Check out a solid interview with Coach Bobby, as he specializes in Strength Training. And if you have been following me, you know how important strength training is for the triathlete and all endurance athletes. Click the video below or click the photo below to jump over to the YouTube video.
If you are interested in learning more about Coach Bobby and how you can work with him or me, please fill out this application HERE to be a part of Rulon Racing.
Don’t have time to watch the video? Read the full transcript of the video below.
Welcome, welcome! And thank you, Coach Bobby, for first of all jumping on and talking to me today about Strength Training because you know I’m so very passionate about it.
I also want to say thank you for being part of Rulon Racing as an athlete but as a new coach.
Coach Bobby: Yeah!
Coach Jen: Yeah! I am so excited for this because I think it is something that Rulon Racing needs and I’d love what you have shown me as an athlete, but I love what you have shown me as a coach. And so today, I want to talk to you a little bit about YOU as an athlete, as a coach, as a CrossFit Owner, but I also want to talk to and educate our followers and people about Strength training for Triathletes. So, are you ready?
Bobby: Yeah! Thanks for having me.
Jen: Yeah, my pleasure. So, tell me a little bit about you as an athlete.
Bobby: So as far as me as an athlete, I was a firefighter for about 12 years, and when I was going through the Fire Academy that was when I actually started endurance sports was, I needed a way to stay in shape, and I hated to run, like I needed to figure it out, and so I look for a challenge, and the first challenge was going out and doing a 5k race. And I did it! Didn’t kill me, and that was the beginning of a long, challenging life of endurance. It just slowly build from there, and the running increased in distance and speed and then picked up with cycling after an injury and swimming after that. After just looking for another challenge and things have just grown, it’s got more and more excited, and it’s taking me around the world and around the country, and met tons of people like yourself and athletes of our team. It’s been great!
Jen: It’s funny because you hear a lot of people saying, “Oh, I hated running!” And so I started it, but you should tell your story about swimming.
Bobby: Yeah, swimming. I literally did not know how to swim until I was about 20, say 22 somewhere in there. When I was a kid, I wasn’t able to put my head underwater; I had tubes in my ears, ear infections basically until I was like 7 or 8 like non-stop. And so I just gave up on trying to swim as a kid. My mom was a swim instructor, and she tried, and it wasn’t something that we could do, and I just gave up on it until later in life I was competitive in the duathlon world, and I was approached to join a team based out of Sacramento doing triathlons. And as a requirement that I had to do triathlons, not just duathlons. And they give me about six months to get ready, and they said “if you can do it, Cool! If you can’t Thanks for trying!” And so luckily I had my wife, and some friends helped me out. We figured it out about six months went from zero formal swim training to do my first Half Ironman successfully.
Jen: That’s fantastic!
Bobby: So, I did a half in Lake Pyresa Napier, a HITS Triathlon in Napa.
Jen: Oh yeah, Do they still happen anymore?
Bobby: They do. It’s a fun little smaller type of race.
Jen: Yeah, there are some HITS in Texas, but you know to be honest. I haven’t seen them personally.
Bobby: It’s a smaller company, but they put on great races they usually set up a whole weekend where every distance Sprint’s to Falls. It’s amazing. Tons of people get out there.
Jen: Very good. Yeah, I love that story. Because I think so many triathletes resonate with that because a lot of people do not know how to swim. I mean, I worked with Anna, who I saw her swimming, and she’s like “I want to do an Ironman.” And after I saw her swimming, I’m like, “We have work to do.”
Bobby: With the right coach, with the right systems in place and the passion. The wanting to do something that you can’t do, or people telling you that you can’t do, that drives me. I don’t like being told I can’t do or something. I’m at least going to try.
Jen: I think that’s why we work so well together. I mean, we got flat bill hats, the glasses, and then when somebody tells us that we can’t do something we’re like.
Bobby: Yeah, bring it!
Jen: Love it! Cool! Alright! Then, tell me a lil’ bit something about your coaching background.
Bobby: Yeah, my coaching background literally started when I was a kid. My father was a Division 1 baseball coach, Cal State Sacramento so I grew up on College campuses, in weight rooms, traveling in different universities and just learning from other coaches. I coached high school baseball camps as a kid when I was 12, 13 years old I was coaching 17 or 18 years old So, for a very early age I had that drive, that ability to instruct and share knowledge but I didn’t really know where else I gonna go in life.
