THE SURPRISING WAY MAT FRASER WON THE REEBOK CROSSFIT GAMES
You might think that Fraser’s secret was simply doing more muscleups, snatches, and deadlifts in training than the other guys. But it’s actually what Fraser did before he stepped in the gym each day that made the most profound difference in his training: He smiled.
We interviewed Frasier for the story 6 Insanely Fit Guys Reveal One Thing They Do Each Day. When we asked Fraser the question—“what’s one thing you do every day that improves your fitness?”—he fumbled, perhaps trying to drum up some unique exercise he’s fond of.
Then he stopped searching for words, paused, and said, “Honestly, I just make sure that I have a smile on my face when I walk in the gym. I never train unhappy.”
Here’s why: A few years ago, Fraser, now 26, lived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Spring. He was a promising young talent for Team USA Olympic Lifting, and he hoped to compete in the 2016 games in Rio.
But then one bad lift caused Frasier to injure his back. “I needed to have back surgery, and it was a long road to recovery,” says Fraser. On that road he realized that some of the people in his life weren’t there for the right reasons.
“As soon as I got injured and thought my career was over, I realized that all of the sudden I had a few fewer friends. It created some resentment inside me,” says Fraser. “After I rehabbed, I found myself training with more of a ‘I’ll show them’ attitude instead of a ‘I’m excited to get in the gym and see what I’m capable of’ attitude. I trained like that for quite a while. But it eventually just burnt me out. I lost love for the sport. And I wasn’t even happy outside of the gym anymore.”
Even though he was hitting PRs and was on track to make the Olympic team, Fraser decided to leave the sport of Olympic lifting.
He moved back to his home state of Vermont, eventually joining a localCrossFit box just so he could do some Olympic lifting. But soon he joined the group workouts and got hooked—and that’s when he declared that happiness was a requirement for training.
“I just don’t find that I’m able to push myself as hard if I’m at all unhappy, upset, or angry,” he says. "When I go into a workout happy, with a smile on my face, I’m willing to suffer a bit more, I’m willing to dig a little deeper, push a little harder.” That extra effort each workout amplifies the evolution of his fitness.