James Newbury: CrossFit Elite On Virtual 2020 CrossFit Games (Podcast)

Today we’re talking to CrossFit athlete, James Newbury, who finished 5th in the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games. Due to a shortened qualifying season, James isn’t competing in the 2020 Games this year, along with many other top athletes in the sport. But that hasn’t stopped James from honing his craft as an elite athlete, training more for power and strength, while also exploring other sports like surfing and weightlifting.

As one of the world’s fittest men, James offers his thoughts on competing virtually vs in-person, the mind games that happen behind the scenes at these events, and of course, a few of his top picks to win the Games this year. 

We want to take a second to give a special shoutout to our episode sponsor, Transparent Labs. If you want clean, clearly labeled supplements with ingredients backed by science, Transparent Labs has you covered. (Seriously, no hidden ingredients, no proprietary blends, and nothing artificial.) That includes their uber-popular BULK pre-workout, with ingredients we love to see for focus and energy PLUS vitamin D3, boron, and zinc. All the good stuff, absolutely no fillers. Use code “BARBEND” at checkout for an extra 10% off your order.

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Tao talks to James Newbury about:

  • His experience competing in his first olympic weightlifting meet (2:35)
  • How he’s training differently since we his not competing in the 2020 CrossFit Games (7:55)
  • James’ plant-based diet and some of his favorite recipes (16:40)
  • Who he thinks looks really good going into Stage 1 of the Games (18:00)
  • Which athletes might struggle with the online format (20:00)
  • The mind games that athletes play during the events (22:45)
  • What the max attempt event might be be this year (30:23)

Learn more about our sponsor Transparent Labs and get 10% off your order with code “BARBEND.” (We may receive commissions on items purchased through links on this page.)

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Relevant links and further reading:


James NewburyJames Newbury

You can’t look past someone who is, one, good at absolutely everything no matter what you give them. Is crazy fit all year round. Without even doing much training, this dude can basically work a 9:00 to 5:00 and do an hour a day and still be fitter than most humans on earth.


He would be my number one pick to be number one, number two on this coming format.

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 multi-time CrossFit Games athlete James Newbury who finished fifth at the 2019 CrossFit Games. James isn’t competing this year after having his qualifier season cut short due to COVID-19 and event cancellations. He’s used his extended off-season to train for power and strength. He’s also spent time exploring his passion for surfing and other sports.


A little time away from the typical CrossFit Games grind doesn’t make James’ insights any less valuable. As one of the world’s fittest men, James gives us his thoughts on who the online format most favors. He also talks about the unexpected differences of competing in-person versus online, including the mind games fans might not see from the stands or on their screens.


I do want to take a second to give a special shout out to our episode sponsor, Transparent Labs. If you want clean, clearly-labeled supplements with ingredients backed by science, Transparent Labs has you covered. Seriously, no hidden ingredients, no proprietary blends, and nothing artificial.


That includes their uber-popular BULK pre-workout, with ingredients we love to see for focus and energy, plus Vitamin D3, boron, and zinc. All the good stuff. Absolutely no fillers. Use code BARBEND at checkout for an extra 10 percent off.


James, welcome back to the BarBend Podcast. It’s always a pleasure. Some people will be viewing this podcast. We’re doing this virtually. I have to say I always get crazy hair envy when we chat. Normally, I’m the one having the longer, more luscious hair, but you got me beat today.


That aside, you’re coming off of a weightlifting meet this past weekend. Before we dive into the CrossFit Games this season, was that your first ever dedicated weightlifting meet?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yeah, it was. It’s something that I’ve always really wanted to do, but it never popped up right at a good time that I could build up for one and do one. I actually didn’t realize I was going to be competing, like testing my 1RMs at a weightlifting meet when I started doing this eight-week weightlifting program.


It just so happened that a weightlifting coach that trains at my gym and he coaches at my gym, he put up a post. He just said, “Hey guys, State Championships cut-off date to register is tomorrow.” I was just like, “Well, I’m supposed to be testing in a week and a half anyway. Why don’t I just sign up and test there instead?” You know, check two boxes.


Got to try and test 1RMs and then also tick off a weightlifting meet, off of something that I’ve always wanted to do. I just registered, and yeah. We had a crack.

