Athlete of the Month: Sal Mannarino

May 5, 2019 Written by

Congratulations to Sal Mannarino, our May 2019 Athlete of the Month.  Sal has made great strides over the years at CrossFit Salus.  He never misses an opportunity to get better and puts in the time to work on what were once his weaknesses, such as mobility, Olympic lifts, and advanced bodyweight exercises like muscle ups. He is very motivated and has the drive and determination to set goals and accomplish them. You’ll find Sal at the box early morning and in Olympic Lifting as he’s “working on becoming the best version” of himself daily.

Meet the May 2019 Athlete of the Month… Sal Mannarino!Athlete of the Month: Sal Mannarino

May 2019 Athlete of the Month: Sal Mannarino


1. When and why did you start CrossFit?

I first heard of CrossFit in 2010 in business school when a couple presented a business case/plan in our Entrepreneurship class. They did a terrible job articulating what CrossFit was and I didn’t understand it; I hope they have been more successful since graduation. I then saw the 2013 CrossFit Games on ESPN. They were doing the workout Elizabeth (21-15-9 reps of 135# cleans and ring dips) and I turned to my wife and said “This, is what I’ve been looking for.”

I met Angela and Gino in 2014 at Middletown Day and quickly fell in love with burpee tire flips (and Ang and Gino). Unfortunately, later that week I was shipped off to Columbus, OH and, regrettably, did not join Salus then. Two years later in September 2016, I joined and it’s been an awesome experience.

2. How has your performance changed since you started CrossFit?

Much improved metabolic conditioning.

I’ll give you an example. When I was younger I was an all-star wrestler. Every Summer I would lift weights at the gym (had a 405 lb squat and 285 lb bench-press when I was 22, and I weighed about 150#) and would run 3-5 miles 3x/week. I would also help my Dad with yard work or with his landscaping business. He would say pick up and move those three bags of cement and three bags of sand over to the job site, then mix them with water using a shovel. I was huffing and puffing while performing this and had to rest, often (a lot!). How could this be if I was “in shape?” It was because I kept my weightlifting and endurance training isolated from each other.

If you only work your weightlifting at low reps for power you won’t develop the endurance to sustain long efforts. If you only work high reps or just run/cycle, you won’t build the power that you may need in life. Work on becoming a more powerful weightlifter, better gymnast/body-weight athlete, and faster runner, swimmer, cyclist or rower…..all at once and at the same time.

CrossFit has helped me and countless others do this.

3. Are there exercises you can do now that you couldn’t do before?

Overhead squat.

I remember seeing it for the first time when I was 16. I had no idea how they performed it. I was really apprehensive of it and had balance issues when I first started CF (I blame the running shoes). I remember thinking how will I ever be able to do the Nancy workout (5 rounds of 400 meter run, 15 OHS @ 95#)? Basically, it’s a distant memory now.

4. How has your body physically changed since you started?

Got down to my fighting weight.

5. How has CrossFit changed you in other ways?

Athlete of the Month: Sal MannarinoI am not from Middletown and I am not as extroverted as I used to be.

For me, CrossFit has given me friends that share values with me (fitness, health and other) and a supportive community that supports my habit (I mean hobby) and that is always there for me and my family.

We have an amazing 6 AM crew (run by our Mayor Shawn) and we support and compete against each other in a good way.

CrossFit has given me all this and also gave me my confidence back.

6. How do you describe CrossFit to your friends?

Imagine developing endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy and a damn good looking hard body. Now stop imagining and join CrossFit.

CrossFit blurs the line between cardio, strength and mobility training. Real life has no regard for these distinctions.

I have run six marathons and have 26.2 tattooed. I can tell you from this experience that unless if your name is Phidippides, you may never need to run 26 miles. However, you most likely will have to sprint a short distance holding groceries, then quickly pick up a child overhead. The anaerobic activity in CrossFit can be used to develop a very high level of aerobic fitness, without the muscle wasting seen in long distance running. Don’t believe me? Try the workout named DT. The flexibility from the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk) may develop your mobility better than yoga and Pilates. Don’t believe me? Look up Sonny Webster on Instagram.

CrossFit is also a form of high intensity interval training. Dr. Izumi Tabata published research that showed that high intensity interval training increases both anaerobic and aerobic capacity; basically 4 minutes of 20 second sprint, 10 sec rest burned more calories than 60 minutes of normal endurance (and the burning continued post-workout). With the high intensity functional training in CrossFit , we get all of the cardiovascular benefits for endurance/stamina and the additional benefits of strength, speed, and power, all while developing coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. These last items will become really important as you age.

