We can have our eyes on the prize.
We can work every day to accomplish our goal.
We can sacrifice and suffer to be the best.
But at the end of the day, you can’t define yourself by whether or not you get “first place.”
If your identity depends on one thing, you’re bound to fail.
You have to free yourself from tying your worth to winning.
When you do, you just might see some amazing results.
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about faith, family and CrossFit with the “Fittest Man On Earth:” Rich Froning.
Rich Froning is a CrossFit athlete known for his achievements participating in the CrossFit Games. He became the first person to win the title of “Fittest Man on Earth” four times and has led team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom to the first-place finish three times. Froning owns and operates the affiliate gym CrossFit Mayhem, located in Cookeville, Tennessee, and is a member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff.
Rich fell off the rope the first time he competed in the CrossFit Games and got second place. He felt like a very public failure. But when he released his need to win, he became unstoppable.
So get ready to learn what it takes to be an outstanding competitor, husband and father on Episode 808.
Lewis: This is episode number 808 with 4 time fittest man on earth Rich Froning. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes, a former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today now let the class begin.
T Allen Armstrong said “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. Â The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”
I’m pumped about this one because we’ve got Rich Froning who is one of the greatest of all time in cross-fit. He’s a 4 time fittest man on earth, he won the cross-fit games in 2011 through 2014. He also won the worldwide open for 3 consecutive years and when he retired from the individual competition he captain his team cross-fit mayhem freedom in back to back affiliate cup championships. His story was documented in a movie in 2015 called froning the fittest man in history. He currently owns and operates the gym mayhem in Cookeville, Tennessee as a podcast that he shares with his friends called ‘froning and friends’.
In this interview we dive in about a lot of different things. We talked about the mindset behind his unprecedented wins, how actually losing his first cross-fit games getting 2nd place was the changing and defining moment that allowed him to win the next 4 years as an individual. The reason he stopped competing as an individual, how he’s handled fear throughout his career the journey of adoption and the greatest lessons he’s learned from his wife and adopting his children and so much more.
If you’re a fan make sure to share this out with your friends’ lewishowes.com/808. Text a friend or two let them know about this interview to send some inspiration and spread the message of greatness today.
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All right guys I am super excited about this one without further ado let me introduce to you the world champ Rich Froning.
Welcome everyone back to the school of greatness podcast we’ve got the iconic and legendary Rich Froning in the house.
Rich: That’s right thanks for having me.
Lewis: The greatest of all time in the cross-fit world.
Rich: Frasier has a couple more to get there.
Lewis: I wonder what it would’ve been life if he was the same age as you and he started in 2009, 10?
Rich: It’s just different, different eras it’s like comparing Jordan and LeBron that type of thing. You know when we started we were trying to figure stuff out and nobody really knew what we were doing and we were just kind of crushing ourselves all the time.
Lewis: Now there’s a model and systems and signs to it.
Rich: He’s an incredible athlete but it’s different, comparing different eras is hard but he’s super fit.
Lewis: Now, I met you I think in 2011 or 12 briefly at the games, I think you won twice at that point and I remember you just having this reputation and I’m also friends with Webb, I think Webb.
Rich: My parents that’s all from them really, that’s literally. Anytime anybody ask me about my parents and how I was raised it was like you know my parents where the hardest working people in the room wherever we went. So, it was kind of understood when I was a kid, I’m not sure what I was gonna do if you weren’t gonna find yourself something to do they’re gonna find you something to do.
Lewis: Put you in something?
Rich: If we weren’t outside weather permitting, but if we weren’t outside doing something they were gonna find us something to do. So, we were always try to play games or do whatever but even on days we find stuff to do they were finding us something to do.
Lewis: Who did you have a deeper relationship with? Mom or Dad?
Rich: Both really, I was a mama’s boy when I was really little and really close with my mom still but they were both have equal parts responsibility in my upbringing, still really close with my dad too. I couldn’t say one way or the other they’re both have different things.
Lewis: Hard work.
Rich: The hard line and some of the stuff that I use now from my dad, but they were both the hardest workers ever.
Lewis: What was the biggest lesson both of them taught you?
Rich: They weren’t like a lot of speeches or a lot of like pep talks or anything like that I was more lead by example. You know there weren’t gonna ask us to do anything that they weren’t gonna do, like if we were outside doing chores or work they were right there with us doing it, and so I think that’s probably one of the biggest thing I learn from them is I’m not get in the team stuff. So, that’s probably you know somebody ask me about that a while back and I don’t really have any like particular speech like go back to from either one of them but they were always there, you know they were always present. That was one thing when I think about now with my kids it’s like I want to make sure that I am there. When I needed something they were both there.
