Climbing five of the seven summits in the world was not enough for Luke Richmond. The former Australian Army infantryman needed to test the limits of his fitness – something beyond the tough routines he doles out for guests at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Training Camp in Phuket, Thailand on a regular basis. He found it in qualifying for the CrossFit Games: Asia Regionals – one of the toughest competitions on the planet.

The event pulled in 50 of the top CrossFit athletes on the continent, with the winner earning an invite to the World CrossFit Games in Southern California in July. The three-day event took place in South Korea and, with a round of cuts at the end of each day, only 22 were left standing in the end. Despite a slow start, Richmond ended up placing 5th – not bad for someone who only took up the sport a year ago.

Richmond sat down for a quick chat shortly after the competition to talk about this unique experience.

How does it feel coming in 5th after your first time in the competition?

“It’s really just given me a kick in the ass, a lot of confidence, and shown me how I want to progress from here. I want to dedicate more time to my weaknesses. Hanging around those athletes pushes you hard and makes you realize where you need to get to. I really didn’t train specifically for this the whole year, I did a lot of expeditions, climbing mountains, so that really didn’t help me going into the games. If I dedicated 12 months of just CrossFit, who knows where I could end up.”

Did you know anyone there beforehand?

“No, I was just going in as an unknown. But the first day I was there I met the guys that came second, third, and fourth. We were just hanging out together everyday and competing, and we ended up second, fourth, third, and fifth. We were just hanging out in the warm up area and bantering about. That’s the best thing about it. None of that ‘I’m an Olympian, going for the gold’ stuff. It’s just fun and fitness. It’s going out, smashing the workout, come back, and see who wins.”

How was the competition, is it more you competing against them or against yourself?

“I think it’s a bit of both. When you’re going into a workout, all you want to do is do well. On some of the workouts you have to pace it a little. You can’t just go as fast as you can because you’ll burn out so you’re competing against yourself straight away trying to do the best you can. But when the guy next to you is going harder, it gives you that little bit of a push as well. Obviously on the build up of the three days, you start seeing who is sitting where on the leader board so you want to come in at a higher place on the next workout. That competitive spirit starts coming out. You push harder than you have pushed before.”

The first workout out you came in 27th out of 50, your lowest placement by far. Any thoughts on that?

“What CrossFit and competition does is really expose your weaknesses, and you can’t hide them during competition. My weaknesses were snatching and handstand pushups, and it was two workouts that were just that so the first workout crushed me. I ended at a time of nine minutes. There are guys who finished in two minutes and just nailed that workout. But then those same guys came in very low on the heavier workouts because I was stronger in them. The key is to have your weaknesses strong enough so you can finish in the top five across all six events and you’ll win. You don’t have to win any individual event, you just have to be good at everything.”

Mentally, how was it losing your first workout?

“It’s sort of a relief and it isn’t. You knew you were going to end up stuffing up one workout. Being the first one on the first day, it’s very unlucky. But it took the pressure off too because all I could do was crush every workout that came next. I came in 3rd and 4th in the other workouts. In fact, one of the two guys who beat me in the second workout ended up setting record time.”

How do you think this experience is going to benefit the people who take your classes at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Training Camp?

It just all flows down hill. What I learn I pass on straight away. Being around guys who are competing is going to change the way I coach in small parts. Obviously, that’s going to benefit the client as well. And that’s what fitness and training is all about, there’s no one way – it’s a constantly evolving training method.

When you started CrossFit did you think you you were going to do this?

Not at all. When I discovered CrossFit I thought it was just good fitness, great for mountains. Now, I think about how I trained before and it just felt like a waste of time. It’s very much an addiction, it’s not a hobby or something you do before summer to look good. It’s a lifestyle as the sport of fitness to keep you healthy for the rest of your life. The competition is addictive, once you get over the nerves it’s really fun. I can’t wait for next year.