David TaoDavid Tao

Whenever I talk to competitive CrossFitters who do a weightlifting meet for the first time, whenever you look at them, they just look like a caged animal. You’re just supposed to sit down and rest between attempts. You’re supposed to be like, “Where are the 50 double-unders I’m supposed to be doing right now?” Did that throw you off, all the wait times?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Not so much because I have been doing, the last two months, I really haven’t been doing much conditioning, like cardio conditioning. I’ve done a couple of criterium races on my bike. I’ve done a few metcons here and there. Mainly I’ve just been sprinting and weightlifting, so I am used to the rest.


Coming from probably the two sports where you do the most rest between sets is sprinting and weightlifting. It could be a five-minute rest between sets. I’m getting used to that aspect, although I do try and speed it up a little bit more. I probably would have lifted better if I’d tucked in some double-unders between sets just to [laughs] slow me down a little bit.


I got probably too far ahead of myself trying to do the lifts and overthrew a couple. It didn’t quite go to plan. How you get that, that’s just life. You live and you learn.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s a good experience too. In a CrossFit setting, you don’t know when you might face a one-rep max test in the snatch or the clean and jerk. Reps on the platform are reps on the platform. Being able to perform and it’s one thing to hit a PB in training, it’s another thing to hit it when you have a certain time frame. Completely different animal.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Totally. No, I agree. We’ve done a couple of times at competitions, at regionals and the games, we’ve had to go for a heavy single. One of them was a hang snatch, and one of them was a full snatch.


You’re only given two attempts at those ones. They were around the same realm, whereas…Oh, and I guess also the clean that we did last year, but a snatch and clean and jerk is obviously a lot more technical than just a clean by itself.


It is a little bit daunting going up there knowing that, hey, you’ve got three attempts to get a good total. Then if you miss one, do you try and still bump up, or do you stay where you are and then try and bump up on the next one?


It’s like you have a plan that you’d be OK with getting your first lift. You’d be happy with the second, and then you’d be absolutely stoked at the last. That’s how I went into it. I guess the pressure was on to do it, but I felt great leading in. The warm up was fantastic, and the weight, I hit 115 in the warm up, which felt really easy.


Then I was like, “Yeah, let’s start at 120.” I hit it a week before in training, just getting prepped for the competition. It felt quite easy there too, and it didn’t go to plan. I don’t know. Maybe nerves, or maybe just overthinking it, or maybe just looking at that judge that’s sitting right in front of you just staring right at his forehead maybe put me off. [laughs]


I think if it was to come around again, then I’d be probably better prepared in terms of the way that it’s going to feel and things like that. I probably would hit more reps in the warm up. I was probably bumping up by every 10 kilos.


I’d probably do the same, but I’d hit more reps at each weight just to really feel that bottom position a little bit more and maybe get a little bit more tired, which would usually sink me into somewhat better positions.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get that back to that in just a moment, but first another quick word from our sponsor Transparent Labs. You know, Hafþór Björnsson, 2018 World’s Strongest Man and one of the strongest human beings in history? Yup. He uses Transparent Labs to fuel his performance.


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You’ve mentioned that you’re going through a weightlifting and sprinting cycle right now. That seemed to be what you’re doing, not a ton of metcons. If we had looked back a year ago, we might not have thought you’d be training like this right now.


At least, to be fair, we couldn’t have predicted a lot a year ago, but you’re not competing in the CrossFit Games this year, which might come as a shock to a lot of people who might just be familiar with your name, your fantastic top 10 performance last year.


For those who might not be super aware of why beyond the fact that it is a global pandemic and a lot has changed, walk us through how your season progressed and how you ended up not being in this year’s games field.

James NewburyJames Newbury

We had a couple of hiccups along the way. During the Open last year in October, which would have been the qualifiers for the Open for this year, on week three of five, I had a mountain bike accident. Broke a couple of spinal processes in my back, broke a few ribs, and punctured a lung. I had to pull out of the Open, which was the first hurdle.


If I’d done well enough there, then I would have qualified through the Open. Then from there, I had to look at sanctioned events to qualify, which I really wanted to do anyway even if I did qualify through the Open. The Open has never been a really strong point for me.


Online competitions have never been something that I’ve super enjoyed. I’d much prefer a face-to-face competition where you get to throw down next to each other. You can play a bit of mind game stuff. People change the way that they approach workouts when someone else is there next to them, or a couple of reps ahead, or right on their tail.


