Putting the Cross into CrossFit – with Cody Anderson

CrossFit Games athlete, Cody Anderson talks about how his passion for Jesus has helped in the sport as well as shaping him into the man he is today. From favourite workouts to preparing for The Games, Cody talks all things CrossFit and faith.

Cody, tell us a little bit about what you’re up to at the moment? I’m guessing The Open is at the forefront of your mind?

Yeah, kind of. This year is a little bit different actually as we just started a gym a couple of months ago, so I’m just trying to strike that balance between being a business and a gym owner; as well as trying to give other people an opportunity for The Open as well as for myself too. I think it’s good though because I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to compete as an individual this year. So we are looking at putting a team together, I’ve been talking to Logan Collins and two other girls about that so it’s still not for sure, but it is a possibility. With that, you can’t qualify in team through The Open, I think in a way it’s good because I can still do it but I don’t have to kill myself and not be super stressed for five weeks. So that’s what’s going on right now with regards to The Open, and even if the team doesn’t go ahead, there’s plenty of other things to do – like weightlifting and owning a gym.

What do you make of the recent changes to how athletes can qualify for the CrossFit Games?

I think it’s kind of split. You know, you see what people are posting on social media but it’s really hard to distinguish what they are actually like, so some people are saying, “I’m so excited!”, but I don’t really believe that. To be honest, I wasn’t super excited when I heard about it, but now that it’s settled in for a while I’ve realised that it is what it is. I guess for me, not going for individuals may have influenced that thought process as well as the season of life I’m going through right now, which from mine and your perspective is that life isn’t all about CrossFit, it’s all about Jesus. He has greater things for me than exercising really quickly for a little while. So I’m trying to keep that perspective and I reckon they will keep the changes that they’ve made, but I think over time people will settle into it as time passes.

Let’s talk about Regionals, you missed out two years running, finishing 6th both times so you didn’t make the Games. What was your thought process going into Regionals and your reaction after realising that was the end of the line for you, that year?

Both of those years are very different. The whole story as I describe it is that God opened a door of ‘success’ or whatever you want to call it and enabled me to compete in 2014 and He really brought my heart to a place where I didn’t mind about making it to the Games, I just wanted to compete. My personal goal for that year was to finish in the top 50% which would have been the top 24 or better, but I was of the mindset that whatever happened, I just wanted God to be glorified because I felt like I was really in a place where even if I had finished last, I would have been totally ok with it. I feel like it was because I had that open posture towards Him, that He waited until that moment to give me that kind of success, if that makes sense? That was my attitude in 2014 all the way to the Games and that was the same attitude I wanted to keep in 2015 and 2016 when I missed it.

2015 was a little weird because I really hurt my back in the warm-up before the first event. It was heavy cleans and muscle ups and I think I was in 5th going into the final session and if I did ok in that final workout, I would probably have made it. I’d had a history of back problems and going into the warm up area, I hit a clean and my back just seized up – it ended up with me being unable to stand up straight for the next couple of days. It’s cool even with that though because, in my head I was experienced enough to say, it sucks but I believe God has got another plan for me, so that didn’t really derail me.

I then met a guy from YWAM (Youth With A Mission) right after leaving the event centre and he introduces himself to me and said that he’d heard I was a Christian and so I got connected with him. Then there was a whole load of coincidences that seemed to occur. I just happened to be reading a book at that time which was written by one of the guys he had hooked me up with via email, and so I thought to myself that there is really something in this and I need to hang out with these guys. That then opened up a whole world to me where I made some awesome friendships with YWAM and I went to some amazing places like Nepal and the Himalayas with Jacob Heppner. I think because of that, it helped me deal with something I guess the world would call “failure”, but it didn’t feel like failure at all because I treasured those memories way more than competing at the Games for another year.

When training in the lead up to the Open, what are you trying to do? Are you looking to peek for the Games or is that not in your mindset?

The Open is so hard because it’s 5 weeks long. So you can’t really taper down and peek for 5 weeks because it’s such a long time to throw training out of the window – so you need that balance between still being able to train hard but also be fresh on the Friday before you do the workout. I think I did all of the Open workouts again last year, so it was a bizarre situation where you train really hard on the Monday, rest really well on the Wednesday, Thursday before hitting the workout hard on the Friday and resting Sunday ready to do it again Monday. So I don’t think many people are looking to peek for the Open because it’s so long and drawn out like that.

We had to peek for the Regionals I did last year because in my region which is the West, they combined Canada West, North West and California so there were like 13 or 14 Games veterans in there, meaning the pool of talent was huge. We took that seriously so we tapered for that one and obviously for the Games too where you train super hard. Typically, I was doing a six-day cycle and going into the Games really recovered as that’s what you work towards but last year I had to make sure I was fresh for Regionals because I had to up my game. Athletes like Mat Fraser are just so good they don’t need to peek until the Games because they are just cut from a different cloth!

Your background is in gymnastics, how much of that has evolved into your CrossFit career?

