Nathan Bramblett: Faith, Family, and Crossfit

IMG_9227 By: Chip Payne

Crossfit, a sport of mental, physical, and natural toughness.  A sport that takes not only a toll on your body, but your mind as well.  To be an athlete in this sport, one must rise above the rest and be willing to take a few beatings along the way.  That is what current crossfit athlete and  Christopher Newport University alum, Nathan Bramblett discussed with me last week. Nathan, just 25 years old has already accomplished so much in this sport since its conception about 10 years ago.  From a little known kid from Northern Virginia playing hockey, to of the of the most decorated crossfit athletes the Hampton Roads area has seen, Nathan might just be a modern day superman.  Nathan’s story is one that is interesting and up until this point, untold.  As a 2015 Crossfit Games competitor and currently training for the 2016 Crossfit Games, this is a story you don’t want to miss.

To many who may not have heard of this relatively new sport, crossfit is defined as “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.”  In other words, it is doing specific weight training exercises, such as the snatch, as many times as you can in a certain amount of time.  Crossfit combines weight training, cardio, and high intensity movement to produce some of the fittest athletes known to man.  In fact, the slogan of the annual crossfit games is “The Fittest on Earth.”  In order for athletes such as Nathan to qualify for the Crossfit Games they first must compete and place in an open event.  From there athletes move on to the master’s qualifier then to regional competition, which in Nathan’s case will be held on May 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia.  After placing at all of these events, athletes are then invited to the Crossfit Games, which host competitors from all over the world.  The 2016 Crossfit games will be held July 19th through the 24th in Carson, California for the 7th consecutive year.

Nathan is a native of Northern Virginia, just outside of D.C., where he grew up lifting weights with his dad, therefore, he’s always been interested in lifting weights and staying in shape, then crossfit became an option.  From the time he was 13 years old he was working out.  “My dad is a big guy, so I guess lifting weights just came naturally to me,” Nathan stated during our interview.  Nathan also played hockey growing up but it wasn’t until he was 16 years old when he started to take his weight training seriously.  When he graduated from high school and moved to Newport News to attend Christopher Newport University he pick up crossfit as a way to stay in shape and avoid the dreaded “freshman fifteen.”  Nathan, now 25, married, with an infant daughter, believes that crossfit acts as a way to become “a well rounded person by exercising the whole body on a day to day basis with constant strength and agility training.”

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Crossfit was not always Nathan’s first passion, in fact he did not begin crossfit until his sophomore year of college.  Nathan stated “me and some buddies got together and just thought we would try it” and he has not looked back since.  One of Nathan’s friends who got him into crossfit is related to Ben Smith, a Chesapeake, Virginia native and the 2015 Crossfit Games champion.  From the very beginning, Nathan has always had a strong support system, whether its friends or family, he believes that without those people in his life he would not be where he is today.

Just one year ago, in 2015 was Nathan’s first time competing in the Crossfit games and he hopes to return to the 2016 games.  I asked Nathan “When did you begin to realize that you were good at this [crossfit] and start to step your training up?”  He replied with “After I watched the 2013 games on TV, I started training about 9 months after that because I knew I wanted to be there.”  Currently he trains about 3 times a day with between 2-4 workouts during each session.  As someone who is familiar with lifting weights, I know the physical toll that it takes on not only your body, but your appetite as well. Nathan stated, “although my agent says I need to have a sounder diet, it’s never really the same.”  In order for his body to have the energy it needs to workout that much and at that intensity, Nathan eats a lot of fruit before workouts because “they are high in natural sugars, which gives my body the energy it needs.”  After each training session, Nathan eats meats, which are high in protein and veggies for carbohydrates.

I am sure you can imagine that someone who works out that much has to have injured himself at some point. Well that is the complete opposite.  Although Nathan says “my body is super sore and banged up” he knows the limits of his body and pushes those limits everyday to be the best he can be.  Weight training, especially crossfit can be very dangerous if not practiced properly.  With the high intensity movements that go along with crossfit, there is high risk for injury.  I asked Nathan about that and he told me that “the injury risk is actually fairly low in crossfit compared to other sports.”  After doing some digging I found that in 2014 a research article published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that out of 132 athletes studied, 97 had sustained some type of injury that prevented them from training, which is almost 74%.  Even with statistics like this, Nathan still believes that crossfit is not dangerous.  He says that “you need to learn the basic movements before going heavy,” which is something that not many people understand.

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In many people’s minds, crossfit is a dangerous sport but when I asked Nathan what he would say to all the crossfit haters, he replied “just come try it, just come do it, everyone has a reason why it’s not for them, but how do you know until you try?”  He suggested that doing research is the best way to begin in the sport.  “I would suggest research a good gym in the area that has really good coaching and a good reputation and go try it.”  Most gyms have beginner classes on crossfit, who are taught by trainers such as Nathan.  He states, “my days usually consist of teaching three to four classes as well as training myself.”  In order to become successful doing crossfit you should have a basic idea of what the movements are doing to your body.  You must also ensure that you use the competition in the gym with caution because overtraining could literally kill you.

Since Nathan graduated from CNU, he has taken on crossfit full time.  Currently, he lives in Newport News with his wife and daughter while he coaches, trains and otherwise lives at Crossfit Oyster Point.  Even though Nathan coaches 2-3 sessions a day he still manages to find time to train himself and be a family man.  A degree from CNU in business administration with a concentration in management helped him obtain proper time management.  Nathan states that what drives him to be he best is “my family, my coaches, and an athletic ability from the good lord.”

Nathan’s faith is something that drives him to success in the crossfit world.  He states.  “Without the love of my family and the lord, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”  As I was talking to some of Nathans friends one day at the gym, I mentioned to them what a man of the lord he was.  They informed me that while Nathan was a CNU student, they would frequently hold bible study in his room to learn about and spread the word of God.  It was at that moment that I realized the type of person that Nathan really was.  Not only is he a gifted athlete, not only was he a family man, but a servant of the lord as well.  My only regret was not getting to know Nathan better before he graduated.

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The final question that I asked Nathan was “Do you plan on continuing to compete in crossfit?”  His reply was simply put “Yes, I will never go back to working out any other way.”  A story on Nathan by Hampton Roads news station, WAVY10, describes Nathan as one of the 40 best Crossfit athletes in the world, partly because that’s what you have to be in order to qualify for the games.  Nathan also describes his support system and faith in the interview. If you have the chance checkout some of Nathan’s workout videos on YouTube or tune into the 2016 Crossfit Games, where you just might see him competing.  Nathan Bramblett is truly one of the most gifted athletes in the area and even without faith, family, and crossfit I believe that he will succeed either way.

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