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Patrick Vellner is tantalizingly close to being anointed with a truly one-of-a-kind title. The 28-year-old CrossFitter and Reebok athlete from Red Deer, Alberta, is currently listed as the second-fittest person on Earth, per CrossFit’s standards. That’s on the heels of two straight years finishing in third place (he’s been on the competitive CrossFit scene since 2015).
And yet, despite his 12-pack abs and ability to deadlift 595 pounds, Vellner actually kind of looks like a normal, down-to-earth dude you’d sit next to at a bar on a Saturday night. (I witnessed his normal-guy-who-crushes-beers routine up close.) Outside of competitive fitness, he’s a full-time chiropractic student. He has a girlfriend. And he abides by an immensely boring diet—it's mostly just chicken and rice. That is, apart from the Sour Patch Kids, which he buys in bulk and eats by the handful.
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With the 2019 CrossFit Games looming in late July, I asked Vellner to break down the ins and outs of how he trains and what his plan is to get to that No. 1 spot.
GQ: Are you tired of people referring to you as the second-most-fit guy on Earth?
Patrick Vellner: I'd rather be the fittest guy in the world [laughs]. I think that it’s kind of an interesting title, and it’s also transient. Every year, you're only as good as your last year. You have to enjoy the title while you have it, because it might not last very long. The work is never done.
It’s kind of crazy how quickly you’ve excelled in the sport, especially considering you’re still a full-time student.
The way you do one thing is the way you do everything, right? I’m not a half-a** sort of person, and I have a bit of an extreme personality. I’d say having multiple areas that you can focus your attention on in life is healthy. I've been really successful at bouncing back and forth from one thing to the other. Simultaneously training and competing can be very stressful. At the various times of the year where that stress is maxed out, it's nice to be able to walk away and do something else that doesn't revolve around competition. Just like when things are crazy in school, it's nice to be able to go to the gym and turn your brain off completely.
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Tell me about a normal day. What time do you get up?
It depends. I’m in my last year of school right now, and am working in a clinic three days a week. I also have days with extra classes. Luckily, all my work days are afternoon shifts, so I work 12 to 8 p.m. I always work out in the mornings on days that I have work. On a Tuesday, I'd get up probably at 7 a.m., have breakfast, and try to be at the gym by 8:30.
What's for breakfast?
It's exactly two eggs and half a cup of egg whites, and then a cup and a half of oatmeal. Sometimes I use some hot sauce. It depends on what I’m training and how high my heart rate is going to be, since it could give me heartburn.
Do you drink coffee?
Yeah, usually black. Occasionally with milk, but again, depends on what I’m training. I probably drink too much of it. I’d say I’m at about three cups a day.
Multivitamins, but no pre-workout. I've dabbled with that stuff, but I don’t love it. I'm a big whole-food person, meaning that I try not to supplement. When my training is through the roof, then yeah, sometimes I’ll have to make ends meet on intake and calories and whatnot, so I’ll have a few shakes here and there. That’s when I’ll have more liquid nutrition.
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So then you train, rush home, and get to work?
Yeah. I always tell myself I'm going to be home from the gym by 11:30, but it's usually me cramming in a shower and scrambling to work.
When do you eat at work?
I try to eat every three hours. I've worked with a nutritionist for a few years now, and that's been helpful for finding what works well. I try not to eat really big meals, and make sure that I get a ton of carbs. It's a lot of plain rice and lean protein. Not many vegetables until the evening. It's mostly clean fuel, which I burn through fast. So, specifically, those at-work meals could be a cup and a half of cooked rice and six ounces of lean chicken. I’ll eat twice during the shift, then once right when I get home.
That is such a bachelor way of eating.
My girlfriend says the same thing. She's like, How are you not bored? How are you not losing your mind? To be honest, I don't even think about it. When I'm really busy, which is generally all the time, it's nice to not have to think about food. It's fuel. It's become routine. That routine is super important, because the less I have to think about the little details, the more time and energy I have to focus on other things.
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Do you ever deviate from that routine?
I'm a human being. I have friends, and we’ll go out and do things. I'm pretty reasonable about giving myself a break and not stressing out over quote-unquote cheating or whatever. I think that you need to keep yourself sane, and the trick to a long-lasting, healthy lifestyle is sustainability. If you're beating yourself up over every little thing, you're going to have a really hard time with sustainability. On a Saturday night, I’m eating out. I’m watching a hockey game or something. That’s fine.
Do you miss not-boring food?
I really do like my routine, but I actually love food. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I love chocolate, though luckily I'm not a big ice cream guy. Last year, my nutritionist started adding that stuff into my nutrition programming. There are certain days, like right in the middle of a training session, that I just have a bunch of candies—Sour Patch Kids, or Sour Patch Fuzzy Peaches, things like that. I buy those in bulk and bring them in containers. It's hilarious, and I feel like such a child. I look forward to those candies all day, sitting there with my feet swinging off a box, happy as can be.
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