Sean Patrick - A Champion’s Approach to Sport & Life
Sean Patrick embodies many attributes we celebrate at Monday. As a successful CEO and entrepreneur, family-man (father of 5), and athlete (recently crowned CrossFit Games champion in the Male 50-54 age division) living a high performance life, he's remained an amazingly kind and good human. His unique mindset is inseparable from his remarkable achievements, none of which are possible without his minimalist relationship with alcohol. We caught up with Sean fresh off his CrossFit Games victory to learn more about his winning approach to life.
First off, congratulations on your big win! How does it feel to reach the top of the podium? I hear there’s a pretty cool story about how you set this audacious goal for yourself. Tell us about that.
I had been trying to qualify for the Games for the past 4 years, repeatedly getting “stuck” at a ranking about 50th in the final qualifying step. Only ten athletes make it to the Games in recent years so I was on the outside and not getting closer. About a year ago, I decided that I should stop worrying about making the Games and start worrying about winning the Games. I then told all of my training partners about this change and asked for their help. About six months before the Games, I was evaluating a professional coach and asked if he had any issue with me setting a Games win as the goal of our work together. He was supportive with maybe a hint of skepticism, but in the end, with his help and everyone else’s, it all came together.
What types of challenges awaited you and your fellow competitors at the CrossFit Games? Help us get a sense of the physicality required for your sport.
The Games schedule in my age group was 8 events in about 60 hours across three days. The longest events were roughly 25 minutes in length and the shortest about 3. Across the 8 events, we performed 27 different movements. These included running, swimming, and different cardio-type machines such as rowers/ergs. There was a variety of barbell lifting, both heavy and lighter, high-rep movements. Gymnastics and body weight movements were prevalent, everything from ring muscle ups and 20 foot rope climbs, to single leg squats and handstand pushups. CrossFit demands a high level of strength, along with a broad cardio fitness for endurance and sprint length events, and high levels of technical proficiency in gymnastics and olympic-style weightlifting.
Those aren’t exactly things the average 50-year-old has in their back pocket. Tell us about your training regiment and what it took to be capable of taking on (and being the best at) those athletic feats.
Its almost impossible to excel at everything CrossFit asks of you, but in an attempt to gain proficiency across the domains, competitive training demands at least 12-15 hours per week for most of the year. This ratchets up around the spring competitive event season. Additionally, there is a lot of focus on nutrition, flexibility, and sleep to maximize recovery for the next training session. These latter elements become even more important for me and the other older age group athletes.
And now that you’ve had some time for the dust to settle (the event took place Aug.4-6), can you contextualize what this achievement means to you?
It's still hard to grasp. I love the training process and the opportunity to compete at my age. Winning was the intention, but it was also icing on the cake. I feel incredibly grateful for the entire experience leading up to and during the competition.
Aside from athletics, it seems like you’re also finding success in many other areas of your life (CEO, Father of 5, etc.). What’s your secret sauce?
I’m not sure I have any secret sauce other than recognizing that there’s no chance I can do more than 2-3 things well. And even then, when any of the few important things on my list ramp up, sometimes the others suffer. I heard someone speak recently about the myth of balance in life, instead suggesting that managing for sustainability over the long term was more appropriate. The message included the idea that there’s not much opportunity for balance when trying to excel at something. That seems more right to me.
Talk about your relationship with alcohol. Do you think your approach to the hard stuff contributes (one way or the other) to achieving your high performance lifestyle?
I rarely drink alcohol, maybe a couple times per year. I enjoy the social environments in which alcohol has traditionally played a large role, but I just can’t function well after drinking. I feel rotten for a day or two and can’t afford that time at half speed. Before learning about the non-alcoholic options becoming available, I would drink water or soda. I don't like the sugar from soda, and while water is a fine option, its somehow not quite as enjoyable or as participative as having an option that fits better.
As a father, how do you talk to your kids about alcohol consumption?
As my kids grew up they probably saw and heard more about alcohol from social media and their peers as they did at home. It's hard to compete with the sheer volume of content on technology theses days. While we talked about it, especially in the context of driving or riding in cars with others, we tried to set a responsible example by abstaining, drinking alcohol modestly, or drinking alternatives without alcohol.
With coaching, competition, and peer motivation, CrossFit is a realm of fitness that has a built-in ecosystem of support. What role (if any) does the social aspect of support, good ideas, and motivation play in regards to work, athletic endeavors, parenting, and your relationship to alcohol?
CrossFit is the most welcoming athletic community I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve done lots of different types of exercise and competition. Im convinced this is because all levels of athletes can share the same workout. With this benefit, CF communities naturally bring together a tremendously diverse membership. While some have lots of energy for their social lives that include alcohol, there is also a large contingent that prioritizes their ability to get in a quality workout over their use of alcohol. All preferences are welcome, but its nice to join others with a similar relationship to drinking.
What does the concept of ‘a balanced life’ mean to you? Is it possible to have a balanced life while pushing to the extremes of success?
I mentioned this a bit earlier and have become more convinced that its less possible than many believe. Ultimately it depends on your definition of balance, but excelling at more than just a few priorities seems really difficult to me.
What is your relationship with sacrifice? How do you decide which sacrifices are worth the desired outcomes? (If you’d be willing to share some sacrifices that have affected you that could be great for context).
When focusing on just a couple of things, there are lots of other activities that get no attention. I’d love to speak a foreign language or play an instrument, but simply don't make time to learn because of my focus on work, family, and CF. Those are relatively easy decisions. The harder sacrifices come when these priorities conflict. For example, this past summer, I didn’t travel to any of my child’s away basketball tournaments. I love going to those and have done that in the past without fail. I also shirked many of my responsibilities around the house for a few months. Its selfish, and even though I had support from my family, its not lost on me that I missed out on some experiences that I value.
So many challenges seem intimidating and insurmountable. This mindset might produce thoughts such as, ‘Quit drinking?! I can’t do do that!” or, “Earn the title, ‘Fittest on Earth’ in my 50s?! Not a chance!” How do you look at challenge and what advice would you give someone who fears great challenges?
I take a different perspective, which is that the challenges are the things most worth doing. I’m continually impressed with what people can accomplish when they go for it. Maybe my only advice would be that for anyone doubting their chances of doing something remarkable, why not try? Maybe it happens and maybe it doesn’t, but there’s a world of experiences found in that pursuit that simply aren't available when you're sitting on the sidelines.
More about Sean:
Follow Sean of Instagram: @seanpatrickcf
Summary: (go to 1:37) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koYI2s4FVB4
Watch Live (Sean participates in M50-54)
Day 2 pt.1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtvotzWHXu0
Day 2 pt.2 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vfVuN72PTs