Fit, Fitter, Fittest

Washougal man finishes third at international CrossFit Games

Daily workouts at home are no problem for Nathan Loren, who performs pullups inside the garage of his Camas house.

The bronze medal from the CrossFit Games shows that Nathan Loren is one of the fittest men for his age on earth.

Washougal insurance agent Nathan Loren is interviewed after finishing third in the International Crossfit Games in Madison, Wisc.

A Washougal insurance agent is officially one of the fittest men on the planet after finishing third in the 45- to 50-year-old age division at the international CrossFit Games, held Aug. 1 through Aug. 5, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Nathan Loren rose to third place out of more than 15,000 men in his age group competing for the World CrossFit title.

Although he always enjoyed running and considered himself pretty fit prior to learning about CrossFit, Loren said his physique wasn’t always chiseled like it is today.

Loren’s concept of physical fitness changed forever during an elk-hunting trip with a buddy in 2007. He was shocked when his hunting partner blazed a trail to the top of a ridge, leaving Loren in the dust.

“I said, ‘What is happening? How did you get up here so fast?'” Loren said. “My buddy said, ‘It’s CrossFit,’ and I said, ‘Tell me what that is, right now.'”

Flash forward 11 years, and Loren now starts most days with a brisk walk up and down one of Camas’ steepest hills — with a 100-pound pack on his back — before heading to work at his State Farm Insurance office in Washougal. At lunchtime, Loren usually hits the gym for 30 minutes of weightlifting, followed by a 30-minute CrossFit workout.

A trademarked fitness routine with more than 15,000 affiliated gyms and daily “workouts of the day” known as WODs, CrossFit is a combination of high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, powerlifting and other exercises.

Loren’s CrossFit workouts vary daily, but each tests the limits of the human body with exercises like pushups, pullups and rowing. CrossFit athletes have a certain amount of time to crank out as many repetitions as possible. For example, while Loren typically performs 100 pull-ups during the time limit, the person next to him might do 10 pull-ups in the same amount of time. This is why athletes of all abilities can enjoy the same CrossFit workouts, and learn from each other.

Loren lives in Camas with his wife, Jessica, and their two sons, Rafe and Cash. In the evenings, when many of us might be snacking in front of the television, Loren is usually in his carless garage, which he has converted into a home gym. There, he practices skills like handstand walking and gymnastics, performing physical feats he couldn’t have imagined when he started his CrossFit journey.

“The human body is capable of so much more than we know,” Loren said. “I can do things with my body I didn’t even know were possible.”

When Loren first started CrossFit, his hunting buddy shared with him the daily workouts posted each day on the CrossFit website. At about the same time, in late 2007, Loren launched his insurance business without a single client.

A few months later, the Great Recession hit, and CrossFit workouts became the perfect outlet for Loren’s work stress. He joined the Fort Vancouver CrossFit gym and progressed so quickly he was asked to join a team training for The CrossFit Games, a fitness competition sponsored by Crossfit Inc. and Reebok, held every summer since 2007. In 2010, Loren’s team of three men and three women won the whole thing, finishing in first place.

“The 25-year-olds could do all that and walk away, and I would finish and my back, shoulders and knees would hurt. So, I ended up leaving the team in 2013 to focus on the masters division of CrossFit,” Loren said, referring to the divisions open to participants age 35 and older.

Loren now competes against men between 45 and 50 years old, and said he really enjoys performing in front of thousands of fans and a national television audience at the annual Crossfit Games.

“I’ve done it long enough that I don’t get nervous,” Loren said of the competition. “It’s just fun for me, and the energy from the crowd motivates me.”

CrossFit has grown in popularity since the Washougal insurance agent first started his fitness journey in 2007. Today, there are more than 15,000 CrossFit gyms around the world, including three in Camas-Washougal. And, while anyone can start a CrossFit gym, Loren said they vary in quality and recommended finding a gym with a solid track record.

“Really, it’s the best ones that survive,” Loren said.

Nutrition also is a huge part of CrossFit. Originally, the program pushed what is known as the “paleo diet,” an eating plan based on the assumed diet of earliest humans — consisting mostly of meat, fruits and vegetables without grains or sugar.

“I like bread, bagels and cereal, but I tried the paleo thing and my performance tanked. I felt totally exhausted,” Loren said.

Now, the CrossFit nutritional trend is to find what works best for your own body. While some athletes eat paleo, others are vegan. Loren worked closely with a nutritionist and discovered his own body performs better on a diet high in carbohydrates. In the end, the breads and cereals his body had always craved actually helped his CrossFit workouts.

Loren said, when it comes to staying in shape, it’s important to be creative and not get stuck in a rut. And, he said, while he believes anyone can benefit from cross-training workouts, he said that fitness routine doesn’t have to include a gym or CrossFit membership. Sometimes, simply walking and then doing some yard work can be the workout your body needs.

“I don’t even have to go to a gym,” Loren said. “I could find 150 things to do right here at home (for) exercise.”