By Roger Lockridge
Although he initially was looking to improve at baseball, Ben Smith eventually would do a lot more than that. Little did he know that when he committed to more training his journey would lead him to eventually become the Fittest Man on Earth.
But that’s exactly what happened for the Virginia native in 2015. He’s going into his 10th year of a career that has seen fitness evolve in more ways than even he anticipated. He shares his thoughts on his journey, the evolution of CrossFit, and what else he has going on in this special interview.
Weight: 195 lbs
City: Chesapeake, VA
Career Highlight: Winner – 2015 CrossFit Games “Fittest Man on Earth”
FloElite: What was it that led you to start pursuing CrossFit both personally and as a competitive athlete?
Ben Smith: CrossFit started for me as a means to be a stronger, faster athlete on the baseball field. During college years when I transferred schools and had to sit out a year, I really dove into my training more, found out that I was not half bad at it, and focused on being “competitive” in the sport — and the rest is history.
Personally, on the affiliate side of things, I have directly seen the incredibly positive impact CrossFit as a health and fitness methodology has made on my friends and family and I wanted to share that with my local community and as many people that were willing to listen and give it a shot. So in 2012, after spending four years getting a mechanical engineering degree, I logically opened a CrossFit gym: CF KRYPTON.
Despite the career twist, this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It combines what I love to do with the love of helping others become better versions of themselves, and at the same time providing support for my family and close friends. You never know what you will end up doing, but I believe if you listen well enough, and go into whatever “it” is with the right heart and attitude and purpose you will always find the right path for you and those around you.
From what I’ve seen, you started competing at the Games in 2009 so you’ve been doing this for a while now. Did you have any idea that the Games would be as big as it has become?
It’s pretty incredible to me that people are talking about 2009 like it was a whole different age of time. Well, that’s because it was. In the beginning, I believe I saw what CrossFit COULD become, and what it is today I don’t think I ever imagined. Or at least, I’m very happy to see it grow like it has. CrossFit is changing lives all over the world. They definitely have done it right and let the product and community speak for itself in its effectiveness and legitimacy. The “CrossFit haters,” if you will, are just those who are too closed-minded to want to see anything beyond what is right in front of them. If implemented correctly, CrossFit can change the way every person on the planet views health and fitness. Times are changing, there’s a lot to learn, and it’s very cool to be a part of it.
Now the Games, on the other hand, is just an expression of this methodology on one end of the spectrum with the “fittest on earth.” It’s awesome and incredible to watch and take part in, but it isn’t what’s most important in the grand scheme of things. It has been a blessing to be a part of the past 10 years of growth and I’m excited to compete this year and see what the future holds for this “sport of fitness,” because there are a lot of different pathways it could go and we are seeing one of those paths with all the changes in the structure of the season this year.
Very few people have even made it to compete at the Games. You’re among the elite that can call yourself the Fittest on Earth. What do you feel made the difference between when you started competing and when you won the title?
Belief is the difference maker in my opinion. I’ve had faith since the beginning that I would win someday. Obviously, this isn’t all that it takes by any stretch of the imagination, but without it you cannot be the Fittest on Earth.
Did your training and preparation change much after winning the Games and if so, how?
My training has been continuously evolving and changing since the beginning leading up to the year that I won and even a bit after. There’s always a new goal to chase and other possible pathways to get there. I like switching up training and keeping it interesting, but the core of what I do has stayed the same over the years. Work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths. Do things others won’t do. And push yourself a little beyond your limits as often as you can handle. In this way, you will constantly be growing overall as an athlete.
As for the 2018 Games, what are your thoughts about how things went overall in Madison?
I expected a lot of myself in 2018. I know what I am capable of and 2018 was not a good representation of that. Training and preparation leading up to the Games had been great and physically I felt in the best shape of my life. Sometimes you’re just dealt hands you have to play out. I messed up my back pretty bad on Day 1 during the squat part of the CF total, and that set me up for a super challenging weekend both mentally and physically, especially the aftermaths of the speed clean ladder.
I contemplated dropping out, but I made the decision I didn’t want to miss the opportunity and the experience. Life isn’t about what happens to you — it’s about how you react to what happens to you. And I didn’t want to just walk away. I’m not ready for that yet. I’m training to get back to the top again, I know I have a couple more good years in me.
Did you see any people that you see coming as the future of the Games? Any up and coming athletes catch your eye?
I’m focused on one person. ME. That may sound selfish, but this game is me versus me. I only spend a tiny portion of time competing against others, but daily I compete against myself and try to be better than I was yesterday. It’s a combination of all the little moments of each day that only you see that make you “successful” when everyone’s watching.
Lots of fans look at elite athletes and imagine that their lives are focused on their sports of choice 24/7. How do you manage to juggle everything you do as an athlete with all the other aspects of your life?
Well, I think it seems that way because it’s hard to imagine that someone could dedicate so much of their time to one profession or goal or objective. But the truth is each one of us could be a little bit more efficient with their time each day, and a little more dedicated to the things that they want or the dreams that they have. I think one of the reasons people love the Games is because they love seeing what people are capable of when they dedicate so much to the pursuit of fitness! But deep down, I don’t think it is the feats of strength and endurance that all those watching are wishing for, but the desire for the same dedication and pursuit of greatness that the athletes at the games possess. That is the real wisdom in it all.
There are many people right now training with the goal of competing on the biggest stage in fitness. Any advice you can share as someone who has done what they want to do?
I’ve done many of the things that I’ve wanted to do, but not all of them. I’m still working on them and will be most likely for the rest of my life. But one thing that stands out to me for competing in the CrossFit Games and being on that stage is that you are so much more than just an athlete, and the things that you are outside of being an athlete and competing are more important than any title of fitness you may achieve. But dream big, and don’t stop trying to be a better version of yourself each day. There’s always more work to do.
Tell me about what you’re doing away from the box. You work on programming for others, right?
I offer all of my training and programming online as well as a strength specific program for CrossFit and affiliate programming at www.bensmithblueprint.com. I want to share what I have learned over the years with my programming methods and help others reach new levels they didn’t know they had! We also have a new Krypton League we are starting at the gym, unlike anything we have seen before but it is a 5-10 person team competition that is for everyone at the affiliate! Should be fun! Be on the lookout we will share on social media, but it could be something great!
What is the next event you plan on competing in?
Dubai CrossFit Championship! I’m looking forward to this year of competing!