Lewis: Is there anything you miss from your parents growing up that you wish they’ve given you?
Rich: You know my dad is incredible at building stuff and working with his hands. I was just actually talking about this you know build anything, can fix anything any of that stuff. I think I was there helping him do that stuff but I was more concentrated to play sports, I wanted to do that type stuff. I wish I could do that you know I could YouTube a video and I know enough that I helped him a bunch growing up but it just wasn’t my thing that I wanted to do growing up, I wanted to be outside.
Lewis: Would you trade that for being the greatest of all time?
Rich: I don’t think so, I think it worked out all right. So, you know you can’t really look back and be like ‘I change this and that.’ I’m happy where I’m at I learn from things that I moved on from, but my parents were awesome.
Lewis: Now what got you in the cross-fit in the first place before? But how did you first discovered it because you were a star in baseball.
Rich: I went to college to play baseball. So it was Walter State, a lot of the guys [?] been drafted, it didn’t go the round they wanted to so they went juko ball or they went to an SEC school or got an offer and they didn’t want to wait few years to get drafted and I was neither of those things. So, I got there I got a girlfriend back home and that’s really the reason I was like you know.
Lewis: The girlfriend made you come back?
Rich: She didn’t really make me comeback, it is what it is. I hate because they won the national championship that year. And so I wouldn’t be where I am now so it is what it is. I went back and they have this program of at Tennessee tech where you’d work as a full time firefighter and they pay your tuition. And so I worked as a full time firefighter for 4 years while I was getting my undergrad and I was taking a class in exercise science and one of the professors was the head and strength conditioning coach who also did cross-fit. And so he was like “You’re into working out, a lot of military police fired due to cross-fit.”
Lewis: This was 2008, 2009?
Rich: 2009, I still have the textbook. And so I started reading the book and went to the website and I was like it was pretty cool. We started doing cross-fit only cross-fit on July that year, and so we’d be going 10 years in a month. And so kind of looked back from then and then I didn’t even know you could compete at the time, so we just trained people we couldn’t afford the affiliation and we would say ‘we’d use cross-fits methods the legal way.’ And so we didn’t know you can compete, so we tried some of the workouts from the 2009 games where they did videos and we tried to workout. So, I guess it was the beginning of that year they announce they were doing sectionals.
Sectionals was in Huntsville, Alabama.
Lewis: I played arena football there.
Rich: It was on the way to spring break and we’re like ‘on our way to spring break we’ll stop and see and give it a shot.’
Lewis: 22 or 23 at the time?
Rich: Would be 22. And so if I’m on the top 15, if you’re in the top 15 you’d go to the regionals. I was in first after the day and so went to regionals and didn’t want to get last and ended up winning the regionals, went to the games and we talked about it earlier.
Lewis: That was probably the greatest lesson you learned that year? As much as you wanted to win it probably made you so much more discipline over the last 9 years.
Rich: If I would’ve won that for sure I wouldn’t have won the next 4, because I’ve kind of narrowed my focus so much that I’d let cross-fit kind of find who I was and it became my focus and put so much into that, that when those type of things are taken away from me, for me it was awful and I was miserable for months. So, it really helped me like grow up a Christian and my faith has always been a huge part of it, but that made me really refocus and realize that’s why I do what I do, those were my talents and they’ve been given to me and I got to glorify him with all that I have. So, it really made me focus about who I am and my identity not in cross-fit, it was very freeing and like I didn’t have to worry and it took a lot of pressure off. I don’t necessarily think that God willed me to win, but it was the fact I didn’t put so much of my identity in that.
Lewis: It’s funny because I remember I was training with [?] 2 years before that, because I was playing arena football. He was training me for the offseason and this was about the time he learned about cross-fit and he was a trainer at [?]. He was a trainer there and I they were doing just kind of like sports specific training stuff. He was doing more and more cross-fit type stuff and I didn’t even know what it was, he said at one point “I’m gonna go and there’s like this world championship thing I’m gonna go and check it out.”
Lewis: I remember I had no clue what it was. I really dove into cross-fit and learned about it and that’s when I heard about your name because you were like leading.
Rich: And then I’ve ruined it.
Lewis: It’s probably the greatest lesson of your life.
Rich: It was like I said it was awful and that backing. I hate losing at anything and so for that to happen and be public, like it can be just me and you and nobody else know and I get embarrassed. So to be that who felt like a failure at getting 2nd.
Lewis: What did you think about the next 12 or until the next games? What was the mindset every morning for you?
