Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I speak with CrossFit Games masters athlete Bob Jennings. They say it is lonely at the top, but what if entrepreneurs didn’t have to go it alone? Now you don’t have to. Chris Cooper has compiled more than a decade’s worth of hard-won wisdom into 15 free guides on everything from marketing and retention to hiring and firing. You can download them all for free at TwoBrain business.com/free-tools. Bob Jennings competes in the 45-to-49 year-old division, and he took 9th in that age group last year at the CrossFit Games. He is also currently organizing the Legends masters competition that will take place this December in Arizona. Bob and I talk about deciding to become a competitor much later in life after finding CrossFit, how just missing out on a trip to Madison in 2018 motivated him moving forward and why the masters community is so tightly knit. Thanks for listening everyone. Bob, thanks so much for being here today, man. How you doing?
I’m doing pretty well pretty well, Sean. Thanks for having me.
What was your athletic background growing up?
I was kind of a typical jock as a kid, I guess, played a lot of sports when I was young. You know, swimming, tennis, football, baseball, soccer, you know, I was never really pinned down to just one. When I got into high school, just kinda focused more on football and wrestling. I played baseball just because the defensive coach for the football team was the head baseball coach and he wanted to keep an eye on me in the spring. But, you know, a lot of different sports, kind of, you know, general meathead. He was actually the guy that started me lifting weights in a way that wasn’t—it was like pre CrossFit, you know, and so this is—I’m 47 years old.
This was probably 88, 89 90 around then, his strength and conditioning program, while most high school coaches were doing bench press and squat, deadlift and shrugs, you know, and like kind of ridiculous stuff like that. Right. His was all about explosive power, you know, power cleans, power snatches. I kind of wish that he had been teaching me squat snatches and squat cleans back then. He would’ve given me a nice head start, but you know, when I ended up stumbling on CrossFit many, many years later that was kinda what I had to pull from, something that was familiar, I guess. Right.
So before you did stumble yourself into CrossFit, what did fitness look like to you?
Six days in the gym, you know, one day off, it was kind of the, you know, chest and tris day, back and bis, you know, leg day type of guy mixing cardio. And I would always try to do that before I started lifting heavy, you know, I really had no idea what I was doing and you know, I would be one of those guys that you would look at in the gym and you would think that he’s working really, really hard, but in my head, I was probably only going at about 80 or 85%, you know, it wasn’t really ever full effort. And, it wasn’t until a trainer of my wife introduced me to CrossFit that I recognized that there was something else, you know, that you really could put in kind of that maximal effort and do fitness in a different way. That it was way beyond the aesthetic. And it actually created kind of true fitness.
How old were you when you found CrossFit?
So when people pick things up in their forties, they usually don’t think about being competitive in whatever that endeavor is, you know, especially in a worldwide setting. So why did you think that you could be competitive at that point in your life?
You know, it’s funny, one of my earliest memories of being introduced to CrossFit was, again from this trainer who happened to work out at the gym that I’m now part owner of, she said, you know, you can do this methodology and Oh, by the way, there’s a sport around it and you can compete. And there’s a masters division as well. So you can compete as an older person. And at that time, the masters division that was 2012. So the masters division was just 45 and up, they hadn’t done the 40s and certainly hadn’t done the 35s yet. 2013 was the first year of 40s. And the first thought that went through my head was awesome. I’m going to train really hard for the next five years. And I’m going to go to the CrossFit Games when I’m 45.
I had no idea what CrossFit meant, how hard that would be to get there, but I just had made a decision that that was something I was going to do. And it took me two years longer than I hoped, but I got there eventually.
So at what point did you think it was a realistic goal to get to the Games?
So my first year doing the Open was 2013. And so I started doing CrossFit in November of 2012. I came in, you know, did a couple of workouts, fell in love with the sport. Early December of 2012, we were doing weighted ring dips one day, and I didn’t want any of the young guys in the gym to outshine me. And so I loaded on some ridiculous amount of weight, ended up tearing my pec, right. It wasn’t a bad tear, but kind of tore my pec.