7. What keeps you motivated to continue? What’s your “why”?

I love our community and the class program structure.

We typically warm-up together and then work on either a strength exercise (e.g., low rep lifting or work on gymnastics) or short-from metabolic conditioning (e.g., every minute on the minute perform a number of reps of a lift + burpees) and finally finish with a five to twenty-five minute long-form metabolic conditioning workout. Sometimes there’s time at the end for some accessory work…I always try and make that time, regardless.

I travel a good bit for work as well. I love dropping in other CrossFit gyms (we call them boxes) and it feels right at home with the same culture as Salus.

Overall, I have never experienced any sort of burnout with CrossFit that may accompany other fitness programs.

8. Favorite lift or WOD?

The muscle-up.

It is the ultimate pull-up and upper body exercise. The muscle-up is a combination of a pull-up into a dip, moving from a hanging position below the rings or pull-up bar, to an arms locked-out position above the rings or pull-up bar. As the founder of CrossFit Gregg Glassman says, “the muscle-up is extremely functional and would allow for you to surmount any object on which you can get a finger hold – if you can touch it you can get up on it.” I like to think survival mode when you are rock climbing or if you have to escape to a higher point (e.g., fleeing from wolves or zombies).

You can question someone’s squat depth, pull up height or burpee form. But there is no ambiguity, you either can or cannot do a muscle-up. The key to developing the muscle-up is strict pull-ups and strict dips. Both Glassman and Jeff Cavalier (a non-CrossFit physical therapist and trainer to professional athletes) say that you need ten to fifteen strict pull-ups and strict dips, each, before starting to work regularly on the muscle-up.

9. What advice would you give to a newbie just joining CrossFit Salus?

What has worked for me and may work for you:

1. Slow and steady wins the race: crawl, walk, run and then sprint. Not abiding by this unwritten rule, along with overuse, is how injuries can happen and then your training will be set back.
2. Nutrition plays a critical role in your fitness. Proper nutrition can amplify or diminish the effect of your training efforts. Quit drinking alcohol the night before and the night following exercise. You will save a ton of money, feel better and when you do drink, it won’t take many ; )
3. Have fun! Make new friends. Enjoy the never-ending process and progress. CrossFit is the Fountain of Youth!
4. For the runners/cyclists….Weightlifting such as the deadlift, clean, squat, bench-press and overhead-press are essential to athletic development and developing power and strength, which will make you a better runner/cyclist. From then move on to the two Olympic lifts, the clean & jerk and the snatch. Olympic weightlifting develops strength, speed and power like no other exercise, and requires/develops a tremendous amount of flexibility. Olympic weightlifting also develops coordination, agility, accuracy, and balance, as well. No theory about some color will get you to your goals as an endurance athlete like CrossFit can.

10. What is your next goal to accomplish?

The White shirt. Stop complaining about my size and just do it.

11. If you could design your own WOD, what would it look like?

“Sal”
Five rounds of:

1,000 meter run, and
5 muscle-ups (bar, rings, or mix it up!)
right into….
1 rep max squat clean & jerk.

Your score is your max squat clean & jerk less the minutes (rounded up) to complete the run/muscle-ups.
Time cap: 15 minutes from when you finish your last set of muscle-ups.

12. Favorite thing to do for fun?

Murph or Cindy workout while listening to the soft sounds of Pantera, Metallica, Offspring or Rise Against, hanging with my family, swimming in my pool and reading the Economist by a fire.

13. Favorite healthy dish….and favorite “splurge” meal?

Healthy: Oats, raw nuts, brown rice, olive oil, green beans and grilled chicken.
Cheats: Peanut butter, oatmeal cookies, mayonnaise, Mom’s pasta, Belgian beer and 64 ounce Porterhouse steak (#don’tcareimsmallgetinmybelly!).

14. If you could be a superhero/animal/superstar who/what would you be and why?

Athlete of the Month: Sal MannarinoMy daughters love unicorns. So I would be a unicorn with wings and fly them around the world. I would take my son and wife too : )

15. Favorite motivational/Inspirational quote?

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I was entrusted to take the game winning shot, and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

16. Interesting fact not many people know about you.

I play guitar.

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