Rich: In cross-fit you can’t really concentrate on this one person, it’s like there’s so many people that could, especially that year there were 5 or 6 guys that were always mixing it up for events and you know it was a tight feel for a while. And so every day that’s one thing I wanted to talk about is why people get so upset that I don’t compete as an individual now. It’s like when I woke up every single day my goal is to win the cross-fit games.
Lewis: 5 or 6 years right?
Rich: There was a lot of relationships, there was a lot of missed family times and stuff like that and that was my goal, that was what I wanted to do and I was gonna do whatever it took. So, my daughter like I can’t do that like my goals needs to be a dad and a husband first. Now, I do want to be super fit and I wanted to win the games for my team, but it’s now I’ve got 3 kids and a wife, a business that I run first and then I still compete and I still have fun and get to do that but it’s not my number 1 goal and I don’t feel like have that, like I’m not gonna sacrifice those things.
Lewis: What were you doing those first 2 years afterwards?
Rich: You know everybody was talking like ‘you got to get up at 5 am to be successful.’ I would sleep and sleep is a huge part of recovery. I would sleep until I get up until literally I get up like 8:30 or 9 o’clock, but literally from 9 o’clock I went to bed at 9 or 10 that next night.
Rich: Obsessing yeah.
Lewis: What would it be like? Was it just 2 hours in the gym lifting?
Rich: I mean literally anything I can think of. It was real actual straight cross-fits workouts or I’d have a group of guys that would come in the morning and then have a group of guys come in mid-day or noon.
Lewis: You’re trying to beat them.
Rich: It was a great group of people that they would meet me and like I have a guy that push me something in super heavy and then I have a guy that push me in something you know all body weight. So, it was a team effort even then but it was, if you look back to those years we worked hard but it was maybe not the smartest at the time.
Lewis: A part of me just feels like I miss those days, all you do is train.
Rich: That was all I want to do and I was gonna do it. Now looking back at it was fun but some of it was stupid.
Lewis: Did you get injured a lot through those?
Rich: Honestly no, the only major injuries that I’ve had in 10 years and you know you’re talking top 1% you know it’s a profession now it’s not just cross-fit, so I’m not gonna link this back to cross-fit.
Lewis: Oh man.
Rich: You know you can walk off an ankle sprain and become alright, but this wasn’t a walk off ankle sprain. And so I had to actually drive with my left foot.
Lewis: That’s the hardest thing to do.
Rich: I get home and Hillary was like ‘what’s wrong?’ I twisted my ankle a little bit. So, about middle of the night I get to pee and I go to stand and just immediately just hit the floor. So, I get back to the bed and Hillary is like ‘we’re going to the hospital in the morning.’
Rich: So I get an x-ray and sure enough it was broke. So that was an injury I had and then honestly you know I’ve had little overuse type things shoulder stuff but nothing major. I tore my meniscus in 17 and that was the most frustrating thing because it was like, so tour the week before regionals, doing workout in the basement and then rest. On the 4th round of the 90th double under I just feel something that doesn’t feel right. So, the next day I went to see some PT’s in the gym. So, the next day we’re doing the work out swimming in my dad’s pond, we did dumbbell snatching and I go diving in the pond and I felt something let go.
Lewis: Oh no.
Rich: Then your left leg just kind of go like ‘that’s not good.’ So, I finish the workout.
Lewis: Crazy man.
Rich: I’m an idiot. So, I go see a surgeon and he’s an ex NFL surgeon and he’s like “You’d be fine as long as you can handle the pain.” So, I did the core zone shot and felt fine like it was good, like I think I’ll wait till after.
Lewis: After the games?
Rich: But halfway between training for the regionals and the games that core zone shot wears off, but then I had surgery the week after the games in 17.
Lewis: So, you did the games with a torn meniscus?
Rich: Yeah, we got 2nd that year and it frustrating. But then I had surgery and it never got better, so I got frustrated. I did stem cell, I did a bunch of stuff and for a year and a half the [?] acid in the stem kind of help but it was like some days it would be great and others like depending on what I did before. So, I was like that was going up until December of this year, and met this Doctor in Cookeville and he does counter strain therapy and then he did acupuncture and I’m back to 95%.
Rich: The meniscus was the hard one because you can’t do anything. Â
Lewis: So very minimal injuries.
Rich: Very minimal.
Lewis: And after you got 2nd the first year you went 4 years back to back? Do you ever feel challenge at all?
Rich: Yeah, every year. You know we were always talking about when people dig their holes at the beginning of the year and I had a couple of years where I would do that, I got 27th in 2011 on the first event and I got 27th on the first event I think in 2013, in 2014 I had another event that was terrible. So, I was decided to dig a hole and climb out of it and just make it interesting.
Lewis: Come back.
