Marcus Filly’s Crossfit Games Athlete Profile
4th Place Finisher In the Norcal Regional
37th Place Finisher in the Crossfit Games
Can you give us some background info for those that don’t know you?
I’ve been a health and fitness professional for the past 5 years. Prior to that I had been pursuing a medical degree at The Ohio State University. I lived back in Columbus Ohio before it was the mecca of CrossFitters and Rogue that it is now. Come to think of it, I may have stayed in medical school had Graham Holmberg’s gym been right around the corner as it is now. But the truth is that medicine wasn’t for me and a career working with people in health and wellness was still the dream. CrossFit wasn’t the fall back plan to medicine either. Training CrossFit was a staple in my life already and a necessary part of the soul searching process after medical school was over. It just so happened that the health and fitness industry had a lot to offer and filled the void that medicine left. Here I am five years later living out the dream of coaching people daily and improving lives through education and movement.
How have your past athletic experiences transferred into training for the sport of fitness (in regards to soccer/ golf)?
Not many people really think of golf as an athletic experience, however, it has had tremendous transfer to the sport of fitness. Golf taught me about honesty. It is a game that honors those who play by the rules. It is one of the few sports where athletes call rules on themselves that nobody else is enforcing on them. Growing up playing golf I had to learn this lesson. When I was really young I used to cheat playing golf. Lie about how many strokes I got on a hole, improve my lie here and there, and just cut corners because I wanted my handicap card to read a lower number. When I started to compete in golf nobody cared what my handicap card said, all they cared about was how many strokes it took to get the ball in the whole. Well cheating doesn’t fly in competition and you either got a 4 or you got a 5, there isn’t any grey area. So when I shifted to competitive golf I truly learned about honesty both in practice and competition. Cheating got you nowhere. Cheating didn’t make you any better and in fact you were truly only “cheating yourself.” The sport of fitness is just like this. You are either able to do the reps faster than the other person or not. You can either lift the weight or not. No need to pad your PR list with lies. Get real, be honest, train hard, practice relentlessly, and prepare to go out and show others how hard you have worked.
What sparked you to change your path and take a leap of faith on a new journey into fitness (regarding leaving med school)?
The series of events that lead up to me leaving medical school and choosing a life in fitness goes way back to childhood and probably stems from having parents that were in medicine who loved their careers and set the example for me growing up. But when it finally came down to the big decision there were just a couple things that made it very clear to me what I was supposed to do. Number one was “Passion”. I was passionate about seeing people make changes to their lives that had a positive impact on their health and wellness. The philosophy of western medical education is that we are trained to diagnose problems and prescribe some intervention, be it drugs, therapy, or surgery, to fix that problem. This never appealed to me, even before I started medical training. Furthermore, the thought of prescribing drugs to a patient scared me. Number two was “Happiness”. The process of medical education is very difficult and long. It is an 8-12 or more year process before you get to practice medicine outside of the academic world. Those first several years are grueling. Sleep deprivation, excessive studying and sitting at a desk, high stress, and unhealthy living all describe those years. The challenge of medical school can make it extremely rewarding for those that finish and realize their dream of practicing medicine. I imagine I would have felt similar had the finish line looked more attractive to me. However, I wasn’t convinced of that dream and the challenges of medical school drained me and left me incredibly unhappy. Finally, number three, I lived amongst some of the most unhealthy people I had met in years, my medical school classmates. I too had turned pretty unhealthy. It was a sad state of affairs. I had dropped to about 180lbs, lost a great deal of the strength I worked hard for in years past, was under slept and over stressed, and even got “Shingles” at the ripe age of 23. I desperately wanted to be healthy again and be able to pursue a life of movement and clean living. Furthermore it motivated me to get out and teach others how to do a better job of living well. I knew that even my classmates could be doing a better job of taking care of their own health and having opportunities to educate people on how to manage their own health better could add to the quality of their work/life experience.
What steps did you take from becoming an aspiring regionals level competitor to a games competitor? And what advice would you give to someone striving to do the same?
This is a hard question for me to answer since I don’t recall there ever being a clear decision to make a transition from Regional level to Games. I was fortunate to be part of an affiliate team that made the Games 3 years in a row. Each year I was part of the team we raised our commitment to training. In year two I started following a year round training program and year three we hired a private coach for the team that handled programming for each of us individually.
Each year we improved as a team and climbed the leaderboard at the games. Persistence was key. For 3 years the goal was to make it to the final workout at the Games. Never be “cut”. Training became more thoughtful and having a coach was essential to helping us peak at the right time of year to qualify and win. You couldn’t just take a break and skip a couple months of training. It didn’t mean train at your highest intensity every day but it did mean consistency year round. You must have this or you cannot achieve your goals in competitive fitness.
