How to Get Body Dysmorphia: Attend the CrossFit Games

With Leather’s founding editor Matt Ufford attended the CrossFit Games in Carson, California last weekend. This is his report.

If you’ve never heard of CrossFit, the simplest description for it is “fitness cult.” As with most cults, there are gurus, a particular style of dress for its members, and a separate vocabulary that can take weeks or even months to learn. Notably — as with most cults — gurus and followers alike shy away from the word “cult.” But there’s one important difference between CrossFit and Scientology or Jonestown or the Movementarians: obeying CrossFit’s religion of short but intense workouts produces undeniable results.

Nowhere is that more obvious than the CrossFit Games, the fledgling sport’s annual competition to determine the fittest of the fit. The devotion of the faithful is on display everywhere: in the competing athletes, in the muscular bodies of the crowd, in the companies hawking fitness wear and protein drinks, in the food trucks selling snacks compatible with the paleo diet. Even as someone who works out at a CrossFit gym*, I felt out of place with my average build and torn pectoral muscle and general unwillingness to take off my shirt amidst a sea of physical perfection.

On the following pages is a photo essay of the Games, with my commentary peppered in. The professional-looking images are courtesy of CrossFit; the crappier candids were taken on my iPhone.

*My trip was sponsored by Sportsgrants, a non-profit organization that runs Fight Gone Bad, a charity I raised nearly $24,000 for last year by humiliating myself.

People in Green Man costumes and cute chicks in sports bras. This is a brilliant way to advertise. (NOTE: I have no idea what product they’re advertising.)

This guy’s Marine Corps tattoo has a Marine Corps tattoo. We have to go deeper!

I wanted this company to have brackets in its name, because I’d definitely buy a shirt from [sic] Fit.

Two of the best-represented gyms at the Games were San Diego’s CrossFit Invictus (in green) and Brick CrossFit of LA (orange). Their passionate cheering blocks made the Games feel more like a real sporting event and less like watching random people work out.

Navy SEAL Bridges — from CrossFit Invictus — finished second overall, and provided what may have been the Games’ most exciting moment with his dizzying come-from-behind clamber through the “Killer Cage” to win Event 6 in Saturday’s final heat.

Invictus had a Navy SEAL finish second in the men’s competition. LA’s Brick has incredibly attractive people. Winner: BRICK.

It’s pictures like this that make me feel terrible about myself. I’m five-ten and about 165, and I’ve huffed and puffed my way through 90-pound sled workouts. Here, Bridges (5’5″, 160 pounds) pushes 385 pounds on the sled. That may be why my Fight Gone Bad score is in the 230s and his is 485.

Here’s a look at the “Killer Cage” that left a lot of palms bleeding on Saturday afternoon. What was essentially a massive jungle gym crippled some of the most fearsome competitors, tearing open the athletes’ calluses after the metal bars sat out in the hot sun all day. (Ben Stoneberg finished 20th overall.)

The emcee for the Games was Travis Bagent, a bombastic 275-pound human being who also happens to be one of the best arm wrestlers in the world. In between events, Bagent arm-wrestled the largest, strongest men in the audience — and crushed each of them right-handed within seconds. Bagent is left-handed.

Without a doubt the coolest dude at the Games (and the image that Brandon would have led with if he were writing this article). This guy’s (very hot and fit) girlfriend was mortified at his popularity.

The vast array of fitness sponsors and vendors was the primary location for people-watching. Every other tent seemed to have some sort of fitness challenge to offer — dead-hang pull-ups, 250-meter row, jump rope double-unders, tire-flipping, and more. (And before I get accused of snapping ass pictures of strangers, the Lycra short-shorts and sports bra combination was standard wear for hundreds of women in attendance. It was hard to take a picture and NOT get something like that in the frame.)

Once you get over the physique of Finland’s Vainio (19th overall), take a look at the shoulders of everyone in the audience behind him. Not exactly the same crowd you’d see at a Bears game.

Judges are chosen, I assume, for their unforgiving precision and capacity for cruelty. I saw one judge negate at least ten, maybe 15 reps of one of the male competitors who was favored in the Masters Division (that’s what CrossFit calls old people). The judges’ uniform was that ubiquitous yellow T-shirt and shorts however damn short they wanted.

Pictured: 2008 champion Jason Khalipa (7th overall this year) and last year’s champion Graham Holmberg (4th overall). Khalipa is an absolute MONSTER. I can’t believe he’s wearing a shirt. If I looked like him, I’d only wear a shirt to enter restaurants.

Hey everybody! check out Lindsey Smith’s snatch! … what? She’s getting the weight overhead in the snatch lift. Why’s everybody laughing? (Smith finished 16th overall in the women’s division.)

As mentioned earlier, CrossFit Masters is the polite term for “seniors division.” But it seems like a fair euphemism, since the seniors look like this.

Here’s Michelle Kinney (17th overall) — also featured in this article’s first image — doing a weighted pull-up with 35 pounds strapped to her waist. If you want an embarrassing comparison, I’m a combat-tested Marine, and my best weighted pull-up is 28 pounds (with a torn pec, but still).

Oh, hey Blair Morrison! I was just feeling bad about a woman doing a pull-up with 35 pounds of added weight. Thanks for doing it with 100 pounds. (Morrison finished 5th overall.)

Schrader only finished 14th overall. What a pussy.

I didn’t write this dude’s name down, but he was jacked as hell and only finished 4th or 5th in his heat in Event 6 on Saturday. But he still wins first place in the Extra Ab Muscles Competition.

The Killer Cage crushed the will of some of the Games’ strongest athletes, and this bitch is SMILING while getting through it. (Leblanc-Bazinet finished 8th.)

Froning was the runner-up in 2010, and ascended to the title of “Fittest on Earth” thanks to an astoundingly strong and even performance across ten events in three days. (Note: I’m usually sore for 2-3 days after a single CrossFit workout.)

Tovar only finished 37th, but she snatched 135 pounds — and my heart. Marry me, Stacie, and wash my clothes on your stomach.

With shade at a premium, athletes napped between events. As for the bloggers in attendance? Left to rot in the sun, suffer from jet lag, and complete this photo essay two days after it should have been done. Life’s a bitch.

For more on the CrossFit Games, watch a video of champions Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir here. Write-up here. Team results here — CrossFit New England took first place, because OW-AH CROSSFITTAHS AH FITTAH THAN YOWAH CROSSFITTAHS.