Interview: Noah Ohlsen on Winning Wodapalooza 2022, Battling COVID-19, and a Decade at the CrossFit Games

Ohlsen has big plans for 2022, and winning it all in Miami was just the beginning.

Noah Ohlsen is on the pursuit. On Jan. 16, the 2019 runner-up Fittest Man on Earth® handily won the team division of the 2022 Miami Wodapalooza (WZA) as part of his new competitive cohort “The Boys” (Ohlsen performed alongside longtime friends-turned-teammates Chandler Smith and Travis Mayer). 

Although Ohlsen stood arm-in-arm with his team atop a makeshift podium in Miami, his WZA victory was less a career capstone and more of a confirmation that the 31-year-old Florida native is on the right path. His destination? Winning the CrossFit Games

But the road to Madison is long, and Ohlsen — who first participated in the 2014 Games and has partaken every year since — has miles to go before he rests. As a tenured CrossFit athlete, Ohlsen knows that nothing in his sport comes easy, and that goes for his team’s win at WZA as well. 

Despite coming down with COVID-19 mere weeks before the event, Ohlsen rallied himself in time to bag the big check in Miami. BarBend caught up with Ohlsen to learn more about how he and The Boys came to be, how his favorite fitness tracker helped him get back in fighting shape, and where he’s headed in 2022.


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BarBend: You just won WZA 2022 alongside Travis Mayer and Chandler Smith. How was the competition this year for you both on a personal level and as part of a team?

Noah Ohlsen: We had an absolute blast. The competition went better than the three of us could’ve imagined. You never really know how a big competition is going to play out — we thought we might finish in the middle of the pack, or we might end up being completely dominant. Anything can happen, but thankfully we ended up doing pretty well. It really helped us bond together, too. We were already great friends [prior to competing] but there’s just something special about trusting each other and working together towards the same goal.

BarBend: What’s it like participating in a team-based event instead of competing solo?

NO: I was actually afraid of how much I might enjoy competing in a team-based setting. There’s definitely more of a driving force there for me when you know other people are counting on you. I think eventually, team-based events will be the route that I go with my career. I don’t know that I’m ready for it quite yet, but WZA was definitely a good step in that direction.

BarBend: How does your training differ when prepping for a team-based event like WZA rather than an individual competition?

NO: Chandler [Smith] and I were just talking about this recently. Training for a team competition almost gives you more of a purpose and definitely more accountability because on an individual level you know exactly what your role is meant to be.

Once we knew the workouts, we came up with a game plan regarding who would do which challenges so we could play to our strengths. There’s a lot of pressure to be on top of everything at an individual event, but at a team competition, you can just zone in on one piece of it. 


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[Related: The Best Weightlifting Shoes for CrossFit]

BarBend: What makes your team “The Boys” so effective in a competitive setting?

NO: Initially, we were curious about whether or not we’d be able to function well as a team. I’d won the CrossFit Team Series three times in a row before this, so I had some familiarity with team-based events, but we weren’t entirely sure that the right dynamic was going to be there.

Chandler [Smith] has been on plenty of teams before and he said that it usually takes a while to pick up on each other’s sense of timing and match communication styles. Thankfully, for us, it came very naturally. Everything just went so smoothly and came together in the right way. 

BarBend: You battled a bout of COVID-19 during the holiday season. What did you first notice in your training that tipped you off that you might be coming down with something?

NO: My fiancé Joanne tested positive on Christmas morning. I had tested negative several times around that period, and ended up doing a distanced outdoor workout with Chandler [Smith] a couple of days afterwards. During that workout, I was actually a little concerned because things that normally tire me out a little were leaving me exhausted. We did some assault bike work, and it took way more out of me than usual. 

The next morning I opened up my WHOOP tracker and my respiratory rate was off the charts. That really helped me realize that something was wrong, so I got another test and it came back positive. I was symptomatic for two or three days, and tested negative about a week after. 

BarBend: It sounds like WHOOP was able to provide some valuable information to you about your health. Did it affect how you managed your illness or how you approached your recovery?

NO: For sure. The testing situation at the time in Miami was insane, and a lot of the lines were many hours long. WHOOP didn’t confirm for me that I had COVID, but the data on my respiratory rate did ultimately help convince me to get in line for a test. 


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Once I tested positive, I just took it easy and rested at home. I ate as healthy as possible and hydrated. After a few days, the WHOOP data showed that the actions I was taking were paying off with regard to my respiratory rate. 

BarBend: After recovering from COVID-19, what area of your performance took the biggest hit or required the most attention to get back in fighting shape?

NO: I wasn’t really expecting it, but my strength actually took the biggest hit. I would have thought that my cardio would be impacted the most. After I tested negative, I actually had a couple of lifting sessions that were very concerning.

Still, I just put my head down and eased myself back into heavier training. I actually had one session right before the competition rolled around where I hit the prescribed weights for the barbell complex event, which was a big relief. As a pleasant surprise, we ended up winning that [event]. 

BarBend: What’s your perspective on the upcoming CrossFit Games qualification season?

NO: I recently spoke with Justin Bergh, who took over Dave Castro’s position, to discuss a lot of the changes in structure and format. He’s said that there aren’t really going to be many changes to the 2022 season and that things will mostly stand as they are now. I expect 2022 to look very similar to 2021 in terms of the progression of the Open all the way to the Games in Madison.

However, I think there are going to be some major changes in the future, especially in the 2023 season. Based on what I saw at WZA, the three-person, same-sex teams really seemed to be a crowd favorite, so I’m curious and hopeful that they might adopt that format for the CrossFit Games. If they did, I think The Boys will live on. 

BarBend: What can people expect from you in 2022?

NO: As of right now, in the immediate future, my plan is to compete individually at the CrossFit Games at least this year and next. That would round out a full decade of Individual appearances at the Games, which would be a big milestone for me.

I’ll be signing up for the Open [which starts Feb. 24, 2022] and making my way through that and then it’s on to the Games. Within the next two years, I’d like one or both of my appearances to be CrossFit Games victories as well. 

Happy, But Hungry

For Noah Ohlsen, the unexpected but welcome success of The Boys at Wodapalooza 2022 was a breath of fresh air. Working with Travis Mayer and Chandler Smith proved that Ohlsen is just as effective on the field in a team event as he is working alone.

The 2022 CrossFit Open will mark Ohlsen’s 11th time participating in the event, and his performance will, Ohlsen hopes, lead him to another appearance at the most prestigious competition in CrossFit. Although he’s proud of The Boys’ victory at WZA, Ohlsen has his eyes on the prize — taking home the title of Fittest Man on Earth®

Featured Image courtesy of WHOOP