There’s being a morning person, and then there’s waking up at 3:30 a.m., which is what Jerry Hill does every morning (except Thursdays, when he sleeps in until 6:30).
“I’ve got to throw down a shot of espresso,” admits Hill, but soon he’s off to CrossFit Old Town, the Alexandria gym he opened in 2007.
Hill’s usually a coach, but he’s in athlete mode for this weekend’s CrossFit Games, the annual contest that puts competitors through a sadistic series of exercises in order to crown the Fittest on Earth™.
“I’m the guy with a big target on my back,” says Hill, who came in first in the Master Men 45-49 division qualifier, topping more than 1,000 entrants. That required doing 131 burpees in seven minutes, as well as racking up similarly high reps of other varied movements.
At 5 feet 7 and 165 pounds, Hill considers himself “on the small side” of the competitor pool. That’s a boon when it comes to gymnastics moves and a disadvantage on the strength side.
But he hopes his lifetime of moving has prepared him for anything.
“I was a U.S. Marine,” Hill says. “I played college baseball. I did powerlifting for nine years.”
And he’s been doing CrossFit for seven years, although Hill only recently decided to compete. In December — when he turned the big 4-5 — Hill made it official that he was going for the Games.
“It’s tough to do, to put it out there in the universe,” Hill says.
The exercise schedule seems even tougher. The first of his three daily workouts is done before he starts coaching at 5:15 a.m. Mid-morning, he stretches for 20 minutes, and at 10:30, he does his most strenuous moves of the day.
What those moves are change constantly because of the nature of CrossFit.
“A basketball player always knows what the task is, a triathlete knows what to train for,” Hill says. “In CrossFit, constantly varied, high-intensity exercise is the mantra.”
In addition to being proficient in dozens of specific exercises (Olympic lifts, walking on his hands, chest-to-bar pull-ups), Hill has practiced producing explosive power as well as mustering endurance.
“I’m hoping they throw something crazy at us,” says Hill, who’s competing to challenge himself and become a better coach. “The more you put yourself in the trenches, the more you learn and can give your athletes.”
Jerry Hill uses his Magic Bullet to blend sweet potatoes, protein powder and almond butter into a breakfast smoothie. “It stays with me when I train,” says Hill, whose dinners usually consist of grilled meats, steamed veggies and avocado.
Watch Hill live in California at Games.crossfit.com/masters-stream.