CrossFit Games

How Nate Ackermann’s Novel Approach Works, and Why It Matters

August 4, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi
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CrossFit Games athletes are known for their meticulous, nearly obsessive focus and dedication to their sport. They train hard, have a close relationship with world-class coaches, work with nutritionists, prioritize sleep and even and bring food scales to family dinners. But one Games champion has a rather unique approach, that probably 99 percent of athletes would not find success with.

17-year-old Nate Ackermann wasn’t just an outlier on the competition floor, but also in his formula that brought him to the top of the podium.

  • No coach: Throughout the year, he follows Mayhem Athlete programming and at the Games, he looked to his mom for guidance.
  • “My mom followed me around all Games weekend, she tried to help me strategize,” he said.
  • Nutrition: Or lack thereof. Ackermann admits his nutrition “isn’t the best,” and slams a pint of ice cream every day to try and help him put on weight.
  • On game-day, he recalls waking up at 2 AM to pound mini-muffins and Snickers in hopes of staying fueled.
  • But it worked. Ackermann won the 16-17 Boys division handily. 
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi

Ackermann only fell out of the top three in one event all weekend – the 4.5 mile run in Event 1 which he calls the “worst event he’s ever done in his entire life” and still finished 7th. Otherwise, Ackermann racked up second and third place finishes in eight of nine events, including long chippers, grindy sprints, gymnastics-heavy triplets, and a max snatch. He ended the weekend on top of the podium with 815 points, 60 points ahead of second place and 130 from third. 

While his stand-out performance is likely attributed to his eight hour training sessions, another factor is likely genetics.

  • Ackermann’s mother, Julie Ackermann, is a two-time 45-49 Women’s division Games competitor.
  • Much of his base athletic background comes from soccer until his mother eventually introduced him to CrossFit.
  • He quickly found a knack for the sport, though according to him, he was “forced” by his mother to go.

Success aside, Ackermann acknowledges that his novel approach to competing at the Games could stand some fine-tuning. Ackermann’s experience is reminiscent of simpler times when athletes did not use food scales and blood tests to track carbs. Old CrossFit documentaries reveal Rich Froning and Dan Bailey bolting down milkshakes and burgers between events.

So while his competitors track their macros down to the decimal and have entire teams to help strategize, game the leaderboard, and aid in recovery, Ackermann’s ragtag strategy still propelled him straight to the top of the podium.

Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi

Why it matters: It’s a testament to his potential. Only four men have ever made the jump from teenage to individual division, and if Ackermann tightens up his habits and routine, it’s likely he could be added to that elite list. Most, if not the overwhelming majority of elite teen athletes have already adopted a polished, professional lifestyle, but Ackermann left the rest of the field behind with a completely different strategy. Ackermann knows making these changes is the next step to continued success as he heads into the Individual division.

  • “I’m already excited to train again,” Ackermann said. “I keep walking around (the Games venue), seeing where we competed and remembering, I just want to get back into it.”

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