Blaine McConnell: World’s Strongest Bobsledder (Podcast)

Today we’re talking to Blaine McConnell, currently a member of Team USA’s Bobsled National Team. He’s also arguably the world’s strongest bobsledder Blaine is a former collegiate and Arena football player who found success in CrossFit, competing on a team at the 2016 CrossFit Games. After finding out about Team USA’s bobsled combine through a friend — a story we discuss in this recording — Blaine found his current sport. We talk about the unique strength and explosiveness requirements in bobsledding, along with training at the elite level and how those interested in the sport can learn more and get involved.

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Blaine McConnell about:

  • Living and training in Northern Iceland (1:50)
  • Blaine’s current training schedule (3:50)
  • Top countries in bobsledding (7:00)
  • Being the “world’s strongest bobsledder” (9:48)
  • How do you get into the sport of bobsled? (14:00)
  • What makes a great bobsledder? (18:00)
  • Why CrossFitters should run more (21:20)
  • How Blaine discovered bobsled (24:10)
  • Your first-ever bobsled ride (27:00)
  • When Blaine decided the CrossFit Games was not his long-term athletic pursuit (29:00)
  • The hardest events at the CrossFit Games (31:00)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

 …take a roller coaster, but take it off the tracks and put it into a waterslide. Then get rid of all the seat belts.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today, I’m talking to Blaine McConnell, currently a member of Team USA’s Bobsled National Team. He’s also arguably the world’s strongest bobsledder. Blaine is a former collegiate and Arena football player who found success in CrossFit, competing on a team at the 2016 CrossFit Games.

 

After finding out about Team USA’s Bobsled combine through a friend — a story we discuss in this recording — Blaine found his current sport. We talk about the unique strength and explosiveness requirements in bobsledding, along with training at the elite level and how those interested in the sport like you at home can learn more and get involved.

 

Also, I want to take a second to say, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice. I’d also recommend subscribing to the BarBend Newsletter to stay up to date on all things’ strength.

 

Just go to barbend.com/newsletter to start becoming the strongest person in your gym today. Now let’s get to it.

 

Blaine McConnell, thanks so much for joining us. We’re doing this remote. I believe we’re on different continents right now, which is rare for when for when we record podcasts. I’m in New York you’re in Iceland right now?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I am. I’m in the north part of Iceland in a town called Akureyri, which is the second most popular city, I guess, here in the country.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s behind Reykjavik, correct?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Yeah. It’s a big gap. Reykjavik has like 250,000 people that live there. Then we’re the second largest town. We have about 18,000.

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] That’s a really massive gap. OK, here’s a question, so I’ve been to Iceland. I was very fortunate to go to. Beautiful country, amazing in many respects. How do you end up in the north of Iceland? It seems like a pretty small city, I guess not by Atlantic standards, but what brings you there? What brought you there?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

My now wife is what brought me here. We met in 2015 when we were both in the CrossFit world, and this is where she’s from. We got married out here. We’ve been living out here for the past two years.

 

That’s what brought me up to the north part. Otherwise, I don’t think many people know about this town because Reykjavik is so popular but up here is a little bit more peaceful and quiet. It’s fun.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was going to ask what are the pros to being an athlete training in a remote location? I guess that’s probably number one, there’s not a lot of distractions?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

There’s not a lot of distractions at all. It’s to the point where it’s almost like, when I’m not training, I’m just bored. I don’t have anything else really going on.

 

You do all the touristy stuff when you live here the first year but then after that you just settle into your daily life. My daily life as an athlete works really well here. I just basically train, eat, hang out, then train again, and repeat.

David TaoDavid Tao

There are worse lives to live, that’s for sure. Training for bobsled like you are right now, what is your training week look like? I guess you can call this the off-season because there aren’t any sports competitions anywhere right now, but what does your week-to-week training look like these days?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Right now, I’m doing double sessions, four days a week. I train a total of five days a week. I’ll have one day where I just do some easy weight room work.

 

Most of my morning I go to the track, I’ll have speed work, and to have a break during the day. Then in the afternoon I go back to the weight room and do some of my more strength-focused work.

 

Usually, this time of the year, it would be the time that I transition back to more very specific bobsled training, but because of everything that’s going on right now our off-season is going to be quite a bit longer.