I looked at a couple of sanctioned events. I did the Gold Coast event. I came second there. The guy that pipped me in that event, props to him, he won fair and square. It was a cool event, but I ended up coming second there by a few points, so I had to look at another event because they only take the winner of the sanctioned events.


I was looking at another event three weeks later from that which would have been in Egypt. That would have been really cool, the ELFIT sanctioned event. I was really hoping to get there and hopefully take a win to qualify for the games.


Right at that point was when the COVID lockdown started happening. Basically, a week and a half before I was supposed to fly out, everything got locked down. In a nutshell, there was no more sanctioned events to qualify through. They got through maybe five. Off the top of my head maybe five sanctioned events were run between the start of the season and the COVID lockdown.


There was supposed to be 27 events. A lot of people that were banking on sanctioned events to make it through to the games never got the opportunity to go to those sanctioned events and win and get an opportunity to go. That wrote off me making it back the games without another sanctioned event; being able to run and to compete in.


From there I was looking at what do I do in between now and next season? What’s coming up? What can I do to keep me occupied? That’s how it rolled. I used that space in between then when I would have been training for sanctioned events or traveling for sanctioned events. Ended up renovating my gym here in Adelaide. Renovated the gym, didn’t do a bunch of training through that period.


After that was all done and dusted, I was like, “You know what? I want to build on some power and speed.” Looking at all other options I can do during this off season just to get better for next year. I feel like I can build aerobic base pretty easily, but building that power and strength is usually what takes me a little bit longer.


I figured I’d use this time to do that. If it helps me with other sports as well, absolutely fantastic. If it can also help with a bit of CrossFit too then great as well. As long as it’s keeping me happy.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was going to say are you enjoying this style of training?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yeah. Look, there’s definitely a lot less work on the table. Normally I’m training, at this point in time, four to six hours a day. We’ll be doing Ace Strength, big long strength piece, and then we’d be doing a couple of metcons in the morning. Then we’d probably do an afternoon track session, and then we’d be going back and doing more metcon.


At the moment, my three heaviest focuses would be sprint training, weight lifting and power, and surfing. [laughs] I can’t complain.


Maybe on back the side of that is I might go out for a criterion race every other weekend. If it’s available, or every three weeks. I may be riding my bike maybe once a fortnight. I dropped that down just a little bit as well.


That’s where I’m at at the moment. I’m really enjoying it. On top of that, all my accessory stuff that I’m doing in terms of strength work is basically just bodybuilding stuff; just working on getting jacked.

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but over the past 18 months you switched to basically a plant-based diet. Is that correct?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yeah. It’ll actually be coming up to one year exactly, in about two weeks.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, wow. Has that impacted how you’re feeling? You’re a year in so clearly it hasn’t been completely detrimental to your performance as an athlete, seeing what you’re doing. What was that adjustment period like? What are some things you’ve learned along the way as far as your body’s nutritional requirement in that dietary framework?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Something that I learned about myself, I was probably eating too much protein. That’s probably the thing. I was aiming for around about 220 grams a day. I’ve cut that down to around about 150 up to 170 depending on how heavy the training load is. I have seen absolutely no drop in weight. I’m exactly the same weight as I would be like I have done in years previous.


I’m definitely stronger, probably due to focusing on the Ollie. We would be focusing on Ollie anyway, but I’m definitely dropping down the amount of cardio I’m doing. It’s insane. I’m still running 8ks on a Sunday morning just as a recovery run. I am running from time to time. It’s just once a week usually. It’s around about just a 40-minute run.


I haven’t noticed any dramatic decreases in strength. If anything, I’m stronger. I haven’t been able to pick up a bar and feel like I could throw 130 kilo snatch above my head, but recently I’ve been feeling like that’s a possibility. If you’d have asked me that a year ago, I would have been l like, “Hell, no.” [laughs]


Also the same with clean and jerk. I think I’m in the ballpark right now, 5 to 10-kilo PRs. I just need to put them together. In terms of diet, I haven’t touched anything that’s animal-based or any animal products in close to 12 months. I feel great. I feel good.


Nothing really has changed. It doesn’t feel like I’ve changed any type of diet or regular eating program. I don’t feel superhuman. I don’t feel any worse off. I kind of feel the same. I’m just eating a bit less protein. I’m having probably the same amount of carbohydrates and fats, roughly.


