Entering high school under 100 pounds, Sean Sweeney didn’t come close to fitting an athletic profile. When he turned 16, he started working out and went from 98 pounds to 118. Since graduation and serving in the U.S. Navy, Sweeney changed his course in life and pursued CrossFit, which he learned during his time with the military.
He now comes in just shy of 200 pounds, a testament to the fitness program that’s becoming more popular with each passing year.
“I wish I had this when I was a kid,” Sweeney said. “I was a shrimp. I was a tiny. It was incredible. It was insane how little I was. I was super skinny and I wasn’t athletic.”
The 2009 Fallon grad dedicated himself to the new fitness fad, which is seeing increases in membership throughout the country. Even his Fallon CrossFit gym has seen numbers nearly double since last year.
But one of the biggest reasons for the rise in popularity, especially in Fallon, is Sweeney, who took fourth in the CrossFit regional in May and is competing this weekend in the national event in Carson, Calif.
“It does a great job of getting the word out,” Sweeney said about his success. “People are so supportive. It’s something they like to get behind and everyone is insanely supportive.”
This weekend, though, is about Sweeney’s first trip to the national games after coming up short last year in the Texas regional. Sweeney’s mental aspect changed this year as he went into the regional expecting to make it past the first round.
“My favorite part of CrossFit is (the) mental (aspect),” Sweeney said. “It’s not easy. I guarantee you that my legs hurt. It hurts as bad for me as it does everyone else. It’s how you handle it. It’s not easy for anybody. I am far away, far from being the most talented athlete. I was horrible. I used to sit in the outfield and eat grass. Nobody wanted me.”
Only 50 in the Southwest region qualified for May’s event and the top four in Sweeney’s age group advanced to this weekend’s Reebok CrossFit Games. About 270,000 compete in CrossFit all over the world each year.
“There were different events this year compared to last year,” Sweeney said. “They’re always different and they’re always unknown until relatively close (to the event). I had a week to prepare. That’s the whole idea of CrossFit is that you’re ready for literally anything. If you can think of any human movement, that’s what makes training for it more fun. You’re still there. It’s just so much more variance.”
Last year, though, saw a bigger gap in the points while this year was tighter. Seven points separated second and fourth, and Sweeney was sitting as high as third. Besides working on his weaknesses from last time, the mental preparation was critical.
“Even more important was the mental aspect of coming in and feeling like I was there, in contention, and I had every right and every chance to win it like everyone else there,” Sweeney added. “This year, I was there to kick some butt. I was in an entirely different mindset. That was the deciding factor with the confidence.”
Physically, Sweeney sticks to a routine with workouts averaging about six hours each day on top of his instruction responsibilities in the home gym. A proper diet is essential but with CrossFit, the focus is on carbs. Sweeney consumes, on average, 500 grams of carbs per day in addition to 100 grams of fat and 175 grams of protein. His daily caloric intake is 3,600 with a good chunk coming from protein shakes.
“It’s all about carbs and having enough carbs because that’s what you’re burning constantly, especially with the volume of training I am doing,” said Sweeney, who rarely drinks alcohol. “I try to stay on point with my diet about 85% of the time.”
But Sweeney does have the occasional “cheap meal.”
“I’m much more worried about undereating and overeating,” said Sweeney, whose quick go-to is ice cream and hot Cheetos.