CrossFit Games

Matthew Greene’s CrossFit Journey Led Him to a Police Career, Jiu Jitsu Titles and the MACC

May 28, 2021 by
Image - Matthew Greene
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This weekend’s Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge will bring together 140 athletes from various walks of life and career fields with CrossFit being the common denominator. 

One of those athletes will stick out a little bit more than the others. Standing at 6’1” and weighing in around 220 pounds, is Matthew Greene, but what might make him stand out more than his size is that over the course of the three-day NOBULL CrossFit Games qualifier competition he will be wearing a shirt not only representing his career as a officer for the St. Louis Police Department but also remembering a fellow officer who passed away.

The journey: Calling Greene unique amongst the field of athletes is nothing new for the former collegiate All-American wrestler. His path to the MACC has been an interesting one, one that started during the summer of 2014 when his mentor and former Lindenwood wrestler Randy Vanderveen invited Greene to train with him in what he called a “new style” of training. That “new style” was CrossFit and Greene was hooked.

  • Within a year he was competing at the CrossFit Central Regional with his then-affiliate CrossFit O’Fallon. The team finished 16th leaving Greene wanting more and he dedicated himself to training to return to compete as an individual.
  • After finishing 1,176th worldwide in the 2015 Open, he finished 141st in 2016 qualifying him for the 2016 Central Regional where he finished 35th.
  • In 2017, he continued to improve and placed 72nd in the Open placing 17th.
Image – Athlete’s Eye
  • After coming up short in his bid to make the Games and missing out on qualifying for the 2018 Regionals, Greene took a step back from CrossFit competitions and looked ahead to the future. That’s what led him to the St. Louis Police Department.
  • “I wanted to be part of something meaningful, something that was bigger than just myself. This desire combined with my physical fitness and combative skills pushed me to realize I was a natural fit for a job that demands both.”
  • He was a natural fit, especially with his background in fitness as he graduated the top of his class out of the St. Louis Police Academy
  • “The academy heavily focuses on running and bodyweight movements, both of which I consider to be my strength  (they are movements I have focused on through my CrossFit training and since I started training heavily in high school). My strong aerobic base, combined with the overall athleticism, coordination and general physical preparedness CrossFit enhances, allowed me to excel at the other physical parts of the academy—such as obstacle courses and circuit/interval training. I credit my training for and experience with CrossFit as the reason for earning top physical honors, as well as one of two people in the history of the SLMPD academy to ever earn a perfect score on the cumulative fitness test.” 

A detour into MMA: Greene still longed for competition and found that in Mixed Martial Arts particularly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, something he did in the past but not seriously enough to compete. He quickly caught on again and excelled in this new discipline.

  • “I come from a wrestling background, which is what provided the gateway for my entry in the MMA world. My coach and previous training partner, Rocky Vercher, mentored and introduced me to MMA. After a long hiatus from grappling/MMA, I started grappling again after graduating from the Police academy in 2018. I have since been solely training for, and competing in, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”
  • Competing in the heavyweight division in numerous tournaments he has won the No-Gi Pan American Championships at blue belt. He earned second and third place finishes in Gi at the Pan American Championships at blue belt in his weight class. Additionally he has won a total of six International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Open championships.
  • Just two weeks ago he competed at the Pan Ams while also training for the MACC.    

Return to competition: Greene’s return to competitive CrossFit started innocently enough as it was the announcement of the “Occupational Games” that had him once again testing his fitness.

  • “As a police officer, I take pride in maintaining and seeking high levels of physical fitness. So, competing in a fitness competition against fellow officers, who are like-minded in their endeavors, seemed like an appropriate test and motivator to challenge myself.”
  • Greene didn’t set out with the goal of qualifying for the CrossFit Games but rather compete in the Open to qualify for the Occupational Games, something that seemed attainable due to his work schedule.
  • “I was balancing hours of grappling training and my regular training while still completing the workouts, so I did not set high expectations for myself.”
  • Despite recording his worst Open finish since he started CrossFit, placing 786th worldwide, Greene was hungry for more and more is what he got.
  • His performance in the Open qualified him for the North America Quarterfinals which he was still unsure if he would compete in the next stage
  • “I didn’t plan on competing in Quarterfinals until several hours before the first two workouts were due, because of other school and competitive obligations. However, due to my worst open performance to date, I was dissatisfied with myself and felt like my placement didn’t reflect my current fitness level. I wanted to find out just how much I was capable of. This propelled me to compete in the Quarterfinals on a last-minute decision.”
  • That decision paid off as he placed 100th in the Quarters highlighted by an 18th place in Test 3 finishing the couplet of wall balls and rowing in 8:17. That event played into his strength of high-end aerobic capacity.
  • That event propelled him into Semifinals and the chance to show off his reshaped level of fitness.
  • “I am the weakest, largest dude in all of CrossFit. So, the greatest benefit CrossFit has given me is a huge increase in power and strength. Before CrossFit, I didn’t lift weights (at least I didn’t train the Olympic and powerlifting movements). I was traditionally what CrossFitters would refer to as a “bodyweight ninja”, which is ironic considering I am relatively tall and heavy when compared to people who normally excel at bodyweight movements.”

