ROCKLAND, Maine — Oceanside High School senior Hunter Grindle has always had a passion for personal development, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he discovered a sport where that drive to improve could be used in competition.
Grindle, who plays football and basketball for the Mariners, is also one of the top young CrossFit competitors in the state.
“I’ve always had an interest in strength training and getting stronger and working out,” he said. “I was up here in the gym with Jason Foster, the owner of CrossFit Crossover now. One day he called me up to try out this new CrossFit workout he had found online, and we tried it out. A year later from that, he’s got a gym opened. That’s kind of what got me into it.
“It’s like a completely different sport,” he added. “I’ve always loved to work out and lift weights, but now we can make that a sport? All right, that’s cool.”
CrossFit competitions, which consist of a medley of fitness exercises designed to test the strength and endurance of its competitors, hold many events in Maine and around the world. Athletes are judged by who finishes the quickest or who completes the most reps, depending on the exercise.
“CrossFit isn’t just a workout, it’s a mentality,” Grindle said. “The mentality of CrossFit is to just work hard and get through it. Most people go back to CrossFit gyms not because of the workouts but because of the community and the environment and the mental state it puts them in. I think that’s really cool because when you’re trying to make someone healthier, their mental health is even more important than their physical health.
“I like CrossFit because it’s introduced me to a lot of new exercises — not just working out but mobility and flexibility as well,” Grindle added. “Its idea, its purpose is to overall be a healthy person. I’ll back anything up that supports that.”
The annual CrossFit Games held during the summer are the premier event for the top CrossFit competitors around the world. Other competitions — like the last one Grindle took part in Topsham this past summer, CrossFit 321 — feature different divisions of competitors based on skill level.
Weight and volume of repetitions per exercise are higher or lower depending on the athlete’s skill level. Grindle, who faced off against 200-300 athletes at the men’s middle level in Topsham this past summer, says his goal going into a competition isn’t necessarily to finish first.
“Going into that, I’m not expecting to do insanely great, especially where I’m younger,” he said. “The typical CrossFit mentality is that you’re not competing against anyone else but yourself. You’re trying to beat yourself. You’re not necessarily looking at the guy beside you. You are, but typically the mindset is to just do your best.”
In many cases, the competitors aren’t even aware of what the exercises will be entering each competition.
“The whole point of CrossFit is to prepare yourself for anything. When we’re training in CrossFit, it’s not specific to any category. It’s so you can kind of be able to adapt to everything — to be a jack of all trades.”
Matt Breen, who has been Grindle’s basketball coach the past four years at Oceanside and who has also sampled some CrossFit workouts, says it’s easy to see how the senior’s time in the workout room has translated to the hardwood.
“It’s definitely helped him,” Breen said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger without putting on a lot of extra weight. He’s quicker, much better going side to side, and he’s really developed a lot of core strength and agility. Hunter’s really worked hard at it, and it shows up on the court.
“I’ve seen it help other athletes as well,” he added. “I tried it for a couple months last winter and enjoyed it, especially the group setting that really pushes you along.”
Grindle says there are a lot of similarities between his role on the basketball team and what CrossFit requires in each competition in terms of versatility.
CrossFit competitions go on throughout the year, but because of the time commitment required of him by high school sports and academics, Grindle says his work with CrossFit takes a backseat during the school year.
“You can’t really go all out [during the high school sports season],” Grindle said. “It’s more about maintaining what you gained during the summer and your offseason. To make gains, you really have to be strict as far as eating healthy and making sure you’re recovering; making sure you’re getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. That’s not always easy with homework and sports, things like that.”
Grindle wants to use his experience in CrossFit to aid his quest to become a personal trainer. His website — huntergrindletraining.com, which focuses on personal development, training regimens and smart dieting — is his way of establishing himself in the field.
He plans to use what he’s learned from CrossFit to develop his own training style, but says that at the end of the day, the goal is simply to get better regardless of the avenue taken to do it.
“I always ask myself, ‘Did I get better today?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ that’s all that matters,” he said.