Doug Chapman

2011 CrossFit Games

An Interview with Doug Chapman

The Growth of CrossFit, Fads, Competing Diet and Training Plans, and CrossFit "Pros"

Doug Chapman runs HyperFit USA, a long-running, successful CrossFit affiliate in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is home to 5th place Games competitor Julie Foucher. In his years of training and operating a CrossFit box, Chapman has learned a few things that we’d all be wise to listen to.

We talked to Doug about the growth of CrossFit and the Games, how he runs his box, whether the Games is still a non-professional athlete’s sport, competing diets and training plans within the CrossFit community, fads, and the relationship between affiliates and top Games athletes.

First off, you’re known in the Media Office as ‘old school’ CrossFit. You’ve been around since we were small and relatively unheard of. What is your view on the growth of CrossFit and the Games?

My view on the CrossFit is we are impacting and changing lives every day. The growth shows the efficacy of the concept. The root of the program is that we are teaching people to move better, regain the ability to do work and increasing the quality of life.  The more people who are joining and impacting people’s lives the better. The root of what we do is we make people better.  CrossFit is forging more elite fitness now than ever and that is good.

As far as the Games – It is really amazing to see what has happened to the growth and popularity of the Games. The idea of testing and finding out the most broadly capable individual is really cool. I think of Bruce Jenner in the decathlon and how people followed the decathlon once people knew about it. Communicating what we do reaches more people you may see that level of exposure.  The concept of being good at multi-discipline athletic events can really catch the public attention and grow the Sport of Fitness.

What changes do you see as for the better, and what changes are you not so fond of?

My viewpoint on this is twofold. One perspective is as an affiliate owner, the other is as an HQ L1 Staff Trainer.  The relationship between the affiliate and CF has not changed. They do not want to create a franchise and I for one would not want one. We are free to run our own businesses as we see fit.  The CF provides the best combined source of training information anywhere, promotes the training concept and brand and in turn helps us with our local awareness as people join. We, as affiliate owners introduce people to CF and a certain percentage of people will get an L1 and affiliate and grow CF from the grass roots. So, win-win.

The staff trainer’s perspective – The changes in the Certification process is all for the good. The streamlining of the L1 from a 3-day death march to the well-oiled training machine it is now speaks volumes for the work and thought the staff has put into it. The growth of the specialty certs and subject matter experts has helped streamline the process and give people a chance to really broaden and deepen their training experience.  The accreditation process the staff went though show the commitment to making our training more valuable in the market place.

Most of the things I hear people complain about are normal parts of a fast growing business.  CrossFit is like the tide of fitness raising all boats; no one said there would not be collisions or squalls. Overall, no worries.

What’s it like at your box? How are you different from other boxes you’ve been to?

This is a hard question. We run a very structured training program. We are obsessed with good technique and running a tight ship. Everyone who joins goes through a try out and then 10 private sessions in order to join. We are on time – starting and ending on time – we respect that our customers have busy lives.  Many people only have 3 hours per week available to workout and make sure they get their money’s worth. I do not like the idea comparing one affiliate to another in that we are not a franchise. Each affiliate is unique as the people running it. I think CrossFit L1 Cert like an English class – we all read and write English by not everyone is Mark Twain. Some are going to be journalists, some technical writers, some novelists and others do poetry.  All the uses are important and good. All of us as professional coaches are on a quest for constant improvement. So comparisons are probably not a good idea.

How do you program Julie’s training? Do you approach her training differently than your average client? If so, how?

Julie does our main class programming along with additional work. It is how we got her there in the first place. She is miles ahead of where she was last year and keeps improving. We have a group of people who are training for the games and they are doing the same program for the most part. Some people need to work on skills more, other people strength, others mobility. Everyone needs to be strong, have a big engine and know how to do pretty much any movement well. We know when the games are, when we have to be ready to perform.

What do you think about the growth of the professional CrossFit athlete? Do you think it’s still possible to have many outside commitments (like college and medical school for Julie) and still train to the point of being competitive with the elite?

The potential for a professional CrossFit athlete is fantastic. Reebok is going to add too and push the edge for potential CF athletes to make a living doing CrossFit.  

Being competitive with the elite: How many top twenty games athletes work out for a living? I would wage a guess there is exactly zero. Many run boxes, have jobs, family and so forth.  Most everybody is pulled in several directions and still need to make their training a priority. It is no different for Julie.

I think of what it is like to be a college athlete in general. The commitment to training CrossFit is so much less of a time requirement of any collegiate athletes. Student athletes need to make it to early practice, classes, afternoon practice, evening lifting and study.  Student athletes will devote 20-25 plus hours per week to practice and also have the demands of weekly travel and competition. So, CrossFit with really only three events – Sectionals – Regionals and Games has truly a very limited time commitment. I tell Julie that right now, no workout matters much; it is just building a base for July. The last six weeks are what is going to matter. The roll of being a collegiate athlete is learning lessons on the playing field that you cannot learn in a classroom.  

I treat Julie the same as any college athlete and emphasize these priorities – Family, school, training then social life with sometime spending time being social will balance it all.

To answer the question – yes.

We’ve noticed that there are many different approaches to fitness emerging amongst the elite. There are the people like Holmberg who believe in taking a true offseason, getting relatively out of shape and letting their body recover; and there’s Clever who has continued training hard and competing in the months immediately following the Games.

