Austin's Fittest Winners



 

Austin’s Fittest is an annual competition that tests different measures of fitness to determine the most well-rounded athletes in the city. Competitors are divided by age and scored on strength, power, agility, speed, endurance and balance. This past October, hundreds of hardbodies descended on Camp Mabry to test their mettle, network, and enjoy the camaraderie of fitness and sports. On the pages that follow, you’ll meet the winners, and learn their tips for success, health and fitness — at any age.


Participants competed as individuals (broken up by age and gender, ranging from 20s–60+) or in two-person teams (divided into an open class, teams that represent an Austin business, or a local gym). Winners were selected from each division based on their cumulative scores on the events, and overall winners were chosen for age, gender and teams.

HOW IT WORKS

This year, Austin’s Fittest tested competitors with eight different events, sponsored by local Austin businesses. The events included:

• Castle Hill Fitness kneeling medicine ball toss
• Onnit vertical jump
• F45 Fitness Westlake medicine ball over shoulder
• Atomic Athlete kettlebell rope pull
• Ro Fitness one-minute row
• HEAT Bootcamp Pro Agility Shuttle
• Austin Fit Magazine mystery event (in this case, walking over hurdles on a balance beam carrying an Onnit steel mace)
• Spectrum Trail Racing one-mile run.


MEN’S 40s, OVERALL INDIVIDUAL WINNER
DAVID KING, 44

What’s your day job?
I own fitnesshackers.com and soon to be fitnesshackers.com, a site that will show people different tricks for staying healthy and fit.

What is your fitness background?
I did track and field in school. The decathlon was my event. And I’ve also done half-Ironman races and marathons.

What inspired you to compete at Austin’s Fittest?
I am not intrinsically motivated. I have to set up challenges for myself to stay active and keep it exciting. Otherwise I’d be sitting around at 250 pounds wondering what happened to me [laughs]. I’ve competed at Austin’s Fittest every year it’s been held. When I was 39 I won the 30s age bracket, and in 2015, I won the 40s. I’ve been after that overall title since the first time I stepped out on the field, and at 44, I finally got it.

How did you train for the contest?
It’s a miracle if you get to the starting line uninjured, so I did as much as I could to prevent injury while I trained. I do a lot of body maintenance work, such as foam rolling, and I take the Durability class at Onnit Gym, which is all about recovery. I hired Josh Orenstein, a trainer at Onnit, and we concentrated on single-leg strength, hex-bar deadlifts, box jumps, and other functional movements. As we got closer to the event, Josh would put me on the rower and have me go 30 seconds all out followed by a 30-second rest. I did the same with the bike and the Erg machine. Ten rounds total. He set meters and calorie targets for me to hit on every round. I’m a coach myself, and I wouldn’t have been able to watch somebody go through that [laughs]. I think I lay on the turf for 20 minutes after that workout looking at the ceiling, but when it came time to compete, I was able to do the 100 percent exertions that the events called for, recover quickly, and go again.

What advice do you have for future AF competitors?
Expect the unexpected. It had rained for weeks before so the ground was a little slippery for the vertical jump. The medicine ball we used was different from the one I had trained with. Some of the rules for the events had changed from prior years. What fouls up more competitors than anything else is not being able to adjust, and the mental anguish that sets in after a disappointing event.


WOMEN’S 30s, OVERALL INDIVIDUAL WINNER
JESS POWERS, 30

What’s your day job?
I’m the head coach at CrossFit Central.

You look familiar. Have you been here before?
[Laughs] I’ve won Austin’s Fittest three times in the past and came in second last year — I got a cramp during the mile run. I guess I was motivated to reclaim my place this time.

Who was cheering you on?
I have twin 10-month old foster kids. Learning how to balance my training with two babies is a work in progress for me. I had to eat on the run the morning of the contest—so I got a breakfast taco from a gas station. Then I think I had a Clif Bar between events. People have been asking me what I ate that day, and it’s embarrassing! 

