Mental Toughness and Past Lessons Lead to Travis Mayer’s Quarterfinals Win

April 29, 2021 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit LLC
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The 2021 CrossFit Quarterfinals came to an end in April with Travis Mayer sitting atop the leaderboard. He took the top spot from Scott Panchik by two points and booked a trip to the Semifinals. Mayer is one step closer to returning to the CrossFit Games and achieving his goal of standing on the podium. 

Remind me: Mayer first appeared at the CrossFit Games in 2013, joining a stacked field of competitors in Carson and finishing 18th overall. He competed at the Games five more times (2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 Stage 1) and posted a best finish of 10th in 2016. Mayer has remained one of CrossFit’s most consistent competitors while working with Max El-Hag at United Performance in Alpharetta, GA. 

  • “Over the years, you start to evolve as a dad, as a gym owner, as an athlete,” Mayer said about his consistency. “I think everything comes full circle and then me and Max’s relationship will grow. We’ve figured out some different approaches on how to combine more coaches throughout the organization, to actually write the program so you’re getting a different variety from each of them.”
  • “Then you have Noah (Ohlsen) and some of the other athletes that are pretty much here full-time to train and prep for the Semis. We are all getting that extra 1% better by pushing each other just a little bit more on each workout. Things he’s better at helps me push a bit deeper to improve and vice versa.” 

Moving forward: As the Semifinals approach, Mayer and his fellow athletes in Alpharetta will continue to ramp up the training schedule in anticipation of some grueling events. Although they won’t try to predict the events that Dave Castro will program. Mayer doesn’t have a conspiracy theory string board set up in his basement and he isn’t trying to decipher “the madness” in Castro’s mind. Instead, he and his fellow athletes are focusing on being as well-rounded as possible in the gym and at home. 

Teamwork leads to success: As a full-time CrossFit Games athlete, as well as a loving husband and father to four children, Mayer has to strike a delicate balance. He has to juggle training, coaching, and his home life while finding success in all areas. Mayer is accomplishing this with his incredible support system and a time structure that allows him to leave the gym and focus on his family. 

  • “My wife is a massive supporter, but we also look at it as this is a job,” Mayer said. “Usually when I wake up, I’ll take them to school. But we’ve created a pretty good structure that allows me to be at the gym for a decent amount of time in the morning to mid-afternoon.”
  • “When I am at home, I try to be solely focused on family time and not gym time. So unless I need to do another workout, or I have another session to do, then I’ll do it.” Though Mayer explained that his occasional sessions at home result in his three boys doing the movements with him while learning about health and wellness. 

Mayer is not the only competitive dad in the CrossFit space. Samuel Kwant is another example of someone that reached the Games after welcoming his first child. Striking a balance between fulfilling your role as a father and husband with training is not simple, but Mayer has some advice for other CrossFit dads. 

  • “We’re four kids in now, and I think (it’s important) to always enjoy the process of it,” Mayer said. “Don’t be stressed if you don’t have the perfect night sleep. And then you’re waking up with — I have a kid that got up three times and another that got up twice — it’s just the way it is.”
  • “Just roll with the punches and accept that things are going to be challenging. But I enjoy those moments because I think it makes everything else when things get challenging not seem as challenging. You start to adapt to different things.”
  • “Understand that it’s going to be hard at times, but they’re also the great times that you are going to miss. Knowing my kid is going to start kindergarten next year, I used to not think too much about it. Now I’m sad that he’s going to be going to school because he’s going to be gone all of the time.” 

Lessons learned through disappointment: Mayer is not one of the athletes that makes the Games once and then disappears from the space. He is someone that continues to compete and put himself in contention for top finishes. There are several reasons for his consistency, such as working with El-Hag, but Mayer has also learned to trust the process and realize that success will not happen overnight. He also embraces the disappointing moments from past years. 

  • “Learn from the mistakes you’ve made. When I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made, it’s fired me up and gotten me more excited about moving forward and learning from losing,” Mayer said. “Coming up short in 2018 and missing top ten by .001 of a second. In real-world time, that is the smallest margin, but it opens up your eyes. When you are training and getting after it, you really have to dig in and get every bit out of every session so you don’t feel like that again.”
  • “For me, it has always been about — one — keeping myself super healthy and making sure that I can keep enjoying this process. I don’t want to be in it for a one-shot wonder. I don’t want to do well once and disappear from the face of the earth. I want to be in this sport for a long time.”

The bottom line: Mayer still has one more competition remaining before he can return to the Games and pursue his goal of being crowned The Fittest Man on Earth. The future remains unknown, but Mayer believes that 2021 could be his year to stand atop the podium, especially after he completed the Open while sick. This early adversity made him mentally stronger and more confident heading into the Quarterfinals and the later stages of the season. 

  • “For me, it was the Open with feeling under the weather, to then really knowing that all my training leading up to that was so good. I felt like I was on the right track,” Mayer said. “Then it became more of a mental test for those three weeks during the Open. ‘Ok, you are under the weather. How are you going to handle this and deal with this?’”
  • “Instead of looking at this as a negative, it was like, ‘no, find a positive out of this. You’re actually making yourself better and having a better understanding of if you are at the Games and something happens, you are under the weather, how are you going to react to that? How are you going to react to the workouts?’”

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