As my racing kinda progressed, I was reached out to by my one of my coaches and he’s like: “Hey, do you want to learn some stuffs?” And I said: “Sure!” And so I got my first Certification as an Endurance Coach in 2011. That’s what really really started my Coaching. And then, two years later, we started, I mean me and my wife, at that time, my girlfriend, started a CrossFit gym in our garage. Just, we wanted a place to workout and got some friends that came over… it grew. It grew so fast that we didn’t know what’s happening and then that garage gym turned out now to be our full-time job. I left my job as a firefighter, my wife left her job as an educator, and we ran a gym full-time here in Yreka in the Northern California area.
So that’s the main part of my coaching. We run a CrossFit Gym, but I’ve never lost that side of the endurance coaching, that’s it’s always in my passion, that’s always been my main focus. So, I, over the years, have slowly taken on a handful of athletes, running, obstacle racing, triathlon, cycling and just done what I can to help different athletes, in different ways and giving them that knowledge and helping them build that passion to challenge themselves and it’s grown to the point that now it’s my real fun time my day is spending time talking to my athletes. Yes, so now, moving forward, is given an opportunity with Coach Jen and be part of Rulon Racing team and seeing where that can go.
Jen: Agree! And, you know, that was like my next question about you know telling yourself a little bit about CrossFit as a Gym owner, but I think um, How many people do you have at your gym currently?
Bobby: We currently have about 130 athletes. I’m doing full CrossFit, and then we have an additional 20 or so athletes around the country that we do programming for. My wife also does Nutrition Coaching, I do the Endurance Coaching. So we try to we’re trying to be as well-rounded in a full package to get people to their goals. All goals are different, so each person needs a little different program.
Jen: Agree, agree! Yeah, and I think, just talking to you more and more, I’m learning more about you as a human being, as an athlete, as a Coach, it’s just awesome things started lining up and you’re like, why do I need to start something that you’ve already started and how can I help and I’m like because I need the help… So,
Bobby: Yeah, it’s been a great partnership so far, since you just said I was starting to build my own endurance company and it’s like “Why to do something different when I can work as a team?” It’s such a better setup.
Jen: Agree, agree! Excellent! So, let’s talk about the fun part — the Strength part! It’s interesting because there’s a poster behind me, it is from my grandfather from World War II, and it’s the army way of working out, and it’s undoubtedly classic, like there are burpees in there, like bear walks and bear crawls, and I’m like this is all the stuff we do already. You know it’s they were way ahead of their time, I guess. Anyway, so my very first question is: Why should you do Strength Training during the On Season of Triathlon Training?
Bobby: The biggest thing I see with the athletes in the endurance world is burnout on injuries based on an imbalance in the body. Athletes get so so focused on those three disciplines: the run, the bike, the swim. They’re building strength, and they’re building fitness but in such limited ways that their bodies start to break down, and those muscle groups that aren’t being utilized and so where the injury is isn’t the muscles that are being used for the swim, the bike and the run it’s those supportive muscles, those smaller muscle groups, the end of having those little tiny injuries and because that little tiny injury our whole position of our body changes and then we end up injuring ourselves.
So, our big focus with strength is just balancing out that body and keeping that body moving throughout the year so that you don’t have those little injuries. So I got the opportunity to talk to a new athlete yesterday and he was asking why do we do with strength, what’s the purpose of it and literally told him it’s like not to build strength, it’s not to be dead-lifting 500 pounds or back squatting a ton of weight, it’s just to keep those little muscles in the body, just keep everything balanced out. Keep the body moving in ways other than we do non-stop with the endurance training.
Jen: Agreed! And I think that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve had is that you know, I did 4 Ironman’s, I took that 8 years sabbatical, found CrossFit, found strength again because my coach back in the days was trying to get me to strength training and I’m like “Nah, I don’t have time for it.” And now, you know I’m back to it again, and I’m like “Oh my gosh! It makes sense because you know that posterior chain is so weak, my glutes aren’t firing. Thus I’m always in that forward motion all the time, I’m using the quads and using the front you know, and I think it’s so crucial for triathletes to do on-season, but we always say offseason but you gotta do it on-season.