It is important to know yourself. Self-evaluation is key. Graham is a former college athlete who has grown up with seasonality.  Knowing your sport and what is required is key to success. Off-season is a time to rest and get stronger.  Both approaches are valid and have merit. The right way is what is right is what works for the individual.

Additionally, there are the multiple WODs per day camp and the one WOD camp. What’s your take on this?

Yes. Both. Sometimes one, sometimes several – I tend to think of practices as opposed to WODs. For me, the WOD itself is about 30% of the value of a practice. There are large training components like the warm-up; skill set development, accessory or max effort, as well as submaximal training that need to be in place to develop athletes.  It also coincides with where you are in the training cycle. It also depends on the time domain you are trying to train.

Would you attribute it to variance between athletes, or CrossFitters still experimenting to find the best way to get fit and stay fit?

I think the variance comes from the athlete’s worldview. Another part of the difference comes from whether the athlete has a coach or not. Part of the variance in training has a lot to do with who is in vogue in the media. Mikko Salo might start eating zone friendly paleo snails and his Fran time goes to 1:50; I would buy stock in snails.  Seriously, the biggest mistake I see people make is second-guessing their training program based on what the “other” guy is doing.  

We assume that it’s to an affiliate’s advantage to train CrossFit Games elite—it demonstrates that the box owner and trainers know how to achieve elite fitness. Do you cut or reduce the cost of training for Julie?

That is a big assumption.  From my point of view there is a large luck component to having what is considered an “elite” athlete. Luck that they walk in your door and are willing to do what it takes to train to be good enough for the running in the games. Luck that their raw material meets with enough coaching skill to develop them. Luck that the WODs during the games hit on more strengths than weaknesses.  

Julie is a member the same as everyone else.  All of the people who are willing to supply the extra effort to train for the games get extra programming, time and effort to help them achieve their goals.  Providing special games training is expensive. Not in terms of actual cash outlay, but in terms of time. Extra programming, video review, special and additional hours for people who need more time to train.

How would you describe/characterize the relationship between affiliates and Games elite?

Christ I don’t know.  Julie is just Julie.  We don’t think of people like that. I know Graham and work certs with Speal – They are cool dudes but because they kick ass in workouts does not make them elite, they are just normal dudes to me. One of our old clients moved to CA and trains at Valley with Kristan. The thing she says about Kristan is how cool and she is and supportive of other is truly special (Graham and Chris are the same way). All the people I know who have placed highly in the games are cool, helpful and very down to earth. So it is hard to think of elitism for those people.

Anything else?

I just want to say how great it is to be involved with the CrossFit community. 

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15 comments on this entry

1. Matt Young wrote...

Doug is a class act! Runs an amazing box and has a great group of clients. Cannot say enough about him! My hats off to you Doug. Thank you for everything

2. Mike McGoldrick wrote...

Great Interview! Seems like a great coach!

3. Lisa Kozian Ryan wrote...

Great words, Doug!! Miss you.

4. Brandon Couden wrote...

Awesome interview, Doug's advice directly helped Graham win the crossfit games when he hit a split jerk pr from his back 90 seconds after the "hellin" event. He runs an awesome gym, competetions, and is the trainer I strive to be like. Theres nobody else's advice or opinion i respect more than Doug's when it comes to Crossfit training.

5. Rich Guidotti wrote...

Doug does a great job with all his athletes and surrounding community. He has great enthusiasm and is very encouraging yet maintain's a very high standard for all levels. He is a true gem in the fitness industry !! Thank you Doug for all you do for all of us !!

6. Scott Stevens wrote...

Great interview, Doug.

7. Graham Holmberg wrote...

Great interview! Thanks for the kind words and I appreciate all the help and advice along the way. Best of luck to Hyperfit athletes and Julie in the upcoming games season.

8. Andrea Martinec wrote...

Doug is a truly amazing owner, coach, and person. He has positively impacted not only Ann Arbor, but the whole CrossFit community. We are so fortunate to be only a stones throw away! Thanks Doug for all you do!

9. Anthony Bainbridge wrote...

Doug is one of our favorites! Great interview. :)

10. Nate Johnson wrote...

Luck may be a major component but if anyone knows how to take what walked in the door and run with it, DChap does. Looking forward to another great event in February at Hyperfit. Great interview, Doug. Good luck to Julie and all the other games worthy competitors training in Ann Arbor. Oh, and you too Matt :) jk


11. Josh Bunch-Practice CrossFit wrote...

Doug runs one of the most stand-up operations I have ever seen. he is the first box I ever attended, and is a mentor to many people, weather he will ever take credit for it or not. Thanks Doug for all you do....jb

12. Robin @ CrossFit Regina wrote...

Doug is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. I met him at a Level 2 cert in Vancouver, and he remembered me when we ran into each other at the Games 2010.

13. BrianG wrote...

Nice interview, Doug. Hope all is well in A2.


14. RickK wrote...

Doug is one of the finest human beings I've ever met, I consider him my "life coach". Good luck

15. wayne purtell wrote...

hI Doug , was wondering if you wrestled at ferris, I like your cross fit training an follow it pretty intensely, heard you joined the seals , that is awsome, do you sill work with wrestling at an level, I coach high school in pinconning an would love to for you to come an talk with the kids, if we can make it happen. If not you take care, your good people! Wayne


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