When the transition to competing individually happened this year I knew it was going to mean more of the same. Honesty, as I mentioned above, is a critical component to this pursuit. What are you good at and what will keep you off the podium or from qualifying for regionals? Figure that out or hire a coach to do it for you. Commitment. It is going to be a long season and long year and you have to be bound to the work inside and outside of the gym. Who is willing to adopt the routines necessary to become a champion in September or October when the Open is far enough away that it is out of mind? Persistence. The journey to Regionals or the Games is going to have many obstacles. These obstacles will knock most people off the course. But you have to be prepared to stay on the course beyond when most others would.
Can you take us through a typical day of training & eating? And what hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?
Wake up between 6-7am (unless I’m coaching the early classes or clients then it is up at 4:30-5:00am).
Supplements (greens first, max fiber, probiotics, fish oil, vit D, B-complex) – I take this first thing on empty stomach
20mins later I’m drinking Coffee with Heavy Cream
AM training around between 7-9 is typically aerobic work on rower or airdyne
Breakfast (eggs/bacon/fruit, or gluten free protein pancakes)
Noon training – typically weight training session with or without a conditioning piece depending on time of year. later in season this will mostly be about weight training with a short skill based metcon
Lunch – meat, rice or potatoes, and fruit. smaller meal if I have a PM training session
Afternoon – see clients, coach classes, or program for remote coaching clients
Snack – protein shake or food bar
PM training – monostructural conditioning or mixed modal metcons
Dinner – meat, veggies, starch depending on volume that day and appetite (sweet potatoes or some rice)
Relax – answer some emails, watch TV shows, in bed between 8-9pm every night just about. Latest would be 10pm (that is LATE!)
When there is free time I like to fill it by getting to know my clients that are around the gym better, developing better relationships with the coaches at my gym, and trying to build upon the community we have at TJ’s Gym. It is a very special thing to have such a diverse group of people directly linked to my life through fitness. I try to soak it up when I can.
Mentally how did competing at the regional level differ from the games, and what was it like stepping out onto the larger stage at the games?
Regionals was more stressful than the Games for me. We knew the workouts at Regionals. Most athletes had a plan and some strategy they were going to execute. Many of us had the whole weekend mapped out to the minute. When we would eat, rest, warm up, sleep, etc.. It was three days of intense focus without much time for anything else. The Games don’t offer you the luxury of having a set plan for everything. There are so many unknowns and last minute changes to the plan that you have to bring a more relaxed and flexible attitude to the competition. When it is time to compete you get focused but unlike regionals you cannot have expectations since all the workouts are new and untested. In that way it feels like training. So much of training is just showing up and doing your best with unfamiliar combinations. Only in this case you have thousands of people there cheering for you and it only adds to the excitement.
What was your most memorable moment at the Crossfit Games? And what did you learn from the experience?
The sprint off with Ben Smith in the Zig Zag sprint will stay with me for a long time. We had tied in the second round of qualifying. Dave Castro called for a sprint off between us two. The entire soccer stadium for a brief moment was fixated on just Ben and I. The tension was high. The excitement was off the charts. Ben false started and sent the adrenaline to new heights. He ended up beating me out and securing a top 12 finish in that event. I ended up 15th in that event (best for me all weekend). Sometimes you get opportunities to do things that are truly special and unique. To have a soccer stadiums undivided attention on you for 11seconds is one of those times. You have to soak that stuff up and you can’t be disappointed if it doesn’t go your way because in reality you already won.
What will your focus be for the next year of training?
I leave that stuff up to my coach, James Fitzgerald. He knows me very well and understands the demands of this sport. I’m constantly learning from him and learning about myself. My job is to do the work and give him sufficient feedback such that he can guide the ship correctly. We will continue to focus on building my aerobic engine. As a goal keeper in soccer I build up my explosive power and short duration abilities far more than my aerobic engine. I’m playing some catch up with that. There will be a continued focus on building strength in bending movements and endurance in those movement patterns. Lastly I will continue to work on building a more sound mental approach to the sport. Your thoughts day in and day out about your training, abilities, and place in this sport, can help you excel or keep you from reaching your potential. Training is a mental exercise as much as a physical one. Find the balance and be honest with yourself about which is holding you back.
What’s the next step in your journey to optimal health and performance?
The next immediate step in the journey is finding a balance between optimal health and performance. I’ve learned from my coach and through experience that you cannot have both. Optimal health doesn’t mean doing triples 5 days a week. For me optimal performance doesn’t mean training once a day and eating a diet of zero sugars. But a balance of the two during this off-season time of year is important. Having a stretch of time when the body feels good and performs well is important for longevity.
If you want to follow me throughout the year please visit my website, marcusfilly.com, and check out my blog titled “Honesty, Commitment, Persistence.”
If you are looking for private/remote coaching please visit my coaching page on my website, marcusfilly.com, under the link Private Coaching
Lastly, please visit www.revive-rx.com and see the line of Grass-Fed Whey supplements that I have developed over the last couple years. Find Recovery and Protein products I along with many other athletes use to fuel their training for regionals and the games. We have some great wholesale deals for affiliate owners looking to carry supplements that are honest, straightforward, and effective.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to conduct this interview,