Bobby: Totally! Yeah, you can’t just give up on that because we got to keep the systems all moving correctly because you look at a full Ironman, or even a half-ironman, we’re on the bike for 3 to 6, 7 plus hours and it’s like what is the biggest factor that affects our time, our speed is our aerodynamics, our position on that bike, the difference between being in those Aero bars and being sitting up as high as possible because that box blown out is a huge difference so if we have the mobility, and the strength to hold those positions were gonna move a lot easier, it’s a lot easier to be a little bit more aerodynamic than pushing a lot more power. Those are things that are gonna take training other than just being on the bike all the time, that’s gonna help us but also building that supportive strength.
Jen: I think that’s something that I really missed going into Kona, you know because I qualified and then 8 weeks later I’m in Kona so I wasn’t doing much strength training AT ALL. And I remember at mile 90, mile 100, my back was just hurting and I know that was because of the lack of strength. I was focusing on getting leaner to qualify, you know we all have these, you know, I guess it’s “seasons of change” but that really there’s a picture of me like sitting out of my aero bar because I was so uncomfortable and it was because I lacked strength.
Bobby: I love when an athlete shows me how their position is on the bike, they’re like: “Look how far aero I can get”, “Look how far I dropped my aero bars down” I’m like, “Okay, how long can you sit in a plank hold?, “Oh, 2 minutes”, “Okay, so you’re gonna hold that position” It’s basically a plank hold for 6 hours. Yeah, nice try! So we don’t think about how much of that core engagement, how much that supportive strength is gonna benefit us and just holding the position it’s not even doing work. It’s just holding the position.
Jen: Oh, my gosh! That’s such a great analogy, you can’t do a 2-minute plank but you can hold it for 6 hours on the bike. Yeah, good luck! Very cool!
Bobby: I was just gonna say it’s just something that is missed so often and it’s so so important.
Jen: Agreed. So, one of my most popular blogs was the “Top 5 Lifts for Triathletes,” and over the last couple of years I’ve changed it up. What 5 movements are your favorites as a coach?
Bobby: So I’m gonna even simplify it down to 3 movements. So I have one that’s kind of a complex movement. This is one of my favorite movements, it’s called a Thruster, it’s taking a bar or an object, literally your hands is all you’re trying to move but you’re starting in a standing position with either a bar on your shoulders or on your back and you’re lowering yourself down into a full squat.
So, 1) It’s testing mobility, it’s getting those hips, those knees, those ankles all moving. It’s also getting a lot of engagement from glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, everything in the lower body to move to support to get into that squat and then out of that bottom position of the squat we are driving ourselves all the way back up through that squat and then carrying that momentum to move that object or that bar overhead into a preposition, so now we start to get extension of the shoulders, the elbows, the torso, we’re getting the core to be engaged to balance that weight overhead it’s a simple simple movement that utilizes the whole body. There’s both contraction and extension of the whole body through that movement. So, it’s so simple, it’s so time compacted and yet so effective for every part of the body. So, that’s my number 1.
Jen: And, I hate those…
Bobby: Yeah, people look at it specially the barbell version you’ll see in the CrossFit world and it’s a complex movement but it can be simplified like I said by getting rid of the bar and just moving your hands in your body and just getting yourself to extend and contract into that squat and control yourself to that position. So, that’s number 1.
Jen: Very good.
Bobby: Number 2 would be a leg raise, preferably a hanging leg raise. So, you had a pull-up bar you’ve been holding on to that pull-up bar or dip station supporting yourself and you’re either doing a knee raise, or a leg raise but you’re just controlling that core, controlling that hip flexor, and supporting yourself through that leg raise, it’s gonna help us gain a little bit more anterior front side strength and support. I like holding ourselves on the pull-up bar just to gain a little bit of grip strength and get some extension, get some mobility to get some range of motion in that arm, that shoulder especially going into the swim we see a lot of people suffer from not getting that shoulder mobility to get that full extension overhead, so if we can just hang and then activate that shoulder and get some mobility, some support in that shoulder we’re going to benefit in the swim as well as other movements.
Jen: Nice! Because I think when I hear of leg raise, I think of that old school in the gym, the seated one? Right? You sit there, you can lift your legs, so that’s a good idea but I do like the idea that you pull those legs down and you engage that core and you look whether it’s knee or legs out. I like that.
Bobby: Yeah, we see so many people especially in the swim where they just don’t have that core engagement, they can’t support and everything, legs are going one way, arms are going all over the place and if we can start to lock that core in and that’s everything! The core is the support, that’s her base.