And I didn’t come back into the gym until January of that year or the next year, January, 2013, just, you know, like a month later or so. And the first thing that I did when I came back was go to a local competition to go compete. I didn’t, there were, you know, there was like double-unders in it. I didn’t even show up with a jump rope. At that point I’d never even done a wall ball, believe it or not. And I entered the competition in the, you know, the open age group, but like the medium category, right. It wasn’t like the RX category, there was a medium category and I ended up winning that and my coach had no idea who I was, you know, he was just as surprised as I was, there’s probably 15 of us from our gym that were competing there. And he was like, Oh, OK, great. I’m glad this guy won. And then that kind of led into the open. And that was the year that 13.1 was the burpees and snatch workout. Like all I knew how to do was power snatch. Right. And I really didn’t have any concept of that. Didn’t do very well in that workout, had no concept of pacing. Right. But then that next workout it was like a deadlift shoulder to overhead and box jump.
And I ended up coming, you know, like in the top 20 or 30 in the world in my age group, right. In that workout, granted, it was like low, low skill. But I recognize at that point, like, OK, if I apply myself here, you know, just on like raw athletic ability there, there’s only a couple of guys ahead of me. You know, I think I can do this. You know, at the same time, my coach, Joe, who’s also my partner at the gym now, you know, he saw that I had a 400-pound squat and a 500-pound deadlift and had like a lot of raw skill. And he decided to kind of devote energy to me as well. And so, you know, it was early, it was probably 2013 that we thought, OK, if we put a lot of energy into this, this is a realistic goal for us.
And the reason why I think it took longer than it did was because I just, I had no mobility. Right. Like the first couple of years, anytime overhead squat showed up, I was done. It was basically, it was over for me. I couldn’t even overhead squat a PVC pipe in the beginning. And my solution to that at first was, well, you know, just power everything. Right. And just build up your power so high that, you know, squatting something overhead, you know, it was inconsequential. And eventually I just learned like, well, that’s not how the sport works. Right. So you better start working on some form of mobility to get there.
In 2018, you miss going to the Games by like three or four spots after the online qualifier. So how did that affect your confidence moving forward?
So 2018 was rough. It was rough for a couple of reasons. I’ve always had an issue with the online qualifier due to the level of scrutiny that went into the videos and 2018 in particular, in my age group, there were a couple of semi high profile incidents. I’m not going to call out anybody by name where they clearly didn’t do the work in their video that, you know, their video and their score did not match. So it was especially hard for that reason, right. Because I felt like I had done the work, I had put in everything. I did everything the right way. And there were a couple of guys that were going to the Games instead of me that didn’t really deserve to be there. And I kind of, at that point, you know, more than once I had written off CrossFit completely, you know, just said, forget it, you know, the system’s broken. I’m not even going to try and make it to the Games anymore. I don’t want to be part of a broken system. But it sucks you back in, and the open came around again in 19. I vowed not to sign up. And what did I do? I signed up.
When all the changes got made in 2018 and they basically cut the masters field of the Games in half, what did you think about your chances then of getting the Madison under that system?
Zero. Less than zero, right. Because I never viewed myself as a top 10 guy, you know, at least at that point, I felt like I had too many deficiencies in my overall game. You know, my mobility still wasn’t great. I was not a good pacer, so long workouts would really eat me up. And so I would do really poorly in long workouts. You know, and so I kinda felt like, all right, if I get my—if I get a bunch of wheelhouse workouts, then maybe I have a chance. And then those AGQ workouts came out in 2019 and wheelhouse for me is, you know, heavy barbell, the heavier the better, and you know, pulling gymnastics and those workouts came out and they were not that at all.
You know, the heaviest barbell we saw was 185 pounds. There were some ring muscle-ups, but, you know, the rest of the workouts were ton of double-unders and overhead squats and you know, stuff I just didn’t really feel like I was very good at. But I guess somewhere in between 18 and 19, I kind of figured out the whole pacing thing, you know, years of banging my head against the wall of, well, if I can just go faster in the beginning, you know, I’ll be able to build up enough of a lead that I can just, you know, hang on until the end, right? Like the Noah Ohlsen method, as fast as you can, see if you have another gear later on. Right. So it’s somewhere in between 18 and 19, I learned to train and compete smarter instead of harder.