If anything, I’m just having a broader range of plant food. It made me maybe a little bit more conscious on the amount of colors that I’m putting on my plate and the amount of different varieties of plant foods I can get. Trying to get as many different types of fruits and vegetables. Lots of herbs. Lots of micronutrients all through that. I’m trying to eat as organic as I can.


I do feel good. Yesterday, for instance, I haven’t done a ton of running, but Kayla said, “Oh, come do the class with me in the morning.” It’s a 3k time trial to start the workout. I ran a 3k in around about I think it was 10.45. My best ever — when I was a bit of more of a lightweight, probably 7 kilos lighter — I think I’ve done 9.45 before.


I think if I was to knuckle down from running for like a month, I’d probably be around the ballpark without a ton of effort.

David TaoDavid Tao

How have your cooking skills developed over the course of the past year?

James NewburyJames Newbury

They’ve developed a little bit. I’m definitely looking at other ways to make things that I really enjoy. I’ve always since a little kid, I’ve loved pancakes. I’ve now perfected my recipe without using eggs and milk and things like that. I can make a decent protein pancake without using those ingredients.


It’s definitely helping, but I have to say Kayla, my girlfriend, she’s the cooking queen. If there was an option for me to cook or her to cook and for it to be put to the test, I would pick her every day of the week.

David TaoDavid Tao

But you’ll stand by your pancakes. Everyone’s got to have that one recipe they’re proud of.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Oh, I definitely can make pancakes better than Kayla, for sure.


That’s the one thing I’ve got. Everything else, avocado mousse or a nice bowl of oats, she’s got me hands down.



David TaoDavid Tao

Avocado? This already sounds fancier than I was expecting this conversation. This is already higher-brow than I was expecting us to get.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yeah, for sure. That’s one of my staples. I always go to an avocado mousse usually of an evening, or it might be like a tofu-based, like a silken tofu creamy mousse, like a chocolate mousse.

David TaoDavid Tao

Moving to this year’s game season. You’re more of a fan than a spectator this year. While your training is very different, I’m sure you’re putting yourself in the shoes of a lot of the athletes.


Approaching stage one, we’re actually doing something a little different on the podcast. Normally we record a couple of weeks ahead. This week we’re actually recording this podcast on Monday. It’ll come out Thursday, the day before the game’s launch.


I’m curious as to your thoughts. Who do you think is looking really, really good heading into stage one, which is an online portion of the games?


Now, as of this recording, we don’t know what the workouts look like yet. We don’t even know how many workouts there are. There are only so many things you can do, and the athletes will be doing them all remotely. Who do you think is looking strong for that kind of format?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Going on history, you can’t look past someone who is, one, good at absolutely everything no matter what you give them. Is crazy fit all year round. Without even doing much training, this dude can basically work a 9:00 to 5:00, do an hour a day, and still be fitter than most humans on earth.


Also, in history shows in the Open, crushed the Open, is Patrick Vellner. He would be my number one pick to be number one, number two on this coming format. He’d be my pick. I always got faith in Pat, and he always rises to the occasion. He’s just freak athlete, super fit, has a good head on his shoulders, knows how to wrap his head around a little bit of adversity.


If he doesn’t do well in something, usually due to a freak accident or an unfortunate event, he always seems to be right up there anyway. If you were to take away a freak accident here and there or a mishap, he’s right in line. Very, very close. I’d put my money on Pat.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who do you think might struggle a little bit, who might otherwise might not struggle if it was an in-person normal games format?

James NewburyJames Newbury

 Looking at the format and who does well online and who does better face-to-face, someone who I’ve been training with for a long time and stay in close contact with, that he would definitely more favor a face-to-face competition. Absolutely excels at face-to-face, and like me doesn’t really love the online stuff because it’s not as broad.


You can’t do as many things that he would excel and he’s Brent Fikowski. Brent’s the type of athlete that he’s very smart, super cerebral. Looks at every event, but he is much better in a face-to-face competition. He can beat anyone in face-to-face competition. He has shown that before.


Given an online format, and not knowing what you’re going to get, and not being able to see everybody else’s times, and not be able to play those on-the-field mind games, may not favor him as much. I still wouldn’t put money on him not to do well, you know what I mean?


