Two-Time CrossFit Games and Wodapalooza Masters Champion Rudy Berger Shares Success with Wife Lynette and Mentor Scott Panchik
Turning 40 can be daunting for many people. For Rudy Berger, it was an opportunity.
His wife and now coach, Lynette, asked him how he wanted to celebrate his 40th birthday. He replied that he wanted to do “something fitness-related.” Lynette got creative and bought him a “Scotty P and Me” training session with CrossFit legend, Scott Panchik.
- While on a zoom call, after asking Rudy for a few benchmark numbers, and before ever meeting him in person, Panchik proclaimed with a smile, “Rudy, you are going to win the CrossFit Games.”
Some background: Rudy Berger started doing CrossFit in late 2014 at the age of 32. To make his wife happy, he joined Chalkdust Fitness, which had recently opened in Powell, OH. He was a little skeptical about group fitness classes. To ease his mind, Lynette promised that it was far from Zumba. He felt “out of shape” after his first class, but stuck with it. And the Bergers quickly felt a bond with the community at Chalkdust.
- “It didn’t take long to feel at home at Chalkdust. While it was still a small community, our bond has been strong from the early days,” Berger tells Morning Chalk Up.
Rudy progressed rapidly, learning new skills and increasing his strength numbers. He entered the Open in 2015 and got a taste of the competitive side of the sport. He enjoyed pushing himself to the limits, but it would be years later that he would decide to go all in.
The turning point: After hearing Panchik tell him he would win the Games, Rudy laughed and thought, “He’s really nice. Can’t wait to meet him.” But after training together for a full weekend, he too was convinced.
- “There was a lot of fitness and coaching, not only physical but also mindset coaching. He told me: ‘If you want to go after the Games, you have to say it and commit.’ And there it happened. Sitting on the turf side of Crossfit Mentality, I said, ’I am going to the Crossfit Games.’”
Panchik could see the potential immediately, not only from Rudy but from Lynette as well, who started coaching CrossFit in 2017.
- “From the minute they came out here, I could tell they had something special, what they had set out to do. It meant just as much to her as it did to him. Lynette is a great coach.” Panchik tells Morning Chalk Up.
There were, however, a couple of holes in Rudy’s game, one more glaring than others.
- “I had never used a ski erg before and Scott will tell you that it was obvious, and my skiing looked like a bad dance,” Rudy says.
- “I asked him if he knew how to dance,” Panchik chuckles, “Lynette must’ve gotten him some salsa lessons after that.”
The Bergers took what they learned from the weekend and got to work. A few months later, they returned to CF Mentality for another session. The progress was substantial. At that point, the Bergers and the Panchiks were becoming friends, and Panchik started sharing his personal workouts, confident that Rudy could handle them.
- “I wanted to help him pursue this goal, at the same time working hard to compete as well…It was fun, and it reminded me of when I was working with my brothers, and Fee Saghafi at CrossFit Mentality. It was like a brotherhood.” Panchik says.
Panchik added that having Lynette as his coach could be a competitive edge:
- “When my wife’s in the gym, I want to look like Superman. I would bet he feels the same,” Panchik laughs.
The Bergers agree that their partnership is integral to his achievements.
- “I don’t see my success as a separate thing. It’s our success. Our partnership and respect for each other’s role in this makes us successful,” Rudy says.
- “Watching the person you love the most put himself out there, through good and not-so-good times, to pursue a dream is the best. As long as he is in, I will have his back 100%,” Lynette adds.
What started as a birthday gift has turned into multiple championships, plus a deep bond and friendship between the Berger and Panchik families. Rudy and Lynette believe that while Panchik’s athletic resume is truly impressive, his real gift is being a coach and a mentor.
- “He knows what to say no matter what the situation is. Sometimes, it’s just tactical advice. Other times, it is mindset-related. At times, it’s a good stern text to challenge our approach and our thinking,” Rudy says.
Moving forward: Like many Masters athletes, Rudy is balancing his training with a full-time job and being a dad. 2024 has already started strong with a win at TYR Wodapalooza. His plans for the rest of the season are to focus on weaknesses, stay healthy, and continue to improve, together with his team.
Berger knows he has the ability and the support of his community at Chalkdust. He recalls hearing the cheers from nearly 40 family and friends in Madison and soaking in the feeling of being crowned the 40-44 Masters CrossFit Games Champion. He wants to feel that for a third consecutive year.
Berger: “I am humbled and driven by the opportunity to inspire some people along the way and show my kids that it’s never too late to go after a dream. I am grateful that I get to do this and I want to continue for as long as we can.”