What does it take to do well at AF?
Figure out what your weakest event will be ahead of time and come up with a game plan to improve it. A lot of the events require explosiveness, so doing plyometric exercises and speed work will help you out. But I think what helped me most was being athletic growing up. I was always playing basketball, soccer, and softball, and the dynamic movements I learned there were a great foundation. My CrossFit training built on that.

What was your best event of the day?
I got 306 meters in a minute on the rower. I think I was first overall for the women in that event.

When you get tired or hurt, what keeps you going?
I refocus my mindset. Thoughts like “I need to slow down,” or “it hurts” become, “I can do this.” Also, knowing what you’re training for is powerful. I dedicated five weeks to preparing for Austin’s Fittest, and telling myself that the training I was doing was leading up to that helped me get out of the house, get that workout in, or eat a little better when I wanted to cheat. People can read my blog series leading up to it at crossfitcentral.com.


WOMEN’S 20s WINNER
BAILEY JOHNSON, 25

What’s your day job?
I’m an ER nurse for Seton Medical Center, but I work nights, so I guess I don’t have a “day job.”

What is your fitness background?
I ran track at Oklahoma State. My entire family is pretty athletic. My brother and I both won the overall last year. My parents and I compete in triathlons. When I finished college, I missed competing because it’s been such a big part of my life for so long. I love that Austin’s Fittest came along so I have another avenue to compete in.

You and [Women’s Overall winner] Jess Powers seem to have a rivalry going on. You’ve traded victories the past few years.
Yeah, I beat her last year for the overall and she beat me this year. I’ll be back. One mistake I made this year is that I should have focused on one event at a time. I think I looked at it from too much of an aerial view, trying to strategize for the whole day when I should have just told myself, “I’m going to do the best I can do at this one event and then focus on the next one.” Also, my best events are usually the 40-yard dash and the interval run, but they ended up being canceled because of the field conditions from the rain. So maybe I’ll use that as my excuse [laughs].

How does Austin’s Fittest compare to a big track meet?
It’s a really friendly event. I remember being at track meets in college and I’d be trying to talk to a girl warming up next to me and then she’d suddenly put her headphones on and I’d be like, “Oh, OK.” But there was nothing like that here. It was a really good group of ladies and they were all encouraging, cheering each other on.

Any other tips for future AF competitors?
Regardless of how well prepared you are for the mile run it’s always going to be hard. It’s at the end of the competition, so you’re tired. It’s really a mind over matter event.


MEN’S 20s WINNER
MARCUS MOTILL, 24

What’s your day job?
I’m a software architect for Olono, a startup that makes software for sales professionals.

What is your fitness background?
I ran the decathlon at the University of Louisville. I’ve been doing functional fitness training since then. I work out at Dane’s Body Shop, and I also do climbing and bouldering.
Most Austin guys in their 20s tend to want to sleep in on Saturday mornings. What got you out of bed to compete in Austin’s Fittest?
I wanted to be in this magazine! Honestly, I saw the article on the winners in last year’s edition and I thought it was really cool. I figured I’d give it a shot.

How did you train for the contest?
I focused on general fitness, but since the events were posted ahead of time, I worked on them specifically. Actually, I think I overtrained them. On the medicine ball over shoulder, I trained with a 125-pound ball when we were only using an 80-pounder at the event. We only had to do the rower for a minute but I practiced it for a minute and a half. I worked harder in training so the events would feel easy in competition.

Did that strategy backfire?
I wish I had given the events a run or two at the weights we had to use in the contest. Training heavier on the kettlebell rope pull threw me off a little when it came to the actual event weight. I pulled it really hard, expecting it to be heavier, but then the weight moved too fast and the rope would bunch up and get slack. That slowed me down.
Still, you posted the most impressive mile run score of the day.
I did it in 5:20. Pedialyte seemed to save me there. A few other guys dropped out of the mile because they cramped up, but I had been drinking to replenish electrolytes between events so I was OK. That’s a trick I learned from the decathlon. I drank a third of one of the big Pedialyte bottles over the course of the day, mixed in with my water.

Do you take any supplements?
No. I eat clean and lean, and drink about 15 craft beers a week [laughs].