It’s a hard one, but in terms of looking at online stuff, probably Brent is at a disadvantage. If he can make it through this then face-to-face, anyone can win.

David TaoDavid Tao

How do you think the Aussies are looking in the field this year?

James NewburyJames Newbury

In terms of the online process, Tia is always going to be that at that tipping…the sharp point. She’s just so good. She’s so well rounded. She’s shown in the past that she’s leagues ahead. She’s always going to be great. Kara is extremely good at online. Khan’s really gearing up for a really a solid showing as well. Harriet Roberts, she’s going to do well.


All these athletes have potential if they can really just get their head in the game. They’re really going to give the Aussie contingent a really good push and do all of us proud. I know they will. They’ll give their best effort regardless. That’s how we all try and carry ourselves. Always put our best foot forward and give a really good effort.


You’ll probably see Tia and Kara up at the top there, in particular. Don’t discount the other guys. The other guys are going to put their first foot forward. Khan’s really good at online stuff too. He can really just pull it out of the bag and just dominate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name in the top as well.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing as spectators we don’t necessarily see because we’re not down on the field, these mind games you’re talking about. I want to talk a little bit about what we might not see in stage one this year. You talk about that advantage that some athletes have, like yourself, being in-person.


It could be playing mind games. It could be pacing yourself off of other athletes that might be in the lanes on either side of you. What are some of the strategies you’ve used either to get in your opponent’s head?


Not even your opponent, the other athletes on the field, to get in their heads. How else might you pace yourself or change your strategy depending on what you’re seeing on the field around you in an in-person competition?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Totally. For instance, something that can really get into another athlete’s head is if you look at the first workout of last year’s CrossFit Games, which was the 400-meter run, legless rope climb workout, into the eight barbell snatches. You might have some people that are leading the way for a couple of rounds.


If you can be right on their tail, and given that format on that big Zeus rig, you’ve got all these different lanes. People may think they’re in front, but they have to run to the very end corner. You might be right on their tail, but you slip into your lane when they can’t see you slip into your lane.


You actually might be 25 seconds, or 20 seconds ahead of them, but they don’t quite know. If you can play your cards right and play a bit of a mind game there, and come off and then be in front of them before they get back, they’re going to be thinking, “What did I just do wrong in my round? How did I go into that round leading, and now how am I 20 seconds behind?”


That can check an athlete out straight away. They might be hurting pretty bad. There might be a threshold there already. They might start giving themselves some doubts. If you can put doubt into another athlete’s mind.


They might just say to them, “You know what? I’m OK with coming in second,” or “This is where I need to be.” It might just play really badly for them, and they could check out completely and start to really slow down, like it’s too much.


I think that’s where the really good athlete’s push through a little bit further. A little extra push, you might get that time back. You never know. They’re the types of things that you can do. If you’re aware enough to think about those things without distracting you from the task at hand and following the game plan, then, yeah.


You can definitely psych some other athletes out and win some points here and there. At the end of the day, every point counts. It usually goes down to the wire most years. That’s the type of stuff you can do face-to-face that you can’t do online.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there an athlete who you love playing mental games with? Is there someone you just love competing against in person?

James NewburyJames Newbury

No one comes to mind that much. How I like to start out, I’ll run my own race regardless. Then if the opportunity or the scenario is put forth in front of me, and I can see an opportunity to create some havoc there or to play a bit of a game. If it means me upping my effort by 10 percent just to tap someone on the shoulder and let them know that I’m there. Not physically, but…


Let them know that I’m there when they may not have noticed me before. If I was still going at my own pace, then I will. That’ll just be whoever’s in the firing line. If they’re there and I’ve got the opportunity to do it and it’s not going to take me off my game plan, then yeah. I’ll do it with anyone.

David TaoDavid Tao

Nothing like taking someone’s chalk and using it and then crushing it up or anything like that? Nothing the dramatic?

James NewburyJames Newbury

No. I have never done that before. If I’ve got my own chalk there and I’ve got the ability to use it. To be honest, if I didn’t have chalk, and someone else’s chalk was over there, I probably just would go without chalk.


You never know. It really depends on the situation. If it was a make or break rope climb, and I only barely got up there the last time, I would walk over. I’d use their chalk, but I’d make sure I put it back in a convenient place for them to use it.