 

I’ll be in this phase for a couple of more months before I’m actually able to get back somewhere where I can start pushing sleds again. Normally around July/August we would be back at the training center in New York and actually pushing sleds, training as a team, and getting ready for the season.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there anything that you can do where you are right now? Is there a bobsled track where you are?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

No, the closest track to me is in Norway, which is not close.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s not close at all. [laughs] Is there anything that you do in your training during off-season to replicate pushing a bobsled, that you can do where you are now?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Somewhat. This season, being a little bit more unique, I have prepared a little bit differently where I am actually having somebody build a replica sled that I can use and push. It’ll have wheels on it. I can add weights to it. I can use it on a track and push it back and forth.

 

Other than that, I feel Prowler Pushes and sled pushes that stuff, I guess, would be the most specific that I can get towards pushing a bobsled. Having somebody out here fabricate an actual device that has the handles on it, and I can mimic the same motions is the plan for now until I can get back into pushing sleds.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I’m extraordinarily curious to see what that track replica of bobsled looks like. You’re going to have to post about it. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to look like on the track.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

It’ll be like a skeleton shell with wheels. Then, once it starts moving you’ll be like, “I can see how that’s a bobsled.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Got you. Are you going to paint it cool colors? Are you going to name it anything?I don’t even know.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I don’t even know.

 

I guess I’ll have to name it something and get some of the Icelandic guys out here to start pushing too, maybe get an Icelandic team going.

David TaoDavid Tao

Does Iceland not have a National Bobsled Team currently?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

No, they don’t. No. To think about it, I don’t think any of the Scandinavian countries have a team. Sweden used to, but they don’t anymore. Norway doesn’t have a team. Denmark doesn’t have a team. Iceland doesn’t have a team. None of the Scandinavian countries do.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s interesting to me. That’s, perhaps, small-minded. My stereotype is Scandinavian countries excel in winter sports, bobsled being one. In my mind, I would have thought, “Oh, yeah, Denmark’s got a great bobsled team, probably.”

 

What are the international powerhouses for bobsled right now?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Germany, they’re one of the best. They are the best over the last couple of years and years before that. They’ve been the guys winning the golds in the Olympics and World Championships year after year. Behind them would be Latvia. They’ve also had really strong competing teams over the past few years.

 

From there, it starts becoming a mixture of who’s going for number three between Russia, Canada. You’ve got China and Korea who are putting a ton of money, obviously, because the last two Olympics have been in those countries. They’re pumping in resources trying to get their teams up to competitive levels.

 

By far, Germany has been the top guys for a few years now.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing I noticed about all these top countries. You mentioned Germany, Latvia, the United States, Russia, China, Korea. I might be forgetting one that you mentioned there. They all have pretty good weight-lifting programs at this point.

 

Is there a correlation on the international stage between weight lifters and bobsledders?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I would say somewhat so. We do a lot of weight lifting for our sport. The way I like to think of us is we’re sprinters first. We’re the strongest sprinters in the world so…

 

…we’re not running nine-second hundreds. We’re running 10-second hundreds, and we’re all clean a 170 kilos and snatching a 100 plus kilos, numbers that would be competitive in the weight-lifting world. You definitely have a large group of some powerful people when you go to some of these races.

David TaoDavid Tao

I have an idea for an off-season event for bobsledders. It’s a 100-meter race, but at the beginning of it, you have to power clean 150 kilos. At the end of it, you have to power snatch 115 kilos. It’s not done. Then you cross the finish line. That sounds like the perfect bobsledder foot race.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

150 is the minimum. You’ll have to…

 

…I would say you’d have to power clean the 150, sprint 50 meters holding the 150…

 

…drop it, power clean the 115, and then finish the race with the 115.

David TaoDavid Tao

Are we describing the Blaine McConnell bespoke perfect event.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

For sure. I would win that. Absolutely.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, you say that you’re the world…I’m going to put you on a pedestal here at least put a spotlight on you. You call yourself the world’s strongest bobsledder.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Yes, I do.

David TaoDavid Tao

Now, bobsledders, it seems like, are pretty strong across the board. It’s not like you don’t have any competition there, right? It’s not you’re calling yourself the world’s strongest out of a group of people that don’t strength train. How do you know you’re the world’s strongest? Is there anyone hot on your heels?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

It started as a joke. We were at a training camp in Canada with a bunch of the guys from the team. We were just going through, talking about stuff and it started coming up about who might be the strongest. It happened to be the time that I hit my PR clean.

