Granby has ‘Fittest Man on Earth’
How the owner of Stand Firm CrossFit ousts the competition and makes people love pain
Grand County rancher Cal Cherrington didn’t “truly” get in shape until he started doing CrossFit—the interval-based, high-intensity strength and conditioning method that took the workout world by storm in the early 2000s—as a 55-year-old.
That sounds a little far-fetched, especially when he rattles off all of the sports he’s done throughout his life. As a seventh-grader at South Junior High School in Aurora, his physical education coach was his idol.
Cherrington ranched, wrestled and ski raced through high school, rode bulls on the University of Northern Colorado rodeo team in college, and returned to Kremmling, to teach social studies at West Grand Middle School and coach football, basketball and wrestling.
He then moved to Middle Park High School, where he taught welding and PE for six hours every day; then lifted weights; then coached the wrestling team for three hours each evening. He coached wrestling for 33 years total. His Middle Park team won the Class 3A State Championship in 2006, and he was inducted into the Colorado Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.
“So on a scale of one to 10 judging how fit I was, I was a six,” before CrossFit, he says. “Then I started doing CrossFit and I found out I wasn’t even a six. Right now, I’m 65 and stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. I can squat. I can clean. I can put more weight over my head. I can even do pushups standing on my hands. And then what motivates me is getting to compete.”
What Cherrington doesn’t mention — at least out of the gate — is that he is also the owner, with his wife, Tami, of Stand Firm CrossFit in Granby, and that earlier this month he wrapped up a grueling six months of com- petition leading, eventually, to the CrossFit Games, held in Madison, Wisconsin. Some 350,000 participants competed, including 1,800 in Cherrington’s division (Masters, 65+). A series of elimination rounds determines who will go in the CrossFit Games. After eight rounds of competition workouts (for masters) at the Games, CrossFit’s fittest man and woman in their respective age groups are crowned.
Then the winners go home and keep doing CrossFit, because, says Cherrington, “It works. It changes you physically. It’s literally, if done right, the fountain of youth.”
That sounds right, seeing as Cherrington says it while working on the hydraulics system of a hay-mowing machine, so he can keep haying on his 700-acre ranch “while the sun shines.” No matter that he taught three CrossFit classes earlier in the morning and will teach three more before day’s end.
But the only way Crossfit works, he says, is if you get into it in baby steps. “Think about it,” Cherrington explains. “It takes a really long time to get unfit, to gain weight and let your health go down. That takes years, so if you expect to come in and turn your life around in three months, it’s not going to work, but if you embrace the system and let it take care of yourself — and if you eat well — over time you become an incredible human being.”
Even Cherrington’s mom, Toots, does CrossFit, and she’s 87.
“She CrossFits every day and she can throw bales of hay around like they’re nothing,” Cherrington says. “People come to buy hay from us and she’s loading these pickups while these 40-something guys are standing there. She was in (the studio recently) and just going after it. These two ladies from Iowa were amazed at how strong and fit she was at her age.”
Cherrington says probably 100 people work out at Stand Firm on a regular basis. On a busy day, he and Tami will “run through about 60 people.” He’ll put a rotating workout on a board.
“But let’s say you have a class of 15 people. Of that there might be one, two or three that do the workout as I’ve written it — the exact movements, weight, reps,” he says. “What happens to those other 12 people? For 30 years of teaching school — what do they want you to do? They want you to individualize for these kids. When you have a class of 20 or 30 of them it’s tough. But with CrossFit, say someone can’t do pull-ups. We have other options that will work the same part of the body. The idea is that at the end of a workout everyone has the identical stimulus; they just got there another way.”
Cherrington attributes people’s fanaticism to the workouts themselves, which leave participants “laying on the floor, absolutely destroyed for 30 or 40 seconds,” and the aftermath: the high of endorphins flowing through their bodies when they overcome the physical suffering of heavy lifting and sprints. In addition to those, he says, it’s the camaraderie of doing these things day after day with the same group of people.
“What happens is you start caring about each other,” he says. “You care about how he does or she does and you cheer them on at the end. Even if you finish before them, you’re saying, ‘You can do this. You can do this.’ I think that’s why people get so excited about it and try to do more.”
The Cherringtons also promote clean eating, meaning meat, fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds, a little starch and no sugar, says Cal. “That’s hard. But once participants embrace that, oh my god, things change so fast.”
For the doubters, take a look at Cal. If that’s not enough, consider just one of the workouts he had to do to win the title of Fittest CrossFit Man of 2022. Run a mile, do four 20-foot rope climbs and do 21 dumbbell presses with 50-pound weights, all as fast as you can.
That’s one lap.
Then run 3/4 of a mile, do three rope climbs and 15 dumbbell presses.
Continue on for two more laps with diminishing reps of each exercise.
For that first competitive round in the CrossFit Games, Cherrington says he beat the nine other competitors in his age group “by a mile.” All told, he beat them in six out of eight workouts.
“I won because I live (and work) and train at elevation,” he says. “I also just put the awful part of (doing these workouts) out of my mind. I look forward to the awesome part of it; the end.”
You can get a glimpse of the Fittest CrossFit Man at work by dropping in to Stand Firm CrossFit, next to Debbie’s Drive In, in Granby. Or you can try CrossFit for yourself and see if what Cherrington preaches is true.
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