Kentucky Guardsman competes in CrossFit Games

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry competes in the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2018. Simpson placed 16th in his age group. (Courtesy photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Staying fit and healthy is a tenant for all of those who put on the Army uniform. While some do it to pass a physical training test, others make it a lifestyle and habit.

This is the case for Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment and a coach at Crossfit Frankfort.

He got started in CrossFit in 2009 just to keep up with his Soldiers. He recently finished 16th in his age group (45-49) in the 2018 CrossFit Games held in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1-5.

“I literally did it to work out with my Soldiers during my deployment to Afghanistan,” he said. “I did it to become more connected with my guys.”

This year, several hundred competitors are expected from 32 countries at the annual event, dubbed “the gym rat’s answer the Olympics.” The process of getting an invite to the games is quite a challenge in itself. The event brings the best athletes in the world. There are three levels in which you have to qualify by sending video to local judges and then to the CrossFit Corporation for them to validate your score. Then if you are in the top 20 in your age category, then you can qualify to go to the games.

“You have to do the Open, which is where everybody signs up and does one workout a week for five weeks and then if you make it to the top 200 in the world, you get put into a regional qualifier, which is the qualifier for masters (those over 35). Then they give you one weekend to do four workouts and if you come in the top 20 from there, you go to the games,” said Simpson.

Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry competed in the 2018 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1-5. (Courtesy photo)

And for those who make it, it’s a testament to their dedication.

“Getting to the CrossFit Games is quite an accomplishment,” said Billie Jo Gannone, the owner and trainer of CrossFit Frankfort, a Veteran herself and a friend of Simpson. “It’s not something you just wake up one day saying ‘I’m going and make it that year.’  You train for years, sacrificing time, putting your body through multiple agonizing workouts a day of different modalities, finding your weaknesses and working them, dialing in your nutrition, etc.  Unless you’re one of the proven top athletes in the world and are sponsored to workout everyday, the majority of the athletes at the games do all of this training on top of having a regular job, and being a wife, mom, husband, or father.”

Simpsons interest started growing in the CrossFit world due to the fun that he had doing the challenging workouts.

“It’s never the same workout,” said Simpson of CrossFit. “It’s a challenge every time.”

He also advised that if your workout doesn’t make you nervous before, you probably aren’t doing the right workout.

Being able to compete at the games was an honor for Simpson because he never thought he’d be at that level to qualify for the games but he added that there was a lot of pressure to perform well with the fans in the crowd and all of those who were supporting him.

“The last four to five years I finished in the top 200 every year but I never really had the big aspirations to make it to the games because I didn’t think I was good enough,” he said.

But after being there and getting to experience everything first hand, it was very rewarding for him.

“It was an exciting adventure,” he added. “It was just different, overwhelming.”

This event ties in with the new upcoming Army physical fitness test, called the Army Combat Fitness Test (which uses a lot of Crossfit-type movements) that will be rolled out as soon as 2019. A National Guard remedial PT program uses CrossFit as well.

“CrossFit is perfect for anyone, but especially so for military, fire and police personnel,” added Gannone. “What it does is prepare you for anything life has to throw at you, similar to the job of a military person, fireman or law enforcement officer who never knows what to expect day in and day out on the job.”

Simpson also implores Soldiers to get out and be active. No matter if its CrossFit or running around the neighborhood.

“No matter what you do for fitness, do something. This new PT test is coming,” he said. “Don’t let it become a 50 meter target. Right now it’s a 250-300 meter target. Start doing high intensity functional training right now, you’ll be successful at it but if you wait, it will be a shock to your system and you won’t do very well.”

Simpson also heads up the Attack Exercise through Education program that helps Soldiers improve their overall physical fitness by showing them proper CrossFit techniques and form for exercises.