 

I had just cleaned 200 kilos that day. That’s where the conversation spread from. By knowing some numbers off of who the next strongest guys in the sport would be. We started joking around like, “You’re probably the world’s strongest bobsledders.” I was like, “That’s a pretty dope title. I’ll put that on my Instagram.”

 

I’ve had people from other countries, who I race against, contact me in and they were like, “Dude that’s a sick title and you probably are the World’s Strongest.” Nobody called me out on it yet. Other countries even said, “You probably are that guy.” From numbers that I know, nobody’s cleaned 200. Nobody’s snatching over 150. Nobody’s back squatting 260.

 

They’re not putting those numbers up. Also, to be fair the world’s strongest bobsledder is the cool title but in the sport of bobsled means very little. It’s more for fun thing. It’s a cool thing that we played with and then people just accepted it like, “Yeah, you probably are that guy.”

David TaoDavid Tao

For the bobsledder world, Fastest Bobsledder is what you really want there, right?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

You want to be one of the faster guys, yeah. Bobsled is a unique sport. You could go find the fastest guy out there. He might not be the best pusher. On the other side, you could also go find the strongest guy out there and he also might not be the best pusher.

 

It’s one of those unique sports where good pushers are just good pushers, there’s no blueprint for that. I want to say the fastest guy I’ve heard of has run nine 900s and he was for Great Britain. I want to see the name Joe Farren or something like that. I might be pronouncing his last name wrong.

 

He did an entire bobsled season, and as soon as the bobsled season was over he went and did a track meet and ran a 9-9 within weeks of the bobsled season finishing, which is absolutely insane to do. Also, he was a great pusher too. He was the fastest guy out there and also a fast pusher. We’ve seen fast guys come out and they just can’t push the sled that well.

David TaoDavid Tao

To rewind, I should have asked this at the beginning to give folks a little bit of context, there a few different disciplines in bobsled. For those maybe not super familiar with the winter downhill tracks sports, there’s the two-man bobsled and the four-man bobsled. Which do you focus on?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Four-man is what I focus on. On our team specifically, we’ve got a couple guys that are just monster two-man pushers. There’s no point in even trying to compete for that position because they’re not going to get beat.

 

In the world of four-man bobsled there’s a lot more that goes into it. It’s a lot bigger of a skill, because it’s basically you got to work with four other individuals and on this kind of a ballet dance of getting into a sled, and being able to push fast, and be able to work well as a teammate. Four-man is more of my focus than two-man.

David TaoDavid Tao

For a lot of us, our introduction to bobsled was through the movie “Cool Runnings.”

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Really?

David TaoDavid Tao

When I was a kid, I remember visiting Calgary during the summer, going to that track and loving it. The pushing in the ballet sequence, as you had likened it to, of getting into the sled in harmony with your teammates it’s a game of not just seconds but milliseconds in hundreds of a second. It’s such an incredibly precise fast thing.

 

When it comes to being in the sled, how much of that is, for lack of a better word and pardon my ignorance, holding on for dear life? How much of it is being able to control your body weight and being engaged while you’re going downhill after the push?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I would say when you’re doing your first few races it’s just hold on for dear life. You don’t know what you’re getting into. My rookie season, almost every time I went down the track for the first time, it was just, “Hold on and see how it all goes.”

 

As you get more familiar with the sport and you start to progress a little bit, it becomes 10 percent of holding on for dear life, and 90 percent you need to know exactly where you’re at the track. Know what turn you’re in and what turn’s going to come up.

 

Because if you’re going to have a hard left turn and you don’t know it’s there, all of sudden you start slamming to the left or right, that’s going to shift the sled as it’s going down and that could be a hundredth of a second. I’ve seen races where a hundredth of a second could end up being four places, five places almost.

 

You don’t know where you’re at and you can start screwing up the pilot. He’ll feel it and he’ll yank you out of the sled and put somebody else in there. Because he’ll know, “OK, this is bouncing around back there. I can’t have him sit in my sled if he doesn’t know what we’re doing on the track right now.”

 

Your first two races it’s just, “Have fun. Go for a ride. See how you like it.” Once you start figuring that out, then it gets more fun when you know the track because you really can feel like, “That was a really good ride” or you can feel, “OK, that was maybe not so good.” That’s when it becomes even more fun because you’re competing in a sport versus just going for a ride.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get to your athletic background in a second. You’re someone who went from the world of athletics, and then you played pro football. I first came across you when you were heavily entrenched in the CrossFit Community, which you still are in many ways.

