Holmberg Talks Consistency

By Josh Bunch & Ashleigh VanHouten on 01.26.12

Graham Holmberg earned a 4th place finish at the Regionals in 2009. His first ever trip to the big show later that year found him in 19th amongst the world’s fittest. In 2010, Holmberg bested his way to the Home Depot Center by taking home 3rd in the Central East Region. That same year he went on to be crowned the CrossFit Games champion. Finally, in 2011, Holmberg finished in 4th, the best-ever male finish a year after winning the Games.

In his CrossFit corner, Holmberg has shown consistency year after year and he’s not about to disappoint now. But with the world’s fastest growing sport, $1 million sponsors, and athletes from all over the planet gnawing at the bit, Holmberg admits that even the best need drastic improvements just to remain in the game.

Keeping the Faith

Perhaps the most well known source of Holmberg’s continued success is his commitment to faith in God. A faith, like many others, that was drastically tested and dramatically enhanced by tragedy.

Not long ago a fatal car accident claimed the life of Holmberg’s younger cousin. This very real, very painful event shook the unshakable man we all know so well today. Holmberg found himself questioning his very motivation for the simplest of tasks. Holmberg asked, as many of us do, “What am I doing with my life?”

After much soul searching, Holmberg renewed his faith vowing to, “live life to it’s fullest,” while simultaneously serving others through his personal passion: fitness. And where there is true fitness, there is CrossFit.

Soon after coming to terms with his own mortality, Holmberg fell in love with teaching and performing in CrossFit. As it often does, CrossFit became a large portion of a life Holmebrg, and now wife, Savanna share. And it wasn’t until the CrossFit Games that Holmberg was assured he was on the correct path.

“I always wondered if God cared for CrossFit,” Holmberg admits after dedicating numerous hours to the sport he loves. “It wasn’t until I won the Games that I realized how many people I can touch through CrossFit, and that my time was well spent in the gym for others as well as myself.” 

If there was any doubt before, its since been exterminated simply, by keeping the faith.

Asking the hard questions

Holmberg is getting stronger and faster than ever. Not to mention the fact that Holmberg is improving while recovering from surgery. 

In late August, Holmberg underwent a procedure to repair a torn meniscus. Well before his surgery, Holmberg developed a post-surgery game plan. And, so far, it’s working.

With the help of mobility expert, Kelly Starrett, Holmberg was diagnosed with a very tight low back, paired with radically “gummed up” ankles. Together, they designed a road to recovery that surpassed and defied all expectations.

For elite athletes, injury is a necessary combative. But it takes a true competitor to stare down the barrel of that injury and ask, “why?” It’s times like this when years and years of asking the hard questions comes in handy. It’s the time in the valley that makes consistency at the summit pay off.

Lone wolves die alone

Upon returning from his 4th place finish in 2011, Holmberg dissected each event, and asked himself, “What areas are holding back my game?” His answer was not a movement, strength or met-con issue. It was a mindset that he brought with him to CrossFit. A mindset that CrossFit tends to breed out of even the most stubborn athletes.

Previous years found Holmberg training and surviving alone. This year, Holmberg has redefined how he trains and prepares. He now welcomes company and gives advice freely. 

Recently Holmberg has created more and more awareness for the program he loves so much by attending CrossFit grand openings, Reebok events, and intimate seminars where CrossFit hopefuls can rub elbows, ask questions, and even workout alongside the champion. 

Holmberg admits his initial skepticism in sponsorships, but after he witnessed the enthusiasm Reebok had for growing CrossFit the way CrossFit should be grown he was immediately won over and on board. “This new media attention is going to get people involved in CrossFit who may not have otherwise”, he says. “CrossFit and Reebok can help make the world a fitter place.”

Once Holmberg came to terms with the fact that winning the CrossFit Games was a communal act on and off the field, he began enlisting the help of top coaches in every area. Essentially, he went on a “specialist hunt.”

“I began to surround myself with people that are better than me,” he says. “I found out that the subtle things you can get from someone Olympic lifting, or competing in gymnastics for many years can immensely help a CrossFitter.

Today, Holmberg welcomes a worldwide media partnership with Reebok by introducing new athletes to CrossFit everyday in person, via his Youtube channel, or even his Facebook fan page. Holmberg is also more than happy to finally admit that he takes direction from anyone and everyone who can make him better. “The best players in every sport surround themselves with the best coaches. CrossFit is no different.

Don’t ignore your strengths

CrossFit is hailed as a weakness eliminator. However, many fall to working their weakness so much, they sometimes lose ground on what they are good at. Holmberg says this is a surefire way to lose motivation. “Never forget to work what your good at, otherwise you may end up good at nothing.”

Frequently Holmberg comments that he’d love to see a purely gymnastic workout (think 30 muscle-ups for time) or a simple, classic benchmark workout in the 2012 CrossFit Games. Holmberg adds that he could do without another open water swim, as it’s a bit tough to train for in Columbus, Ohio – and a touch nerve-wracking when you have “50 other guys’ feet in your face.”

Holmberg’s ability to remain healthy, productive, and fit year after year is not a random lightning strike, but habit. A habit nurtured day after day. Cultivated in the clouds, and realized in the rain. Habits practiced in preparation for the day the lightening comes.