Rich: Back then there was a lot of guys who were right in the mix all the time you know on the podiums several years in a row. It was a different time a little bit different than it is now.
Lewis: Where is cross-fit now compared to like 10 years ago?
Rich: All these changes we talked about this year, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s grown exponentially you know the games last year I think is one of the best games we’ve had especially at being in Madison, they moved it to California it kind of the first year in Madison it almost felt like a glorified regional.
Lewis: They should do it in a hot state.
Rich: It’ll be cool but who knows with this new system who knows what’s gonna happen.
Rich: So it’s kind of frustrating just to see all of this, we felt like we got to this really good point and then everything completely changing.
Lewis: Why are they changing?
Rich: You know Greg is the owner of cross-fit and he wanted us to see this changes it’s his deal and he can do whatever he wants. So that’s what he wanted to do and now we have all this sectional which I think is a good idea.
Lewis: What’s that mean?
Rich: So, now you have the open and this year what they did with the open was the top 20 individuals’ men and females got an invite to the cross-fit games.
Lewis: The top 20 in the opens? You don’t do regionals anymore?
Rich: Nope. Also if you won your country and as long as there’s an affiliate in your country you can go to the cross-fit game [?] country.
Lewis: That means anyone can go to some country?
Rich: It has to be your passport country. So, whatever country then you can go to the game, however now they have this sanctional events. You have to go through cross-fit, you pay whatever fee, so if you won one of those [?] you get to go to the cross-fit games. So, teams the only way you can go to the games is if you win a sectional no open, so it’s really like 15 teams or 14 teams going to the games this year. I think there’s a 160 something men and 160 something women, where there were used to be 40 men and women. So, now the deal is allegedly the first day of the games they’re gonna 1 or couple of events and they are gonna cut like the field and like huge. So, basically if you won I think your open rank, somehow like however you qualify has precedent over how somebody else qualified.
Lewis: Yeah, because if you have first and you’re the best in the world you can’t just.
Rich: Some type of safety net, so it’ll be interesting it just gonna be different. So, there’s no games media anymore.
Lewis: What does that mean?
Rich: So like any of the videos that they would produce cross-fit would produce they’re gone for the games.
Lewis: Like marketing videos?
Rich: Everything. Greg is concentrating on the health side of things instead of the games side, where I feel like it’s a good idea. I think for a while we get too caught up in the cross-fits games, I think there’s value to that and I think we don’t really need to abandon that. So, we kind of swung completely at another direction where it’s kind of like, I almost want to see like middle direction. There’s no actual games media anymore, he’s kind of relying, there’s some morning chuck up and there’s publications that are doing media stuff for it. You know it’s kind of the whole market that he does with the affiliates where it’s [?] rises to the top of deals. There’s now no cross-fit HQ, Instagram, and Facebook.
Lewis: What? Why?
Rich: Something about privacy issue with Facebook, so last 2 weeks ago gone. There’s twitter still because it is not Facebook own, completely got rid of Instagram and Facebook.
Lewis: That seems kind of crazy.
Rich: It’s his. It was just like gone so cross-fit HQ or the cross-fit Instagram was gone first. So, yeah there’s been a lot of changes the last couple of weeks and a lot of people are frustrated and fired up you know you talk to people in the gym and they’re like ‘what’s going on?’ The problem is there’s just lack of communication and you know there’s a couple like cross-fit traditional podcast, and he’s talking about stuff about why he is doing this and there’s no media anymore.
Rich: I also heard that he turned down the viewer like Facebook actually offered to broadcast the games, and now probably there’s nobody to broadcast the games. CBS sports was turned down as well, so we’ll see.
Rich: I don’t know that’s what they’ve been doing for years, there’s no media in it. It’s kind of gotten Wild West right now.
Lewis: I feel like it’s always been that.
Rich: It is and that’s, when somebody runs a show they can do what they want to do it is what it is.
Lewis: How do you think your mindset is different from the rest when you are competing at the highest level as an individual? Because everyone can work the same amount of workload and I feel like there’s probably guys that did just as much or maybe a little. How did you train your mind to prepare yourself for the whole world to try and take you down?
Rich: I think it was kind of a mix of everything. We would do this workouts and now looking back like ‘what the heck were we doing?’ But it was hard and it was mentally tough and it was his deal, there’s that. And you know being in the fire department those lessons that I learned from that, I think it’s a mix of all of that and like wanting to win the games, having the atmosphere where I can do that like having those guys to train with me in the mornings.
All of that into one perfect storm I guess.
Lewis: Yeah. How did you feel like you handled the pressure though? What did you think about before every event at start or even in the middle?
