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The Journey of a Legend: Mike Burgener
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The Journey of a Legend: Mike Burgener
WRITTEN BY Sean Lakeabout 1 month ago
CrossFit is still a relatively young type of fitness among the different sects in the fitness industry. However, it has grown much faster and has amassed a following than some would have anticipated. While there is the reality that this growth can be attributed to a number of things, it is worth making special note of key contributors. In 2003, Coach Mike Burgener had his first insight into CrossFit, and has become a notable trainer and coach in the world of fitness—well beyond the CrossFit community. Still working today as a staple of the fitness world, he has set the example of hard work and utilizing the humility of ignorance to grow. Having come onto the scene of CrossFit in its earliest years, he has helped shape the standards of athletes and competitors. Despite getting up there in years, he has made no plans to stop moving.

The Journey

When he was around the age of seven, Mike Burgener was part of a farming community in Southern Illinois. On occasion he would bike to the store nearby where he would look at the magazines on strength and fitness and found himself wanting to look like these men he would see. However, there was no encouragement from his father, who was worried his son would become muscle-bound. This drove Mike to want to do it all the more, however, and his father soon changed his mind when he realized the difference and improvement in his son’s physical state. When playing football at Notre Dame University, Mike weighed 165 pounds and the football coach needed him to gain weight. So the coach brought him to the training room and there he got real exposure to different lifts with weights. Over time, Mike went from 165 to 185 pounds…of muscle. He also got faster, and stronger, and stood among others because he was one of the only players lifting weights. It was during his time at Notre Dame that Mike really learned a lot and had the foundation of his career. “As I was coming up through the ranks of coaching I used to try to surround myself, or be in the presence of all these guys that had gone before me and I just listened,” he explains in an interview with BUBS Naturals. He noted how these experts always emphasized fundamentals among other things and noted how they had the knowledge of the science and technicality of how to do it. He lacked all their knowledge, so instead, he would take what he saw and apply it. And it worked.

In the Garage

Before his time as a coach really began, however, he had spent time in the Marines. While in the Marines, his now wife had asked to marry him, but he had said no initially. However, that changed in time and he chose to leave the Marines and his father-in-law got him a job in Fallbrook, CA where he started his career as a teacher. Eventually he got his dream job as a strength coach to high school students. In that role, he slowly became recognized for his coaching by more than just high school students. In time he developed relationships with Olympic caliber athletes. It started with being selected for an award through USA Weightlifting and the National Strength Association. On his way to Florida for the event, he had met a woman who coached volleyball. After they got to talking, she decided she wanted him as the coach of her athletes. Two of her girls went to him to train, and then other girls had also come along. “And then god almighty I had the whole men's national volleyball team,” explains Mike. “I was coaching volleyball athletes!” Which is not what he had at all envisioned, but it’s really where his career and success started. He didn’t know anything about volleyball, but he took what he did know, and he applied it to his training and they came out fitter than they had ever been. To get the picture straight, Mike Burgener had gold medalist Olympic athletes coming to his garage where he trained high school students. It all fell into his lap, and he was as grateful as he was amused.

On the CrossFit Scene and Beyond

When Mike came onto the CrossFit scene, he had been approached by Greg Glassman. The relationship between the two led to Mike creating weightlifting programs aimed at CrossFit athletes, and then running training seminars in Colorado Springs. Seeing the traction and the need for a more in-depth program, that seminar turned into a two-day event. From that was born CrossFit Weightlifting, which now falls under Burgener Strength, which Mike Burgener played a key role in forming. More recently, his family business has partnered with Mayhem, participating in the creation of the Burgener-Mayhem strength program. Through a mutual connection to Notre Dame, there had been a rather seamless and almost predictable united effort forward between the two. And though Mike would claim to be “a fly on the wall” in the midst of the family business, he is still active and coaches new clients. Mike Burgener was a key contributor to the CrossFit of the present day and of that of the past. He has always had an admiration for hard work, and the importance of fitness. To this day, he trains and recognizes the value of staying active. He has shaped his life and family in this way, and by extension, thousands of others who have been inspired by his work, whether knowingly or unknowingly.