 

CrossFit Games athlete and then married to a CrossFit Games athlete. Now the sport bobsled. Is that somewhat normal for bobsled? Is it a sport that people tend to find after careers or years competing in different sports?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

In the US, very much so. Very rarely are you finding somebody on our team that this is what they grew up wanting to do. We have a couple guys who happen to be living close enough to the Olympic Training Center that they knew about bobsled from an early age.

 

Those guys grew up knowing that they were going to be bobsledders, but almost everybody else on the team this is their second, third, or fourth sport that they’ve jumped into, which is part of the reason why the US can find themselves struggling a little bit.

 

They’re getting athletes who maybe are already coming in with pre-existing injuries or they’ve got guys that are trying to find something to do for the last few years in their competitive life. Where like Germany, these guys grow up by being bobsledders because bobsled is one of the biggest sports in their country.

 

The same thing with Latvia. They got statues of bobsledders in the country of Latvia. We’re over where Latvia is at because that’s how much they love bobsled. These guys are worshipped over there.

 

Where in the US we got NFL, we got NBA, we got baseball. All these sports that grab what may be ideal bobsledders. They take those guys for 10-15 years and then the US is left trying to figure out, “How we’re going to put together good teams and find good athletes?”

 

Recruiting on our part is huge, but yeah, I would say there’s two guys on the team right now who grew up on to be bobsledders. Everybody else this is at least their second, if not third, sport that they’ve entered into.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about some of the pre-requisites for bobsled. We touched on this earlier. You’re strong. You’re fast, and you have to be a team player, certainly. There’s that mental aspect. I’m sure you have to get along with other people and be able to work in sync and learn how to coordinate with folks.

 

You mentioned, minimum, you basically need to power clean 150. You need to be this fast, and obviously, just being strong and just being fast doesn’t make you a good pusher.

 

If you were to talk to someone, call it in their mid-20s, and they’re an athlete, and they’re interested in maybe getting involved in bobsled, what are some of the baseline metrics that you think they’re going to need to achieve as far as strength, as far as speed before they’d even got a spitting chance of really training for the sport seriously?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Honestly, man, if you’re that young, then the organization’s going to take you in with open arms and help build you up to where you need to be. Like I said, it’s rare that we’re getting 22-year-olds coming into the sport. Most guys are upper 20s.

 

I started when I was 33. We have a group of guys that are above 30 on the team right now. If you come in and you’re 22, I don’t think they’re going to be too picky about where you’re at right now. If you can run halfway decent, lift halfway decent, they have 15-plus years that they can work with you and get you where they need to be.

 

In general, I would say, if you’re going to do any kind of combine test, what we do is we run a 45 for our combine. What they really look at is…

David TaoDavid Tao

45 meters or yards?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Meters. We do a 45-meter test. What they really focus on is that first 30. They want you anywhere around the three sixes, three sevens. Then you go, “OK. He’s got potential.”

 

We do a broad jump. Anything really over three meters, they look at you and go, “OK. He’s got potential.” Then the clean, you can max out on points. 100 points is 150 kilos. If you’re anywhere around 120, then they’re going to look at you and be like, “He has potential, again.”

 

Then the last thing that we do for the test is the back squat. We do a three-rep back squat. 100 points is 200 kilos, so 440 pounds. If you could three-rep anything within an 80 percent range of that, then most likely they’re going to look at you and want you to stick around and continue to be in the organization and grow.

 

Maybe you’re not going to be on the national team right away, but we have developmental teams that you can still slide, you can still push, you can still get experience, and get reps as you’re trying to work your way up to hit those physical numbers.

 

Then, eventually, people could end up making it onto the national team who have been there for three, four years, maybe just trying and just sticking around with it.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you first did that kind of combine, were you able to achieve all of those marks coming in from the CrossFit world?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I achieved almost of all them, except the sprinting. Because I was in a CrossFit world, we don’t do any sprinting in CrossFit.

 

Anybody that’s followed me on social media over the past couple years has known. I’m harping on people, like, “Go sprint more. Go run more.” I did very little, if any, sprint work leading up to my combine.

 

Everything else, I did fine. I’m naturally explosive. Doing broad jumps and lifting and all that kind of stuff, I scored really high on my overall combine test and then worked on my sprinting over the first year and a half. Now it’s to the point where I could probably max out everything fairly closely.

