On June 8, 2021, five-time Fittest Man on Earth®, Mat Fraser announced his new book HWPO — Hard Work Pays Off. Written with author and journalist Spenser Mestel, Fraser’s debut 304-page publication — set to release in January 2022 — pulls back the curtain on the workouts, training tips, diet plans, and mental strategies Fraser implemented en route to becoming the winningest functional fitness athlete in history.
BarBend spoke with Mestel about his process and experience working on this book. We explored what it was like working with the CrossFit G.O.A.T. and what aspects of the book potential readers can most look forward to.
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Working With Fraser
Mestel has been writing about Fraser since 2017. One of Mestel’s first published articles was an interview with Fraser in Men’s Health. So the opportunity to work on HWPO — Hard Work Pays Off was simply saying yes when Fraser reached out to collaborate.
“When we got the green light, the first thing I thought was who knows if I’ll have another opportunity to tell the story of a GOAT who’s chosen the leave the sport at his peak,” Mestel tells BarBend.
Actual discussions about ideas for the book didn’t start until a few years later, in May 2019. Mestel knew, of course, that there was a wealth of material to cover:
“Mat was the ideal partner for a book,” says Mestel. “He’s obviously a phenomenal athlete with an amazing story, but he’s also very self-aware, articulate, and willing to discuss the darker sides of competing, like how he’d get so nervous before events that he’d puke in the athlete corral.”
Obviously, there is “a ton of pressure” on Games athletes to not show signs of weakness. In the book, Fraser digs into why he was “better at this than probably anyone else” now that he’s retired and “fully willing to dive into both the good and the bad.”
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Surprises During The Writing Process
Even after writing the book, I think I still don’t fully appreciate just how devoted he was to being the best at CrossFit.
Fraser took many safety precautions to limit his risk of injury while training for the CrossFit Games. Some notable examples: he stopped riding his motorcycle. He also stopped using steak knives to avoid potentially cutting his hand.
“Especially now, as a freelancer who loves novelty and having a flexible schedule, I wouldn’t last a few days of being on the kind of daily routine that Mat maintained for years,” he says.
During his training for ANW, Mestel “didn’t realize” how often he sustained some “pretty gnarly injuries…and never said a word about it.”
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Highlights of HWPO — Hard Work Pays Off
Even if you’re not a CrossFit fanatic, Mestel believes this book will still be a compelling read, particularly for Fraser’s take on his training and competition mentality.
Throughout his career, Mat was convinced that he was simultaneously on the verge of getting humiliated at the next Games and that he was the greatest athlete in the sport. Somehow, Fraser believed both of those equally.
For those who are more interested in the CrossFit specific, there is a well of knowledge to be learned from how Fraser “trained his weaknesses…by seeking out experts.” Here are some areas Fraser recognized he needed to improve and who he turned to for help:
- Endurance — Chris Hinshaw
- Lifting — Chad Wesley Smith
- Gymnastics — Dave Durante
Mestel goes on to say, “Even familiar movements are broken down in ways that you’ve probably never heard, and this book, like CrossFit itself, is meant to be ‘infinitely scalable.’ So no matter where you’re at in your fitness journey, 95 percent of this book is going to be relevant for you.”
Those who want to pre-order their paperback copy of the book can do so on Penguin Random House.
Mestel is working on another biography with a non-CrossFit athlete that “we’re hoping to announce soon.” He still trains at CrossFit Virtuosity in Brooklyn — the same box since he first started CrossFit in 2016.
Since retiring from competitive CrossFit following his fifth consecutive CrossFit Games victory in 2020, Fraser started a supplements company called Podium with the Buttery Bros, a podcast with Josh Bridges and Sevan Mattossian, and has been pumping out more content on his YouTube channel, FRA5ER. In addition, he appeared at the 2020 CrossFit Semifinal event, The Granite Games, to host the dead-hang challenge that saw a 10-year-old beat the field to score two tickets to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games on July 27 through August 1 in Madison, WI.
Featured image: @mathewfras on Instagram