Teas Squats – Use 85% of your FSquat 1RM, complete:
4 sets of 3 FSquats followed by 6 BSquats
He’s just Sean at the box. That’s the idea. That’s one of the things that Sean Payton loves about CrossFit. He’s another guy doing Burpees, pull-ups, box jumps, double-unders and whatever other sweaty deliciousness gets cooked up for what CrossFitters call the workout of the day, or WOD. He’s there at the box, on the mat, getting it done, pacing, pushing, plowing through like everyone else.
And then he gets on to his quiet little nondescript day job: head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about CrossFit, the stripped-down, few-frills fitness and weight-training regimen that has exploded in popularity over the past decade. (Think about your gym. Now remove all of the nonsense you don’t need in your gym, and add back all of the really good movements and lifts you’re not doing at your gym for whatever reason. That’s basically the idea of CrossFit. Get back to basics. Do the work. Improve as a group. Lift stuff you’ve never lifted before.)
Payton became immersed in CrossFit began last year, in Dallas, amid that lost season which wasn’t really a season, at least not for him, since he was suspended from football amid New Orleans’s Bountygate scandal. Even before that mess, Payton was recovering from a freak injury he’d suffered during a 2011 game against Tampa Bay, when a Saints player collided with his leg, tearing his meniscus and fracturing his tibia.
He needed to get better and stronger. He found an outlet. Payton started coming to a CrossFit gym in Dallas, Tiger’s Den, where the owner, J.D. Thorne, didn’t recognize the NFL celebrity. “I know this sounds dumb, but I don’t watch football at all,” Thorne said. “I had a couple guys say, ‘Dude: That is Sean Payton.'” Thorne looked up a photo of the gym visitor on his phone. “I was like, ‘That’s an actual famous person.'”
But there was no special treatment. CrossFit is known for its check-your-ego, egalitarian ethos, and the Super Bowl-winning coach soon blended in with the crowd. That’s exactly what Payton wanted. He was hooked. He liked how the routines changed and challenged him. “You just kind of disappear somewhere, not knowing what the workout is,” Payton said. “And it’s a lot different than I think many would expect—there’s a very welcoming attitude.”
Payton is back coaching the Saints but remains a devoted CrossFitter, talking passionately about the “wall-balls” and the pull-up techniques and epic CrossFit workouts like “Fight Gone Bad.” At 49, he compares his fitness level to his college-football playing self. He’s even experimented at times with the CrossFit-popular “paleo” diet. “It basically keeps you from walking down any of the aisles in the grocery stores,” he said. “You’re just on the outer ring.”
He’s also spread the word to other members of the Saints coaching staff. “We’ve got a handful of guys now,” Payton said. “I think if we were competing against other NFL staffs, we wouldn’t do very well in golf. I think we’d have a pretty good chance with regard to fitness.”
Is there a CrossFit effect brewing in New Orleans? After’s last year’s forgettable 7-9 campaign, the Saints are having a revival season. New Orleans is 5-0, atop the NFC South, heading into Sunday’s showdown with the New England Patriots. The Saints have relocated their mojo, and a lot of credit has been given to equilibrium brought by their head coach. CrossFit has become part of the Payton résumé. Apparel company and CrossFit sponsor Reebok is partnering with Payton. There was Monday Night Football’s Jon Gruden, joining Payton for an early morning workout at Big Easy CrossFit gym in New Orleans. There was Gruden, swinging a kettle bell during the game. Big Easy CrossFit owner Zack DiBenedetto said that after the Saints’ Week 4 Monday Night win over Miami, there was a small rush of visitors at the gym from older New Orleans residents, curious to see what Payton’s beloved regimen was all about.
Last week Payton and a few of his coaches dropped in at a CrossFit gym in Chicago before a road game against the Bears. They arrived at 7 a.m. Saturday and did a routine of hang power cleans and wall climbs. “He moves really well,” said the owner of O’Hare CrossFit, Angelo Sisco. “Nice, good lumbar, no bad movements.” The next day Payton and the Saints treated Sisco and his coaches with tickets to the Bears-Saints game at Soldier Field.
“You can tell he does this because he wants to,” said Sisco. “Not because it’s cool.”