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This 56-year-old Tri-Citian placed 2nd at the world CrossFit Games

Pasco’s Ken Idler is 56 and he believes in the CrossFit lifestyle.

Idler and his wife Audrey own CrossFit Unrestrained in west Pasco, with a clientele of 140.

“I love the methodology of CrossFit,” said Idler. “I like the functional fitness that helps you in daily life. When people come into CrossFit Unrestrained, they’ve made an effective use of their time. Every time when they do it, they leave feeling good.”

And Idler has benefited from it, too.

About seven years ago, his wife convinced him to come to a workout with her at a local CrossFit facility. It was rough for the father of three and two stepchildren, and grandfather of 10.

He thought he was in pretty good shape, but the workout showed him otherwise. It also convinced him that he could do better.

And he has.

Idler dived in and has gone to the Reebok CrossFit Games five times, the most recent last week. He placed second overall in the Men’s Masters 55-59 division — his highest finish ever.

In fact, Idler finished tied for first with Joe Ames.

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Ken Idler competes in the Reebok CrossFit games. Courtesy of Ken Idler

Each had 530 points. The tiebreaker was who had the higher individual event finishes and Ames had a slight edge.

As far as Idler was concerned, that was OK. He had finished on the podium.

Five CrossFit competitions

In the five times he has competed in the CrossFit Games, he has finished sixth (2013), fifth (2014) and 15th (2016) in the Masters 50-54 men’s division; and fourth (2018) and second (2019) in the Masters 55-59 men’s division. That fourth-place finish in 2018 really got to Idler.

“Last year I turned 55, and finished fourth,” he said. “This year I thought I might have a shot of getting on the podium. Finishing fourth last year and missing the podium by just one spot, that really bugged me.”

So he worked at getting back.

“This year was the first time at the games I was completely healthy. This year, I felt good going in,” said Idler.

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Ken Idler, left, at the Reebok CrossFit games. Courtesy of Ken Idler

To get there wasn’t going to be easy.

CrossFit holds the Open, where competitors around the world complete a workout each week for five weeks.

CrossFit announces on a Wednesday what the workout will be, and competitors — with a monitor watching — have until Sunday to finish the workout.

Over 4,500 men competed in Idler’s division.

Narrowing down competition

From there, the field was whittled down to the top 200 for another monitoring period.

“They used to take the top 20 from that,” said Idler, who is also the vice president of operations for Sandvik Special Metals. “But they were only taking the top 10 this year.”

Idler spent the last year training hard.

“I’m pretty fortunate. I don’t sit around very much,” he said. “Sometimes I can work out with the class when I’m not teaching. But most of my workouts happen on the weekends.”

He trains three days on, one day off.

Then two days on, one day off. Repeat.

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Ken Idler competes in the Reebok CrossFit games. Courtesy of Ken Idler

“I’ve also learned how to train smarter,” Idler said. “This year, it was about my improved nutrition. I’m eating really clean. But in the past I wasn’t eating the right amount of food for how much I was training.”

The Games competition takes three days. There were nine people there in his category (Masters Men 55-59) because one of the guys didn’t make it.

“I ended the first day by being in fourth,” reports Idler. “After the first workout on Saturday I was back in first. But the next event I dropped back to fourth. I always knew I had a shot. But I was more concerned on Saturday night when they announced the events for Sunday.”

Competitors don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing until the night before.

“(Games officials) could go a lot of different ways,” Idler said. “Last year, they swam. We didn’t swim this year. But you know you’re going to row, run, bike, do some gymnastics.

“You have to make sure you just don’t train in the thing you like to do,” he continued. “You have to know what events you suck at and have to train in those too.”

For Idler, that was his situation in two weight events called Bicouplet 2 and Bicouplet 1. The first is when a competitor does 12, 9 and 6 snatches of 115 pounds; and 9, 6, and 3 bar muscle ups — all for time.

The second event, a competitor does 15, 12, 9 snatches of 75 pounds; then chest-to-bar pull-ups — also for the best time.

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Ken Idler at the Reebok CrossFit games. Courtesy of Ken Idler

“I ended up doing better than I thought,” admitted Idler, placing second in the first event and third in the last event.


Time to relax

Now, whether he goes for it again is another decision.

“I’ll always do CrossFit because I believe in it,” Idler said. “In August, I back off and relax. My wife and I will make a decision about next year then.”

He says it’s usually a big decision.

It means the difference of sometimes going out to eat dinner or maybe having a beer. Sacrifices.

Either way, he’ll continue to be involved in CrossFit.

“I always thought I was in good shape until I started doing CrossFit,” he said. “But I’m stronger today than I was last year, and stronger than I was when I started doing this when I was 47. People our age, you’re supposed to go the other way.”

Jeff Morrow is former sports editor for the Tri-City Herald.
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