Rich: Yeah, I think a huge part of that like I said was my faith and not having such a, not having that pressure. There’s still pressure I’m not gonna say that I didn’t have pressure on me but it was very, it took some of that pressure off and.
Lewis: What would you think about that moment when you found out there’s pressure on me?
Rich: The good thing was I’d have that rope fall and I embarrassed myself greatly way more than I was gonna embarrassed myself again, so kind of like I already done the worst that could’ve happened in my mind it was the worst thing that could happen. So, it was like it’s gonna be alright, and then the more and more I competed and more the years went on I notice that ‘hey, it’s not about one event you know as long as there’s damage control like [?]’ I think that was one thing I kind of figure out a lot earlier than people was everybody was like ‘when I go out there I compete against myself and I just do the best that I can.’ So, what I learned is you can watch people, it was like luckily for us you kind of knew what lane you were in and what place you are in. If I’m within a [?] or two or a person or two then I can make up points and not lose too many points and I can get ahead of them in another event. So, I kind of learn you know you would call audible in the middle. So, I think that was something that I one of the things that I figured out a lot earlier in people like it is a sport. It is working out there’s some strategy to it you’re trying to gain things and like all right. Training so much and doing so many different things that I did and the volume that I did that I learned and had done certain combinations of movements.
Rich: So, that was something that I’d learned pretty earlier on and helped a ton.
Lewis: How did you handle fear throughout the career?
Rich: There were times where especially I remember specifically one time in 2013, so I’d gotten 27th on a pool event, I got 2nd on a rowing event that was a half marathon but you started out with a 2k sprint which was the worst thing ever. My wife comes up and we’re kind of sitting in the afternoon in the area between events and she’s like “You don’t look like you’re having fun” I’m like “I’m not having fun” like I was probably 3rd or 4th at that time. It’s awful but whatever like she goes ‘go get your stuff, if you’re not having fun we need to go home.’
Rich: What do you mean? I’m gonna go got train all year for this and she’s like ‘you do your best when you have fun.’ She’s never played any type of sports like she’s anything. She’s the least competitive and could care less about anything cross-fit related. I didn’t like started having fun immediately but it turned out so she always take credit for that year that she was.
Rich: But I mean it’s like you try to have fun as much as you can and over the years you learn that when I first started competing like a month out my nerves would start getting me. After a year or two it was 2 weeks out and now it’s like the event I would get a little nervous still.
I think when you stop getting nervous it is not fun anymore. But yeah, I think it is just the nerves and you know being a competitor you have that like before you have all this build up, but literally as soon as you want go happens.
Lewis: You got to go.
Rich: It’s a competitive nature you know it’s hard. But then after you have done it for so long it’s just what you do, you know it’s like you get into that space and you get into that zone and go.
Lewis: You’ve already experienced the pain so much and you know it’s gonna suck.
Rich: Most of the time you’re like ‘this workout is gonna take 10 or 15 minutes but you know the pain is really gonna set a minute 9.’ It’s almost you’ve become not numb to the pain but still hurts, but you’ve almost embrace that pain and you just know, it’s almost like a sick twisted thing where you are just like this is what it is. I’ve never had any substance abuse but I think working out is probably substance abuse.
Lewis: How important is pain for everyone in the world to experience on a daily or weekly basis?
Rich: It’s you never grow or you never move forward, you got to go out and seek that stuff. That’s when you get better and that’s when you grow I think it is the same physically when it hurts that’s when you know good is happening so you almost embrace that.
Lewis: Why do some people resist pain when they know?
Rich: It’s either their upbringing or they never have that or they just don’t enjoy it. You’re not gonna enjoy pain.
Lewis: I never want to do this again.
Rich: I went on this [?] trip for 6 days, for the first 3 days it was awesome the next it went downhill. It sicken and twisted but you know that you’re growing in that, you know as long as it is productive pain like there’s certain things that aren’t productive but as long as it is something good you know you’re on the other side you’re gonna come out better.
It’s hard for me sometimes to relate to other people like ‘how do you get there?’ It’s hard sometimes for me to like talk to people that don’t get that.
Lewis: Of course.
Rich: It’s hard for me, it’s hard to like relate to because I don’t know what makes me want to do that, but my wife similar I don’t want to do that.
Lewis: Why are [?] want it?
Rich: I don’t want to think like it’s that perfect mix of everything that we talked earlier, it’s just I don’t even want to win that bad, I don’t want to lose.
Lewis: How did you meet your wife?
Rich: I met my wife in haircut, I was a firefighter getting off shift and we had a mutual friend that she cut my hair and colored Hilary’s hair and so while Hilary was getting her hair colored I was getting my cut and we both gotten out of 4 or 5 year long relationship, we were both miserable in those relationships and finally got out of them and I was a perfect gentleman to every woman that I ever dated.
