Local Attorney Vincent Lopez Competes in CrossFit Games Masters Division

The Balance Gym Thomas Circle athlete recalls his most grueling and memorable experiences of the games.

Vincent Lopez of Balance Gym Thomas Circle performs handstands during a workout of the day at the 2013 CrossFit Games. Lopez competed in the 50-54 masters division and placed 14th out of 20. Photograph via CrossFit.

In 2010, Vincent Lopez quit CrossFit cold turkey.

Those who know next to nothing about CrossFit would barely blink an eye. But for avid CrossFitters, who experience the highest highs from the crushing workouts, quitting isn’t in their vocabulary.

For Lopez, 50, a nagging shoulder injury didn’t mesh well with CrossFit workouts, which involve plenty of intense shoulder exercises, such as handstand pushups and overhead squats. “I continued to work out for a couple of months, but I wasn’t getting better or stronger,” he recalls. “I made the decision to stop cold and didn’t work out for four months. It was really hard for me.”

Turns out quitting was the best decision Lopez could have made. “I completely healed. It was exactly what needed to be done,” he says. “I came back and got strong for the better part of two years.”

Strong, indeed. This year the Balance Gym Thomas Circle athlete qualified for the CrossFit Games, competing in the Masters 50 to 54 age group. The Masters divisions begin at age 40 and end with the 60-and-over age group for both men and women.

For two days last week, Lopez competed with 19 others in four grueling workouts of the day (WODs), one of which Lopez says he was hardly prepared for: the push-drag-pull, which involved 30 handstand pushups, a sled drag up and down a field, and 30 pullups for time. “CrossFit is unconventional, so you should expect the unexpected. I tried to cover all my bases, but pulling on that grass was just very unexpected,” he says.

Lopez just missed the final cut for the third day of competition, finishing 14th. Still, the underdog says, “I went into it 20th, and they only take the top 20 worldwide. So I was very excited about finishing 14th.” Also impressive: Before CrossFit, Lopez was never involved in any organized sports, “so to be in that kind of environment was just overwhelming. It was quite a shock for me.”

Lopez attributes a big part of his success to the Balance Gym CrossFit community, who, along with offering him full access to the gym and massages, organized fundraisers to help him actually get to the games (CrossFit athletes must pay their own way to California). “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system. They went above and beyond,” says Lopez, who follows a strict Paleo diet.

It won’t be long before Lopez returns to the box to start training again. After a week off, he says, “It’s already in the back of my mind, trying to figure out what my game plan will be qualifying for next year. I’d love to go back.”