Jack Farlow balances academics and CrossFit as the only student competitor

Jack Farlow, a second-year Biomedical Engineering (BME) student at the University of Waterloo has achieved a remarkable feat by qualifying for the 2023 CrossFit Games. The games are a multi-day competition that brings together elite athletes from around the world to showcase their fitness and compete for the title of Fittest on Earth.

After two previous attempts, making it to the semifinals each time, Farlow secured his spot in to compete in this years’ finals taking place August 3 to 6 in Madison, Wisconsin.

“After working so hard over the past seven years — and making it to the semifinals but not the finals — getting into the games just felt very rewarding and made me appreciate how far I’ve come,” says Farlow.

The competition season begins with an open qualification stage, where participants complete a series of workouts to earn a spot in the next round. From there, the top 10 per cent of athletes advance to the quarterfinals and then the top 60 athletes compete within their geographic region in the semifinals.

Finally, the top 40 athletes globally progress to the CrossFit Games, where they face a series of grueling workouts and challenges over several days. These challenges incorporate a variety of movements, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, cardiovascular exercises and more.

Farlow stands out as the only student participant and the second youngest contender among the 40 competitors in the finals. Most of his fellow competitors are full-time athletes with ample resources and time to prepare.

Balancing academic commitments and CrossFit training is a demanding endeavor. At only 21 years old, Farlow faces a challenge that extends beyond the physical — he must manage a full course load during the summer term while preparing for the games.

“You have more time in the day than you think, if you use your time efficiently you can get a lot done. Focusing on your intention is key,” Farlow says on how he chooses to allocate his time.

Farlow's CrossFit journey began after he left his high-level hockey career behind in high school. Drawn to the gym and the challenge of CrossFit, he quickly found himself immersed in the sport. As he progressed, he realized that his true passion lay in pushing his limits and excelling in CrossFit rather than on the ice.

In preparation for the quarterfinals and semifinals, Farlow dedicated four hours a day to his training. With the finals approaching, he has amplified his efforts, dedicating six hours each day to hone his skills and has incorporated more swimming, biking and training outside the gym to prepare for the diverse challenges the finals may throw his way.

“Luckily my friends are also into CrossFit, and I am able to see them at the gym to help maintain a bit of my social life while I balance school and preparing for the games,” Farlow remarks.

Farlow's passion for fitness has also influenced his academic journey. Originally enrolled in systems engineering, he made the switch to biomedical engineering for its commonalities with health and fitness. He has a particular interest in wearable technology as he uses a smart watch to measure his own performance in his trainings.

While striving for success in CrossFit, Farlow recognizes the importance of fostering long-lasting friendships and establishing memories while at university. In one of his recent classes, Farlow and his classmates worked on developing and programming a prosthetic hand device that can perform common tasks. It’s this kind of hands-on learning experience Farlow looks forward to applying to future co-op terms.

As the finals approach, Farlow seeks to strike a balance between appreciating how far he has come, but his competitive spirit is pushing him to perform his best in the upcoming games.

Waterloo News story by Jordan Flemming

Photo credit: Training Day Media

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