10 Lessons CrossFit’s Rich Froning Jr. Wants to Teach His Kids

The perennial winner of the CrossFit Games takes a high-intensity approach to parenting.

If you’ve ever watched a CrossFit competition or busted out a few rounds of muscle-ups, you’ve probably heard of Rich Froning Jr. In the world of high-intensity workout competitions, he’s perhaps the most recognizable figure. Dubbed the “fittest man in history” after winning four back-to-back individual CrossFit Games championships, Froning Jr. is one of the most successful competitors of all time. Might his nickname be a bit hyperbolic? Sure. But watch Rich in competition and you won’t wonder why he received it.

Froning Jr., who owns and operates the CrossFit Mayhem gym in Cookeville Tennessee, is also a dad of three young children, Lakelyn, Trice, and Violet, and, alongside his wife, brings the same amount of passion to parenting. Fatherly spoke to Froning about the most important lessons he wants to teach his children, and we discovered that, while he is a world-class athlete and competitor, Rich is a man who prizes faith and family above all else. Here are the 10 most important lessons Froning Jr. wants to teach his kids.

1. That Value of Hard Work

“Both of my parents led by example and they’d have us do chores and stuff like that, but they weren’t sitting around while we were doing that. At the time, I wasn’t real happy about it but now I really appreciate the fact that they not only made us do chores and work, but also they were out there doing stuff with us and leading by example. I want my kids to understand that hard work is essential and that I wouldn’t have them do anything that I wouldn’t do with them.”

2. The Importance of Family

“Family is a huge part of who I am. I’m one of 32 first cousins on my mom’s side, and 25 of us are boys. Most of them lived in Michigan, where I was born, for most of my life. Even though we moved, we were super close then and super close now — my parents made sure of that. So, I want my kids to understand how important family and maintaining those connections and just being there really is. I want my kids to understand that when family needs something, I’m there. And, on a different note, all three of my kids are adopted. That means nothing. They’re my kids and I hope that, no matter what, they understand that they are brothers and sisters and always there for one another.”

3. That Physical Activity is Essential

“Everyone always asks if I’m going to ‘make my kids do CrossFit.’ I’ll never make them do anything. I will, however, make sure that they’re physically active in some way, that they’ll play some type of sport or do gymnastics or dance or something. That’s so important for their health and well-being. A funny thing with my kids — and all kids — is that they’re always watching. So it comes down again to leading by example. They see me work out and want to try it, too. If I do a handstand walk or pushup, they try to do handstands or push-ups. My daughter hops on the rowing machine and the pull-up bar. Just by observing me, they’re starting to understand the importance of it, so that’s great.”

4. That Faith Is an Important Part of Life

“My faith is a huge part of who I am. It’s the center of who I am, actually. Growing up, it was more of a thing I had to do. I had to go to church, had to pray. But now? I get to have a relationship with God and talk to him and pray. I want my kids to see that that’s a positive and that so many good things come with that. Of course, you can’t force anything on anyone, and because my kids are young, I haven’t had discussions about that yet. But I’ll show them that we go to church; that dad prays; that faith is an important part of who our family is.”

5. To Treat Others the Way You’d Like to be Treated

“I want my kids to understand the consequences of their actions and that they should treat others the way they want to be treated. I want them to see that we’re a giving family and that we want to serve others and that it’s not all about what we can get but it’s about paying it forward. I think that’s really important in learning this lesson. My kids are still young, but my oldest is starting to hit that point where she realizes how her actions affect others, so that’s really nice to see that switch flip.”

6. That Being Present Is Everything

“The whole work-life balance is a day-to-day struggle for me, as I guess it is for a lot of dads. You get to that point where you start thinking, Okay, if I work hard for this amount of time, I’ll set us up for the future. But then you worry about not having enough time with the kids and then also feel that you need to work hard because you have kids and want to provide the life we all live. But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to be present. If you’re at work? Be present. If you’re with your kids? Be present. And so on and so forth. I’m trying to be better at that and I hope my kids pick up on it.”

7. That We’re Not the Center of the Universe

“I was born in Michigan but grew up in Cookeville, Tennessee. It is an awesome place to live and I still live there, and it’s where we want to be. But it’s not the most diverse place and we are sheltered here. Everyone has the same type of view as you and you’re not getting real discussion with people who have different point of views. I want my kids to experience other cultures, other points of view, see other things to understand where others are coming from.”

8. That Meeting People in the Middle Is Essential

“You see it all the time: People have a hard time communicating with others who have a different point of view. I want my kids to understand that you can have a different point of view from someone and still say, ‘Hey, let’s agree to disagree’ on one point and still figure out other points. You don’t necessarily have to compromise your values and what you believe in to find common ground with someone.”

9. That Competition Is Healthy

“I’m a competitor. That’s a big part of who I am. And it’s tough for me at times to disconnect with that. So I’ve had to figure out that in certain parts of life you can’t compete. Like, you know, marriage [laughs]. I’m still working on that though. So — and this is hard — I want my kids to be competitive but also know that you know when to turn it on and off. I hate the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality. For me, kids just have to lose sometimes. They need to know that you’re not going to win in everything and you have to be able to handle disappointment. I want them to know that it’s okay to lose but you shouldn’t enjoy losing.”

10. That Being Great at Something Doesn’t Make You Better Than Anyone Else

“People come up to me all the time at CrossFit and act nervous around me because I’ve been successful with it. I always tell them that everyone is good at something and there’s no need to treat me any differently. It comes down to this: We’re all human beings and we all have strengths and weaknesses. I want my kids to understand this too: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t make you better than anyone else.”