Last week I made the drive from Chapel Hill to Fayetteville, NC. I did so to catch up with Nate Schrader.
At 6’1” and 210 lbs. he looks well suited to wreak havoc on a football field, and yet Nate chooses to compete at CrossFit. For Nate, CrossFit isn’t salvation or transformation, but rather it is a way to channel his competitive and professional energies. And 2012 is his year to do just that. In 2012 he will compete for a spot on the podium at the CrossFit Games and he will open his own CrossFit affiliate gym.
Nate Schrader’s early years were spent just outside of Pittsburgh, PA and he later moved to Columbus, GA. He grew up playing baseball, football, wrestling, and occasionally running track. In 2005, after two years attending Georgia State University, he joined the Army and went straight to an elite Special Forces unit. During the next five years, Nate would be deployed to both Honduras and Afghanistan.
It was during one of those deployments in 2008 when he was introduced to CrossFit. After leaving the Army in 2010, and with the encouragement of his wife Emily, Nate decided to compete in the CrossFit Games. “In 2010 I just missed qualifying for the finals due to a bad performance on the last workout in the regionals.”
Nate channeled his frustration at not making the finals into an improved performance in 2011 where he was able to finish 14th overall.
During the past two years as Nate has become a successful CrossFit competitor, he has attracted the attention of a number of sponsors. According to Nate, “I have a relationship with about ten companies that provide gear or other assistance.”
And like Christmas Abbott, Nate is supported by the upstart apparel maker Redefine:Fit. Nate echoes the mantra of the Redefine:Fit label by “pushing the limits of what you know to be possible.” He exudes confidence without any hint of arrogance.
Iron Forged Athletics
One of the areas that Nate is “pushing the limits” is with the start of a new CrossFit business located near Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Nate and his business partner Rory Hanlin are opening Iron Forged Athletics in downtown Fayetteville, a few miles away from the military base. Given his background in Special Forces, I expected that Nate would target his gym at military personal. However, according to Nate, “Fort Bragg has 12 gyms on the base that are free for the military and their guests. There is no way we can compete with that.”
Instead, Nate and Rory will focus on the downtown market where some 3500 come to work daily but do not have access to a convenient gym. Iron Forged Athletics will open on March 17, 2012 in a 1600 square foot facility, but with room to grow into adjacent space. In addition, they will take advantage of a friendly relationship with Cumberland Coffee Roasters which will offer shakes and smoothies for the gym crowd.
The initial programming will be CrossFit classes, but Nate hopes to augment that with other training as well. “We want to have programming that is designed to meet specific client-oriented goals.”
As Nate is working to launch his gym, he is also training hard for this year’s CrossFit Games. And according to Nate, “April needs to be stress-free. I want to peak for regionals.”
But stress-free will be a challenge given all of the things Nate is juggling. “If I were only a professional athlete, I could workout, and then get an ice bath, physical therapy, massage, etc. But when I finish my training, I have to immediately shift my mindset to other priorities like doing what is best for my clients.”
Preparing for the CrossFit Games
In addition to opening a gym with Rory, Nate is also training with him. According to Rory,
“We train and compete together but we also spend a lot of time with each other and our respective families outside of the gym. We push each other’s limits and create an environment of healthy competition and mutual support.”
In spite of his 14th place finish in the 2011 Games, Nate knows he can improve. “I am trying to address known weaknesses like grip strength, which was a problem for me in last year’s competition.”
I asked Nate if he thought that we would see anyone brand new to CrossFit on the podium and he said, “It is possible, but not likely, as it takes time to refine the skills, plus we have all improved over the past year as well.”
For the most part, Nate is his own coach, but has been getting some assistance from former CrossFit Games champion James “OPT” Fitzgerald. James had this to say about the work he is doing with Nate and other elite athletes:
“We study what affects fatigue in mixed-modality training and are looking at 20 or so different variables to see what stands out. We test respiration, HRV, strength, lung capacity, blood lactate levels – all of these factors play a role in fatigue.
In working with Nate, the thing that stands out is the degree to which he knows and understands himself. He has a quiet stoicism. Physically the thing that is unique is his unusual ability and skill to adapt to moving oxygen into his muscles. It definitely gives him an advantage.”
In preparation for the February kickoff to the CrossFit Games 2012, Nate has participated in and won a couple of regional events. Nate placed first in the December Carolina Fitness Challenge and also the Garage Games One held last weekend in Georgia.
Nate said, “I am aiming to peak for regionals and then again two months later at the finals in July.”
This year will bring a mix of challenges and opportunities for Nate, but with the thoughtful confidence I saw during our meeting, I have no doubt that Nate will succeed.
photo credits: Simply Perfection, Mary Siani