It has definitely benefited me in my CrossFit career but I would also say it’s one of the best ways to help set you up as a kid for just being athletic for the rest of your life.

I actually only did it between the ages of 8-12 years old. I was fairly competitive back then, I won a couple of things but the people you see in CrossFit today who are gymnasts will have been a higher level than I was. I still think it set me up well. I didn’t start CrossFit until I finished high school, around 18-years-old, so I had 6 years where I didn’t do much except play video games and drink energy drinks!

Thankfully, the training I went through has stuck with me and it has transferred itself well into CrossFit with things like the kipping pull-up and muscle ups – they make sense to my body, I didn’t have to spend much time learning those movements! If I ever have kids, I’m putting them in gymnastics!

Let’s talk about The CrossFit Games. From the outside looking in, it looks like the best place ever! What’s the reality of it from an athlete perspective?

It’s a hard one, because I don’t have it perfectly figured out between striking that balance of enjoying yourself whilst remembering you’re not there on vacation. I learnt a lot at my first Games in 2014 because I went into it with that mentality of “I’ve made it to the Games, I’ve done it”, so you don’t want to take it too seriously but you get there a few days early so you chill out for a bit and I think I struggled to discipline myself mentally to ensure I was ready to work hard whilst I was there.

That first year, because I went into it like that, the first two days were fine and you’ll see a lot of rookies do well in the first two days before it catches up with them and their attitude drops. You’re up super early and you’re there until late at night, so you don’t really sleep well and you’re going from high stress levels to trying to rest and so, the Games are physical and gruelling not just from a physical standpoint but also a mental one too.

The people who do well at the Games are really good at keeping their head in the moment. If they’re resting – they are resting. If they are working out – they are focused on working out. That was something I really learned from my first year at the Games and adopted it well, especially last year. It’s almost like you’re constantly doing something whilst monitoring what you’re mind is consumed with at the same time.

You’ve got athletes there with you at the Games, what’s the atmosphere like amongst you? Is there a slight edge as they are your competitors or can you actually build genuine friendships there?

There’s a handful of guys who I developed a really good relationship with. But of course, beneath the surface is that competitive edge with each other. CrossFit is weird because once you start the workout, you are competitors but in the off-time, you can meet some really friendly and open people. Logan Collins, I first met him at the Games and I regard him as a really close friend because there were a few moments where I got to see his true character. One of those moments, was back in 2018, the final workout was peg-boards with thrusters and a yolk carry – Logan did the workout before me and after he finished, he came to find me to offloaded loads of advice that would help me, not only do well, but potentially beat him so that was amazing. We also prayed for each other before we did the workouts and that helped me a lot, so there are those kind of friendships where you see and value their character.

You also have that friendly banter and below the surface head-games with other athletes at times. You’re always playing games, but it’s all well humoured banter.

Nutrition. What does nutrition look like for a typical CrossFit athlete in preparation for the Games?

So in prep for the Games it will look a little different to the rest of the year. I track my macros on a daily basis and the biggest things for Games athletes are carbs. The closer we got to the Games, we lowered my proteins and fats and upped my carb intake. In the days leading up, you eat clean but it’s not as restrictive as some people may think. For example, whilst at the Games I might have some steak with a bunch of butter which obviously has fat in it, so we aren’t too bad to be honest. We chose to put my fats in at the beginning and end of the day to stop me feeling heavy and weighed down at the end of the day. I think I was eating just under 600g of carbs a day and making the most of quick sources of sugar like jelly babies after workouts. It’s all about getting the carbs in to replenish your muscles from the workout and also ready for the next day. I think about that marathon row and it actually helped a lot as I wasn’t as wrecked as some other athletes were the following morning. With the amount of volume we do, it’s all about carbs when it comes to the Games.

My advice for people who want to know how best to eat and fix their nutrition is that I normally say pick something you can take as a lifestyle and not a diet. If you can establish something which is healthy and doable at the same time, do it!

Favourite Games workout? The marathon row?

Definitely not the row! It was actually an interesting workout and pretty cool to say I did it, but it wasn’t my favourite. Most of us had never rowed that far before – I did a half marathon in 2013, so I had a pace in my mind, but it was all about establishing a set pace and seeing how long you can hold it as well as staying mentally strong.

My favourite Games workout from 2018 would have been, The Chaos. I loved the fact that we didn’t know what we were going to do, whilst we were doing it. So you had to be really smart in the way you paced it. Some of the movements were really fun and it was cool to get all the athletes on the field at the same time.

Least favourite?

Believe it or not, not the marathon row! I think probably Two-Stroke Pull.
5 rounds:
300-m run
20 / 15-cal Assault Bike
44-ft. sled pull

I think I got last place on it actually and it wasn’t fun. Workouts like that I know I could never run or push fast enough to keep up with guys who are 220lbs, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

What does a typical rest day look like for you?

It depends on the time and the place, I live in an environment where there is really good hiking. So if it’s a nice day I’ll hike and go for a long walk. Otherwise, I’ll stay at home and sleep in. I’ll try and keep away from the gym as well, just so I can not get mentally burned out from being in that environment for too long.

