Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.
Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.
"As long you had the right command who was willing to be like 'yeah, we'll let you train' – as long as you're doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?" Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. "I think it's doable."
Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.
DoD photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan.
Still, he said "If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it's doable. You're going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you're not going to be able to. … There's going to be some sacrifices you're going to have to be willing to make."
To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.
"It was tough," he said. "There were definitely days where I'd be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I'd have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like 'this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'"
Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just "shut your brain off" about the physical demands.
"In CrossFit, at the Games, you're going to be asked to do workouts that you've never done and movements that you've never practiced," he said. "Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it."
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ross
Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit's California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.
Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport's focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.
"It's not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind," he said. "When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like 'hey, you can have same goes, it's just really going to be hard. … I'm a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I'm going to make it happen no matter what."