Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. --
Gunnery Sgt. Randall “Jay” Johnson, an ordnance staff noncommissioned officer with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 “Black Knights,” received quite a surprise when he was invited to the CrossFit Games Asia Regional in Seoul, South Korea, where he competed against 47 other athletes from around the world.
From May 31 to June 2, Johnson competed against the world’s finest CrossFit contenders where every pound, every second and every work out tested their skills, the depths of their capabilities and how far they could push themselves.
Johnson finished 25th out of 48 competitors.
Just three short years ago, while on recruiting duty, Johnson hadn’t even thought about doing CrossFit to begin with, much less competing half-way around the world.
When a Marine he recruited invited Johnson to a CrossFit workout, the Hereford, Texas, native’s life was forever changed.
“He kept asking and asking me and I never would go with him,” said Johnson. “One Friday night, he tricked me into going with him and I got broken-off pretty well and I just signed up right then and there. The rest is history.”
Now, he passes his love of the CrossFit lifestyle on to his own Marines.
“During this last deployment, we ran a (body composition program) using our work out routines,” said Johnson. “Soon we had people who weren’t on the program coming to work out with us. It was great for morale, and it gave us a break from the monotony of the daily routine.”
Staff Sgt. Bryan Tackett, an ordnance staff NCO with the Black Knights and a Cortland, Ohio, native, was one of the Marines who began doing CrossFit during the deployment. He thinks highly of the CrossFit Marine and his lifestyle.
“(Gunnery Sgt.) Johnson is a great teacher and mentor,” said Tackett. “Others would show up and word would spread until we had about 50 Marines out there with us. We had pilots, crews, privates first class to lieutenant colonels out sweating and working out with us. It was awesome.”
During Johnson’s deployment to Bahrain, he and some of his friends entered to compete in the CrossFit Open – for no other reason than to see how far they had come.
“We didn’t really have any expectations for it,” said Johnson. “Since I began, my improvement is leaps and bounds from where I was. To put things in perspective, in the CrossFit Asia Regional Open about 1,300 people competed. I finished in the top 48. I feel like three years ago I might have finished around the 1,300 mark.”
With the open competition behind him, Johnson found a new chance to see how much he had improved.
He received a great opportunity to test himself – competing against some of the best in the world in Seoul, South Korea.
“We were ecstatic when we found out he had been invited to compete again,” said Tackett. “He is such a humble person though, so you would never know he was competing in a huge competition in another part of the world. He just isn’t the type to brag.”
From the very beginning, Johnson’s focus was on training and improving himself, now he had something to work toward.
“At first, I didn’t think too much of it,” said Johnson. “Then when I got home and told the family readiness officer, some of the other Marines I work with and my family and friends, everyone was just so stoked for me. I think everyone else was happier for me in the beginning than I was - which kind of turned me around and made me a little bit more anxious about it. It made me realize how big of a deal this really was.”
To prepare for the competition, Johnson would work out twice a day and maintained a nutritious diet - not a drastic change from his typical routine.
“I would say that I still pushed myself as hard as I could at every work out,” said Johnson. “I trained the same every day for about an hour to an hour and a half, keep eating simple foods. Meats, nuts, veggies and fruits - I don’t eat anything processed.”
Johnson found support from his Marines, friends and family, but there is one special person who helps him push through his limitations.
“My daughter is probably my biggest fan,” said Johnson. “She pushes me pretty hard. She wants to do CrossFit, asks me to work out with her when I’m home, or when she comes here and wants to participate with me. She’s 11 years old, but she pushes me more than anything.”
During the competition, groups of his Marines cheered him on from wherever they were at the time, doing whatever they could to track his progress.
“(Our unit) was in (Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center) Twentynine Palms during the competition,” said Tackett. “So when we had access to internet we would watch the streams or look at his statistics to see how he was doing. We couldn’t have been more proud.”
Whether Johnson is competing in CrossFit Games or just working out on his own, he will continue to work on improving himself and others through doing what he loves – being a Marine, and teaching others CrossFit.