Talent and versatility: James Newbury

A conversation with James Newbury, a multitalented athlete who is not afraid to step out of his comfort zone.
James Newbury
In 2019, James Newbury became the Fifth Fittest Man on Earth. Image: Courtesy of Under Armour

You’d be hard-pressed to name an athletic endeavor that demands such a wide array of skills as CrossFit. Versatility is quite literally embedded into the sport’s DNA. “Our specialty is not specializing,” the official training guide states. During an average training week or even a single session, a CrossFit athlete will face a combination of heavy weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, rowing, and running, all performed at high intensity.

With this in mind, one could make the argument that elite CrossFitters are the most complete athletes in the world. But even within this extremely select group of people, there are outliers; athletes whose talents go beyond the confines of the “sport of fitness”. That is the case of four-time CrossFit Games athlete, Ironman finisher, bobsledder, mountain biker and former semi pro rugby player James Newbury. We caught up with him recently to learn more about his training, nutrition, and recovery.

Bouncing back from injury

After an extraordinary season in 2019 that earned him the title of the 5th Fittest Man on Earth, Newbury suffered a mountain biking accident that left him with several broken bones and a punctured lung. It’s the sort of injury that would sideline the average athlete for an entire season. Newbury, however, is anything but average and merely five weeks later he crossed the line of Ironman Western Australia.

Athlete James Newbury
In 2019, James Newbury proved he is one of the fittest men on the planet. Image: Courtesy of Under Armour

“Injuries are part of the job”, he says, and explains that a holistic and open-minded approach to healing is what got him through this experience. “I believe nature is the greatest healer and given the right tools and ingredients our bodies are miracle workers. I encouraged my body to heal by giving it elements I believe it needs to accelerate healing like sunlight, earth time (earthing), getting in the ocean, purposeful breathing, sauna, floatation therapy, red-light therapy, movement, hydration, good food and lots of quality sleep.”

With covid restrictions still in place in many countries around the world, it can be hard for an athlete to have access to a float tank or an infrared sauna at the moment. This is also true for those who are frequently traveling and have limited space for recovery tools. His advice? Invest in Compex recovery boots: “Absolutely amazing for flushing the legs passively. I also love ROMWOD. You can do it anywhere anytime and it allows you to open congested areas of the body and allow blood to flow and shift stagnant fluid.”

Never afraid to try new things

As you can tell from his willingness to take on a full Ironman triathlon barely a few weeks after his medical discharge, James loves a challenge. He recently took up bobsleigh. A winter sport that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with sunny Australia.

Newbury running
Most elite CrossFittes don’t like running more than a few miles. James Newbury is an exception to that rule. Image: Courtesy of Under Armour

In late 2020, after seeing clips on YouTube, he contacted the Australian Bobsleigh Federation and asked to have a go. As it turns out CrossFit athletes are extremely well suited to this sport and six weeks later he was competing in Europe. “There is a ton of skill and training transfer from bobsleigh to CrossFit and CrossFit to bobsleigh,” he says. “In particular the emphasis on sprinting, Olympic weightlifting and pushing sleds. We train all these aspects on a regular basis in CrossFit and these specific areas correlate to the areas needing expertise in bobsleigh. Power and speed!”

Just like triathlon before, bobsleigh gave Newbury a chance to scratch his competitive itch during the CrossFit offseason and helped to expand his athletic arsenal even further.

The 2021 CrossFit season

After a burpee-filled mandatory quarantine upon his return to Australia, and a knee arthroscopy at the beginning of March, Newbury successfully placed in the top 10% of the Open, which qualified him to the Quarterfinals. In this stage, he placed 15th in his region, which entitled him to an invite to the Torian Pro, the in-person competition that will give out 3 male individual tickets to the 2021 CrossFit Games.

The Torian Pro will take place May 28th through May 30th in Brisbane. “I have a feeling it’s going to be a show to remember,” he says of the 2021 season. “I’m planning on attacking it headfirst with minimal distractions and maximal training.” Surely we will see Newbury at the Games once again, and if the knee holds up well, 2021 could be his best season yet.

The science of human performance

James is constantly looking to optimize his training (he is a member of PRVN fitness along with fellow aussie Tia-Clair Toomey), nutrition (he’s been vegan for 18 months), recovery, and gear to improve his performance on the competition floor. For the latter, he has partnered with Under Armour, a brand that shares his passion for innovation.

To get to the top, CrossFitters require a very wide range of skills, such as walking on their hands. Image: Courtesy of Under Armour

“I absolutely love the Rush technology,” he says of UA’s performance apparel line that features mineral-infused fabric. “I also think the TriBase Reign 3 is a game changer with the attributes it holds. Heal counter to speed up HSPU, Micro G midsole for cushion yet stable for heavy lifts, robust upper to maintain integrity during rope climbs. Under Armour are definitely leaders when it comes to human performance.”

We are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for James Newbury, both on and off the competition floor. One thing is for certain: he will continue to make the most of every second.

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