When you think of some of the original CrossFit athletes’ names such as Greg Amundson, Annie Sakamoto, Jason Khalipa, Caity Matter, Mikko Salo, Greg Everett and Chris Spealler all come to mind. However no conversation can be complete without the mention of Pat Barber.
Barber was introduced to the sport in 2004 and has since competed in three CrossFit Games placing as high at 4th in 2008. Despite the fact his presence and name seem almost synonymous with the sport it is amazing to learn he is only 25 years young.
After watching the Again Faster vs Team Rogue Throwdown in Tahoe late last year it was clear that Barber was going to be a serious threat at this years Games. In the final round of a workout where Barber and Spealler went head to head, Barber was just seconds behind as they raced to the finish. So determined was Barber to win, he literally threw himself down the hill causing him to crash head first into the barbell, forcing a tie. His fiercely competitive nature and will to win was clearly apparent at that moment and is why many call him “The Manimal.”
Added to this sense of determination Barber showed at this years Reebok CrossFit Games why he is such a great athlete. Not only does he have the mental fortitude to put his body on the line, he showed he was also a strategic player. During events 8, 9, and 10 he went in with a plan to go hard in event 8, hold back in event 9 and then go all out in event 10. The strategy paid off and Barber secured a first place finish in event 10 of the Games.
Barber finished an impressive 8th overall this year. Most importantly however, he showed that despite his longevity in the sport, he is still a real threat for many years to come for the title of “Fittest on Earth.”
This week John had the pleasure of interviewing this fan favorite and CrossFit phenom. It was a fascinating discussion and Barber provided a great insight into the sport. The interview covered a diverse range of issues from drugs in the sport to Barber’s personal thoughts on the upcoming 2012 games. Details of the interview can be found below.
So it’s fair to say you’ve been involved in the sport since the early days?
The way I came across CrossFit was actually kind of by accident. Back then I never really did any working out and just really enjoyed sport. My old English and pottery teachers were Nicole Carroll and Tony Budding. Tony is now the director of media at CrossFit and Nicole is the director of training. They had just gotten into the sport and saw me as an athlete and wanted to help out with the volleyball team I was on, so they were like, “hey why don’t you come and try this CrossFit thing.” So I did it and really enjoyed the competitive aspect of it, and that was back in 2004.
Yeah since the early days I was hanging around and got to grow up in the CrossFit Mecca area in Santa Cruz and meet Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai and watch CrossFit grow from two to three gyms to two thousand, like there are now.
Why do you think it has been so successful over the past few years?
I think because it’s real, its one of those things where looking in on it you don’t really understand why people spend the money they do, or get as committed as they do or make the ridiculous Facebook posts they do, but as soon as you get into it, you understand it all. You understand the commitment and connection with people around you and it is something that drives thousands of thousands of people to do it. And essentially it works. We don’t have a commitment to a certain thing other than stuff that works. If we’re feeling better and getting better times, that’s where our commitment is and our clients see it.
To this day I don’t think I’ve met someone who has tried CrossFit genuinely and didn’t like it, or didn’t get results, whereas most other programs, with something like the BowFlex, people will say it didn’t work for them. So I think most people try it, have success, and then it becomes a word of mouth situation from there.
How do you rate your 8th place overall at this years CrossFit Games?
Pretty damn happy with my performance at this years Games. When I didn’t qualify In 2010, I said next year I’m gonna be top ten and I did that, so I pretty much completed my goal of doing what I wanted to.
I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I mean I could have asked for winning but at the same time my goal was making top ten and I hit my goal. So I suppose now I’ll just have to make my goal higher.
And you won’t be competing in the Australia region next year, right?
Yeah, I’ll have to qualify out of California next year, which will be fun, as I’m moving back to the US in December.
Do you think you’ll find it a bit tougher qualifying compared to this year?
I wouldn’t say it’s tougher, I’d say it’s a deeper qualification. I’m not worrying about not qualifying, its just the level of competition is deeper.
The difference between the USA and Australia isn’t the top ten guys, it’s the top 30. The top 30 would be competitive in the US and in the harder regions, whereas in New Zealand and Australia I’d say the top 15 is really hard, but the depth just isn’t there yet because they simply haven’t had enough time.
Are you expecting the competition to get even harder in 2012?
Its going to get increasingly harder with ever year. It’s like any sport, the faster times keep getting faster and the heavy weights keep getting heavier.
One thing about that kind of training though, is you need to put in the hours and you need to experience it to be good at it. No one has just walked into it and dominated, it just doesn’t happen. They have to have some kind of adaptation period and that’s why I have an advantage over a lot of people because I’ve been doing it for seven years now, while others have been doing it for two or three. My adaptation has been longer.
