While serving in the U.S. Navy as a bomb-building specialist, a friend introduced the sailor to a new kind of torture.
It had nothing to do with the service but instead, it focused on building the body’s strength and endurance with grueling and intense workouts.
“It was absolutely awful,” said Sean Sweeney, a 2009 Fallon grad, about his introduction to CrossFit in 2011. “It hurt like hell for sure. It tore me up so bad. It’s just so many different movements and areas to get stronger and faster in. It doesn’t get boring at all.”
After that introduction, Sweeney devoted himself to the program and as a result, he placed in the top 20 of the Southwest region to qualify for this weekend’s regional phase of the Reebok CrossFit Games Open Competition in Dallas. The top 20 from Sweeney’s region as well as the top 20 from the South Central region and top 10 from Latin America will compete over three days and multiple workouts with the top five advancing to the finale in Carson, Calif., in July. CrossFit had more than 270,000 competitors worldwide battling this year.
“The biggest thing is to play my own game,” said Sweeney, who ranked No. 1 from Nevada and No. 2 in the Southwest, which had about 10,000 competitors. “It’s going to be a big stadium. There are going to be a lot of people there and a lot of pressure to perform well. You just need to stick to a game plan and do best as you can.”
Sweeney did the math and knows he has a good chance at moving on to the national stage.
Out of the 50 participants who will compete this weekend, Sweeney is sitting in seventh, needing to make up two spots. He’ll be competing in a course with seven to eight events over three days where average is key to succeeding.
“I have to make up two spots and I’m pretty confident that I can,” said Sweeney, who swam and competed in rodeo while at Fallon. “I’m not sure what the workouts are at regionals but I have to be prepared at regionals.
“You have to be definitely good at every function of CrossFit. It keeps you on your toes and focuses on your weaknesses. You’ve got to get better every time you go out.”
Since that introduction four years ago, Sweeney retired from the Navy because of an injury and embarked on a new training, thanks to CrossFit. He got into training and coaching in Virginia and then found an opportunity in Monterey, Calif.
“I was planning on moving back to the area and on my way driving to Reno with my U-haul and called my coach,” Sweeney recalled. “He lived in Monterey and owned a gym there. I was there full-time training and coaching.”
When he visited his parents in Fallon, though, another opportunity came up when a CrossFit gym was listed for sale. Within two weeks, he bought the gym and overhauled it with more equipment. On Dec. 1, 2014, CrossFit Powerstroke, located behind Carpet Connection off the Reno Highway, opened with 18 members. Now, the membership is up to 84 thanks to word of mouth.
“Word travels fast. People are happy with what we’re doing,” said Sweeney, who received help from Cris Holler in Monterey and Emmily Butz. “The goal is to help people move better in life. We’ve seen a lot of great results.”
The best thing about CrossFit, Sweeney said and is mentioned throughout the program, is that anyone can do it. It’s geared toward helping every-day people get in better shape and improve their health.
“CrossFit is not all about the elite athlete,” Sweeney said. “It’s about the regular gym members who put in an hour a day, three to five times a week. Elite athletes are not the majority. The average soccer mom or middle-age dad who has a desk job, those normal people, that’s who CrossFit is really for.”
Sweeney said his father, Lance Johnson, even joined and has seen tremendous results.
“My dad was an overweight cowboy, having trouble getting on a horse and he’s 53,” said Sweeney, whose gym has free community classes every Saturday morning. “He does it three days a week, moves a lot better, dropped weight, and works better in his construction company and with team roping.”
While Sweeney’s success with CrossFit will be put to the test this weekend in Dallas, a following has already started in Fallon as eight members are spending time every day training and working for next year’s CrossFit Open.
“That number’s growing weekly,” Sweeney said. “It’s making people more fit and healthy and function in their lives. It’s tough not to grow a passion for it once you start. You just want more and to get better and better.”