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Bill Grundler, 44, could compete in the CrossFit Games at the 40-and-over Masters level if he wanted to. He’s old enough, and he’s certainly good enough.
But he doesn’t want to. He wants to compete in the Games’ Open division—if only he could qualify. For four of the past five years, he placed in the top 10 (only the top three go to the Games) at the ultracompetitive Southern California regional qualifier, where age restrictions don’t apply and most of the sport’s biggest stars are 20-somethings. He was close in 2011 (tied for 6th at SoCal) and even closer in 2012 (5th), before slipping to 12th in 2013.
Competing in the Masters division would be low-hanging fruit for Grundler and would put him on the national competitive stage for the first time in his CrossFit career. But as of this writing, he’s shooting for the Open yet again.
But why not just compete with the over-40s and kick everyone’s ass?
“It’s funny, I get asked that question a ton,” says Grundler, who owns CrossFit inferno in San Luis Obispo, CA (crossfitinferno .com). “But the whole basis for my competing is not just to go and kick people’s asses for the sake of kicking people’s asses; it’s to see where I fit in the grand scheme of things. If I’m good at something, I want to know that I’m good at it against the world, not just in a small segmented group of people. And it’s not that I’m ashamed or afraid of my age. I just feel like that’s kind of been my role in CrossFit: to be one of those guys doing what you’re not supposed to be doing.”
Exactly how he’s been able to remain competitive among high-level CrossFitters in their 20s and 30s involves a combination of factors. Grundler says having a father who was a wrestling coach and always encouraged exercise and competition helped. Mindset has also been key. “The second you think you’re old, you’re old,” says Grundler, a former Division I wrestler at Cal Poly-SLO. “What really cracks me up is that I’m still getting PRs in my lifts. For the 30-year-old or 40-year-old, when you hit that birthday, you’re all of a sudden just supposed to shut it down, and I never really did that. It really is a mindset.
If you slow down, you stop moving.”
“First and foremost, don’t give yourself an excuse. The second you say, ‘Well, it’s because of my job or because I’m too old or this or that thing hurts,’ you give yourself an out and you’re not going to be doing what you should be doing to get what you want.”