My children are at the age where police officers are real-life superheroes. Flashing lights, authority, uniforms — my sons, who are both younger than 5, eat that stuff up. Those of us who’ve taken a few trips around the sun know that law enforcement — while surely exposing themselves to extreme dangers and performing heroic acts — are mere mortals doing service to the community while living normal lives like the rest of us. Yet a local resident who wears an Arlington PD badge looks and trains a little more like a Marvel character than most.
Justin Dewing is originally from Wisconsin, though no funny accent was discernible when we spoke, and he grew up a pretty normal kid. A natural athlete, the standout shooting guard spent most of high school perfecting his hardwood skills, except when he was playing varsity soccer in the fall in what he described as his endurance training for basketball season. Still in love with roundball when he graduated, Dewing matriculated to Minnesota to play collegiate basketball at Northwestern College for two years before transferring south to the University of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville, where he finished his undergraduate degree. Dewing described himself as a typical broke college kid who needed a job and began personal training clients at a gym in the area. At the same time, he — like many — was introduced by another trainer to the burgeoning sport of functional fitness branded under the company CrossFit. So while he was helping some perform traditional large-gym exercises like tricep extensions and bench presses, he was digesting online workouts calling for Olympic lifting, dizzying numbers of burpees, and handstand walking.
After graduation, Dewing moved back to Wisconsin and became co-owner of a CrossFit affiliate for several years. Anyone who has ever worked for or owned a small business knows it can be grueling, and, while still passionate about fitness, the overworked twentysomething was looking for a new direction in life, an opportunity to plant roots, and a warmer climate. Originally drawn to the notion of becoming a firefighter, Dewing moved to Fort Worth, knowing the quantity of local departments represented ample opportunities to realize his dream.
“The adrenaline, the exciting side of police work drew my interest more and more,” he said of his eventual switch to pursuing law enforcement positions.
Dewing applied in Arlington, partially because it was one of the first cities that populated his internet searches but also because they had an interview process as opposed to completely relying on the civil service examination.
“I knew,” he said, “if I could put my face in front of someone, I’d have a better chance of being hired, instead of just a name on a resume.”
Despite the pressures and workload of owning a CrossFit gym changing his trajectory, Dewing’s love and talent for fitness and competition didn’t change. CrossFit has an annual online competition available to any competitor who pays the requisite registration fee (usually $20). This year marked the 11th such competition, and Dewing has competed in nine of them. Formerly, competitors with superior times or scores for the assigned workouts would advance to one of several in-person regionals, which Dewing advanced to and finished 16th out of 60 in 2014. The structure of The CrossFit Open has changed since. Starting in 2021, the company introduced an additional level of online competition for those hoping to compete in person or hoping to qualify for the NoBull CrossFit Games. The Top 10% of Open finishers by continent (more than 65,000 signed up in North America this year) advanced to quarterfinals, and our local officer finished 210th, which qualified him easily. Quarterfinals feature five advanced-level workouts. Of the more than 3,400 North American men who advanced, Dewing finished 149th. While his finish was incredibly impressive, only the Top 120 finishers will move on to one of several in-person semifinal competitions.
To give context to how elite semifinals are, only three DFW locals were able to punch their tickets. Tucker McLemore, the owner and head coach of Rayzor Ranch Crossfit in Argyle, finished 113th and is the lone male to advance. Rebecca Fuselier, who has appeared at the CrossFit Games before but in the teen division and coaches at CrossFit Bolt in Coppell, and Leah Irons, who is a co-owner and coach at CrossFit Ammo in Allen, will both appear in semifinal contests as well.
For Dewing, CrossFit hasn’t been a casual part of his life. In addition to helping him achieve the fitness to serve on the Arlington PD SWAT team, as well as working with a unit that exclusively deals with high-crime areas, he met his wife after starting to work out at Rock It CrossFit (now Dissent Athletics) on the East Side. After the couple moved to North Fort Worth, he changed gyms and is a current member of Cowtown CrossFit.
It was partially his wife, Audrey, who precipitated a focus on this year’s competition. She encouraged her husband to pursue a superior finish this year by dedicating the time and effort he’d put forth in his pre-officer life. For several years, Dewing has worked out in a class setting with other gym members, but for almost the entire past year, he’s taken a different approach to his training.
“I’d go into the gym before work [5pm-3am four days per week] and put about two and a half hours in,” he said.
The officer started following competitor-specific workouts through CrossFit legend Rich Froning’s program from CrossFit Mayhem in Cookeville, Tennessee. These workouts are incredibly challenging and high volume even for someone who really likes their fitness. Most days prescribe sessions intended to be done at two different times per day, but a man walking the thin blue line didn’t have that luxury of time. “I’d take about a 15-minute break and drink a Gatorade or eat a protein bar and then do the next one.”
He admitted it took a lot of sacrifice for this amount of preparation, especially when he and his wife were expecting their first child.
Yes, their firstborn, a son, arrived on March 22, two days before the quarterfinals stage of competition began. Luckily for Dewing, he was accustomed to the second-shift life with his work schedule and was taking a month off from the department to help out at home and spend time with his newborn. Even though the eventual goal of making semifinals, and perhaps even the CrossFit Games, will have to be deferred to another year, Dewing is hoping to achieve a different title this year: Fittest law enforcement officer in the world.
CrossFit has eight occupational categories in which athletes may choose to compete based on their profession. Health-care workers, first responders, college students, active-duty military, retired military, firefighters, school teachers, and law enforcement officers all have opportunities to qualify for the Occupational Games division, which is a separate online-only competition held April 21-24 (Thursday-Sunday). Dewing was our nation’s fittest cop based on his CrossFit Open finish, and he’s poised to hold the world title by the end of the month. After finishing seventh in the world based on the CrossFit Open, the leaderboard for the Occupational Games will probably shake up, as several of the top finishers will be choosing to focus their efforts on achieving an individual or team appearance at the CrossFit Games. Dewing’s closest American competitor, Matthew Greene out of Brentwood, Missouri, finished behind our hometown hero in both the Open and quarterfinals stages.
Regardless of the results of this year’s occupational games, Dewing and wife Audrey have already agreed that he’ll spend another year of focused training to refine a few facets of his fitness to make a run at semifinals again next year. He’s also interested in possibly competing in local competitions with his wife, who is still a fitness junkie herself.
“I told her no matter how much any of these workouts hurt, they can’t compare to how strong she is,” Dewing said of watching her give birth to their son.
As much as I personally want to be the superhero of my kids’ worlds, it might be less exhausting for me to simply let them drop in and watch Officer Dewing train for an afternoon and tell them that’s the real-life Captain America.