Rich: Like I’m not ready to get into a relationship you know. So, I’m like a complete jerk to her and she just kept coming and was like and she doesn’t take any crap either. She came to visit me in the fire station this was kind of later on when we kind of hang out and talked and text for probably 3 or 4 months. I was like ‘you know I’m not ready’ she comes to the fire station and I introduce her to all the guys and she’s going to leave.
Lewis: Are we together?
Rich: I said ‘I don’t like titles’ and she’s ‘don’t ever talk to me again.’ I didn’t text her the next day. She can dish it out and she’s perfect like she’s completely the statement of opposites attract are literally me and my wife, but we really work together and she supports me in everything and I support her in her things and she could care less anything about cross-fit related.
Lewis: Even if this is your whole life?
Rich: Whole life man. She supports and she’s my biggest fan but she could care less, as long as whatever. So, we have 3 kids our oldest [?] she bought all the most expensive like dolly clothes for her, so I’m doing some laundry one night with her and so full laundry I open this closet and it was just like the amount of money hit me we spent on these clothes.
We’ve waited long enough for this kid so I want her, this is years later so I walk back downstairs and I’m like ‘I just want to know how much money do you think is in that closet up there?’ and she’s like ‘it’s a hobby.’ It’s like an expensive hobby and she’s like ‘well, if you weren’t so good at cross-fit that would be an expensive hobby.’ In a nutshell that’s our relationship.
Lewis: That’s hilarious man. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learn from her over the last 8 years?
Rich: Too many probably to list, I mean she’s the most with the stuff that we went through with infertility and all that stuff. She’s the most just resilient woman I ever met, but also the most caring and loving you know like now she’ll go, like in somebody’s head any type of any. She had a friend who had a failed IUI or whatever and it’s devastating, like watching Hilary go through that you know for me, until we knew we were having a kid or something I was okay. But for her any time anything failed or any adoption failed just watching her, like she had gotten so.
Lewis: You get your hopes up and you’re expecting something.
Rich: But watching her do that it was almost like you know we had the disappointment of not having that but you know watching her was like double. So, now she’s supportive of these women or anybody going through that, and so she’s the most caring person and it’s pretty cool.
Lewis: So you guys wanted to have kids pretty soon?
Rich: Yeah we talked first, you know got serious and we kind of talked about family. Our plan was to have 3 biological and adopted one. So when we finally decided to start having kids we’re like ‘it’s not working.’ So, we tried for a couple of years and then Hilary went on like hormone therapy and that was a nightmare, and then even having those like she’s.
Rich: She would get so caught up and then it wouldn’t happen, watching those things happen. We were talking about doing IBF and I don’t want to pay for IBF for a change and not happen. I was like ‘I don’t think I could adopt my first kid. I just don’t feel like.’
She found [?] birth mom and she had a family back out that was the day actually Hilary talked to her through an agency. So, she talked to Hilary a couple of days later.
Rich: Like I’d like to meet you and have lunch and kind of figured it out. So, this girl is 8 months pregnant at the time. This is my last year as an individual in the cross-fit games. I met her and she’s like ‘let’s do this.’ That was a month before the games, [?] was born 2 weeks before the cross-fit. We were both in the room, I cut the cord so then we had to like, it was finalize actually on my birthday because in Tennessee there’s 14 day waiting period. So at any time during those 14 day she could came and said ‘I want to keep the kid.’
Lewis: oh my gosh.
Rich: We were just waiting and it was awful.
Lewis: Games started that day 14 days later?
Rich: Finalize my birthday the next day we started the cross-fit games. When Lakeland came out with us she was 2 weeks old on a plane, it was chaos but it was awesome.
Lewis: And you won?
Rich: And I won.
Lewis: That’s amazing.
Rich: We’re good it was hard, it was a tough. So, it was rough but it was awesome. So, it was kind of funny we have Lakeland during the games, we had Trice my son during regional and then Violet our youngest we get the first week on the open in 18, so it was always games regionals open.
Lewis: So you’ve adopted 3 children now what’s it like being a father of adopted children versus how you feel not having a biological child?
Rich: Never once crossed my mind that those weren’t my kids, they are my kids. I don’t know the feeling of having biological children, but I could not love these kids they are our kids. So, Lakeland was there we got her immediately, Trice was 9 days old he was in the NICU when we got him that was kind of a crazy story too, we had a couple failed adoptions I was tired of watching Hilary go through that. I feel like we have another kid out there and watching you go through this and she said “fill out this paperwork” and I’m like “I can’t fill out this paperwork.” So, she comes up to me and said “You’re gonna fill out this paperwork” If it doesn’t work I’m not going through it anymore.
