CrossFit Helps 61-Year-Old Retired Bull Rider Return to Rodeo Glory

December 16, 2020 by
Courtesy of Wayne Boney
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Two years ago, 61-year-old Wayne Boney never could have imagined returning to bull riding. But after two years of doing CrossFit five days a week at CrossFit Mayhem in Cookeville, TN, that’s exactly what he did this year. And then he went on to place third at the 2020 Military World Rodeo Championships on December 5 in Hope Mills, NC.

  • “One of my bull riding students at school kept asking me to come out on the senior tour and start riding bulls with him. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to have that conversation with my wife. Finally, I broke down and talked to my wife,” he said, laughing. 
  • “Had it not been for my involvement in CrossFit during the last two yearrs — without the level of fitness it gave me, I never would have even thought about it,” he added.

Not his first rodeo: A 20-year US Air Force veteran, Boney started riding bulls at the age of 16. He became a five-time World Champion during his career, taking a bare back title, a bull riding title, and two all-around titles along the way. He retired in 2000 before returning to the senior tour this year. 

Some bull riding context: Three-time CrossFit Games athlete Sean Sweeney, a man who grew up team roping and saddle bronc riding in the rodeo, explained how dangerous bull riding can be, especially for those who aren’t physically fit. In fact, when we told Sweeney about a 61-year-old bull rider, his response was: “He must do CrossFit.”

  • “It’s a tough sport. Wrecks aren’t a matter of if, they’re a matter of when. You get beat up pretty good,” said Sweeney, who broke his pelvis saddle bronc riding when he was in high school.
  • Part of this has to do with the rodeo culture. “The cowboy mentality is rough. They take pride in being unhealthy. You know, ‘I just need a Copenhagen and a 12-pack of Cours.’ If you break something, the attitude is have a beer and go to the next event,” Sweeney said. More recently, however, the Brazilians have started to train less like cowboys and more like athletes, Sweeney explained, and “it’s changing the game.” 
  • “Now the top rodeo guys are starting to train like athletes, so it’s really cool to see someone who was a former bull rider come back to it at 61 (because) of CrossFit. It’s really valuable information to put out there for people in that sport,” he said.

One big thing: When Boney moved to Cookeville, TN, he had no idea what CrossFit was all about, let alone who four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning, the owner of his gym, was.

  • “When we moved here in 2018, I was just looking for a gym, and the moment I did my first class, I knew I had finally found the exercise program that I can stay with forever. I had always fought going to the gym before. It was boring. And I hated running. But when I found CrossFit, I was hooked,” he said.
  • “I had no clue who Rich Froning was, but soon I started to find out more information….And then when the CrossFit Games were on, I realized I needed to pay attention because we had two teams there, and all these people I knew were on the teams,” Boney added, laughing. 

Today: Two years since walking into arguably the most famous CrossFit gym in the world, Boney is very familiar with who Froning is, and he has even competed in two CrossFit Games Open competitions himself. 

  • “I use the Open to gauge where I’m at…I’m still on the journey. I still have weight to lose, but I’m still getting better,” said Boney, who has lost 20 pounds since the start of his journey and has added 75 pounds to his deadlift.
  • His biggest gains, however, have been the core strength and mobility he has acquired. “I can even do toes-to-bar. They’re not the prettiest thing in the world, but I can get my toes up and around my belly and get to them to the bar. And my arm strength has definitely gotten a lot better: push-ups, pull-ups, bench press, strict press,” he said. 
Courtesy of Wayne Boney

The big picture: Boney’s message to others his age is that fitness and competition can and should live on at 60-plus.

  • “Age really truly is a number, and if you’re doing things to stay fit and healthy — exercising and eating right — there’s no way you can’t still pursue competitive sports in some way. It might not be at the level you used to compete, but you can still use that competitive desire,” Boney said. 
  • While Boney isn’t certain what his rodeo future will look like, he is certain about his future at CrossFit Mayhem. “We were doing our warm-up today and I was talking to the lady next to me. Somehow we got onto talking about age, and I was like, ‘I’m fine with all of us having our 100th birthdays right here at the gym with a WOD. There ain’t no reason we can’t,” he said.

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