I have seen that stuff happen a little bit. I’ve heard about it. It’s that physically rearranging something for someone. I know it’s happened before. Mine would moreso be making someone potentially doubt their fitness [laughs] is where I would like to play the game.


These things rarely pop-up. You rarely have the opportunity to really do that unless you’re completely dominating an event. That doesn’t happen for most of us all the time.


Sometimes it backfires on you. You get too caught up in it. You do take your mind off the game and it can really just put a bullet through your whole game plan and your whole event. You got to really pick the times quite wisely.


There may be opportunities present themselves and you might have to say, “You know what? This is not the time for me to do it. I do have the opportunity to do it here, but it’s not the right time. It’s maybe too early in the game.” That’s where maturity in competing come into it.


You might have a really, really green athlete that comes into it. He can get away with the whole competition, and then put on an absolute show and dominate in that respect. All the cards fall his way. Then come back the next year, try it again, and then it just blow up in his face and he end up coming in the final 10 percent. You have to be wise when you take those opportunities

David TaoDavid Tao


Do you have any predictions for workouts or types of workouts we might see in stage one of the games this year?

James NewburyJames Newbury

 I think it will be open-orientated, but heavier. That’s how you’ll probably find the format. It’ll be very openesque. Obviously, once they get to whoever makes it through to the next stage, they’ll start to see some really dramatic changes in terms of the way the workouts are structured. You’ll have to look at the parameters that you can judge something fairly.


You can make the same no matter where you are. If you look at the last eight years of the Open, you’re going to have to…They’ve obviously refined that and made it better, and tried to make it as exciting as possible without making it too difficult to judge, without making it too difficult to replicate no matter where you are in the world.


They’ll have to keep along those types of parameters. It’ll be probably very similar to the 2019 Open, I guess, or the 2020 Open that was in 2019. It’d be similar to that, I would say. They may try and push the envelope a little bit more in terms of different types of movements. At the end of the day, they’re going to have to keep it within a particular framework.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was actually on the phone with someone earlier where we’re trying to predict what the max lift was going to be. Those open workouts where you do a metcon. You have a break. You attempt a max clean and jerk, or a max snatch, or even vice versa. You’d go from the max attempt into some kind of metcon.


I hope that they don’t release this workout before we publish this podcast Thursday morning. My guess is a max snatch after some sort of metcon. Do you have any guesses there as far as a big strength element?

James NewburyJames Newbury

They might even go to something like they did at a regional. I think it was the 2013 regionals. They might do a max 2RM overhead squat from the floor.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, I like that a lot. Hadn’t even thought about that one. That was the one where the bar had to start at…You could start the bar at 185, 225, or 275, or something like that?

James NewburyJames Newbury

Correct. Exactly. That’s right. You had to pick where you wanted to start, and then once you picked, you were locked in. You couldn’t go down from there. People were either risking it going heavy early, or starting conservative.


That might be an option that they put in, and pick the bar up from the ground. Front rack it, back rack it, chuck it up overhead, [laughs] and make sure you hit the double. Was it a triple or was it a double? It might be the triple.

David TaoDavid Tao


I think it was a triple. Full disclosure, I was covering the CrossFit Games for CrossFit at regionals then, so I should know.

James NewburyJames Newbury

I think it was. I did do that event, and I think it was a triple. Maybe something like that might come into play, whether it be the overhead squat or something similar to that type of format for a different lift.

David TaoDavid Tao

I remember. I was covering the North East Regional back when that was a thing. There was a guy in the North East who did really well on that workout. It was some washed-up former weightlifter. His name was Matt. He ended up being pretty good at CrossFit later on.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yup. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao


That was the first time I ever talked to Mat Fraser. He won that workout. I was writing up the report for the games. I was like, “Wow. You’re pretty good at overhead squats.” He was like, “Yeah. I was an international-level weightlifter for this many years.” Like, “This is the best event you could have given me.”

James NewburyJames Newbury

Exactly. I do remember that. I remember seeing some footage. That was the same year that I’m pretty sure we did the Jackie. We did Jackie that year too. That was one of the first events. I remember seeing some footage of that.

David TaoDavid Tao

That might have been the kickoff event. That might’ve been the very first event of regionals that year.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Yup, I remember. I even remember where I placed in that. I think I was eighth. I’m pretty sure I was eighth in that workout. I’ll have to look back at the records, but I think I was eighth.