David TaoDavid Tao

What about body and body type, things like height, weight? Are those factors when it comes to building a good bobsledding? Is the right word crew or you would say sled?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Crew, sled, whatever, but weight is huge. Weight is very important. The way that, for example, four-man works is you’ve got a minimum that the sled is allowed to weigh. It’s 210 kilos or something like that is the lightest that the sled can possibly be. Then you’ve got…

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s just the sled by itself? That’s not with people.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

That’s not with people. That’s the sled by itself. You have a maximum weight that the sled’s allowed to be. I don’t know the numbers exactly, but it’s 670 or 680, something like that. When you pile all four guys in, plus the sled, it can’t weigh more than that 680 or 690.

 

If you have a bunch of heavy guys, then you can have a sled that’s at minimum weight. You’re more than likely going to push faster because you’re pushing a light sled. Versus if you have a bunch of light guys, you’d have to make up that weight by adding weight into the sled.

 

Now you’ve got a bunch of lighter guys pushing a heavy sled, not necessarily going to be the fastest push at the top. Weight’s very important. Height not so much. I mean, we’ve got guys that are 5’7″, and we’ve got guys that are 6’3″.

 

If you can fold yourself over far enough where you can fit in a sled, then they’ll find a spot for you.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, [laughs] might not be the most comfortable thing if you’re a bit taller, but if you can fit…

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

If you can fit in the sled, then you’re going for a ripe.

David TaoDavid Tao

How did you discover bobsled? I first came across you when you’re in the world of CrossFit. That was kind of what you were becoming known for. You’re a big strong guy.

 

Those days, back in 2015, 2016, the CrossFitters that always stuck out to you first were the strongest guys. “Who wants to watch someone with a fast run-time? I want to see someone snatch 300 pounds.” It was where my head was at that time. You were those guys. You were really strong.

 

How did you discover bobsled? The second part of that question is when did you decide to make that your athletic focus?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Those were almost on the same day.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s commitment.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

[laughs] It was. It was already beginning of transition period. Like I said, I’ve been doing CrossFit for a while. At that time, I was working at CrossFit Invictus. It was during the 2018 Winter Olympics. This was around February time, I think. It was me, Sam Dancer, Jared Enderton, Sam’s wife Jen. Gary Fisher was there. We all had a group of people at the house watching TV.

 

The Olympics popped on, and bobsled came in. Almost immediately everybody in the room was like, “This is what you need to be doing. Stop doing anything you’ll be doing.”

 

“Go try bobsled.” I was like, “Sure, why not?” The weird thing about it was because Jared was there. He’s been working at the training center in Colorado. He knows some of the athletes that are bobsledders, and he knew some of the coaches.

 

As this came up on TV, Jared was like, “I can get you in contact with people that can make this happen.” Right then and there, he got on the phone and send an email. I want to say a week or two later, I got an email from one of the recruiting coaches. It was just like, “We have a combine coming up in about two months. You should go try now this.” I was like, “All right, I’m in.”

 

Immediately, just flipped the switch and was like, “I’m going to be trading for bobsled and see how this goes.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about the courage aspect of bobsled. You say you have to be a decent runner and a decent lifter to have a chance of bobsled, so that completely counts me out for my life.

 

The other thing I probably don’t have in stage or in a [indecipherable 26:03] …This is a sport that to most folks, it’s frankly terrifying. You are going very fast down, literally, an AC two. Let’s call it what it is.

 

A lot of weight was 600 plus kilos of sled and people. It’s something that if I were to try wrap my head around, I’d say, “Maybe, I’ll jump out of a plane before I try that.” Was that something that it took a little while for you to get over that hump, or were you like “No, I’m in. That’s part of it. I’m good on manage bobsled?”

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I would say it took a few rides to get used to it first. You don’t know what a bobsled trip is like until you’ve been in a bobsled gone down track.

 

The closest thing I would be able to try to help you understand what’s going on with bobsled would be take a roller coaster, but take it off the tracks and put it into a waterslide, and then get rid of all the seat belts.

 

Waterslides are like half tube. You’re in a car. You have no seat belt. You’re just hoping that you make it down the same way that you started. The first few rides, you’re just pushing. You just hop in. You’re experiencing everything for the first time.

 

For me, I’ve always been someone like thrills. I like adventure at all. I don’t want to shy out like jumping off cliffs or doing all that kind of stuff. For me, the whole time was really fun.

