I Tried An Equipment-Free CrossFit WOD From Ben Smith, 2015’s Fittest Man On Earth—Can You Beat My Score?

Harry Bullmore doing Workout Programmed By Ben Smith
(Image credit: Harry Bullmore / Future)

One of the things I love about CrossFit is that, even though I’m far from being the fittest person at my gym, I can still attempt a challenge set by a former holder of the title Fittest Man On Earth.

This 20-minute CrossFit workout comes from the mind of 2015 Games champion Ben Smith, and it’s so simple you can do it pretty much anywhere. The workout was posted to CrossFit.com as part of Smith’s two-week stint as a guest programmer. 

To do the workout, set a timer for 20 minutes. Run as far as you can during the odd minutes (for the avoidance of doubt, you begin on minute one), then, during the even minutes, perform 15 unweighted squats and rest for the remainder of the minute. Your score is the total distance accumulated during the 10 minutes of running.

“The goal is to match your distance each minute,” writes Smith in his post on Instagram. “You can mark a 1 min run from your house, and do 5 trips back and forth trying to work on pacing as the workout picks up!”

I didn’t listen to this advice and opted for a hilly one-kilometer park loop instead, which wound up being a mistake. 

My Score

It’s customary after completing a CrossFit.com workout to head to the comments below and share your score. Strava logged my score as 2.6km, or a little more than 1.6 miles. 

I was able to stick to Smith’s recommendation of “aiming to get at least 30 seconds of rest after each set of squats”, although I fell short of matching or beating the distance I ran each round. 

Everything started well. I hit 270m on the run, got through the squats and still had 30 seconds to catch my breath. The second, third and even fourth rounds didn’t feel too shabby either. Then things started to go downhill.

My quads began to tire from the squats and the next segment of my park loop included an unforgiving incline. The minute of running that followed was way short of the 250m average I’d set and the burning in my lungs had me questioning why I hadn’t picked darts or pool as my sport of choice.

So, my top tip: do this workout somewhere flat. 

While I was able to keep my rest times to at least 30 seconds, this breather felt shorter and shorter each round. By the final minute of running I was putting in what felt like a max-effort sprint. After the last set of 15 squats I collapsed spread-eagled on the grass, gasping for air and drawing funny looks from passersby. As the CrossFit crowd might say, “I’d had a good time.”

Smith’s stint as a guest programmer on CrossFit.com came after cameos from CrossFit Games competition director Adrian Bozman and general manager of sport Dave Castro, and it’s been my favorite.

I found the sport after watching the 2015 Fittest On Earth documentary on Netflix, in which Smith stars. Trying a cardio CrossFit workout from an athlete I’ve admired for some time added an extra incentive to push myself, and this challenge cleverly balanced accessibility with a lung-busting challenge. Smith wrote in his post that the workout is all about “doing the common uncommonly well”. 

I could be accused of tailoring my CrossFit training to focus on impressive gymnastic skills like muscle-ups and handstand walking, but simplicity should always have a place if you want to build the strength, skill and fitness needed for CrossFit. It doesn’t get much simpler than running and squatting!

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.