If you’re seeking fitness inspiration, look no further than Reggie Fasa.
The 27-year-old from South Shields is the ex-Newcastle Falcons rugby player, turned labourer, turned CrossFit athlete.
Back in June, he achieved the honour of being crowned ‘The Fittest Man in the UK’ with his tenth-place finish at the CrossFit Strength in Depth London Semi-Final.
The secrets to his success? Hard graft, determination and a cast-iron mindset.
Men’s Fitness: How does it feel to be the Fittest Man in the UK?
Reggie Fasa: It was bittersweet not being able to qualify for the Games [the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. Fasa finished tenth in the semis, and only the top five athletes go through], but it feels weird and surreal to be the fittest lad in the UK!
It’s quite cool as there’s such a high calibre of athletes in the UK scene.
MF: Did you surprise yourself or know you had it in you?
RF: I know where the other lads are at, and they’re no pushover, but I was pretty confident with my ability as I did well last year [Fasa won the CrossFit Games European Semi-Finals in 2021].
It gives you the confidence to go to the next season and not put the others on a different pedestal and idolise them as much.
MF: You beat your UK rivals. How much does rivalry play a part in motivating you during the competition?
RF: It depends on what type of athlete you are. You can either embrace it and fire up or shy away. Where I’m from and the group of mates I grew up with, you’ve got to have thick skin, so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest; it just fires me up.
When you start CrossFit, you watch the competitors on YouTube and idolise them. And at first, you’re in awe when you go to a competition, but you’ve got to treat them like any other competitor, try not to respect them as much and remember you’re good enough to be there.
MF: What led you into the world of CrossFit?
RF: I fell into it really, because a mate from the rugby club opened a gym, and I went there for some rugby sessions with the team, then I went back for more sessions.
I fell in love with it, because it was down to your hard work rather than relying on a team.
MF: How did you transition to full-time athlete?
RF: Lockdown was a bit of a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to train in the garage gym and not have to worry about working all day and being tired.
Labouring is physically demanding, so trying to do three hours of training after it was hard graft.
I showed some potential in the events I was doing, but I needed more time to work on my weaknesses, become more well-rounded, and train smarter, not harder.
Since I’ve gone full-time, I’m still fine-tuning everything and learning. It can be hard to find the balance of training and enjoyment, as when you’ve got all day to train, you’ve got to fire yourself up and can’t be tired or drag it out; you’ve got to be efficient.
MF: You played rugby for Newcastle Falcons – has your rugby background benefited your CrossFit?
RF: The rugby mentality has helped, especially with the teams I’ve been through. And going to boarding school, I gained a mentality from training with others.
Also, back then, I was a lot lazier and relied on talent, which is ironic as now it’s my job to train.
MF: What do you credit for your recent upturn in performance?
RF: I’ve trained differently and smarter, but you have to go through that process and learn from your mistakes. You’ve got to learn about your body and pace, and go through the hard times to become a better athlete.
Even now, I’m progressing every week, not just in the gym but by knowing when to cap things, stop, push hard, etc.
In the past few months, I’ve learned about myself rather than relying on coaches to decide what weights to do. So, it’s been off my own back, and it’s no one else’s hard work but my own, and I’ve enjoyed it.
MF: How important is the mental approach to competitions?
RF: It’s more about the downtime and making sure you switch off from it. It’s quickly turned from a hobby into a job, and suddenly I’ve got to live and breathe CrossFit.
But it doesn’t have to be like that because you’ll burn out. I end up (when my girlfriend lets me) playing PlayStation, but I’m competitive at that too!
MF: Do you have a favourite workout?
RF: I like putting thrusters and burpees together, and simple CrossFit workouts.
MF: What’s your strongest lift?
RF: 180kg clean. I just wanted to tick it off, but it took some years off my life!
MF: What’s your best advice to anyone who wants to get better at CrossFit?
RF: Don’t put pressure on it and take your time; turn up and enjoy the process.
When you first start, you don’t need a programme, you just need to enjoy it and learn all the movements, and that’s when you can progress.
MF: So, what’s next for the Fittest Man in the UK?
RF: I’ve got the Arnold Fitness Games in Birmingham in September. I won it last year, so I got a straight invite, and there’s decent prize money of £3,000.
Follow Reggie Fasa on Instagram
Words: Sarah Haselwood