David TaoDavid Tao

I remember there were a lot of pull-ups that year because you had Jackie, and there were pull-ups in one or two other workouts. There was also one that had axle bar shoulder to overhead, and then you had to front rack lunge it across the line.

James NewburyJames Newbury

That was a horrific event. I do remember that. Brent Fikowski crushed that event, by the way, I remember that. He came over and started cheering me on to get to the end. I couldn’t believe how hard the front rack lunge was to finish. Yes, I do remember that vividly. I remember the pain of doing that [laughs] part of the workout.

David TaoDavid Tao

Two things. One, I forget Brent was living in Australia at the time. I was like, “You’re not training together now, a couple oceans in between.” Also, it made for great photos because everyone had as they were crossing the finish line with the axle bar and the front rack, which is the most uncomfortable thing in the world.


People were crossing. They were trying to do the bodybuilder front squat, whatever. Some people looked like they were reverse curling it. The looks of pain as people were lunging that.


Great photos.

James NewburyJames Newbury

That was horrific. I’m pretty sure before you went into that lunge, it was 30 shoulder to overhead. I love shoulder to overhead. I remember doing that workout in my gym prior to going to the event, and I did a set of 20 and a set of 10. Then, [laughs] I got to the event. I did four reps, and I was like, “Why is this so heavy?”


 I ended up doing sets of threes and fives. It was a whole different ball game. I was really fresh back then. I probably went way too hard in things prior to that. That was a fun year. That was a good learning year. I came off a really good year in 2012. Got into 2013, I thought I was going to crush it, absolutely did not crush it.


You pick it back up and you figure out how do you make sure that you’re going to be prepared for the next time.

David TaoDavid Tao

That year, for me, as a fan and someone working on the media side, it felt like a bit of a transition point to where you started to see this upper-tier of athletes and the athletes who were often training more full-time.


Now, that’s not to say that every top-level athlete…Some of them have jobs. Brent is an example of someone who worked full-time as an accountant until a year or two ago in addition to being a games athlete.


That was the year where you started seeing athletes who were training close to full time start separating themselves from the pack, I feel.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Exactly. At the end of that year, I decided to take the training a little bit more seriously, and I found a coach. Before that, I was doing my own programming. The volume doubled at least. It was a real shock to the system. The weights were heavier than I would have programmed for myself. The metcons were harder. They were longer. The workout time was longer. That’s what really made a big difference for 2014.


That’s what it came down to. If you wanted to make it, you had to up the ante. Instead of training just once per day or twice per day, like one mini session and then another mini session in the afternoon, it was one big session and then another fairly large session in the afternoon as well. That’s when the game changed a little bit more.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s funny to think back to that. Some of those names are still very familiar, and we’re talking about heading into this weekend. Cool to see.

James NewburyJames Newbury

100 percent.

David TaoDavid Tao

James, I super appreciate your time. I super appreciate your perspective as a multi-time games athlete and someone who’s…If any games athletes are listening to this the day before, take James’ advice when it comes to how to approach these workouts, please. He knows what he’s talking about.


James, where is the best way for people to keep up to date with your training and also the programming that you put out?

James NewburyJames Newbury

You can follow me on…It’s usually just my name, James Newbury. I also program for ultra.athlete. That’s basically a big, broad range of different sports. All things that I really enjoy doing, dabble in throughout the year even when I’m training for CrossFit.


It could be triathlon, or a bit of physique stuff, or a bit of Olympic weightlifting. You can pretty much find everything there.

David TaoDavid Tao


Do you have surfing-specific programs?

James NewburyJames Newbury

I don’t have surfing-specific programs but I would like to start putting out a bit of breathwork for surfing. That’s something that I would really like to do to get people feeling a little bit more comfortable in bigger surf and being held under for little while longer.


For one, it helps them be safe in the water. It also gives people a little bit more peace of mind when you see a really dark, ominous cloud approaching you from the horizon, and you know that you’re about to get rolled for about 10 or 15 seconds. You know how to control yourself, how to be OK in those situations, how to go with the flow and find calmness in a tumble dryer of water. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

James, thank you so much for your time. I learned something. Every time we talk, I learn something about CrossFit. Most importantly, I learned 10 things about the other parts of your life. I always appreciate you sharing. Thanks for coming on.

James NewburyJames Newbury

Thanks very much.