Mike Kern made his CrossFit Games debut in 2016 with a second-place finish in the Masters Men 40-44 Division with no previous CrossFit competition experience other than the Open. A former collegiate wrestler and football player, Kern started CrossFit in 2013, competing in his first Open one month later. He has competed in every Open since then, rising to the top of the field when he became eligible for the masters division in 2016 with a 24th-place Open finish and taking 16th in the Masters Qualifier. Kern is a coach at CrossFit Garden City in New York.
The biggest challenge for a CrossFit athlete is staying motivated. It can be hard to keep up with the rigorous training, and the long season that lasts from February to August can take a toll on the body and mind. Taking time off can help, but it’s important to also stay competitive and strive to improve. Finding the balance between taking time off and pushing yourself can be difficult. Transcript: "Biggest challenge for a CrossFit athlete, I would say, is staying motivated. Motivation is a big thing. It's a long season and it's hard to, you know, stay motivated throughout or season starts in February. Today we just did 23.1, so the open season starts in February. If you make it to the Games, you're going all the way through August and it's long. It's all on the body. It's physically and mentally draining. And afterwards, you want to take some time off and it's hard. That's where you start thinking, like, do I want to make another run? But you know there's people out there who haven't made the Games, who aren't taking that time off, and they keep training. And that's why the needle keeps moving. And it's, you got to keep upping your game just to get back to where you want to be. But it is hard. It is hard staying motivated. The training level we do is hard. And there are times we are thinking, like, maybe it's time for me to take a year off or, you know, maybe it's time to dial it back. So that's what I, it's just being motivated. I hit it hard for my first three years in my Masters division. I took two years off and I'm back in the next division. I hit it for the first two years. I'm in my year three. I'm looking to hit it again. We'll see if I take some time off. But again, you got to find that balance. It's a long season. It's hard to stay motivated throughout year after year."
Make sure to warm-up and cool down for each session. Also, if you are short on time, try to combine your lifting into one session and do other activities such as gymnastics and met cons in the other. Transcript: "How do you prevent injury if you're training twice a day? Short answer is you've got to warm up and cool down for each session. So if you're training twice a day, that means you've got two warm up sessions and two cool down sessions. I take about 15 minutes to just get the blood flowing, get a little sweat going. I hop on a machine. If I got one machine, I'll stay on that for 15 minutes. If I have multiple machines, just because warm up's kind of boring at times, I'll go five minutes on one, five minutes on another, five minutes on the third. No machines, I'll just get a little run, maybe some burpees, just to get the blood flowing, get a little sweat going. Wake up your joints, especially if you're a masters athlete like me. Even if you're not, respect the warm up. Your training will be better, your body will respond better. So fully warm up, cool down, five to 10 minutes, even if you're just spinning at the end. Don't cut your warm up, don't cut your cool down if you're tight on time. All right? If you're tight on time, you shouldn't be training twice a day. Get it into one session. All right? Find the time to warm up and cool down. In terms of what I do with two training sessions, I will front load and stack my lifting in the first session, just so my body isn't shocked into having two heavy lifting sessions in a day. So if I'm going to lift, it's all in one session, and I'll stick my gymnastics and my med cons, et cetera, in the second one. All right? So thank you for following."
I found the right box for me to train in, with athletes that were better than me, which motivated me to push myself and not overtrain. Additionally, I joined online groups of athletes to help keep me motivated and pushing my limits. Transcript: "The biggest attribute to my success in CrossFit is my training environment. I found the right box for me. It had many athletes that were better than me, that motivated me. I was chasing them. I tried to train with people that are better than me as often as I could without over-training. I'm a master's athlete, so I can't over-train. So I always had a nice balance. But when it was time to train, I would try to push myself. I didn't care if somebody was 10 years younger than me. I was going to push myself to the limits, find your limits, and that's how you extend your limits. You've got to push yourself. You can't get better if you're already the best person in that class, in your box, or if you're training in isolation at home. Try to get yourself some online competitors. I have a group chat with several games athletes that we trade scores throughout the year just to help keep motivated, keep pushing. It's hard doing it by yourself, so make sure you have the right training environment."
I like teaching rope climbs because it is a skill-based movement that can be taught to beginners and experts alike, who can learn the technique to climb up and down quickly. Transcript: "My favorite movement to teach in CrossFit, outside of the barbell, if it was barbell it would be thruster. I just like suffering and I like teaching people to endure and embrace the suffering movements like thrusters and wall balls. But outside of that it's rope climbs. I love the rope climbs. It's for all aspects from the beginners to the experts. Everybody can learn something on rope climbs, but particularly with the beginner, like they look at that rope and they think there's no way they're getting up there. They don't have the strength to get up there. Yes, you do need some basic strength to support yourself, but it's a lot skill. There's a lot of technique to it. I like showing different wraps, the S wrap, the J hook, and just working with them to show them that, yeah, you lock in the skill first. And yes, you do need some strength, but the skill is more important. And the rope climb is just a perfect example of that. Like many of our complex movements, technique overrides it. And so it's a easy, I'll say low barrier, easy. It's not as nervous or scary to go up to a rope and you don't have to go high. But I like rope climbs. Even the experts, they can learn something because when we're at the competitive side, it's not just how you get up, it's how you get down because everything's for time. So if you're fast going up and slow going down, you're just giving away seconds. So definitely rope climbs for me. I love it. I love teaching it."
Enjoy the process and don't rush it. Pay attention to details and technique. Transcript: "My advice for anybody just starting out in CrossFit is enjoy it, embrace it. You are about to embark on learning new skills every day. Learning new things is exciting and fun. You're gonna be challenging yourself and hitting achievements pretty quickly and rapidly in the beginning. Things will, some will come easy, some will frustrate you. But again, enjoy it. You'll be testing yourselves in ways you didn't think were possible. Everything's gonna be new, but pay attention to the details. Don't rush to go try to get your muscle up or the shiny new toy, the cool movement you see guys doing in the corner. When you're new, take your time, soak it all in. It's gonna be great, but don't rush it. Pay attention to the details. Technique, technique, technique. Be smart."
My favorite CrossFit memory was standing on the podium at Carson, California in the tennis stadium for my first Games in 2016 surrounded by friends and family. My favorite event moment was when I successfully snatched a one rep max with only 10 seconds left. Transcript: "My favorite CrossFit memory was actually on the podium at Carson, California in the tennis stadium. So being in the tennis stadium looking out, I had about 20 friends and family there. It was my first games, 2016, standing on the podium and just seeing everybody out there in the stands, being in that tennis stadium was awesome. Favorite moment in an event was 2021, the snatch, one rep max. I PR'd my snatch with 10 seconds to go. I had just previously failed the attempt and 10 seconds left, I gave it another grip it and rip it. Not the cleanest lift, I never am, but I could grip it and rip it when it counts. So here's a little link to that video. 200 grip for Thomas. 10 seconds. Got to count it out folks. 3, 2, 1. Yes! Yeah Mike! Woo! Yeah Mike!"