 

The biggest part to get over it was that initial sickness, because you don’t know what you’re getting into. My first few rides, I was just rattling my brain around. By the time, I got down to the bottom. I was like, “I’m going to puke. I don’t feel good.”

 

You start figuring out the right way to sit, the right way to hold on. Things got a lot easier. It becomes more fun.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there anything you miss about the CrossFit world? You’re not completely out of the CrossFit world. I’m sure you still have a lot of friends. You’re probably training around CrossFitters is my assumption?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there anything you miss about CrossFit competition?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

No, none.

 

I wish I could say, “Yeah, this was fun.” I never belonged in CrossFit. The fact that I lasted the three to four years that I did and was able to make it to the Games is 100 percent a miracle on some sort of level because my body was not built for CrossFit. Like you said, I was a bigger, stronger guy. I competed at CrossFit almost 220 pounds.

 

I remember having to do Murph at 220 with a weight vest on. At the games when we did it, we had to run with a partner and hold him on a stretcher. It was one of the first events that we did. Part of the reason why I stopped doing CrossFit because I went like, “OK. This is the games. This is what’s supposed to be it. I’m not enjoying myself right now. I don’t know if I want to come back to this.”

 

 To be fair, the reason I stuck with CrossFit for so long was because of everyone that’s in that community. Though it’s another reason why I still stay involved in that community. I still train at CrossFit gyms.

 

When I travel, the first thing I’m going to go look for if I’m going to train is what is the CrossFit gym around me because those communities that those gyms have built across the world, they’re just so welcoming. The people that are around there are great.

 

Being in that community is probably what kept me in there a lot longer than I actually wanted to be in there, because I like being around those people. I like training hard with those people. I like competing against them. I made a ton of friends by going to the games and going to regionals and just traveling around and doing all that.

 

That aspect of CrossFit, I do miss. Right now, especially in bobsled in this time of year, it’s like I’m basically training by myself, just competing while my teammates are spread around the whole country doing their own thing. You do miss a little bit of that community aspect of it, which is something that is 100 percent unique to that CrossFit world.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, Blaine, I’m not sure if this is any consolation. You are not the first CrossFit Games athlete from 2016 who has told me that Murph made them want to quit CrossFit. You’re the first one I think to say it publicly on a podcast, but I thought…

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Murph made me want to quit.

 

I want to say Murph with the worm made me want to quit because doing all that with the worm in…Basically, in 2016 games, we had almost every single workout with all of that stupid worm.

 

By the time I was done with it, my ears were bleeding because we bring it from shoulder to shoulder and it just keeps rubbing on my ears. My ears are ripping off. I’m just exhausted from picking this thing up 150 times over the weekend. At that time, I was just saying, “I’m never touching a worm again. I’m not picking this thing up ever again. I’m done.”

David TaoDavid Tao

The thing about the worm…I met a lot of the implements at the game. It’s the worm. There’s the pig, which is the tire flip thing. They even make the snail, which is that big round thing, they have to push. It’s full of sand or metal shavings or something.

 

If you ever get to touch those implements at the Games, especially the worm, which I have, you’re like, “This looks pretty bad.” Then you actually work out with it and you’re like, “This is much worse. This is much worse than I would have thought.” Because the worm’s not weighted evenly.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

It’s not. That’s right. It goes heavy, light, heavy, light, heavy again. If you’re on either end, you’re getting hammered by that thing, because that’s the worst place to be. We had a weird setup to where the women on our team were a lot shorter than the men.

 

We’re sagging like this. They’re just trying to keep their shoulder connected, because it’s too high for them. They’re just flipping it back and forth. Then the guys are just getting crushed by it.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’ve got to go back and look at some video footage of the 2016 games. I’m going to see if, on camera I can find the exact moment when Blaine was like, “No, I’m done with this.” [laughs]

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I can tell you exactly what it was. First, you had to start by running 600 meters to go pick up your little gurney. Then you have to run a mile with the gurney, carrying somebody, and every 800 or 400 — I don’t remember exactly what was it — switch people out and do all kinds of stuff.

 

Then you come down into the stadium, at that point. We were in Carson. You do your push presses. Then you do your pull-ups, and then you start doing the squats. For some reason, those were the hardest squats I’ve ever done. All three guys on the team, all agreed. We had to drop it down and I just fell over the worm.

 

The girls wanted to pick it up. I kept laying on the worm. I’m like, “I’m not moving yet. We’re not picking it up. I don’t care if we’re in a race right now. Give me a minute.” I’m laying there and at that moment, I’m honestly thinking, as soon as the games are over, I’m done. This isn’t happening again.