And I think a lot of that actually came to bear in at Wodapalooza in 2019. Now that was probably the big confidence boosting moment for me. Like we went into that without really any high expectations. It was a really high quality field. And when I say we I’m talking about myself and Joe, my coach, and I decided that I’m going to turn off my brain completely. Joe created the game plan for every workout. We went over the game plan for every workout and he said, you know, just go do this. And, sure enough, every workout we’d go out there, I’d start off in last place. Start chipping away, chipping away, chipping away, chipping away, you know, top three, right over, over, over again. And eventually ended up coming in second at Wodapalooza. And so we did the same thing for the AGOG workouts, he just said, OK, this is what you’re going to do, you know, go with this pace, execute, and you’ll be fine.
And so I guess I didn’t really get smarter. I guess my coach got smarter and I learned to stop trying to think for myself.
It’s amazing to me how many athletes I’ve spoken to and I’d like to hear your take on this. Why do you think once you get out of your own head, you start performing better?
Yeah. You know, and I’ve heard like Froning talk about running his own race and Fraser and Tia. Like, they all kind of talk about that. Right. And it’s a lot harder to do in practice than it is in theory. But when you kind of hit that moment and you realize that your brain is shut off and your body is just, you know, doing what it supposed to be doing, it’s a pretty euphoric feeling.
Right. I haven’t figured out how to do it all the time. Right. I certainly figured it out at Wodapalooza in 2019. I’ve figured it out and in certain AGOQ workouts. But it’s also one of those things that completely disappears from me as well. Like the 2019 Games, forget it, like, you know, the second workout of the 2019 Games was a rope climb, front squat and double-under workout. And two days before the Games started, we were at a local gym in Madison and I was practicing my rope climbs. The rope was a little long, you know, it came down onto the floor. Joe said, Hey, that ropes too long, don’t come down fast. I acknowledged it. Very first rope climb. I came down as fast as I possibly could, I ankle sprain.
Right. So I was kind of hobbling on one wheel, but Joe put together a plan around that workout that was smart and paced. And I was supposed to break up every round of the front squats to kinda save myself for the double unders, which was my weakest movement in that workout. And it was like five rounds, I think, for time. So what do I do on the very first round? Do my rope climbs, come down, grab the bar. I’m staring down the lane right at Joe. It’s 11. I think it was 11 or 15 front squat. It was 15 front squats. I think. I get to 11. I was supposed to drop at nine. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him and just kept on going. I mean, it was the exact opposite of what he had instructed to do. Right. If I knew how to tap into that, turning your brain off, I would be podium every year. I haven’t figured that part out.
Let’s just take a step a quick step back. You mentioned that you didn’t think your chances were, you thought your chances were zero after the changes, but you finished fifth in the age group online qualifier, and you punch your ticket to the Games. What was it like for you to finally realize that that goal?
It felt amazing, right? Because I certainly didn’t feel like I necessarily had a chance to make it. And but you know, immediately I kind of went into, OK, do I, do I have the mental capacity to train for the Games right now? And I had a lot of things going on personally. I’m a CEO of a software company, we were in the middle of an acquisition. You know, that was kind of distracting me a little bit. I had a long family vacation planned because I didn’t, I had no intention of making the Games. Every year before that I had scheduled my summer family vacations around the fact that I thought I was going to make the Games right. In 2019, I was like, Oh, I’m not going to the Games. So I’ll schedule this two week trip.
Right? Yeah. You know, so do I have time to devote to my family in this RV trip, my company, you know, can I do all of that and still train for the Games? And originally I was going to decline my invite. And then I thought about it a lot. And there are a lot of people that help you get to the Games. It’s your coach, it’s your training partners, right? They put in as much effort as you do. And to not go to the Games after years of effort would have been insulting to them. And so ultimately I decided, all right, I’m gonna try and do everything. I’m gonna boil the ocean here. And I’ll do everything and I’ll go to the Games because they’ve earned it just as much as I have.
