Austin Stack climbs a rope Thursday at The Den in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Stacking Success

Austin Stack punched the words "interval training" into the Google search engine, hoping something new would turn up.

The personal trainer and active body builder had grown tired of his same old routines in 2009: he did upper body one day, lower body another and cardiovascular in between.

It was a good cycle, but one that was stuck on repeat in some ways.

"I was just bored," he says.

So Stack went searching.

What he found changed his life.

The former Southern Oregon University football player recently competed in a world-class competition that has typified his evolutionary rise in the world of fitness.

Oh, and along the way, he met his wife.

Stack's search yielded the word CrossFit — a constantly varied, high intensity strength and conditioning program. CrossFit offered a close-knit atmosphere, Stack says, and it also provided a means of accountability: participants' progress can be documented in journals, on dry erase boards and online, creating a system for comparison and competition.

It was just the interval training he'd been looking for.

"I was fit, I looked fit, but CrossFit is eye-opening," Stack says. "It was a very humbling."

Stack, 27, began first with CrossFit by experimenting with some of the exercises at the gym where he worked. He used the unoccupied corners of the center as his personal testing labs as co-workers and some members looked on with curiosity.

"'Is he doing MMA training?'" he recalled hearing.

Stack then upped the ante, visiting a CrossFit studio in Medford called The Den (

That's where he met his future wife, Annie Stack.

"I remember thinking that he was a really good guy and I knew he was going to do big things," Annie says. "I just didn't know if he knew that."

She quickly learned that he did, although Annie says that Austin would be too humble to say it.

"For Austin, his heart is so fiercely humble that sometimes he pushes people above himself," she says.

As his relationship with Annie grew, Stack trained alongside former owner Lu Crenshaw for a couple years and then bought the business from her this January.

Since then, he has proved to be one of the fittest men in the region by the program's rigorous standards.

This past weekend, the 6-foot, 215-pound Stack competed at the CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif. Qualified athletes did an array of CrossFit routines at The Home Depot Center, mixing strength exercises like the dead lift and clean and jerk with metabolic conditioning drills.

Competitors even had to do an unexpected triathlon last Wednesday.

"Part of CrossFit is training for the unknown," say Stack, who currently has around 90 to 100 clients at The Den (943 Automation Way, Medford).

Stack finished in 34th place out of 46 of the world's toughest last Sunday while battling some illness.

"It was a great experience," Stack says. "I think the triathlon took a little more out of me than expected. I was battling an upset stomach on Friday and was not feeling my best, but I tried to do what I could.

"I made the first cut and got to do one more workout on Saturday night underneath the lights. I knew it would be my last competition, so I stayed a little longer and just soaked it up."

The CrossFit Games season is a three-stage test of fitness. It is made up of the Open, Regionals and the world championship, the CrossFit Games.

The top 60 competitors in the Open round of each division moved on to Regionals.

The competition began in 2007, when a small group of athletes gathered at a ranch in northern California for the inaugural CrossFit Games.

Last Sunday, Rich Froning successfully defended his men's Games title. Much of the weekend action was broadcast on ESPN3. ESPN2 will later show post-production shows.

Stack secured his first berth into the Games by finishing third at the Northwest Regionals in Puyallup, Wash., in May. Before that, he claimed a spot in the top 25 (No. 22) in the worldwide Open division round.

Last year, Stack finished in 11th place at the regional level. The top three in each region advance, with 17 regional competitions occurring.

The road to Carson, Calif., was a challenging one. Along with doing frequent, intense training, Stack became even more dedicated to healthy dieting. His plates and cups are filled with lean meats, vegetables, nuts, avocados and recovery drinks.

"There is no food that he doesn't like, so that part of training is really a lot of work," Annie says.

Annie and Austin actually attended last year's Games as spectators. With total confidence in her significant other, she called her parents on the final day of competition in Carson, Calif., to give them advance notice that Austin would be on the stage — and not in the stands — the following year.

"I told them to make sure to fly over here July 2012 because my husband will be in the Games," she said. "As we were watching the Games, I knew (Austin) wanted it."

And now, she's watching her husband earn it.

"The coolest part is seeing him fulfill all the things he trained so hard to do," she says.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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