 

To top it off, you had to finish the run the second time with the gurney. At this point, I’m getting carried. I’m the heaviest guy on the squad. Everybody’s already exhausted and they’re carrying me. Then they dropped me from being…I don’t know if that’s on camera or not.

 

We’re all jogging. I’m laying there, finally get to rest and relax. All sudden it’s just, wham, onto the concrete. They dropped me because everybody’s exhausted at this point. Again, I’m over it. I’m not coming back ever again.

David TaoDavid Tao

My favorite stories from the CrossFit Games are not from the people who have amazing competitions and win. Even if they went through this, they had these thoughts in their mind. If they win the medal at the end, it’s all great because the good emotions are just taking over their brain.

 

The people who legitimately remember those really rough moments, I love hearing from them. It is a test. On the team side, especially where you competed, it’s underestimated, because so much attention is on the individuals.

 

Those team tests are grueling, man. They are absolutely grueling. Kudos to you for being at that level, because I think sometimes the team athletes go through it harder than the individuals.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

The teams are tough, especially, back then when you’re trying to organize six people going through all these workouts, it was difficult. I can only imagine what it is with four. The workouts are obviously structured a bit different.

 

The team stuff is very difficult. We still did well that year. We got sixth place. Like you were saying, people who finished well, usually go it’s great experience and I finished finals. I map six is good for me.

David TaoDavid Tao

Blaine, the last thing I want to chat about. My second to last question for you is you bobsled. You’re still relatively new in the sport, just over call it two years in the sport, roughly, when you are recording mid-2020. The pandemic’s obviously put a hold on anything. 2020 doesn’t really count, so even less than two years in the sport right now.

 

We’re just going to pretend 2020 hasn’t happened. This might be an obvious question, but I’m still curious. What are your ultimate goals in the sport of bobsled?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

I want to win medals. Obviously with this sport, it’s on a four-year calendar. The Olympics are what matters. They live their lives in four-year period when in terms of a bobsled athlete. Recently, the team has been focused on just winning medals, so whether that’s World Cup medals, World Championship medals. We want to go to the Olympics and compete as an athlete one.

 

I’m not here to go for a title. I don’t care about being called an Olympian. I want to be an Olympic medalist. I want to go there and represent and actually win, because I’ve been able to accomplish a lot up into this point in terms of my athletic career. I don’t really care for titles anymore. I’m not big on it. I want to go there and bring home hardware.

 

The plan is, hopefully, we get to compete this year. If we do, World Championships is actually at our home track in New York this season.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is that Lake Placid?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Lake Placid, up north. World Championships would end up being in February, March. Those would be at Lake Placid. We, as a bobsled team, want to go out there and represent and win medals on our own track and set up what would be a launching pad going into the Olympics.

 

If we can race this year and we can go, I think we have a really good chance of bringing home a lot of medals at World Championships. That’s going to be a huge confident boost leading into the Olympics in China.

David TaoDavid Tao

My hope is that we can get back to you competition across all sort of strength sports. Now I’m paying attention to bobsled, so you just added something else to my calendar to watch.

 

Blaine, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat about your journey, to chat about the specific challenges and rigors of your sport. What’s the best place for people to keep up to date with your training and what’s going on in your career?

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Instagram’s a decent place. I post there every once in a while. I’ve been starting a YouTube channel. In terms of my training, for the past 12 weeks I’ve got every single workout that I’ve ever done on YouTube right now. I actually list out what I’m doing.

 

If you want to know the exact workouts I’m doing on YouTube, it’s Blaine McConnell. Look in the description. If you go back to my first video, it’s basically an entire program in itself. It’s literally everything that I’m doing.

 

Part of the reason I’m doing that is that I want to have documentation. If everything goes the way it plans and we win medals on the Olympics it would be cool to have this collective montage of what it took to get there.

 

 …who’s focused on one total thing right now and going for it. I would say, check out the YouTube page. Go look at the workouts. You’ll see exactly what it is I’m doing every day.

From what I know, there’s nothing like that on YouTube. If it happens, great. The master plan worked out and you see a gold medal plan. If it doesn’t, then you also see the journey of what it’s like to be a real-life athlete…

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Blaine, thanks so much for taking the time to join us. It was a pleasure getting to know you. Best of luck moving forward in the sport.

Blaine McConnellBlaine McConnell

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

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