Any other tips for faster running?
I trained a lot of 1000-meter runs to prepare for the mile. Run at a brisk pace with short rest intervals till you feel like you’re going to throw up or shit your pants


MEN’S 30s WINNER
KRISTOPHER BELL, 32

What’s your day job?
I’m a project manager for Charles Schwab.

What is your fitness background?
I was a safety in football in college and ran hurdles in track.

What’s your day job?
I’m a project manager for Charles Schwab.

What is your fitness background?
I was a safety in football in college and ran hurdles in track.

What made you want to compete at Austin’s Fittest?
I came the year before to support a friend who was competing. I thought, “I can do this,” and decided to participate this year.

How did you train for the contest?
Austin’s Fittest really got me back into working out. Things have been crazy at work for the past year and I also coach little league baseball, so ever since I turned 30 my chances of hitting the gym have been slim to none. I was gaining weight. I told myself that if I signed up for Austin’s Fittest I would get healthier. I went to the gym more regularly and I joined the Sprint Squad meet-up group at Zilker Park to get some running in. My goal ended up being just to go out there and not die [laughs].

Sounds like you did better than that.

Well, after the rower event I puked a couple of times. I brought my son along so I could show him what his old man still has in the tank. He clowned me a little bit when I was throwing up. He said, “Dad, you’re outta shape.” I said, “I’m not out of shape. I’m just not in the shape I want to be in.” But I did really well on the medicine ball over shoulder. I did it in 19 seconds.

What do you think is the toughest fitness skill to maintain as you get older?

Explosiveness. You can go in there as the biggest, strongest guy, but you won’t be agile or mobile. Being able to maintain that functionality is hard because we don’t use it a lot in daily life. Not a lot of people sprint or do Olympic lifts or other explosive movements. That’s why I’m glad Austin’s Fittest came along. It keeps me accountable. And it got me going to the gym regularly again. Winning my age group just makes me want to come back and do it again.


WOMEN’S 40s WINNER
ALISON GARDNER, 43

What’s your day job?
I’m an internal legal counsel for Eon, an energy company.

What is your fitness background?
I did track in high school and then powerlifting for a while. I’ve been doing CrossFit the past five years, and I train at CrossFit Jaakarhu in South Austin.

You’ve won your age division three years now. How are you training?
I do CrossFit and get in some running when I can. The trick is consistency. I have a lot to juggle—three kids and a demanding job. My source of stress relief and balance is maintaining my physical health.

What’s your schedule?
I get up at 3:30 a.m. and work for two hours at home. Then I go to the gym, and then the office at 8 o’clock. I work a full day and then pick up my kids and drive them around to their activities. I come home, make dinner, help with homework, and then pass out around 9 p.m. That workout in the morning is the only time I have to myself, so I don’t miss it.

Has being fit helped you at work?
I think being fit sends a message that it’s possible to be active and healthy when you have a stressful job. CrossFit makes you work on a lot of technical lifts, and I feel they have carryover to the work environment. Learning to break down those lifts teaches you to make strategic decisions and be efficient with your time.

What keeps you coming back to Austin’s Fittest every year?
It’s really the camaraderie. I love catching up with [Women’s 50s winner] Kathleen Parker every year. I met [Women’s 60s+ winner] Judy Cole this time and she’s just amazing. Meeting her was the highlight of the day for me—better than winning. She makes me realize that there’s still a lot to look forward to. I know there will come a time when I’m not improving my scores anymore, but I’ll still compete. It’s not about winning for me. It’s about being around supportive people and doing something that makes me feel good and healthy.


WOMEN’S 50s WINNER
KATHLEEN PARKER, 58

What’s your day job?
I’m a trainer. My company is Ignite, igniteyourlifenow.com.

What is your fitness background?
I’ve always been active, but honestly, I didn’t start strength training till I was in my 40s. I also teach wake surfing and water skiing, and I do those every week, all year long.

You’ve won your age group in Austin’s Fittest every year since its inception in 2012. What’s your secret?
The secret is not stopping. I do some kind of training seven days a week. Maybe water skiing one day, weights the next, then cardio. People stop exercising because they think they can’t do it anymore, but it’s their attitude, not their body. The 60 year-olds I train are some of my strongest clients because they don’t want to think of themselves as old. My dad is 95 and he still ranches. He can do push ups and he can still fit in his World War II uniform.

