Austin O’Neal is a full-time athlete who trains to compete in CrossFit and other functional fitness competitions. When he’s not training for competitions, he’s helping others along their own fitness journey through his company that offers individual programing and nutritional services.
Austin grew up playing sports his whole life. He played everything from football and soccer to wrestling and track. However his parents and family always encouraged to try new things and find his passion. Luckily, Austin found early on that competing was his passion. “I think having a goal whether that’s winning a championship or standing on top of podium is something I find really motivating, exciting, and fun which is one reason I love competing and sports in general. You can really get in a flow during game time where nothing else matters. That flow and desire to win is what drives me every day in the gym. I wasn’t introduced to CrossFit until late in my college career. One of my football coaches implemented CrossFit in our off-season training and I immediately feel in love and knew that it something I wanted to take seriously post graduation,” Austin says.
A Lot of us face many obstacles, but what if as a competitor, you heard the words, “ You may never play sports again.” How scary would that be? That was exactly what happened to Austin in high school. Faced with his fears, let’s hear how Austin was able to overcome. “I’ve had both my knees surgically repaired in high school I was told it wouldn’t be a good idea to play sports again. Refusing to let my knees hold me back from playing sports I hit the gym to strengthen the muscles around my knees knowing if I did so I could safely play sports again. I think that’s where the passion for training and living inside the gym came from,”
That wasn’t the only hoop that Austin has had to jump through. As a competitor, losing is definitely not the goal, but can often serve as great motivation. I asked Austin to recall a time that he lost a competition and used that fuel his desire to compete.
“A more recent obstacle came during my first major functional fitness competition. I had only been training CrossFit for about three months but found a way to qualify for a professional competition. Knowing it would be my first test to see where I stood, I trained all summer for it. However, it was clear after the first couple events that I had no business being in the professional division. I got completely crushed during the entire competition weekend and I don’t even think I finished even one of the workouts. It was a long drive home from that competition. I knew I was capable of doing so much better and I wanted to- now more than ever. Knowing I had to make changes to my current lifestyle and training regimine, I hired a professional coach to train me remotely. I have worked with that coach every day since that week of getting demolished in that competition which is almost four years ago now. Not only have I worked with him for that long but I’ve also recently moved across the country to train with him in person. I’ve learned a lot during that time and have progressed faster than I thought possible but it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t get my butt kicked that first competition,” Austin recalls.
Despite taking a loss here and there, competing has been an amazing experience for Austin. The progress has been the biggest reward for him overall. “Seeing how far I can push myself beyond what I thought was possible and then inspiring others to do the same has been the biggest reward. I love looking back at old scores of workout and seeing how far I’ve come to get where I am now. I also love when people reach out to me over social media and tell them how much I inspire them to do the things they’ve been scared to do before. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and seeing what your capable of. I always tell people if you aren’t living on the edge then you are taking up too much space,” Austin says.
When and how did you discover Crossfit?
I found CrossFit late in my college career from my football coach.
How did you know you wanted to compete?
Always being a competitor and athlete CrossFit to give me a reason to train inside the gym as hard as possible.
What’s it like to train for competition in CrossFit?
The training is pretty intense but what is more intense is the lifestyle you have to live outside of the gym to be successful within the sport. At the highest level everything matters: the amount of sleep, the amount of food you eat, the type of food you eat, your recovery protocols, your stress levels, etc. I really think training for CrossFit is unlike any sport because you have to be able to perform at such a high level you have to do anything within your power to optimize performance and make it your everyday lifestyle.
What advice would you give to a young person today who wanted to ditch a sedentary lifestyle and become more fit and healthy?
My advice is to go all in, surround yourself with others who want to make the same change, and enjoy the process. If you don’t know much about following a training program or the best way to reach your goals, hire someone reputable to help. I find a lot of people just get discouraged by all the things they could be doing in the gym, then get overwhelmed, and end up not doing anything. Find a coach, trainer, or mentor who knows what they are doing and willing to help you along your journey. Once you can do that, make the changes needed to make that fitness journey a lifestyle.