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Life in the Fit Lane: Coke Employee Preps for Crossfit Games World Championship

By:  Jackie Williams Jul 8, 2014
Randal Lane

Later this month, Randal will compete for the title of 'Fittest Man on Earth.' Photo credit: Shae Foy

How would you feel about being ranked in the top 20 in the world... at anything? Well, Randal Lane knows the feeling, and he says it feels great. 

Currently, the Coca-Cola North America employee is the world's 19th fittest man between 45 and 49 years old, according to the 2014 Crossfit Games Worldwide Competition rankings. Later this month, Randal will compete against 19 other athletes for the title of “Fittest Man on Earth” within his age classification. 

Crossfit, which has been around for nearly 15 years, is an exercise philosophy focusing on total fitness and all-around athleticism. Rather than focusing on a specific sport or set of movements, Crossfit focuses on competency and proficiency in various fitness metrics while promoting competitiveness, whether against one’s self or others. Crossfit can include Olympic weightlifting, calisthenics, body weight exercises, gymnastics and endurance. It combines strength and metabolic conditioning attributes with the goal of improving stamina, flexibility, speed, agility, balance, power and coordination.

Randal, a 22-year Coke veteran, is group finance director on Coke's Burger King customer team. As soon as you hear his distinctive Southern drawl, there's no mistaking his Georgia roots. The former U.S. Marine got involved in Crossfit about four years ago, but has only been competing for the last two years. As he approached his 40th birthday, he had all but accepted the idea that his aging body was in decline and there was little he could do to change the effects of time. At that point, his wife, Rena’, suggested he compete in a local 5K run. He won the race, and the experience sparked a renewed interest in fitness and competition. He competed in moderate-distance triathlons, routinely placing in his age group.

Randal Lane

Flipping a 300-lb. tire in the snow.

After a year or so of triathlon competition, Randal suffered a significant setback when he tore the meniscus in both knees over the course of a year and required surgery. Shortly thereafter, he developed debilitating medial osteoarthritis in his left knee and was instructed by doctors to significantly curtail or even stop running. Randal was demoralized and ready to give up, but Rena', who had started Crossfit, suggested he give it a try. During his first session, Randal embraced the high intensity of the workout, the thrill of competing and the feeling of utter exhaustion afterwards. He was hooked.

While Crossfit helped with his endurance training, it improved his mobility and function in his knees and lower back, to the point where he eventually was able to maintain a natural, deep squat position for the first time since injuring his knees, including squatting with barbells that exceeded 350 pounds. Randal was inspired and motivated with his renewed mobility and overall fitness. He immersed himself in Crossfit and set his sights on qualifying to compete in the Worldwide Crossfit Games Championship.

Reaching such a lofty goal requires a great deal of discipline, sacrifice and dedication. What makes Randal somewhat of an anomaly is that most Crossfit competitors participate in the sport full time and/or operate their own gym. Randal, on the other hand, spends most of his day at The Coca-Cola Company managing, analyzing and crunching numbers, seated behind a desk. He uses his situation as motivation to train harder and smarter during the limited time he has available.

Every weekday morning, Randal’s alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. and he starts his training shortly thereafter. As soon as the sweat starts pouring, his shirt is the first thing to go, and his shoes are quick to follow. In fact, Randal is widely known in local Crossfit circles for routinely lifting and working out barefoot. He trains for one to two hours every weekday morning and for three hours-plus on Saturdays at Crossfit Pulse, his "box" (gym) housed in an industrial building in McDonough, Ga. 

Crossfit Pulse is owned and operated by another competitor, Bryan Shockley, who also qualified for this year’s Crossfit Games Championship. Randal credits Bryan for being his Crossfit mentor. As Randal notes, it is unusual for two athletes from the same box in the same age group to qualify for the Crossfit Games Championships. When they train together, Randal and Bryan compete and push each other to their respective limits while still providing coaching and encouragement.

“He’s the elder statesman and has already competed in the Games on two previous occasions, so he has a lot of experience and knowledge that I seek out and admire," Randal says of Bryan. "Both of us are very competitive, and we don’t like losing to one another. That’s a good thing because we push each other really hard on all of our workouts, and we are better for it as a result.”

Whether he’s training solo or with Bryan, Randal says his goal at the end of every Crossfit workout is to be able to answer “yes” to the following question: “Did I get better today?” In addition to his training, Randal knows that his diet and hydration needs also play an important role in how he answers that question.

Randal Lane

'Ab planking' Matt Chan (215 lbs), who placed second in the 2012 Crossfit Games World Championship.

Randal prepares for each Crossfit workout by drinking a Powerade-based drink mix, then consumes another Powerade/whey protein recovery drink or Core Power immediately following his training session. He makes Core Power an integral part of his daily nutritional needs and typically consumes two or three servings per day. In fact, everyone in his department knows if Core Power is in the communal refrigerator at work, it has to be Randal’s. Both Randal’s training and diet over the past year have paid huge dividends.

For five weeks beginning in March, Randal competed in the Crossfit Games Open against his global peers.  There were almost 210,000 total competitors in the Open competition this year, with nearly 5,000 athletes in Randal’s age classification alone. Each week in March, specific “workouts of the day” (WODs) were broadcast live on Thursday nights. Competitors had until the following Monday to perform the workout and submit their  best certified result for each WOD. Scores for the weekly WODs were tabulated and used to identify the top 200 males and females in each age classification. The top 200 then competed in a final qualifier round in April, which further narrowed the field of competitors for each age group down to the top 20.

These select athletes received invitations to compete in the Crossfit Games Worldwide Championship in late July in Carson, Calif. The Games will ultimately determine the fittest men and women on earth. Complete coverage of Randal and the Crossfit Games can be viewed on ESPN 3 or streamed online at crossfitgames.com.

So what does it take to be the 19th fittest man age 45-49? See how you match up against Randal’s stats (remember, he is 45 years old):

  • Run a sub-6 minute mile and a sub-20 minute 5K
  • Run 400 meters in just over one minute
  • Deadlift over 2x his body weight (he weights 195 lbs.)
  • Back squat 365 lbs.
  • Perform multiple “muscle-ups” on both gymnastic rings and pull-up bars
  • Climb a 20-ft.rope using only his hands and arms
  • “Jerk” a 265 lbs. barbell over his head
  • Perform a 125 lb. barbell “Turkish Get-Up”
  • Human flag (see below)
  • Hold an ab plank for over one minute with 200 lbs. on his back
Randal Lane

Randal as a human flag.

Randal feels he is truly blessed and takes time to thank God every day for his health, his ability to compete, and for being able to do things physically at age 45 that he was not able to do at age 20. He counts his beautiful wife and two young daughters as his greatest blessings, closely followed by extended family, friends, work colleagues, and for his job at Coca-Cola.

“Approach everyday as an opportunity to improve or get better at your craft," Randal says. "Perfection is not attainable, but the pursuit of perfection is. Don’t let physical limitations or injuries be an excuse not to be active. Find something you can do, whether it’s on a temporary or permanent basis. I don’t care if it’s Pilates, Rumba, or Crossfit, just move and do something.“ 

So where will the 19th fittest 45 year-old man in the world go from here? Randal hopes to compete as long as his knee holds out. He plans to continue informally coaching and mentoring younger athletes in Crossfit. As far as this year’s Crossfit Games Championship is concerned, many from Randal’s Coca-Cola family will be cheering him on. Regardless of how he finishes, it is rumored he will still be the fittest Certified Public Accountant in the world.