Are you going to keep on winning indefinitely?
I like competition. If I didn’t compete, I would slack off. I guess doing Austin’s Fittest has gotten to be a habit for me, but I usually only think about it a month before. All the things they test happen to be things I enjoy and want to keep doing. I want to keep running fast, jumping high. I want my back to be strong. I tell my clients that life is more fun when you’re strong, because you can do so many more things. I never want to have to tell anyone “I can’t do it” when they ask me to try something. That’s my motivation.

What are you doing in the gym to be sowell-rounded?
I do a lot of sprinting and pull ups—I can do 14 reps. I like kettlebell swings for power, box jumps, and med ball throwing. Most of my training is outdoors. I read a study that said you work 15 percent harder when you’re outdoors. The air, the sunshine, and not having boundaries energizes you.

What are you eating?
All the typical healthy foods, and every day at 3 o’clock, I have a handful of dark chocolate M&Ms. That’s my downfall [laughs].


MEN’S 50s WINNER
TODD STEWART, 51

What’s your day job?
I’m the chief sales officer for Dealer Wizard, a database consulting company.

What is your fitness background?
I was a cross-country runner in school, and then I transitioned into heavy weight lifting. About five years ago I got into functional fitness—sprints and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I won the 50s division at last year’s Austin’s Fittest.

What improvements did you make this year over last year?
I ran a 6:03 mile, improved my vertical jump by six inches, and I came in 12 pounds lighter. What was your diet like to lose all that weight? I struggled with inflammation for years and my doctor finally suggested I cut out gluten and dairy. I did, along with sugar, and now I can recover from anything in 24 hours. It’s had a huge impact on me.

What advantage do older athletes have over younger ones?
The wisdom aspect. It’s good to have natural ability and hard training in your corner, but you also need knowledge. I’ve always been trying to learn from other people, whether it’s working out or working professionally. I’m not afraid to ask for help. I have a trainer, Judd Leinhard at Xceleration Sports Performance Labs in Spicewood, who really helped me when it came to the rower event. And I trained with [Men’s 60s+ winner] Kent Smith on occasion too.

What was your best event?
I got 32.5 inches on the vertical jump. Afterward, a friend told me that the average vertical for NCAA Division I football players is 29–31 inches, so that put a smile on my face.

What advice do you have for older guys who want to be competitive and fit?
It starts with a clean diet. If you eat right, you can still be competitive and stay natural into your later years. I’m all natural, and I’ve boosted my testosterone with a good diet and safe and legal supplements. I use ashwagandha, boron, vitamins C and D, DHEA, and zinc.


MEN’S 60s+ WINNER
KENT SMITH, 64

What’s your day job?
I’m a real estate attorney with the City of Austin Law Department.

You’ve won your age group in this competition five years in a row. Are you human?
I actually don’t have much of an athletic background. I played baseball and soccer in high school, but nobody would have thought of me as much of an athlete. I was a book nerd and still am. I always wanted to be stronger and more athletic, but thought, “I could never do that.” But then I decided to get really fit. I found that you can achieve some little successes, and then build on them to achieve more. As you do that, your confidence grows. If I can do it, anybody can.

How did you prepare for this contest?
I trained with Greg Cook, a two-time overall winner in the past. I learned a lot about technique and a proper mental approach from Greg. I also worked on speed and explosiveness, and did some training with Josh Orenstein at Onnit Gym—he was very helpful.

What was your motivation to come back a sixth time and win again?
I want to push myself and achieve something. The goal is important, but the process to reach that goal is more important. Small changes add up over time. I stay motivated because I am blessed to be around so many positive, encouraging people in the Austin fitness community.

You were one of the most senior competitors in the field. How do you feel about winning again when most guys your age aren’t active at all?
I don’t think age is an advantage or disadvantage. I feel like I still have a window of opportunity to get better and more fit, and I intend to keep trying to do that. 