So, she overnights the paperwork because it was due the next day, we get an email that night ‘you are one of 20 families this girls wants to go, he’s already been born and 9 days old.’ She wants him to go to a family that doesn’t have any kids, but in the 20 there’s 2 or 3 that doesn’t have any kids, they don’t list the names they just list ages, number of the kids and whatever.
So, we got an email that night it’s like ‘you’re one of the top 5.’ So, Hilary is all excited. So the lawyer calls a couple of hours later and said “How soon can you get to Jacksonville, Florida?” We can be there the next morning, this was a month before the regionals. So, we drove to Jacksonville, Florida and got Thrice, Richard the 3rd is his name but we call him Thrice. And so we’ve had Thrice since he was 9 days old, and then Violet is actually our youngest, she is Lakeland’s biological half-sister. Hilary stays in touch with the birth mom. So she reach out to her on Facebook and it was like ‘hey, I got another baby I can’t keep her would you guys keep him?’
Rich: And we’re like of course. Thrice was 10 months old at the time, that was after 10 months and Violet was super [?] and it was hard, really hard. Now, she’s an angel she’s our sweetest kid, Thrice is a disaster but it’s awesome to see they’re not biological but if you look at Lakeland and the way she acts it’s Hilary and myself combined, and then Thrice the same way. You don’t think about the things the kids pick up on but now the older go with me to the barn.
Lakeland likes to work out like she swings around on the pull-up bar and she’ll make like obstacle courses and run around. Thrice is the same way but it’s the things that kind of cool everything is full circle.
The things that they pick up on you don’t realize so that for me is another motivator now like ‘hey I need’ like these kids are watching, they’re the most important thing to me and the things like they picked up on.
Lewis: They’re watching.
Rich: And you don’t think about it because 2 years old or 4 years old or 1 year old they’re not gonna pick up on some of those stuff. It’s insane what they pick up on.
Lewis: Where do you think you’d be if you weren’t married during those 5 years in the games? Do you think you have won?
Rich: I don’t think so I mean there’s some type of focus there that you know you can’t replace and like I said kept me super grounded during those years and still does. You know she could literally care less but like I said it’s good because I know that my worth to her is not.
Lewis: It’s powerful.
Rich: That’s something a piece of the equation I can take out. So, she’s been awesome for getting me to where I am, she’s a huge part of it.
Lewis: That’s amazing man. And transitioning to the team you guys won once or?
Rich: We won 3 times.
Lewis: What’s that like?
Rich: It’s so much better honestly. You get to share it with people you know like growing up I was a team sport guy and obviously there’s a ton of individual sides of baseball and I did play some football too. But being able to share it with other people and to see the sacrifice they put in and you know they’re right there with you going through it and to be able to when you reach something like that together is pretty awesome.
Lewis: Do you guys win money for the team or no?
Rich: Not much as an individual. I think last year was 75 or something like that. It’s still fun I still get to compete, I still get to do the sponsorship stuff because I’m still competing but I get to share it with other people, you get to suffer together.
Lewis: Lonely suffering.
Rich: Made some of my best friends now through competing with other team so it’s cool.
Lewis: What would you say are the 3 biggest lessons you learned in 10 years of training, competing, and being in cross-fit?
Rich: One of the main things and this is something that I tell people is ‘if you’re not doing it for profession, use fitness like a [?] of stress.’ Like some people get caught up and there is value in being using you know not stressing about it, but putting some value in it, but getting so caught up like affects your day or your home life.
Another pet peeve that I actually have is kids and sports and giving up sports for playing cross-fit, it drives me nuts. Some of the best memories I have are sports.
Rich: Some of the best lessons I learned or playing sports I probably, playing more sports would have been better like I concentrated on baseball but I did play football and you know maybe not like organize football but playing football in the yard and doing that type of stuff where you’re gonna learn a whole lot more and get a lot better based of athleticism and fitness.
Number 3 I think just enjoy the community side of it you know like have some friends, like I said the shared suffering. You don’t work out by yourself if you don’t have to, get with some people and have some fun. That’s the beauty of cross-fit is that the community side of it people see the games and what we do, but that’s not really cross-fit. Going to the gym and go hang out [?] and just the same community and no matter where you go.
Lewis: Doing same workouts.
Rich: Same workouts and everybody is super supportive and it’s pretty awesome to see that.