If you weren’t a CrossFit athlete, what do you think you’d be doing?

I was thinking about this the other day and I really don’t know. I do a bit of journaling and I quite enjoy that. The thing to remember is that unless you’re at the very top of the sport, you don’t really make money from it. I knew that CrossFit wasn’t sustainable for me, so I asked God what He wanted me to do and He didn’t give me an answer for years and it’s only until now where I look at my career and also owning a gym where I can see His plan come to fruition.

I like music, so I guess I could have been doing that. Or something outdoors, probably like working in the force service. Maybe one of those two things. I’ve always been of the mindset that if God wants me to do something then I’ll do it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I wasn’t necessarily given this advice by somebody, but what I have learned is to take opportunities because in those opportunities there are times where you will learn something about yourself, or your sport, or who you are as an athlete. Keep yourself in a place where you are able to learn. Be in the moment too – I’m very forward thinking so I’d never be satisfied in the place where I’m at because I’m always looking for the next big thing to turn up and if you live that way, you’ll never be happy. I still work on it, but CrossFit has helped me focus on that. Whilst I’m resting, I’m resting. If I’m investing in a relationship, be present with that person. That’s what my advice would be.

We’ve got to talk about the moustache! It’s amazing. What’s the deal?

I’ve been so committed to it, I can’t really get rid of it! I started growing it in 2015 just to see what I was capable of and it turns out I wasn’t capable of much at first. I shaved it off once after a year, but since then I’ve grown it out and people have grabbed onto it and they seem to like it. I think the only way I’ll ever get rid of it is if I marry someone and they don’t want me to have it for our wedding! I like the way I look with it, better than clean shaven.

Let’s talk about your faith. How did you become a Christian and where did that journey start for you?

So I grew up in a Christian home. I don’t like using the term “lukewarm” but I guess I never really had much of a personal relationship with God. Believing in God was just a thing we all did because the generation before did it and we felt like it was a good thing. We’d only really go to church at Christmas and Easter. I had exposure to the fact that Jesus loves me, but there was no depth or meaning to it.

At high-school I got into the stuff that I shouldn’t and it wasn’t until I was 18 when I felt prompted by God to visit my faith and really delve deeper. It says in the Bible, nobody comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them, so I had a hunger for reading the Bible and it got my attention on God. I started to go to church more with my Mum and the big turning point I can think of was when I was at a super small conference near my hometown and this missionary lady from Colombia came into a small classroom during the off-hours to speak about her experiences of Jesus as a missionary. She was speaking about people getting healed in Jesus name and seeing people getting raised from the dead! That was when it all became real to me, so I never really had that big wow moment like Paul had on the road to Damascus where he was knocked off of his horse! I became super hungry to find out more about God, so I devoured YouTube sermons and read the New Testament in like 2 weeks and it just evolved from there.

The rest has been learning curves as I let God lead the way. I fall in love with Him more and more throughout my life. I’ve been leading worship in church for the past 4-5 years and so that’s helped me grow in leadership within the church and also as a coach too.

How would you say your faith has impacted your CrossFit career?

It’s been everything. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Him. Every day I am doing this because He was given me the opportunity, which I hold with an open hand. If God wants me to do something else, I am totally fine with that. You know, I am just Cody. No-one knew who I was five years ago and He has done all this for me, so I give Him the glory. Of course, it also comes down to hard work and good discipline too, but I could never do this for my own glory. My motivation isn’t to be the best CrossFit athlete there is. My motivation is to do it to the best of my ability because God gave me the opportunity and I love doing it. I’m just being obedient to what He’s called me to do.

Are there any other Christian athletes who you can hang out with and pray with?

Yeah, there are always a couple of guys that I connect with in that way. Cole Sager was one of the first guys I met and prayed with, that was because we were from the same region so I connected with him back in 2014.

Jacob Heppner is another great Christian dude, we went to Nepal together with YWAM and our friendship developed more so after the Games. Alex Anderson, we’ve prayed together before. He’s a good dude. I guess it also depends what happens in your life at that time, sometimes people walk into your life and you just go with it.

One thing I love to do is pray just before I walk out onto the competition floor as it gets me in that right place and aline my focus. CrossFit has a real array of solid guys in it and I think it’s awesome to be a part of that.

Finally Cody, what would your advice be for someone entering into CrossFit?

I would say, it’s a lot harder to make the Games now than it was back when I first started so be prepared. The key is consistency and enjoy what you do. People ask me how did I get so strong for the size that I am, and the truth is, I went into the gym everyday and gave it 100%. Stay smart and keep going. For me, if I had a goal of trying to make the Games in my mind, I would get very discouraged because the reality is that it may not happen for 4-5 years before I make it for the first time, so I would try and remember to be in the moment and enjoy the journey. The payoff of making it to the Games is cool to say you were there, but once you’ve done it, it was just an experience – it’s fleeting. Don’t get discouraged and keep working hard.

Who will win the CrossFit games this year?

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