What advice do you give to anyone training for next year’s games?
One of the benefits of seeing how successful the last two years of the Games have been is that programmers, like Dave Castro and the whole crew, are starting to realize what works visually in terms of spectators and what works to truly test the fitness they are trying to test.
The first few years was a trial and error thing and they weren’t exactly perfect, where I feel 2010 and 2011 really represented the true levels of fitness. They (the WODs) were quite varied and really tested the things that needed to be tested.
With that being said, we can never assume that anything is going to be the same as the year before, but we can assume it will be CrossFit. It’s not going to be a triathlon. Your never going to have it swing too far one direction. So I think if you’re looking at training for CrossFit, the best thing you can be doing is CrossFit, which sounds pretty easy, but at the same time it’s so easy to overlook that and do something totally different that doesn’t necessarily help in competition.
What’s the best advice you give to beginners in CrossFit?
Virtuosity in movement. Learn how to move well and then learn how to move well fast. Don’t learn how to move fast, learn how to move well. Far too often an athlete has great capacity in terms of their ability to go, but they will be hindered by their inability to move.
Get a good coach and work basic step by basic step as you can have really fast gains as long as you don’t go off on a focus driven tangent.
So find a good coach, learn the virtuosity and be patient.
Do you think CrossFit will continue to grow heading into the future?
Yeah, absolutely. If as many people were doing CrossFit as you had playing high school football, they’d still continue doing it out of high school today.
Someone who plays rugby in school is always gonna have that feeling watching people play and thinking about the times they did, and are always going to be passionate about it. But with CrossFit you can watch your idols, and then go and do it on your own and have the same sort of feeling.
So if people continue to do CrossFit, they’ll also continue to enjoy watching it. I think it’ll continue to grow as more people find out about it, which will obviously bring in more companies that want to put money into the sport and it will put more focus on the top athletes and I can see it very easily turning into a professional sport.
With the prize money for winning the Games now $250,000, could we see drug cheats become a problem moving forward?
Yeah absolutely, it definitely could be an issue. As the reward for being a champion gets higher, it’s always going to be an issue that some people are weak, and in order to get where they want to be, they’ll abuse the system.
It is a concern but at same time what can you do about it apart from strict testing and keep training your balls off. Hopefully the people that are cheating injure themselves, pop, or have a heart attack and die (laughs), that’s my personal opinion on it.
What sort of diet are you on?
I do a gluten free kind of primal zone diet. When I’m competing I’m close to perfect zone, but when I’m relaxing I won’t measure the same way and I’ll maybe have a higher fat intake. I eat a lot of dairy and I eat potatoes, but only in quantities. So I’d say primal zone is my diet.
What are your thoughts on the paleo diet?
I like the ideas behind it but just like anything, if someone goes too far in one direction they become too crazy, and I just think that’s where you can get in trouble. People can go too overboard and it’s a touchy subject for some because it’s a belief system they rely on. But I am for it and think it’s a great thing, I just do a version of it and it’s my version.
If you were the CEO of CrossFit for a day, what would you change in the sport and why?
That’s a good question. I’ve never heard that one before.
I guess I’d want to do my best to limit the amount of people that are CrossFit zelots. Where you know, “our way is the way and the only way”, and where every post on Facebook is about their nutrition and about how everyone else sucks. I guess I’d try to change that far-out-there aspect, that in-your-face, go f*&% yourself kind of attitude.
What’s your favourite WOD?
I love Olympic lifting. I love a heavy snatch and it’s such a mentally rewarding experience, but at the same time I wouldn’t say it’s really a WOD. So I’d say I like Diane. It’s fun – Deadlift and handstand push-ups. Bring it on.
What do you think the toughest WOD is?
If there’s one it would have to be the 30 AMRAP with the deadlift and box jumps – I think it’s called McGhee. It’s just horrible and it leaves you feeling crippled for weeks, so I’d definitely say that’s one of the toughest I’ve ever done.
And finally, how’s CrossFit taking off over in New Zealand?
It’s great culture over here. People are very fitness based and they’re taking it in and really enjoying it. It’s a small community but they are falling into it and just loving CrossFit.
The people are great, the athletes are great and the culture is getting better.
You can find out more about Pat on his website: Patbarber.com
You can also check out Pat’s Facebook at: Facebook
In the meantime if you want to see pure determination and evidence of a person sacrificing themselves for the team, check out the video below. It gets very interesting at 7:45.