Mat Fraser is not only famous for winning the CrossFit Games 3 years in a row, but the community has come to recognize him by his mantra: hard work pays off. Now, looking at an athlete like Mat Fraser who’s had a very successful career as a CrossFit Games athlete and who seems to only be getting better with each passing year, most of us probably roll our eyes and think, ‘Yeah, right.’ The guy was a weightlifter for 10 years and not just on the recreational level; he trained at the Olympic Education Center from 2010-2011. Not only that, but his incredible genes seem to give him a distinct advantage as well. Standing at 5’7” and weighing 195#, Fraser was built for the sport of CrossFit. So, is it his body composition and weightlifting background that have elevated him to this level of success, or does hard work really pay off?
Jacob Heppner, another multi-year Games athlete, seems to think so. In a 2016 Road to the Games episode, Heppner said this about his appearance at the 2015 CrossFit Games: “A hard work ethic will get you there. People always talk about ‘What kind of programming do you do?’ and ‘What’s your macros like?’ and yeah, it’s great, and yeah, I appreciate the program that’s given to me, but man…it’s the work you put into your program that really matters.” Ok yeah, the guy is a phenomenal athlete, but he didn’t start out that way. If you follow any of his programming or watch his videos on YouTube, there is no mistaking that the guy puts in a lot of work.
So, is it genetics, sport background, God-given talent, etc. that these elite athletes have to thank for their incredible abilities? Or, is it really hard work? In reality, it’s a combination of all of the above, but hard work definitely plays a significant role. Think about it: if you want to squat 300# by the end of the year but rarely squat over 70-75%, how achievable is that goal? If you want to get down to 20% body fat, but don’t have the willpower to refrain from eating ice cream and pizza multiple times a week, is it actually going to happen? Anybody can set a goal, but only a few decide to put in the work to achieve it.
Furthermore, when it comes to accomplishing performance-based goals, many athletes question what kind of “specialized” program they should be on. Comptrain? Invictus Athlete? Icon Athlete? As Heppner stated in the quote above, it’s not about what program you’re on; it’s more about the effort that you put into the program you’re on. There is nothing wrong with following any of these professionally-written programs just like there’s nothing wrong with following the programming at your local gym. Both will make you a better athlete if, and only if, you put the work in every single day. When it’s a heavy squat day, do you add that extra 10 pounds and go for another set? When the workout has 50 wall balls (which you absolutely hate!) do you push yourself to do the set unbroken or to you rest every 10 reps when you start to feel tired? Hard work does pay off. You just have to make the decision to get started and then not let up.