Pat Vellner Interview: Strengths, Weaknesses and Mindset With The 3rd Fittest Man on Earth

hey Pat, how did you find your way into CrossFit?

In 2012 I moved to Montreal to go to school at McGill University. I had already retired from Gymnastics and so I was just working out to stay fit with no real goals. I met some friends at school who were doing CrossFit workouts at the school gym and just started working out with them to have some training partners. I enjoyed the challenge and learning some new skills, I had never really weightlifted before.

I did the Open in 2013 and was bad, but after a year training with them I made it to Regionals in 2014 and did quite well. I met a coach there and got training at a box that year and made big improvements. I went to the Games in 2015 on a team and went back individual after that.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

This time of year I’m mostly training only once a day with maybe one or two double sessions mixed in. I typically train 5 days a week with one active recovery day and one full day off.

Do you have a coach and who organises your programming?

Currently I’m working with Michele Letendre and following her program DekaComp. I started working with her after the 2016 Invitational.

How much of your time is spent doing traditional CrossFit metcons in relation to other strength, skill, accessory and mobility work?

I usually have either weightlifting or gymnastics biased days that will have technical components and either strength or skill/conditioning parts respectively. Most days will also have one or two metcons and an accessory piece as well. It’s probably a fairly even split.

How many hours do you generally spend training and how do you balance that with your uni studies?

This time of year I try to keep my single sessions to about two hours and if it’s a double I try to be no more that an hour and a half each. Closer to Regionals it could be two sessions of two hours each and before the Games the volume goes up again.

I usually bounce back and forth between my training and studies to keep me focused on the task at hand. I train at school lots of days when I have less time, but often I will do some school, then train a bit, then more school and maybe another session depending on the programming. My evenings are usually fairly relaxed unless school is very busy. Organization is huge.

How does the knowledge you gain from your Chiro studies impact your own training as an elite Crossfitter?

I think my knowledge of movement mechanics helps me with my motor patterns and obviously the general health knowledge helps me know when to try and push through some hurt and when I should back off. It also doesn’t hurt that I can give myself some muscle treatment if I need and have lots of access to chiropractic care.

Is your family sporty as well? Do you swap skills and help each other?

We all have been quite successful throughout or lives. I actually did gymnastics with my older brother who now is a Cirque du Soleil performer in Las Vegas, and I played lacrosse with my younger brother who still plays. We don’t really swap skills much these days since we all live in different places, but we still get together and mess around whenever we can.

How do you manage to keep your mind calm and focused during competitions?

I always try to keep things light and joke around whenever I’m in competition.

I’m able to turn up the intensity when it’s time to hit the floor, but I’ve never found it useful to keep your stress levels high all day.

The competition skills in CrossFit are very similar to those in gymnastics, you’re competing one event at a time and need to be ready to take on the next challenge to the best of you ability regardless of what happened in the others. I spend a long time honing those skills and so now I think I benefit a lot from that.

What do you feel are your biggest weaknesses and strengths in CrossFit?

I think my pure strength and weightlifting are still my biggest weaknesses. I had never done that stuff prior to starting CrossFit so I’m still building those skills. I’m more successful in aerobic and endurance events, particularly those with a high degree of skill or gymnastics in them. I’m also very stubborn and can grind with the best of them.


What is it like to compete as a team at Invitationals in comparison with individual competition for events such as Regionals and The Games?

The Invitational is more of a fun event for us. There is very little on the line compared to the Regional or Games stage, it’s more of an all star game. You have a bit more time to relax and really get to know your competitors and compete along side some of your season rivals, which is a cool change. It’s different for us who compete as individuals all year to get used to relying on team mates and stop competing against one another. The Regionals and Games can be very stressful, but they’re also a ton of fun. It’s a great way to test yourself and the atmosphere is always amazing.

After watching you compete at the 2016 Regionals with a torn bicep and still make it to the Games, it is clear that you have a great deal of drive and mental toughness. What motivates you to compete and push yourself?

I am very driven to win and push myself to the best of my abilities. In that case I felt I couldn’t do any more damage than was already done, so I made the decision that I would compete as long as I was able. They would have to remove me from the competition floor. I want to see where my limits are and know that I tested myself to my max.

Your CrossFit Games 2017 was a fight up the leaderboard. What did you learn from that experience?

It’s important to know that it’s a long weekend and there are a lot of points available.

There is no time to mope and feel bad for yourself in a competition.

I wish I hadn’t put myself in that situation, but I had made the decision that this year I would be trying to take more risks over the course of the event and that’s just sports. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. I’ll be better prepared next year.

What was your reaction to being moved up from 4th to 3rd after Ricky Garard’s suspension?

I’ve spoken openly about it. It’s a shame to see that sort of thing start creeping it’s way into our sport, but it’s fairly inevitable with more and more money on the line. It’s awesome to have come away with back to back podiums, but by the time that news had broken I was thinking more about the 2018 Games than the 2017 Games. I can’t afford to live in the past for too long, there’s lots of work to do if I want to get there again.

How did it feel to win the O-Course Event at The Games this year?

Frankly it was a relief. I knew that I could win that event, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I was glad to put together a solid run in the last round and leave no doubt. I always find that I put more pressure on myself during events that I know I should do well in.

If you could program one event for the 2018 CrossFit Games, what would it be and why?

That’s tough, It’s always hard to know what other people are going to be great at. I would say maybe something with running, heavy deadlifts, toes to bar and an odd object of some kind, maybe heavy sandbags.

What achievement are you most proud of in your life?

For now since I haven’t yet finished with school I think my Crossfit Games medals. They represent years of work and dedication and the value of that is incredible.

What 3 words would you use to best describe Brent Fikowski?

Genuine, Fit, Original.

Love the dude.

What book would you recommend that everyone should read?

It doesn’t matter much. I’m not big on a lot of the pop psychology books and mental strength things that a lot of athletes are reading. In my opinion most people could definitely stand to read more though. Read something you like so you start to enjoy reading again, then hopefully once you build the habit you’ll get to reading all kinds of stuff. Don’t limit yourself.

Other than that we should read the news more, and should read multiple sources.

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