Jen: I always think of those, you know when I see people do kipping pull-ups or when they first started off doing kipping pull-ups, like they’re sort of like all over the place, and I think it was like those marketing funny guys that people that they just flop all over the place, it’s like you don’t wanna do that in the swimming like that marketing piece that marketing guy doesn’t have a core because he’s got you know anyways…
Bobby: That’s a quick note with the CrossFit world, people look at it, and they’re like it’s just too much, it’s too complicated, it’s crazy, they’re just chaos and that all comes down to having the correct coach, a good coach that’s been managing what you are doing. We try to pack a lot into your time and control movements, but it’s only useful if the mechanics are there first. So, we don’t want complex movements; we don’t want intense speed or weight unless the mechanics are there first.
Jen: Alright! And, No. 3. We have thrusters, hanging leg raises, and last one…
Bobby: The last one so we’re going posterior sides glutes, hamstring, lower back, so it’s a good morning. Thus, Good Morning is locking your core into a stable position getting that torso nice and upright and then slowly hinging yourself at the hips leaning yourself forward and supporting yourself with that back, that glute and that lower hamstring. It’s a movement that I see too often done with a lot of weight. I love to do it with a PVC pipe. I don’t do it with any weight 90% of the time because it’s about learning to engage all that posterior chain, those glutes, those hamstrings in the lower back. So when I go onto the bike that’s gonna be transferable training so, I’m not lifting a bunch of weight when I’m sitting in the Aero bars, I’m just trying to support my body weight. So that’s a movement I use a lot, it just kind of wakes everything up, it gets you to the point where you are going to “Yep, my hamstrings are working, my glutes are working, nothings injured, I can get on the Aero bars for a couple of hours.
Jen: Yeah. You know I like Good Morning with a band.
Bobby: Yeah, there are so many ways you can do these movements, and there’s too often coaches or programs that say, “Hey, here’s the way you have to do it, and this is what you need to do,” and that’s not acceptable. There are so so many ways to do things; you have to find what works best for you and your needs.
Jen: Oh, I love those! Those are functional movements, not about the thruster, but you know!
Bobby: Just keeping it simple. So full body movement, front side, back side.
Jen: Love it! Perfect! So, In the Triathlon World and a lot of people may or may not know this but we do something called periodization. It’s very well-known in all the other worlds. What you’re pretty much doing is you’re peaking into your A-race. So an A-race might be Ironman, 70.3, Full Ironman that type of thing. So the question for you, is when you are programming Strength workouts do you do periodization for your athletes?
Bobby: Yes and No. A little bit different than it would be with the endurance side of stuff. I would say it’s more block blocked out versus like a progression, and the progress is going to be different based on each athlete but yeah, it’s what we’re doing different times that you’re gonna look completely different so like I was saying mid-season was just trying to balance the body out, off-season we’re trying to build the body up, because we do break down a lot of muscle tissue throughout the year. So, we have to train a little bit different, different times of the year. There is a pattern to it; it’s just a little bit different
Jen: Yeah, and I think a lot of people you know don’t realize there’s something called periodization or doing blocks of training. I guess some people have that mentality of that they have to go 24/7 and you can’t do that in the triathlon world and you definitely can’t do that in the strength world because at one point, injury, overuse, fatigue, burnout will happen.
Bobby: Yeah, the biggest thing is just looking at the big picture and what the critical training is for the time of the year is the focus to build strength, is the focus to gain speed, is the focus to increase endurance and you have to figure out what that essential element of each time of the year, and that’s gonna determine how the strength train side of its gonna because we can’t box about 400 pounds and then not be able to do or run the next day. So, you have to figure out what the key training is. It happens so often where people are like: “I want to do strength training six days a week.” Like well, are you gonna make all of your runs and your bikes and your swims? No, you can’t strength training that much. In the off-season maybe we can talk about that but not, not when you’re two months out from an Ironman.
Jen: Yeah. I remember I wanted to do the CrossFit open and I’m getting ready for an Ironman, and of course, I did. It was one of the workouts, it was a 150 wall ball shots with Karen and like a 100 double unders and you ended up with the muscle up which I didn’t have muscle up because my goal was to get through everything and do some muscle up attempts, well I did all of that and then I went running two days later for my long run and I had to run 90 minutes. It was an epic fail.