What advice do you have for future competitors?
Each of us can discover the athlete inside that has always wanted to come out. It’s deeper than just fitness though. It’s important for each of us to dig deep down and figure out who we really are. Maybe, through fear or inhibitions or other reasons, we have held back being the strong, optimistic, encouraging person we are meant to be. Find out who you are, and be that person fully.


WOMEN’S 60s + WINNER
JUDY COLE, 72

What is your day job?
I’m a retired ER nurse, and now I work the front desk at Lifetime Fitness.

What is your fitness background?
I’ve been running for 40 years, and in the last 20 years I’ve gotten into strength training. I’ve run triathlons and ultra-marathons in the past. I’ve done five marathons this year. My resting heart rate is in the 40s.

At 72, you were the most senior competitor in the entire competition. Why did it appeal to you?
I like competing! Austin’s Fittest was something to train for. Nobody told me I was too old or that I shouldn’t do it. And anyway, my family and friends know that if I’m going to do something, I’ll put everything I’ve got into it.

How do you work out?
I have a trainer and I do weights, the TRX, and core work. I do back squats and deadlifts. I’m stronger now than I was 40 years ago. I worked a lot on agility for this contest. I can do the carioca step on a treadmill.

What were your best events?
I wanted a nine-minute mile and I got an 8:53, so I’m proud of that. The medicine ball over shoulder was scary because it was 40 pounds, and that’s about half of my weight, but I did 10 reps in 32 seconds. Everybody was so nice to me all day long, telling me I was doing a great job. Kathleen Parker, who’s won her age group every year, wanted her picture taken with me. She told me she wants to be just like me when she gets to be my age.

Most people your age are hardly active at all. How can they get inspired to work out?
I think people don’t let their exercise get to the point where it makes them feel really good—to where they have to have it and it’s an addiction. You have to keep coming to the gym, and you have to have someone to support you. Most people who start to exercise at 50 or 60 won’t get in shape in a short amount of time. It may take a year to see great results. So you need a support system to keep you going until you see the changes you want.

Are there any foods or supplements thatyou’ve found helpful?
I just started taking glutamine for muscle recovery, and I’ve been drinking 8 ounces of beet juice every day for the last two years. It has nitric oxide, which helps open up the blood vessels and get more oxygen to the muscles. I think it helps me breathe.


TEAM WINNERS

BRETT HICKEY AND KRISTINA VINIAR
(ATOMIC ATHLETE)

What are your day jobs?
Brett: I’m a nutrition coach and creator of the Terra Bar, a meal-replacement bar. Brettwhickey.com.
Kristina: I own Get It ATX, a personal training and nutrition coaching service. My Instagram is @getitatx.

What backgrounds do you have in fitness?
Brett: I was a pro wakeboarder and have been into strength and conditioning for more than 10 years.
Kristina: I ran track at Texas State and then got into CrossFit. I’ve been training at Atomic for seven years.

How did you train for Austin’s Fittest?
Brett: I practiced the med ball throw and the kettlebell rope pull the night before at Atomic [laughs]. We decided to compete at the last minute, and fortunately, the training we do at Atomic has us pretty much ready for anything.

How did you divvy up the events?
Kristina: Brett is more of a power athlete and I’m good at endurance events. I did the kneeling med ball toss, the med ball over shoulder toss, the one-minute row, and one-mile run. I hurt my knee the week before and every step of the run was painful, but I told myself that if I can get to that last 100-meter home stretch, I’ll be able to sprint through it, no matter how tired or sore I am. It’s an instinctual thing from running for so long. Make it to that last 100 and adrenaline kicks in and logic goes out the window. I ran this mile in 6:30.

How did you two click as a team?
Kristina: Brett is very serious and reserved. He’s an awesome, calming force. Whereas I am like a squirrel on crack [laughs]. He was a really nice balance to my crazy, and it was a fun dynamic.

What advice do you have for future Austin’s Fittest competitors?
Brett: Get your nutrition on point. I eat four meals a day of whole foods. I get a palm-sized portion of protein with every meal and I eat my carbs around my workouts. The morning of the contest, I had four eggs, sautéed kale, onion, and red cabbage, and a medium sweet potato. I supplement with magnesium, which helps with sleep—80 percent of people are low on magnesium.
Kristina: Diversify your training. Train in all three planes of motion. Make sure you’re doing exercises that have you rotate, throw, and go side to side. When you
train strength, power, endurance, agility, and balance, you can go into this event with confidence that you’ll succeed.


