
MF: I’ll probably snatch once a week and clean and jerk once a week just to get my confidence back in it and be able to hit some respectable numbers. Once I decided that I wanted to be competitive in CrossFit, I don’t think I’ve lifted a bar over 185 for a long time, like a year.
M&F: How would you describe your training style throughout the year?
MF: I kind of stick to my own routine. During the five weeks of the Open, I’ll be a little more cautious with my training compared to during the Open itself. Everyone in my gym, we do all the workouts Friday nights so I won’t max out my deadlift Thursday. I want to make sure that I feel good for Friday. Beyond that, that’s the extent of my training during the open. Going into regionals, I’ll practice the workouts a couple of times, but besides that I’m not changing too much.
M&F: How do you practice for a Regional workout?
MF: Last year for my region, they got released like three to four weeks before I competed. It was miserable. Everyday you don’t want to do anything else but practice the workouts so you’re as good as possible at them. But then only to a certain point is this useful anymore.
M&F: How do you prepare for the CrossFit Games?
MF: The Games are pretty much impossible to train for. The games test who is the fittest – it doesn’t test who has the most time to practice these workouts. A lot of the time, we don’t find out the workout until like a day before, or last year we found out a workout 30 seconds before we did it. There’s cardio, weightlifting, strongman training, gymnastics, swimming and running. They’ll throw everything in it together at once. It’s hard to tell what they’re going to throw at you. You better just be good at everything.
M&F: Do you think that Olympic weightlifting had a direct impact on your transition to CrossFit?
MF: Absolutely. I think coming from a background of any elite sport is going to be a huge advantage. A background in Olympic weightlifting and is more of an advantage for CrossFit because Olympic lifts are used so heavily in the sport. I definitely came into it with an advantage. It obviously wasn’t enough of an advantage because I didn’t qualify for the games the first year that I tried. I had to come back again and work my weaknesses and then it worked for me.
M&F: What aspect of CrossFit would you like to improve on?
MF: I’m trying to work on my running and swimming. I wasn’t too happy at how I did on the running and swimming workouts at the CrossFit games. I’m trying to become more proficient in those.
M&F: Run us through your strategy for becoming a better swimmer.
MF: Some days I’ll do nothing but swimming intervals . Other days, I’ll get in and I’ll swim for an hour without stopping. Two years ago at the Games, it was 10 laps in the pool but they were one lap at a time then you had to get out of the pool to do some muscle-ups. Then this year, we had a 500 meter swim. You’ve got to be good at the short and long game. There’s no room for specialists in CrossFit anymore.
M&F: What would it mean for you to win the 2015 CrossFit games?
MF: It would put a smile on my face just because it’s a sign that the hard work is paying off. It’s rewarding in any aspect of life when you work your ass off for something that you worked for every day and then you get to taste the victory. I mean it’s like a pat on the back, ‘Hey, good job. You put in the work. You did the right thing and it paid off.’