Celebrity Trainer Turned CrossFitter Ron Mathews Steps Away from the Sport, Finds Passion for Dungeons & Dragons

April 30, 2023 by
Credit: Men’s Health UK (@menshealthuk)
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When Ron Mathews isn’t training celebrities or working out himself, you can find him at the table…well a Dungeon & Dragons table that is. 

The former crossfitter said he’s taking some time away from the sport for now and dove head first into the popular role-playing game, informally known as D&D, alongside some familiar names like Joe Manganiello and Vince Vaughn. 

Remind me: Mathews, a former college football player, started CrossFit when he was 41. He went on to be a five-time CrossFit Games masters athlete with his best year being in 2016 when he won the 45-49 Division. 

  • “My experience with CrossFit was kind of weird because I came in with a weird skill set,” said Mathews.
  • “There were things that from day one I was incredibly good at, like already Regional/Games level-ish on day one. And there were things that I was an absolute beginner on day one. So my journey was always how can I maintain what I’m good at and bring up all of those other pieces.”
  • “I love having a goal to train for. I was always creating goals for myself, so the CrossFit Games was the perfect thing to aim for.” 

Mathews is 6’3 and weighs roughly 245 pounds. He says he would lose weight to compete in CrossFit, but was still between 50 and 70 pounds heavier than the next heaviest competitor and taller than most. 

His concerns with an unlevel playing field and two torn labrums ultimately brought Mathews to step back from the sport and focus on his career as a Hollywood trainer and other interests. 

  • “I could do what I needed to do. I was never going to be the best clean and jerk person. But I could do 295 on any day with very little warm up.I could get that on every day and that was good enough for what I needed,” said Mathews. 

Another big factor for stepping away from CrossFit is the way the field of athletes is divided within the sport or lack thereof, according to Mathews, who considers himself somewhat of an outlier given his height and weight. 

  • “I came in when there were a lot of couplets. It’d be box jumps, pull ups, power cleans, you know, that kind of classic CrossFit and it just started getting into something else,” he said. 
  • “And I see intellectually, especially with my background in kinesiology and my background in fitness, I understand how it happened. But I think that there was a way to not have that happen, and nobody even thought to address it. And the trap is that it’s just, in my opinion, you can’t have a competition that is trying to find the fittest person in the world that is open to all skill levels and all people at the same time.” 
  • Mathews uses a thruster as an example of a movement where if you’re a tall athlete “they just physically can’t move fast enough because they’re going twice as far and people who are under a certain weight can’t compete because they can’t move the weight.”
  • “So now you’ve taken out the bottom and the top and now you get this homogenized athlete. That is the CrossFit athlete.” 

Much different from CrossFit altogether is Mathews day job of a Hollywood trainer–getting actors ready for shirtless love scenes which is a much different task than getting to the CrossFit Games.

  • “My niche in training was always to get people to look camera ready, which has nothing to do with fitness at all. What you look like and what you can actually do are two completely different things,” said Mathews. 

Manganiello is one of Mathews’ clients and friends in part over their shared love of D&D. Mathews adds, he was “grandfathered” into Manganiello’s crew of Hollywood ‘who’s who’ that come together for games somewhat frequently. 

  • “It’s fun because these, especially the actors, love it because in a lot of ways it’s acting, it’s problem solving as another character,” he added. 

While he’s decided to take a step back from CrossFit for now, Mathews isn’t ruling out a comeback season. And even though he’s voiced concerns regarding the playing field he says his love for the sport continues. 

  • “I think that CrossFit has so many wonderful things about it; the community, the working out in a group setting, the encouragement.”
  • “Most people are scared to push. Everyone wants to stay in their comfort zone and CrossFit is good about getting you out of your comfort zone, which can be beneficial in so many ways.” 
  • “There’s so many things that are great about it. It’s just making sure that you manage those with not overtraining and not going too far above your abilities where you can risk injury and it can be amazing.” 

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