ANTHONY GAIR AND LOGAN PRATT
(ORACLE)

What are your day jobs?
Anthony: We’re both business development consultants at Oracle, a tech company.

What backgrounds do you have in fitness?
Anthony: I ran track in high school and played football at the University of Iowa. I also invented Track Slides, a protective covering for track spikes so track athletes don’t have to constantly change shoes. I got it patented this year.
Logan: I played football at the University of Michigan and I’ve been lifting ever since.

Why did you want to compete at Austin’s Fittest?
Anthony: I thought it would be a good opportunity to stay competitive, and to network with the other guys out there.
Logan: I missed the competition after football ended too. I thought it was a chance to be with like-minded people who had been athletes all their lives and have fun competing with them.

What were your best scores?
Anthony: I had a 33-inch vertical jump in college, so I was happy when I got 39 inches at Austin’s Fittest.
Logan: The week before was really hectic at work so I didn’t even go to the gym [laughs]. But the rower is my main form of cardio so I knew I’d do well on that. I got 365 meters in a minute, and my kneeling med ball toss was 468 inches.

What advice do you have for other ex-athletes who want to stay in good condition?
Anthony: Find something to compete in. Competition forces you to stay up to speed with your fitness. Also, dial in your nutrition. I went vegan about a month before Austin’s Fittest. Everything I do in the gym stayed the same or improved, and I feel much lighter when I run now. In fact, since my vertical went up, maybe meat was weighing me down for years [laughs].
Logan: Make time for it. I used to get up at 4:30 a.m. and go to Orange Theory at five. Now I work out after work. But if you have to, train 30 minutes during your lunch hour and 30 minutes after work. Getting an hour total in the gym is the best stress-reliever there is.


BRITTAN MORRIS AND MEGAN WILLIN
(ATOMIC ATHLETE)

What are your day jobs?
Brittan: I’m the gym manager at Atomic Athlete.
Megan: I’m a graphic designer at Double Barrel Design.

What backgrounds do you have in fitness?
Brittan: I played ice hockey my whole life, and then golf and tennis in college.
Megan: Volleyball and softball in high school. In college, I got more into fitness and conditioning.

Two teams from Atomic won this year. What makes your gym so successful?
Brittan: We competed last year as well, and Megan won then too. Atomic is a functional strength and conditioning gym. We do heavy lifting and work capacity stuff that’s designed to bring up what we call your readiness fitness level, so that you can step into any kind of competition and be good at it. For instance, today we did cleans and then an AMRAP [As Many Reps As Possible] in a minute on several bodyweight exercises in a circuit. We didn’t train specifically for Austin’s Fittest. We didn’t even put the teams together until the week before. We had no specific prep time.
Megan: That’s not true. We practiced some of the events the night before [laughs].

How did you two make a good team?
Brittan: She’s freaky strong. The way the competition is scaled, females have a big advantage in some events if they’re freaks like she is.
Megan: Most girls just aren’t muscular. They may be fit but if you don’t have that explosive muscle it’s really hard to beat someone who trains heavy like I do. We were the perfect team because we covered both ends of the spectrum. I did the speed and power stuff and he did the agility and endurance events.
Brittan: She had the best med ball over shoulder score of the whole day—men or women—at 16.4 seconds. My mile time was decent at 5:40.

Was there anything about the contest that was hard on you mentally?
Megan: I was really worried I was going to let him down. I was critiquing myself the whole day. I had a lot of fun, but like a lot of athletes, my identity is wrapped up in my performance, and if you lose focus for one second out there, that could be it. As a team, it’s not just about whether I win; I know winning is important to him too.
Brittan: [Laughs] She was amazing. And really, it didn’t feel like a competition to us so much as a test of our programming at Atomic. We showed that our training works. But mainly, we wanted to show up, be a part of the gym community and cheer people on.

 

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