YouTube Content Creator Zack Telander has training in CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. He also has personal ties to five times CrossFit Games champion Matt Fraserwho both studied in Vermont and thus share several mutual friends.
On January 23, 2023, Fraser sat down with Telander to share what gave him his competitive edge during the height of his CrossFit dynastyhow he compares to greats in other sports, sets expectations, and more.
After establishing these similarities early in the interview, the conversation flowed, allowing Telander to uncover some gems about Fraser as a person, athlete, and a trainer. Check it out in the video below, courtesy of Telander’s YouTube channel:
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Get ahead of the competition
Asked about the anxiety that swirled around the unknowns of the competition (some events at the CrossFit Games remain a mystery until they begin), Fraser acknowledged that he “hated that feeling, but kept it intentionally “. This fear proved to be a valuable motivation for him while he was at the peak of the sport.
Fraser acknowledged that the rest of the competition was chasing him to become the Fittest Man on Earth®, which required him to train harder to become “proficient at anything you can think of”. Fraser felt his need to “rise” the competition was ultimately unsustainable in the long run, but it generated four title defenses at the Games.
To take away: Understand the purpose for which you pursue competitive CrossFit and how long it is sustainable.
How reasonable is the competition?
There is a noticeable difference between training and competing at the elite level versus an “everyday CrossFitter”, as Telander put it. Fraser hasn’t won the Games for five straight years simply because he trained harder than the rest of the competition. He turned his whole life upside down to devote it to sport, which forced those around him to do the same:
I asked [my partner] Sammy to quit his job, move to Vermont, and give me five years. I told her that if she could support me for five years, I would settle us for life. And she did.
Fraser acknowledged the sacrifices he asked others to make for him on his behalf to make the goal of being a CrossFit Games champion a reality. He recognized that the opportunity to do so was there and asked those close to him to believe in it as well.
I knew I had the opportunity to change our lives.
The support Fraser had outside of training and competition was just as important as the efforts he put in in the gym and on the field. Sammy took on all the responsibilities of maintaining their family life so he could do what was necessary to win the Games. It relieved him of his responsibilities outside of the gym, which paid off for his naturally addictive personality.
I don’t want to do anything in moderation; whenever I do something, I’m obsessed with it.
Fraser discovered that by focusing on productive things rather than destructive ones, his obsessive tendencies could be an asset against his competitors. For example, Fraser was not an efficient rower; he thus pledged to row 5,000 to 10,000 meters daily to improve his game.
To take away: Invest for the long term. Fraser spoke of making decisions as a teenager that allowed the discipline required to succeed during his CrossFit career. When Fraser had the chance to go to Colorado Springs to train in weightlifting (up-and-coming American weightlifters were offered residencies at the Olympic Training Center), he decided to cut bad habits from his life. , citing the evolution of “people, places and things”. pursue his dream of doing Olympic Games.
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Train yourself to love your weaknesses
Similar to rowing, Fraser was mediocre in kettlebell swings. He noticed how proficient those around him were at the move he struggled with. He applied his addictive personality to hone this skill, performing kettlebell swings every day until he was “excited to see it” in the event lineup.
It was only when he was happy to see movement in competition or in training that he felt he could move on to improving another dimension of his athleticism.
I never had the opportunity to develop too many bad habits because I had phenomenal coaching around me.
Fraser believes that all athletes have “worse movement,” even if they are better than most. Whether it be “to tear out 100 pounds or 300 pounds” or “parallette headstand push-upseven though Fraser felt he was “on par with everyone else”, he wanted to improve until he was the best.
To take away: Find out how to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. For Fraser, he reapplied his addictive personality to more productive aspects of his training, which paid countless dividends.
Fraser suggested his approach outside of the gym gave him an edge over the competition. He gave an example of how he would see other athletes make meaningful changes in their lives as they approach competition, such as moving within striking distance of the Games.
Fraser has always prioritized his pre-competition rituals, so a month out from competition he would be at home, sleeping in his own bed. While different athletes have different priorities, Fraser’s approach has won five consecutive Games between 2016 and 2021.
To take away: Study the bigger ones. Try implementing what has worked for those who have achieved what you want to achieve and see if their approach works for you or not.
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From champion to coach
The interview ended with the impact Fraser believes he can have as a coach. He explained that when coaching young athletes whose “minds are just sponges,” Fraser believes in leading by example. He hopes the relationship with his athletes is more than that of a coach to a student – they can approach him for advice on solving or overcoming obstacles outside the gym.
Fraser promised that 2023 would be a big year for HWPO. He built a training facility for HWPO competitors to provide athletes with what he wished he had when he competed. At a time when athletes are making great strides to seize opportunities, this facility could become a haven for some of the best CrossFitters in the world.
In keeping with how he describes his entire life, Fraser concluded by saying, “we want to be the best at what we do, provide the best services and have the best people around us.”
Featured image: @mathewfras on Instagram