Hey everyone! We’re starting a new blog series where we’re going to introduce you to the growing community of CrossFit in Germany and Europe. We mark the start of this project with a guest blog from Rob Ottesen – a great athlete that is not only strong in body, but also in mind. Rob, or ROBO, is a soldier who has two long deployments behind his back. For his Military Service he doesn’t have to be fit. He has to be CrossFit. Learn more from his story…
Dear Suprfit community,
Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Rob (ROBO) Ottesen and I’m an American soldier stationed and living in Germany. I’ve been involved with CrossFit for nearly 6 1/2 years. I first heard about the company in 2008 when I was preparing myself for the rigors of the US Army Special Forces Assessment Course. I came across a few early articles claiming that this type of conditioning program and life style was a basis for a lot of firefighters, police, as well as Special Operations type personnel.
This sparked my interest and I gave it a try. If my memory serves me well, Fran was my first workout followed by Filthy 50 in the summer of 2008. I was thinking to myself how awful these workouts made me feel, but at the same time how proud I was for completing them. Confusing, but attractive. As a young guy preparing to embark on one of the hardest paths that the US Army has, this idea of competing against a clock or against other athletes was the perfect condition to get myself both mentally and physically ready. I was able to step away from the normal muscle head ideology of doing back and bis and having (I gag as I say this) a “leg day”. In the early days of training I was very ignorant of any sort of programming or the idea of individual training programs that have an “end state” for training. I would rather scourer on the different blogs of up and coming CrossFit affiliates and find what I believed to be the hardest looking workout and just take it to puke city. This was back when uncle Rhabdo and Pukey were still integral parts of the community albeit the negative connotations behind the symbolic characters. Finding this new training idea to prepare my mind and body with, I started a new chapter in life.
My journey picks up in Feb 2009 Fort Bragg, NC when I began the long process of earning the coveted Green Berets. The time between selection and moving across the country to fort Bragg was uneventful in the aspect of my CrossFit experience. The one tiny thing worth mentioning would be that I was there in the infant stages of one of the best athletes in the North Central. Megan John was a gym trainer on post at Ft. Riley Kansas where she and I started doing CrossFit workouts together before I left and she went on to become quite the athlete.
After this is where the story of where “Robo” begins really. I began the course and there was a small contingent of young Special Forces hopefuls that were into CrossFit. My buddy Jared Bullock (a great athlete although due to tragic events lost a leg and arm in Afghanistan) told me about a guy named Rory Hanlin. Rory had qualified for the Games that year so naturally this drew my attention – to be the best I had to train with the best. I met Captain Hanlin and asked him if he wouldn’t mind me tagging along to train. This was of course met with skepticism as we all know many people start CrossFit only to quit a short time later. This went on for about a month or so and he realized that I was taking him seriously and that I should start posting about my endeavors on the “big dawg” blog – Optimum Performance Training. You can still see all the old comments and it’s nice to go back and follow how far I’ve come in my training. This opened me up to the growing community of athletes. I began talking regularly with people from Canada and all over the US. Anyway, to make a long story short, during one of the early OPT challenges there were conflicting names and James Fitzgerald decided to put me in as RobO. The name really began to take hold when Rory’s brother in law started calling me ROBO. This is how I got my cool CrossFit nickname.
Well, the next 2 years is where my CrossFit experience really peaked and ended all at the same time. I was fortunate to be around a lot of good athletes during the beginning years of the sport – Nate Schrader, Aj Moore, Rory Hanlin, Steve Smith, Derek Maroquin, Brandon Philips and many more from the original “Dirty South” Regionals. I did a few competitions, never really doing anything remarkable, but there were some top 10 finishes as well as being able to promote some upcoming companies like Kill Cliff or CrossFit shops. My name got a lot bigger than my actual ability merited. It was in the company of these individuals that I really learned what it would take to be an athlete and I also discovered that being one wasn’t something that I was going to be able to do. Due to the life choices that I made with my job and serving my country I could not dedicate the time or energy to continue with this community. It was fun and I carry the love of competing with me to this day. I still compete and have done so on numerous occasions in Germany, Switzerland, and other places abroad. I have begun integrating into the growing community in Europe and have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. One such person is Suprfit staff member Vivi who I met and competed with in December of 2013 at CrossFit Basel’s grueling challenge “Are You Tough Enough?”.
But don’t think I’ve completely stopped training. I still do. However, the reasons behind it are somewhat different. My training now is harder than it ever was. Since I became a medic in the army Special Forces and wear the funny Green Berets, training has taken on a whole new meaning for me. My box is the ultimate battle field of man against man in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. The way I perform is the way I save lives. On a Special Forces team you have many personalities and about six different jobs, but the one job or skill every person on that team would die to protect is the medic. That is a lot to take in. On my first deployment as a medic I realized how everyone really looked at you. They know deep down in their hearts that if something bad were to happen to them as long as a Special Forces medic can get his hands on you everything is going to be alright. The hard truth is that if the medic goes down we all go down. So now my physical and mental fitness is a lot more than just about me. How I prepare myself can mean the difference of life and death of my team mates. If I didn’t prepare hard enough to do things “across broad times and modal domains” (had to throw a CrossFit reference in there), someone on my team might die. I never want that on my consciousness. So I train and continue to train to better myself, to help better my teammates, and to continue to enjoy the community that I loved so much not many years ago…
To be continued…
Coming soon – more about ROBO’s training in Afghanistan and how he keeps fit in the Army Camps out there. Stay tuned!