A functional athlete: Greene knows what it takes to be a full-time competitive athlete but had to change his approach when he joined the police force. This new approach has changed the type of athlete he is now versus when he competed regularly.

  • “As a regional athlete (and aspiring Games athlete), I trained an average of 4-8 hours a day. A large portion of my time was spent with the many nuances CrossFit presents, including the minute technical details of weightlifting and gymnastics. Now, due to time constraints caused by both my job, school and grappling training, I am limited to how much I am able to complete on any given day.”
  • Due to limited time to train due to work and his other endeavors, Greene eliminated what most would consider, extraneous or time-consuming movements of CrossFit. For him this means he doesn’t kip as much and limits his weightlifting. By not doing these movements it allows him to skip what is typical the long warm-up time that is typically needed for those movements.
  • His workouts today consist of more fundamental and basic movements such as the squat, deadlift, pushup, pullup, running, biking, and rowing. 
  • “Additionally, I incorporate accessory work, which has been a huge benefit in both maintaining recovery and overall physical well-being, as it gives me a chance to slow down. In essence, I would say I am a rawer athlete—both my overall strength and general capacity have increased, while I have neglected many of the technical parts of the sport.”
  • Due to his difficult job and the challenges it poses in regards to training, Greene had to not only change his approach but also his schedule and his diet.
  • “A typical day for me consists of, depending on the shift I’m working—work, workout, grappling and/or homework. On days I work nights, this order is reversed. I typically spend 1.5 hours on working out, 1.5 hours on grappling and several hours throughout the day on homework, with the exception of my off-days, which are nearly solely committed to school (in addition to the normal training schedule). Balancing the many tasks that I have consumed myself in is, essentially, just about maintaining healthy habits. The rest is easy, because I am absolutely in-love with what I do and the process to achieve (or attempt to) the things I want most.”
  • Greene admits keeping up with his diet and recovery has been the most challenging and difficult part in maintaining his fitness.
  • “I am typically chronically sleep deprived for 5-7 continuous days, until I can catch up on a little sleep on my off days. However, I have found I offset my poor recovery with workouts that are lighter in load and less in intensity, focusing on aerobic work as well as moderate weight loads.”
  • “Regarding nutrition — prepping the necessary amount of food for my caloric needs is ridiculous; I am a carbohydrate-fiend. I find air-frying large amounts of chicken and steaming rice is the easiest, as I can perform other tasks while not having to focus solely on cooking. Often, I find myself eating prepped meals, or large amounts of vegetables/rice from my local Greek spot or Crazy Bowls. I am by no means perfect. I fail almost daily in completing all the tasks I need to on any given day. This requires me to ease the burden by taking “shortcuts”, such as grabbing twenty dollars’ worth of the best-tasting, already-cooked, basmati rice, chicken, and vegetables a guy could pay for at Gyros Yiros.”

Protect and serve: Being a police officer these days especially in a city that has had its fair share of social activism and anti-police demonstrations has not been easy for Greene. He is often asked the ‘how’ and ‘why’ he continues to be a police officer. It’s something he has admitted he has struggled with.

  • “Until recently, I would have responded simply and foolishly with ‘it’s not hard’. However, in light of recent events, I have mentally struggled with accepting the fact that no matter how much effort, care and will you put into something, there are some things that are out of your control. The world is a fucked up place; bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Coping with this harsh reality is the hardest part of policing a community who stands to benefit the most from it.”
  • That’s when his training in CrossFit benefits him as he has used his fitness and his jiu jitsu to help him in
  • “I literally chase every single person who runs, so I get into frequent foot pursuits, some of which often require the use of physical force to subdue them and place them in handcuffs. There have been numerous incidents where fitness has given me the ability to catch a suspect, while, after doing so, my grappling/combative training has given me the ability to forcibly subdue a resisting suspect, in a safe manner for both the suspect and I.”
  • Recalling one incident, Greene stated “I chased a suspect (who was wanted for violating parole) through a factory parking lot and up what was probably a 12-15 foot electrically-charged barbed-wire fence (which electrocuted me). After climbing the fence, I was able to physically remove him from the roof of the factory and secure him into handcuffs.”
  • “With that being said, the only solace I find is often in my continuous training and relentless mindset, as all we ultimately have control over is to make ourselves better, in any facet of life, and hope the rest are inspired to follow suit.”

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