Lewis: That’s cool man. This is called the 3 truths it’s a question I ask everyone at the end. So imagine it’s your last day on earth as many years away as you wanted it to be. You get to pick the day but you got to go from the physical body and you’ve created and achieved every dream that you want to create. You’ve got as many kids as you want, the family life the legacy you want you’ve done it. But for whatever reason you got to take everything with you, everything you’ve created, but you get to leave 3 things behind you know to be true about your entire life and these are the only 3 things that you can leave behind. What would you say are your 3 truths?
Rich: My faith for sure. Obviously I want to take that with me but my faith I wouldn’t be where I am without my faith. I want to say whatever my kids take from me so my parenting, you know the things they learned. I want to be known as a good to them you know not to anybody else, I don’t care what anybody else thinks about me, but I want my kids to take that.
Lewis: What’s the lesson you would leave behind?
Rich: I don’t know if there’s 1 lesson but I want them to look and say ‘my dad cared.’ It’s the relationships and the things that you get with family, friends those are the things that I want people to remember. I don’t care honestly the cross-fit games and the fame and all that stuff is cool, but it’s more or less now it’s I want to make as much money as I can to where I can spend more time with my family. Enough to take care of the things we need to be that I can be there and be present because that’s something that I got from my parents they were there and they were always there.
Lewis: That’s cool. I want to acknowledge you for a moment because since I’ve heard about you the last 10 years and seen your stuff you’ve been so consistent with how you show up. You’re just a good consistent hard working guy who you know doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, doesn’t try to hurt anybody.
Rich: Appreciate it. There are sometimes I do stupid stuff
Lewis: But you’re just constantly like a good guy and you work very hard and I acknowledge that because you could have easily let the fame or whatever celebrity in the cross-fit world to take over to be more egotistical but for my experience of you have 10 years, you’ve always been just a consistent and good dude. It’s hard to be consistent at that level.
Rich: Like I said I’ve had a lot of good people around me that kind of you know hold me accountable. Another thing is having people hold you accountable and being able to take those when people tell you ‘hey, this is what I see and this is what you’re not doing right.’ Having somebody who’s gonna hold you accountable and tell you ‘hey, you need to shape up here.’
Lewis: How can we support you? Where can we find you online?
Rich: Just Instagram, twitter @RichFroning. I have fun on Instagram I’m not a super like I’m not really on top of it all the time. We have our cross-fit mayhem athlete Instagram that has a lot more of that type of stuff and our YouTube is just cross-fit mayhem. My personal is literally just me it’s really who I am, I try not to we’ve talk about like having somebody run it but like I want it to be authentic and be real.
Lewis: That’s cool man you got a book as well.
Rich: It’s been a couple of years we’ve had a couple of people. So, we got that and Netflix there’s a movie.
Rich: We don’t actually have an app yet but we have crossfitmayhem.com.
Lewis: The movie is called what?
Rich: Froning is the movie.
Lewis: This is different than the cross-fit games documentary?
Rich: So, there’s the Froning cross-fit mayhem documentary. There’s one that like the next couple of years they did on a couple of people, but the first one that they did is called Froning and it’s on Netflix. But then we put a bunch of stupid stuff on our YouTube cross-fit mayhem.
Lewis: So you’ve got the cross-fit games coming up. When is it?
Rich: End of July. About to go hibernation shut out all of the life, it’s been a long weekend with the [?] so I gave the team 2 weeks. It’s been a long season but I’m ready to get there.
Lewis: What’s the team called?
Rich: Cross-fit mayhem freedom or just mayhem freedom.
Lewis: If you go to the games in Madison scream for them. Final question what’s your definition of greatness?
Rich: Definition of greatness. You know you can go with who you are when nobody is watching that type of stuff, but I think it’s just being present wherever you are, you know you can’t be. That’s something I am working on it’s when I’m a dad I’m a dad. I think you can’t get too caught up in you know I just work out for a living, but it’s like there’s other people that [?]. So be present wherever you are.
Lewis: The legend Rich Froning.
Rich: Thanks man.
Lewis: Thanks man.
There you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this episode always fun for me to bring on the world’s greatest at what they do, and for someone who repeat back to back to back to back years of what they do it’s unbelievable the mindset, the commitment, the discipline, the consistency of showing up and performing at the highest level when everyone is trying to take you down. Everyone is trying to beat you everyone is trying to get better than you, to continue to push yourself to be and stay at the top it just blows me away.
I love connecting with Rich because he is such a humble and genuine grateful man as well. I really enjoyed his energy and looking forward to doing some type of workouts that’s not a cross-fit workout with him in the future. Make sure you share this out with your friends’ lewishowes.com/808.
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T Allen Armstrong said “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”
I love you guys so very much. I hope you enjoyed this interview like we do with every interview we give you our best as we want you to give your best. I love you all so very much and you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.