Taking on the Sweat-Fueled Smack Down That Is the CrossFit Games

PHOTO: Richard Froning competes during the CrossFit Games.
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There is an extreme fitness competition so fierce, that athletes train for it for weeks, except they have no idea what challenges they will face until they arrive. They only know their bodies will be pushed to the limit.

It’s called the CrossFit Games, and the idea is to whittle thousands of participants down to name the fittest men and women on Earth.

Nightline followed two American CrossFit Games contenders, Becca Voight, a 33-year-old from Tulolo Lake, California, and James Hobart, a 28-year-old CrossFit instructor from Massachusetts, who went to Los Angeles to compete in this ultimate sweat-fueled smack down.

Roughly 1,000 competitors flocked to Southern California to attempt this extreme fitness test.

The CrossFit Games is not a single competition, but an entire season of intense workout challenges that participants have to accomplish over three stages. First there is the Open, where athletes take on five workouts over five weeks, then there are Regionals, which are competitions held on five continents over three days, and then finally, it all ends at the main event – the Games.

The entire competition takes months, and just wrapped up over the weekend.

There are no qualifications and anyone can join, but athletes have no idea what workouts they have to complete because the challenges are kept secret until a few days, sometimes hours, beforehand. Workout challenges include lifting enormous amounts of weight, doing countless chin-ups, swimming and climbing ropes.

Athletes’ performances and timing are judged, and scores are posted online, “for the world to see,” as the CrossFit Games promo promises.

Here in the United States, CrossFit, a high-intensity strength-training program, has become a national sensation and the obsession of millions of Americas. Its high-octane fitness routines have also landed them at the center of fierce controversy, accused of pushing people too hard, too fast, no matter the consequences.

CrossFit has inspired a devout following across the world.

At 6:30 a.m. on competition day, breakfast for Voight and Hobart meant supplements, and lots of them.

Two hours before competition, the athletes were warming up. As part of his routine, Hobart does squats and stretching.

CrossFit Games director Dave Castro says the competition is safe for people who train properly and are smart about their routines.

“The program is very safe when applied properly with coaching and instruction,” Castro said. “It’s even safe, to be honest with you, when you start it on your own with no coaching. And I did that, and I know hundreds—if not thousands—of people who got into CrossFit on their own without proper coaching.”

Examples of “CrossFit Fails,” videos posted online showing people getting hurt from falling down or collapsing under heavy weights, are rampant on YouTube.

“[Injury] happens if you don’t take the necessary steps to get into CrossFit slowly and gradually build into it,” Castro said. “It goes back to you’ve got to be taught this stuff.”

During the competition, Voight and Hobart faced numerous challenges, including an obstacle course of rope climbing and dead lifts. Voight suffered a knee injury while practicing on a gymnastics spring floor weeks ago and had to seek medical treatment when it started acting up.

“It’s so painful - but I have to keep going,” she said.

But she and Hobart find the strength to keep going, and make it to the final competition in the top 25. Voight finished in 24th place, and Hobart finished in 21st place. But in a battle of endurance like this, merely completing the competition is victory in itself.

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