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CrossFit Games 2012: Spencer Hendel Interview

The highly anticipated search for "the fittest man on earth" goes down July 13, 14 and 15 in southern California. We sat with four of this year's top contenders. First up, Spencer Hendel.

July 13, 2012 the Reebok CrossFit Games will head back to Southern California for three days of intense competition to crown “the fittest man on earth.” After national television exposure last year, this year’s games are highly anticipated and will provide some of the most intense competition in all of athletics. Men’s Fitness has caught up with four of this year’s athletes to watch and got insight into their training as they prepare for this year’s event.

First up, Spencer Hendel.

Spencer Hendel is a 23 year old Reebok and Crossfit ONE sponsored athlete. Having a former NFL player as a father, he naturally was involved in sports including baseball, basketball and football. Baseball stood out as the favorite but an elbow surgery in 2006 ended his hopes of college ball. It was during his rehab from that surgery that his dad started Crossfit Charlotte and his journey began.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT CROSSFIT AND WHEN EXACTLY DID YOU START?

Spencer Hendel: My after started CrossFit Charlotte in 2007 while I was rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. I was anticipating a return to baseball but in 2008 I determined that baseball was no longer an option so my focus shifted to the competitive side of CrossFit. It was Jason Khalipa that I saw compete in the 2008 games that really sparked my interest in the sport.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT CROSSFIT VS. "TRADITIONAL TRAINING?" IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DON'T LIKE ABOUT CROSSFIT?

CrossFit gave me the chance to compete again. Everything I lost in baseball was regained when I started competing in CrossFit. "Traditional training" did not offer me that opportunity.

HOW DO YOU PROGRAM YOUR TRAINING? WHAT DOES A SAMPLE WEEK LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

My father is my coach and does most of my programming. Choosing him as my coach was a no brainer - there is no one that knows me better. A typical week would consist of three days "on" and one day "off", so six days of training. I typically do two workouts a day - one would be a lifting exercise like a snatch or back squat, the other would be more of a metabolic conditioning workout. Of course there are exceptions - like somedays I will do two met-cons with no strength work and on other days ill include some endurance work like running or rowing. There is a method to my madness, but my end goal is to perform everything well. To quote my dad: "You have to be great at something, good at everything, and you can't suck at anything."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES GOING INTO THE GAMES THIS YEAR? WHAT SETS YOU APART AND GIVES YOU AN EDGE IN THE COMPETITION?

I feel great heading into the 2012 Games. Every year it is my goal simply to make it to the Games, and anything after is just icing on the cake.

IN YOUR OPINION, CAN CROSSFIT TRAINING BE APPLIED TO OTHER ATHLETES LIKE FOOTBALL PLAYERS OR BASKETBALL PLAYERS?

CrossFit training can and should be applied to all sports. In what sport do you not want more cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, speed, power, agility, coordination, accuracy, and balance? Every athlete wants to improve these attributes, and CrossFit training aims to improve them evenly across broad time and modal domains.

CROSSFIT SOMETIMES GETS KNOCKED FOR PEOPLE GETTING INJURIES, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS AND HAVE YOU EVER BEEN INJURED WHILE DOING CROSSFIT?

Results are a direct correlate of intensity. In CrossFit we first strive for mechanics, then consistency, and only when those first two are present do we add intensity. Keep in mind if you never add intensity you will never know your true limits as an athlete. For example, in NASCAR every great driver has crashed their car in attempts to push the envelope and win races. I am not saying that crashing your car is a good thing but in the effort to achieve optimum results, it is sometimes a necessity. You cannot be afraid of failing. Show me a successful athlete, and I will show you an athlete who has seen their fair share of failures.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WANTING TO BEGIN CROSSFIT? WHAT ABOUT FOR THOSE THAT CURRENTLY ATTEND CROSSFIT "CLASSES" BUT WOULD LIKE TO PURSUE THE GAMES?

For anyone who his looking to start/begin CrossFit, I recommend starting slow. Strive for mechanics and consistency first, and only then add intensity. For those looking to start competition - go for it! You will never know what you are truly capable of until you try.

AFTER YOU ARE DONE COMPETING IN THE GAMES, WILL YOU CONTINUE TO TRAIN "CROSSFIT STYLE?"

I will always train using the methods of CrossFit. However, if I ever wanted to do something different it would be to train more olympic weightlifting.

ANY OTHER INFORMATION YOU WANT THE READERS TO KNOW OR ANYONE YOU WANT TO THANK?

Personally I would like to thank my family and friends for their continue support. I would like to thank my father, Andrew Hendel, because he is the reason I am the man I am today. I would like to thank Jon Gilson of Again Faster for being the first to believe in me. Again Faster Equipment was the first to sponsor me and give me the opportunity to be considered a professional CrossFitter. I would also like to thank Reebok for helping me achieve my goals as a person and as an athlete. I would like to thank Extreme Endurance for making an amazing product and making the workouts more tolerable. I would like to thank the CrossFit community as a whole. Without the community of this sport, I would not be doing what I do today. Nowhere else can I find an elite athlete, a CEO, a mother, and a grandfather working out in the same environment and achieving common goals. I challenge you to visit a CrossFit gym and try it for two weeks. I will guarantee that its not the workouts that you came back for more, its the sense of community and togetherness.

Stay tuned for next week's interview with Scott Paltos!

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