Bobby: And it happens, we all make mistakes, and that’s the benefit of having a coach, as the coach is gonna say, “Hey like that’s not a good idea!” But if you make those mistakes, own up to it, we’re all adults. But hey, let’s not make those mistakes in the future. Because if we repeat that mistake over and over that’s we’re gonna have that injury.
Jen: For sure, funny! Alright! And then, I do want to keep this short because I do respect everybody’s time. What are three tips for people who are triathletes and they do want to do strength training?
Bobby: So, the biggest thing is to learn the proper technique, that’s number 1. Don’t just see a video and try to replicate it because that may be completely different. Reach out to people that can invest some time in teaching how to do things correctly because if you do it can send you in the wrong direction. Make sure doing things correctly, make sure you’re doing the right things, make sure you’re doing strength training that’s not going to take away from your program but it’s gonna benefit your program. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it doesn’t have to be heavy, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, figure out what’s gonna be the most important for you or have that coach that’s going to build that program for you. And then, the last thing is, proper timing, make sure you’re not loading too much at the beginning of the week and then just burnout by the end of the week. Spread that training out pay attention to what you’re putting into your day.
Jen: Love it! I think that so many people believe that “Oh, I need to do legs.” So then, they overdo legs and then once again you’re having trouble you know building those intervals or whatever it might be you know, on the bike or even on the run.
Bobby: Timing means not just days, but the time of the day, like do you do strength before or after your workout? That’s important. Each day has a different requirement, and that’s it’s more than, Oh, I can always do my strength before or I can still do my strength after. It doesn’t always work out that way.
Jen: Right. I love it. That’s so true. I mean, I remember a couple of months ago like you and I chatted then I had to do interval work and then I went to Soul Fit and like, it was like leg day at Soul Fit, and I’m like, that’s not happening because I had no legs left because my interval work, so I was like “I’m just gonna go light today.” [Laughter] But I should’ve spread that, you know is really and maybe likes come in the way like it always does. Right? Cool!
So, that was your Top 3 Lifts or Exercises — Thruster, Hanging Leg Raise and Good Morning and your Top 3 Tips for people who want to do Strength — proper technique, proper timing, and the right movements.
Bobby: The right movements, so that’s gonna be beneficial to your training.
Jen: So muscle ups aren’t beneficial for my training. Are they?
Bobby: Not really.
Jen: I have never gotten up a muscle up, just a little up.
Bobby: It’s one of my stupid human tricks that I love to do, so, it’s someone good at but not beneficial. (Laughs!)
Jen: And here’s a thing, like you say, for example: somebody goes to your Crossfit gym and you know you’re working on your muscle ups or you’re working on and your triathlete and they want you to work on your muscle ups so you could just say, as the athlete you could just say: “You know what that’s not really beneficial for me, what can I do differently?” That coach should adjust for you.
Bobby: Totally! If you had a good coach, you’re gonna go, ”yeah that doesn’t benefit your training so let’s do something completely different and don’t get sucked into the peer pressure of having to do what other people are doing…
Jen: And don’t turn on your watch, when you start doing a WOD you know that type of thing, I’ve seen people do that, I’m like you’re turning on your watch? What? The time is right there. We’re good!
Well, thanks for jumping on-board with me. Where can people find you, like, your social media channels and all that fun stuff?
Bobby: So, Instagram’s probably the biggest place I’m on. That would be, it’s a @coach_bobbysmith, keep it simple. And, you can find me on Facebook – Bobby Smith, I’m located in Yreka, California if you want to search that and then you can always find me on JenRulon.com, so, that’s the new place.
Jen: What’s your email?
Bobby: Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jen: Very cool! And then what’s the name of your CrossFit Gym? In case somebody wants to check that out.
Bobby: Yeah, it’s Crossfit Northern Limits, and our website is crossfitnorthernlimits.com. Yeah, drop in if you guys are ever passing through Southern Oregon Northern California right off Interstate five. Can’t-miss us little tiny town big blue building.
Jen: Love it! And your photos are breathtaking, but then you tell me about the weather, I’m like…
Bobby: Yeah, great short spring other than that super hot, super cold.
Jen: Yeah. Well, thank you, Bobby, for jumping on. I am super excited to have you as a coach with the Rulon Racers, and if people are interested, Bobby and I would love to chat with you guys if you are interested in jumping on Rulon Racing Team. I am taking a break from coaching right now to do some other things, but I got Bobby to help me out, so, with that said, Have a great rest of your week, and we’ll talk soon.