We’ll be back with more from Bob Jennings after this. Ever wished there were a step-by-step guide to business success? Well now there is. Chris Cooper spent more than a decade making mistakes, learning from them and paving the path to wealth. Now he’s mapped it all out so that you don’t have to fly blind. Available to Two-Brain clients, the Two-Brain Growth ToolKit lays out the exact steps you need to take to grow your business and reach wealth all with the help of a certified Two-Brain mentor. To learn more and see if mentorship is right for you, book a free call at twobrainbusiness.com. Now more with Bob Jennings. You took ninth. What did you take away from that whole experience?
Avoid ropes that are too long, that would be lesson number one. I was talking about this the other day with—I have a group of friends and we do a weekly zoom call right. Called master shatter and they’re all Games athletes, and some of them have been there, you know, much more frequently than I have. And we were talking to, we were talking to Kelly Frio a couple of weeks ago, and she’s come in second at the Games two years in a row. Justin LaSalla who is part of the master Shadowcrew he came in second last year and we were talking about the sting of coming in second. Right. And how that’s so painful. And I chimed in and said, you know, I really feel terrible for you.
You know, I came in ninth, right. Like, I don’t know if I’ve come in ninth ever in anything. Right. And so, but all joking aside on that, every single workout when I got out on the starting mat, and I heard the announcer say 10 seconds, I took it in. Right. And an uncontrollable smile would come over my face and I was immensely happy to be there. You know, despite the fact that my performance was less than ideal, just really, really happy to be there. And it brought out some of the greatest coaching my coach Joe has ever done. So on the first day I came in last, last, last, and second to last. Right. And so that morning as we’re getting ready on the second day on Saturday, I think it was as we were getting ready for the first workout that morning, I said, all right, Joe, what am I going to do? He said, well, how about this? Don’t come in last. So, you know, greatest coaching job since Vince Lombardi.
Fast forward now to this year. And you qualify for the second straight time to go to the Games. So how are you feeling about your fitness at that point?
Great. So I felt great coming in to the AGOQ this year. It really felt like I was in much better mental and physical shape compared last year. I cleaned up some holes in my game that were holding me back a little bit. And I was hopeful as well that the programming at the 2020 Games would be a little more rounded. Cause 2019, there wasn’t really a lot of it. Wasn’t a test of strength at all. There weren’t any workouts that I would consider kind of wheelhouse for me. So I was hopeful that, you know, I had done all the work, and I would get better workouts because I think that plays into it a lot when you get into this top 10 level, there’s not too much disparity between me in 9th and Joel Hughes who came in first, right. And sometimes you get the right workouts and the leaderboard changes quite a bit. Right. So, yeah, I felt great, man. I mean, I was ready to tear it up in Madison this year.
What was your first inkling that maybe the masters were going to get shut out of the Games because of what was going on with the coronavirus?
I was, you know, my friends like Justin and Jeb and Clinton, those guys, they were all—Jeff Simmons and I were overly optimistic, you know, any time in our group text message chain, one of the other guys would say, Oh man, it’s not looking good for the Games this year. You know, we would reply back like, you know, stop, stop. Your negativity is going to cause the Games to be canceled. This huge butterfly effect was somehow going to—you know, but in the back of my head and deep down, I just kind of knew at that point too, that it didn’t really seem like they were going to follow through with it. And once the final scoreboard adjustments got pushed out two weeks, hat was it. I mean, I knew at that point it was over.
When that announcement was officially made, what was your reaction?
Well, it was mixed, because I don’t know if you remember the announcement that came right before that, but the announcement that was a couple hours before, that was the, you know, list of shame. So they published this year. HQ did an amazing job of actually reviewing the AGOQ videos this year. And they were very strict on the you know, the rep counting and the quality of movements. And so I, along with, I think it was like over 50% of the 120 masters athletes, had received some form of penalty. So I was on the list of shame. I got a minor penalty for my thruster depth and I rushed to check the scoreboard, saw that I had dropped from sixth to seventh, you know, but it was kind of inconsequential.
So I was somewhat relieved, unbelievably embarrassed that I got a minor penalty and you know, CrossFit decided to publish it to the world, and went to sleep with like this little bit of shame, right. Woke up to the Games being canceled. And my first thought was like, man, you know, this is total BS. Like, I can’t believe how much work I’ve put into this. And now I can’t go to the Games, but somewhere deep in the back of my head was also like, well, at least people aren’t going to focus on the fact that I got minor penalty.
