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September 15, 2020

Podcast No. 91: Rory McKernan, CrossFit Media Personality

We are celebrating the start of the 2020 CrossFit Games by sharing a conversation from Wodapalooza earlier this year.

By Will Ahmed

Listen, review, subscribe.

WHOOP Performance Manager and resident CrossFit expert Mike Lombardi is back in the host’s chair as he sits down with Rory McKernan, the face and voice of the CrossFit Games and the CrossFit Open for the past decade.

Rory was instrumental in bringing the sport to a wider audience through broadcasts on ESPN and CBS Sports. He is also the voice of many brands in the CrossFit space, including our friends at NOBULL.

Mike and Rory discuss how CrossFit has evolved over the years, what the future of the sport holds, and why data is playing a critical role for its top athletes. Rory also shares his thoughts on why young athletes should play as many sports as possible, and talks about his experience winning a Texas high school football state championship with Drew Brees.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!

Rory McKernan Podcast Show Notes:

 

3:15 – Traveling the World With CrossFit. “Last year I went to Shanghai, I went to Iceland. I basically circumnavigated the globe going to new [CrossFit] events.”

5:05 – The Future of CrossFit. Mike and Rory talk about what CrossFit’s rapid growth might mean for the schedule of the sport moving forward.

10:55 – Covering Elite CrossFitters. Rory discusses his relationships with some of the top CrossFitters in the world, including Katrin Davidsdottir, two-time fittest woman on earth. “I’m blessed to be around for pretty harrowing, intimate, stressful situations. People that I’ve worked with at the CrossFit Games for years, you become fast friends. I’ll never use the analogy of ‘going to war,’ but you go into this ‘we’re going to get this done together’ mentally. To be fair, our media efforts have always been objective, but we were always supportive of the athletes. I think I got to earn trust that way and I was lucky in that sense.”

12:16 – Book Collaborator. Rory co-wrote Katrin Davidsdottir’s book Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion.

13:02 – Learning on the Job. Despite Rory’s extensive writing and broadcasting experience, he never formally studied media. “I was a poli-sci, beer, and recreational sports major.” Rory credits learning some of the skills from the CrossFit seminar staff. “I’m convinced to this day that the CrossFit seminar training staff are the best public speakers I’ve ever met in my life. They’re incredibly well-polished. Iron sharpens iron.”

14:55 – Finding your Coaching Voice. Mike discusses how coaches find their voice and recalls his conversation with James Hobart and Austin Malleolo in Episode 60 of the WHOOP Podcast.

16:14 – Data’s Role in CrossFit. “I think that the role of data doesn’t factor in [too much during actual competition for the athletes], except for fans it will be fascinating.” Mike adds that data plays a bigger role during training compared to competition days, “When you are training, you know the things that are going to impact you positively or negatively. It’s going to help you build a dry run of a competition.”

18:10 – Learning about Strain. Mike runs through some of the basic tenets of the WHOOP strain metric. “The thing that people get really caught up in is strain. Strain is effectively a byproduct of how recovered you are. If you’re under-recovered, that strain is going to skyrocket at an exponential rate, whereas if you’re more recovered it’s going to go gradually.”

18:37 – 3 Tips for New WHOOP Members:
1. Track your heart rate variability (HRV)
2. Monitor your resting heart rate
3. Check quality of sleep by looking at slow-wave (deep sleep) & REM sleep data

“If you wake up in the morning and look at [your] heart rate variability compared to how it’s been for the last 30 days, how’s my resting heart rate, and then look at the quality and quantity of total sleep and REM and slow-wave, you can go back to the day before and say, ‘Okay, what may have caused this?’”

19:21 – WHOOP Data and the Future of Sports Broadcasts. “I can’t wait, as a fan of the sport, ‘til the day that [WHOOP data] integrates with a live broadcast.”

20:28 – Defining Fitness Gains. “I look at success in fitness as, ‘How fast did I go and how little did that actually affect my body?’ That’s the sign of improvement in fitness.”

21:55 – The Next Stars of CrossFit. Mike and Rory list their picks for the up-and-coming stars of CrossFit. Find out who made the cut!

26:17 – Focusing on One Sport. “You do now have kids who even in their high school sporting careers, and I don’t actually support this to be honest with you, who are foregoing any kind of regular sports to focus on CrossFit. Some are even homeschooling to do it. … I think there’s really no need to specialize down that path, and especially in something like CrossFit. You can do CrossFit for all those [other sports].”

26:39 – Playing Multiple Sports. “I grew up in Texas and if you were my size, you played football. Drew Brees was my quarterback. When I was a freshman, we won the state championship. … I played football, basketball, and soccer.”

28:47 – Competitive Nature. “I tore my ACL in Santa Cruz playing on a [CrossFit] HQ basketball team. We had a bunch of dudes from HQ, super athletic, super aggressive, and within 3 weeks we had two torn ACLs and two broken noses. But hey, it was fun as hell. But we had at least two people foul out every single game.”

30:40 – The Different Ways to Wear WHOOP. Mike runs down all the different places on your body you can effectively wear WHOOP, including the wrist, bicep, and on both arms. Plus, check out all the different WHOOP bands you can wear.

Connect with Rory on Instagram and Twitter.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised nearly $100 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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