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Fit to be recognized

A local firefighter wants to be the fittest man on Earth

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Bill Grundler strapped on a 30-pound vest, then snapped a pair of 55-pound dumbbells off the floor and lifted them over his head, gritting his teeth.

SUPERMAN::   At age 42, Cal Fire Capt. Bill Grundler is one the top CrossFit athletes in the world. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • SUPERMAN:: At age 42, Cal Fire Capt. Bill Grundler is one the top CrossFit athletes in the world.

After 40 repetitions, sweat streaming down his face, the Shell Beach Fire Station captain rushed to the next excruciating exercise. When the gut-wrenching workout was complete, Grundler smiled and said he never felt better.

For Grundler, this type of intense training—known as CrossFit—is his “fountain of youth.” At 42 years old, he’s competing against men half his age during his grueling quest to be named fittest person on the planet. To claim that title, Grundler has spent the past two months competing in a series of meat grinder workouts in an attempt to qualify for the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games—the world’s premier test to find the fittest athlete on Earth.

“There is this idea you peak out physically in your late 20s,” said Grundler, a Cal Poly alumnus. “I honestly think age is a mindset. Here I am twice as old as I was when I was wrestling in college, and I feel better now than I did then.”

Grundler is one of a growing number of athletes from around the world putting themselves through this very demanding fitness program. He credits CrossFit for getting him in the best shape of his life—both physically and mentally.

“I’ve been an athlete my entire life,” he said. “Early in my career, I used to do the normal style of working and thought I knew what I was doing. But CrossFit is so difficult and intense that it’s really opened the doors of what I can and can’t do. Everything looks possible now.”

CrossFit started in 2001 as a fitness brand focused on constantly varied functional movements done at high intensity, making for pure grunt—think tossing sandbags over a wall as fast as possible. Planned “workouts of the day” were posted online, and athletes were encouraged to record, compare, and compete with their results.

In an effort to determine the fittest of the fit, the CrossFit Games were created five years ago. Seventy people competed in the inaugural event, and the winner was awarded $500 and a pint of beer. This year, more than 26,000 people from around the world competed, and the prize has grown to $250,000 and the title of World’s Fittest Man and Woman.

For the most recent competition, the athletes were divided into 17 world regions. San Luis Obispo competed in the Southern California region—statistically the largest (more than 1,600 competitors) and arguably the most competitive. After a six-week series of workouts known as the “Open” phase, Grundler ranked third in the region and 15th in the world, which earned him an invitation to compete in the regional competition held at California State University Long Beach the weekend of June 18.

Over the course of three days at the regionals, Grundler and the other competitors went through a brutal combination of two workouts a day to test their physical and mental capacity. The top three men, women, and teams advanced to the Games.

Grundler placed sixth. Despite not qualifying, he said he enjoyed his experience.

“It sucks that I didn’t make it,” he said. “But it’s been an amazing experience competing with some of the best athletes in California. So Cal is so tough. We’re one the fittest—if not the fittest—regions in the world.”

Grundler added that CrossFit isn’t just for the ultra competitive athlete.

“CrossFit is a workout everyone can do no matter [their] age, ability, or disability,” he said. “This is the wave of the future. It’s for the mom, the dad, the grandma and grandpa, top athletes, firemen, and military warriors. We just scale the movements to peoples’ abilities.”

Equally important to this rugged workout regimen is a strict diet

“Nutrition is the foundation of any good workout program,” Grundler said. “When you eat right, you feel right.”

Most CrossFit fanatics eat like cavemen and follow the Paleo Diet, a way of eating that mimics hunter-gatherer meals: mainly lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

As for Grundler, he’s bringing his passion for this super intense workout to the local community.

A few years ago, he began having his firefighters train with these workouts. Then Grundler shared his knowledge with the public and opened CrossFit Inferno, the first and largest CrossFit gym on the Central Coast.

“Normal gyms are just to have a look,” Grundler said. “This is function based rather than just aesthetics. With CrossFit, you won’t just look like a badass, you’ll be a badass.”

Contributor Kai Beech can be reached via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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