You’re now one of the people who’s trying to give the masters a venue where they can compete in lieu of the Games. So how did the Legends fitness competition get started?
So that started in, I gotta do the math. I want to say 2017, 18, 19, 20. Yeah. Because this would be our fourth year. And it kinda came on the heels of I had done Wodapalooza once at that point, I’d done Granite Games once at that point, I had gone to all the Games in Carson and watched, you know, obviously didn’t compete. And I just always felt like the masters were more of a side show than a main event. And I get it right. I mean, it’s a business that these people are running and the main event type people are the bigger names, right.
There were the pro athletes. And you know, Joe and I wanted to put on an event for masters considering they’re 50% roughly of the CrossFit Open community. Right. Where they could be center stage. And, so, you know, we threw together our first Legends competition in 2017. And when I say thrrew together, I mean, we literally threw it together. It was, you know, you have an open weekend at the gym. Let’s see if we can get some of the good local guys to come and compete. And let’s just throw this thing out there. And I had to beg 36 athletes to come compete at the first Legends comp. And it was just a one day event. And, you know, but we saw what it meant to people, right. And how much the people enjoyed it that competed in it.
And so we expanded it a little bit. The next year got about double the field. And then this past year we decided, and this was the plan all along, to move to a three day event with an online qualifier. And again, just kind of threw it out there. No marketing budget, no real sponsors to mention to kind of help us bring it along. And it just kind of spread through word of mouth. And we had 380 people sign up for the qualifier. We took about 120 people at the main event itself. And, you know, it was everything that we had hoped for. It’s kind of rooted in this rebellion against HQ and you know, their desire to tamp down the masters and give them less and less every year.
And you know, even again, I really don’t mean to knock the other competitions out there, like Wodapalooza and the Granite Games, because I really enjoy those events. But, you know, the masters athletes, even at those events, you know, like I’m wearing my Wodapalooza tank top from 2019 right now. I mean, this is all the athletes got. Right. You know, and again, you work all year to go to this big competition and you get a $9 tank top, right. So we wanted to kind of rebel against that, you know, do more, kind of give masters outside of the Games that Games experience. And it was successful in doing that last year. And the plan going into this year was to expand the field, double the size of the field and move it down to the Del Mar fairgrounds.
And coronavirus threw a wrench in that. We decided that we couldn’t hold it in Del Mar fairgrounds in September, California just wouldn’t be ready for that. And so, we had planned on moving it out of state and later in the year, right around the same time that CrossFit decided to cancel the Games for the masters. So it was a really easy decision for us at that point to say, you know, OK, if you don’t want to host the competition to the crown the fittest masters in the world, we already have the platform to do it. And so we just invited all 120, 119 as I’m myself, obviously, athletes that qualified for the CrossFit Games in 2020 to come compete at Legends.
What has been the response from the community?
It’s great. I mean and it’s not only great from the Games athletes that are really happy that they get to show off all of that hard work that they put in.
It really is, you know, it’s an enormous amount of effort to get there, right. You really do have to, you know, shun your friends and family and do all that to make it to the Games. But even the athletes that are, you know, outside of that top 10 are thrilled that the competition is expanding to really be the premier masters competition in world, regardless of whether it’s put on by HQ or not. And, you know, I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that going forward with the amount of—with how little energy CrossFit HQ was putting into the masters, you know, by not live streaming. By reducing the field to 10. You know, I don’t even the swag that we got last year, you could see that it was significantly different than what the pros got. Like, we got a lot of cool swag and it was great, but like the pros got way more. And, you know, I just think that with everything that’s going on now, the masters community has a chance to take back the sport and take it away from somebody who clearly doesn’t care about us and put it into the hands of people that do. Right. And so I’m really excited about not only this year, but where we can take Legends going forward.
Every masters athlete that I know has a group of peers who are not CrossFitters. I’m sure you have that group. What do they think about what you put your body through on a regular basis?
