As the recent CrossFit open was drawing to a close, we touched base with respected CrossFit athlete Chris Medcraft, at his world-class facility Crossfit Craigieburn, to talk about his love of the sport, the passion that defines him.
Chris wasn’t always the driving force behind the Craigieburn CrossFit gym, in fact unlike many other athletes of his caliber, he grew up hating sport. In his early 20’s Chris’ competitive streak was reserved for video games, when he wasn’t busy working as a concreter or partying it up. However this lifestyle started to take its toll on his body, and Chris started to stack on weight. Chris started looking for a way to lose weight, trying out bodybuilding, boxing, boot-camps, any sport he could find, but nothing clicked. That was until one fateful training session with his brother, who put Chris through a CrossFit workout that he and his army buddies did for fun. Chris felt dreadful during that high intensity workout, consisting of 3 rounds of 400m runs and 50 air-squats, coughing up phlegm all the way through. It was like nothing he had ever done before, immediately he was hooked.
Excited by this experience, the following week he signed up at the closest gym he could find, Crossfit Victoria in Fitzroy. He aspired to be like all of the CrossFit ‘badasses’ that surrounded him. He adopted the CrossFit way, starting a Paleo diet, and with this his body changed. As he progressed up the ranks, he began to really appreciate the art behind the sport. He set his mind on mastering the skills and taking it to the next level soon moving to CrossFit Merciless, for an opportunity to train with a weightlifting coach. He got stronger, began an internship, got certified and levelled up.
He knew he didn’t just want to be a coach; he wanted to be THE BEST coach, and have his own successful CrossFit gym. He was struggling financially when a friend offered him an opportunity to coach CrossFit in Darwin. With nothing to lose, he seized the moment, made the move, and knuckled down, saving as much money as he could while doing what he loved in the NT. He soon managed to save enough to move back to Melbourne on his own terms.
While Chris is now incredibly proud of Crossfit Craigieburn, it wasn’t always part of the plan. Upon returning from Darwin he struggled to find the right space to build his own studio from the ground up. By chance he heard the existing CrossFit Craigieburn was for sale, but wasn’t sure that he wanted to move into an established facility.
He decided to visit the gym anyway and fell in love with the place, the culture, and the people. The price was way above his range, but he managed to negotiate terms and take over ownership. Numbers soon grew from 45 to around 145-150 members. Chris didn’t make huge changes, just enhanced the essence of what he loved about the gym. To this day the former owners, who sold up to concentrate on raising a family, are still members of the gym and thrilled with the progress Chris has made.
Since opening the gym Chris’ athletic career has also taken off, so finding a balance between his passion, his baby (the gym) and his personal life is a constant challenge. CrossFit is always going to be grueling, so Chris credits focusing on physical and mental recovery outside of CrossFit as his saving grace.
Chris’ goal for this year’s open was to finish in the top 30 in Australia. When it gets to the grind and you’re doing the work past breaking point, he stressed, it’s not about the individual, the thing that keeps him going is his team. The ever-humble athlete wants for them to experience the regionals, have their names on the scoreboard, hear the music, see all the competitors doing what they love to do. And in order for them to do that, Chris would had to score big, always pushing for those extra reps, to push the team tally up the ranks. For Chris, whether he competes at the regionals or not was less important, than seeing his team thrive, and getting the Craigieburn Rhino banner up there. With the opens now closed and Chris ranking 23rd in Australia, it looks like he may just have his wish.
To stay competitive, cover off weaknesses and brush up on strengths, Chris has endured a massive training volume. 6 days a week training, 2x2hr sessions and 3x1hr. He explains that this is what everyone else is doing, 4 days off is 4 days lost, so he can’t afford to get complacent, its crucial to keep it dialed in.
To balance the load, he factors in stretching, rolling, massage, twice daily saunas and spas, twice weekly ice bath, quality anti-inflammatory foods, high levels of hydration, and Virus compression gear for recovery AND sleeping in.
How does he manage to keep up the hectic pace?
He knows his why, spiritually, and is willing to sacrifice the time, and pain, to get there.
His advice for those wanting to make it in the CrossFit world? Find good gym, a good crew, good coaches, understand movement, strength and conditioning, and be willing to put in a lot of time and effort. You will become stronger and more functional for your efforts.
He acknowledges CrossFit isn’t for everyone, much like ballet. For Chris, at it’s purest CrossFit is all about throwing down with some mates, loud music, a tough workout and bonding over a good laugh once the work is done.