Ask the average Crossfitter how long it’s been since their first WOD and you’d be impressed if they said they’ve been doing it for a few years. Crossfit itself only started in the early 2000s, so it’s scary to contemplate the performance of an athlete who does Crossfit for the better part of a decade. Enter Sean McArdle. With over eight years of Crossfit experience as an athlete and coach, Sean has developed into an elite-level athlete, and will represent Crossfit NYC at the 2013 Crossfit Games Northeast Regional competition this weekend in Canton, MA.
Out of over 15,000 competitors in the Northeast region, Sean earned himself one of the coveted top spots, earning his ticket to Regionals and continuing his quest towards a spot at the Reebok Crossfit Games in Carson, CA this summer. Sean’s performance in the Open was nothing short of staggering. In workout #4 (Clean & Jerk, Toes-To-Bar) Sean placed and incredible 14th in the region. With the exponential growth of Crossfit’s popularity, the barrier to entry in the Games has gotten higher every year. Just getting to Regionals at this point is a more significant accomplishment than getting to the actual Games just four years ago.
We decided to pull back the curtain and get to the roots of Sean’s experience that have led him to this moment.
Congratulations on making it to Regionals Sean. Is this your first time qualifying for Regional competition?
Thanks. I’m still kind of amazed that it happened. Yes, this is the first time I’ve qualified. I kind of made an agreement with myself sometime in December that this was the last year I was going to train hard and so I should really make a plan, stick to it, and push for Regionals. When it was all over I was happy coming in 58th with the assumption that I wasn’t going to get an invite. Luckily enough people declined the first wave of invites so I could sneak in.
How long have you been Crossfitting?
I’ve been doing CrossFit since March of 2005. I started with a group of old friends from high school, and then for a period on my own in my garage. We probably looked like a bunch of jackasses trying to snatch dumbbells in gold’s gym. If it’s any comfort to people, I couldn’t do a lot of the movements in the beginning – pistols, hspus, MU’s, or the Olympic lifts.
Have you competed in each of the Opens? Looking back, which workouts are your favorites and why?
Yes, I gave the Open a shot in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, I suffered a shoulder injury about 2 weeks before the Open started so I knew it wasn’t going to be a good year. 2012 was almost the same story. I had spent most of the “pre-season” doing CF Football and had gotten much stronger but my conditioning as pretty awful, and about a month before the Open started I re-injured the same shoulder and had to sort of limp along through the competition. I remember resting most of the week during the Open, doing the workout, and then having to rest my shoulder for the rest of the week. I think I ended up somewhere in the 100’s that year, which I was pretty happy about.
2011 – the CTB Fran ladder. I think I liked it because I expected it to go well for me and it just smashed me – very humbling.
2012 – the repeated CTB fran ladder. I was in such bad shape the prior year that this was a good comparison for me to see how much better I was.
2013 – the burpee snatch ladder. I enjoyed this one because it was pretty balanced it the sense that you had to be both strong and conditioned to do well.
The Regionals workouts have been released. How are you feeling about these workouts? Which ones play to your strengths the most?
Well going in I figured I was already in last place and it couldn’t get any worse, so at least I had that going for me.
Day 1 – I felt good about seeing Jackie because I know I can at least finish that. I won’t be breaking any records on the OHS ladder, but I think the format is pretty cool. The Burpee-MU is a little unique in the sense that you can’t use a big kip to string multiple reps together. My assumption is this will favor the little guys a bit more, but as we all know, how it looks on paper is not how it usually goes.
Day 2 – The 100’s workout will come down to how many snatches are completed for a lot of people. The plan we (me and Avery) came up with has me barely finishing it. I think with that one it’s about managing the work relative to the other workouts during the weekend. Wall balls are one of my least favorite movements, and I swore I was never doing another after 13.3 – so much for that. The DL/BJ workout I dnf’d (did not finish) two years ago because 315lbs was a serious issue for me. My guess is the 100 pistols in the morning and the fact that I don’t like to rebound my box jumps will make finishing within the time cap difficult for me.
Day 3 – Workout 6 looks like something I would program for myself, so I should have fun with this one. The real issue will be the 30 STO. Anyone who trains with me knows my overhead ability is very poor, so coming in under the time cap will be a win. Workout 7 will be a real challenge. I’m comfortable enough on the rope to get by that, but I think the amount of work from the preceding 2 days will make the cleans problematic for me even though they aren’t too heavy.
How often do you train, and have you changed your training at all since the Open to prepare for Regionals?
I’ve been following a 5 days on /2 days rest format for more than a year and it seems to work for me. I did make a big change in my training in early November that took me out of the gym more. I put less emphasis on making lifts all the time, and just kind of took each day as it would come. In addition I started swimming, running, going rock climbing, and taking some dance classes (don’t ask). I think in prior years I spent so much energy and focus on lifting that it was a serious distraction, and this year I spent much more time outside the gym doing fun stuff.
As far as changes post Open, I’ve talked this over with Avery a bit, and I think our plan was don’t change much. Aside from adding in some skill refreshers (rope climb, burpee MU, kipping HSPU) we didn’t add volume to anything. I think this makes sense, and if I had to guess it’s probably the opposite of what most people are doing.
Have you participated in Crossfit competitions in the past? If so, how was your experience?
I’ve done the subway series events in years past (including this past summer) and I generally do ok. I think it’s important to at least try it out, and generally people surprise themselves with how well they end up doing.
A lot of our members just took a big leap forward in committing to competition programming. What advice would you give them as they up their volume in the pursuit of being a Crossfit competitor?
My first reaction was to say have fun, it’s just exercise. If you don’t enjoy it you won’t stick with it. The competition programming works really well, if you are the type of person who shows up consistently and works hard. I’ve seen the vast majority of my teammates make incredible gains over the last year. I think some of them forget the progress they’ve made. I guess that’s the other thing I would say to new people…don’t worry if you can’t do certain things, or if you don’t win every workout, just remind yourself of the small victories that you steal for yourself every day.
Everyone on the team is at their own stage in this process. We all have our goats to work on, so just have fun with learning new things. Oh and eat…a lot. Google “Linear-Pork-Chop-Progression”.
Word has it that you’re into mobilizing in a big way…
The mobilization slander has to stop…these allegations have been going around for years. Somehow I got tagged as having a 2-hour mobilization routine and these rumors are false! (I’ve cut it down to 15mins….maybe).
As an experienced Crossfitter and coach, what message do you have for beginners who aspire to get to your level of accomplishment in Crossfit?
I would say having a team and a great coach to lean on is great, but most of this is personal, so realize that other people are not your competition, your own apathy is, and if you pursue your goals without concern for the discomfort that comes with pushing yourself, you will be successful.
Eight years is a long time to be doing Crossfit. Where do you draw your inspiration from, and why do you continue to do this?
I’d like to thank Avery for pointing me in the right direction when I would start doing
“dumb-shit” and for taking the time to plan things out with me. I also have to thank Brett Tom and Keller for pushing me for the last year and a half to add more weight to the bar and for being great training partners. Finally, I need to thank my teammates who provided an endless supply of inspiration and amusement (e.g. Bobby and Cleo). I guess what keeps me going are the friendships and sharing in the progress of those friends. Every PR is a new experience. Life is collection of these experiences, some positive, some negative, but all worth it.
Sean McArdle will compete tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday in Canton, MA at Reebok Crossfit One for the 2013 Crossfit Games Northeast Regional competition. Tickets are available to gym members who competed in the Open. Join the swarm of CFNYC members going up to support Sean as he represents the gym on the world stage.