So I’m a little bit of a weird guy socially. I don’t really have any friends outside of my training partners, you know, at this point. And so most of my social interaction is really with the people that work at my company. Right. And, they think it’s bizarre, you know, I mean, the guy that owns most of my company is this Swedish billionaire, great guy. You know, doesn’t know the first thing about CrossFit. And when he hired me to run his company for him, he was very concerned at first that it was going to be like golf, right. That I would be spending four hours a day playing golf. And he was, you know, kind of relieved to find out that it’s only three hours a day that I have to train.
But you know, they don’t really get it, you know, I had other friends, this is kind of weird, but like I had other friends up until a couple of years ago when I stopped drinking. Right. And now that I’ve decided to devote my body, you know, that much to my body that I don’t want to put alcohol in it anymore, I’m really careful about the food that I put in. Like, all those other people have kind of disappeared now, too. Cause I’m not fun. You know, my idea of fun is, you know what I did today, right? Nearly 6k of running and 110 burpees. That’s a good day.
There are a lot of masters and not necessarily athletes, but people who train CrossFit and who are trying to get the most out of their training and be the most efficient that they can be, or get the most efficient training they can when they’re in the gym. So what piece of advice would you give to any masters age CrossFitter who is really looking to train the best way possible,
Focus on recovery more than anything else. The amount of time you put into the gym, especially if it’s limited, right? If you don’t have the ability to put three hours a day into it, you don’t have aspirations of ever making it to the Games, but you just want to be as fit as possible. You have to think about the nutrition you put into your body and your recovery after every workout. Cause if you don’t monitor that, your workouts are garbage, right. And you’re just kind of wasting your time in there. And if you only get 45 minutes or an hour a day, you want those 45 minutes to an hour to be optimal. So, you know, recovery, sleep, you know, get a Whoop, right. Monitor your sleep, track your food, right? It’s those little extra things that I think make a difference.
Final question for you, everyone in CrossFit talks about the community aspect of it and why the CrossFit community is so tight. But within that, the masters community is even tighter. Why is that the case?
So I’ll go back again to my first experience at a big competition, it was Wodapalooza in 2016. And I’d never been to a big competition at that point. And, I knew of who the other guys were based off of leaderboarding. Right. And, I hated all of them, but I didn’t know a single one of them, but I wanted to hate them because, you know, they’re the enemy. Right. And I got there. And I don’t know if you know who Jebsons is, but Jeb, in my group, he’s a really big guy, he’s covered in tattoos. You know, looks like he he’s central casting for like any biker movie. And, I was warming up for my first event and I had this resting bitch face going and, you know, and I was like all serious and intense and he came over to me and he said, Hey man, I just want to let you know that you’re the scariest looking motherfucker here. Like instantly, you know, I was like, all right, you know, this guy, he’s just like all the rest of us.
Right. You know, and all the rest of them are all kind of the same. And that’s what broke down the barrier that I had going into it. And I came out of that event, you know, making a ton of friends and, you know, having a great time and recognizing at that point that the competition, it’s so rarely about winning for us, it’s nice to win and it’s nice to podium and it’s nice to do the best you can, but we all really like getting together a couple of times a year and just having fun, you know, aand just competing and, you know, being backstage with the guys and throwing some weight around and talking trash and having a good time. And then you step out on the floor and it’s all business and then you get off and you’re buddies again. Right. And that’s great. I think that’s really kind of the—we’re able to do that because the stakes are so low for us. Right. We’re not going to make a career out of this. We’re not going to be famous from this, right. Like there’s, there’s no material gain from us competing in CrossFit. It’s just truly for the love of the sport. And I think that’s really what kind of binds us all together.
Well, Bob, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this on a weekend after a busy training session, I know you got some rest to get to. So best of luck, the rest of the way and best of luck with the Legends competition.
I can’t wait to see that thing play out.
Awesome. Thank you, Sean. I really appreciate you having me.
Big thanks to Bob Jennings for talking with me today. You can follow him on Instagram. He is at @theBobJennings and you can also follow the Legends master competition at @legendsmasterscomp. If you’re in business, you need to know something. Certified Two-Brain mentors have been through it all, and they’re available to help you reach success. To learn how a mentor can help you transform your business and add $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue, book a free call on TwoBrainbusiness.com. Thanks for listening everybody. I’m Sean Woodland. I’ll see you next time.