Coach Jennifer Rulon has the luxury of being both a CrossFit coach and an endurance one. She loves incorporating both sports into training for both types of athletes. An accomplished triathlete, Jen recently sat down with Compete Every Day to share more about her story, programming, and why she competes every day.
Coach, how did you get started in the endurance space?
I’ve been active all of my life and I’ve been participating in triathlons since 1990. I started doing it for fun, but the more I participated, the more my desire to excel picked up. I set a goal to complete an Ironman by the time I was 30. I started picking up my training and hired a coach to help me organize my training and schedule. My coach is the one who eventually ended up suggesting I get my USATF certification. I did reach my goal of doing an Ironman before 30 (Wisconsin), but I fell short of reaching Kona.
Besides your coach’s encouragement, what drove you to obtaining your certification and start coaching?
I saw firsthand the importance of great coaching. At the time, I needed guidance and help with a focused program and plan so I wouldn’t over train and I also would peak at the right time. After seeing it up close and personal with my own life, I wanted to help other athletes in the same manner. I started CrossFit in 2009, then quickly got my Level 1 Certification, CrossFit Endurance Certification, and my Mobility Certification that next year. I loved coaching CrossFit, but my passion was still in the triathlon and endurance space. I started incorporating my own programming, blending CrossFit with my triathlete focused program.
What would you consider your philosophy when it comes to blending the two sports’ training regimens?
I am still an old school triathlete when it comes to the physical side of training endurance. If you are training for a half or full Ironman, nothing will beat being on the road. So you must invest time into being on the road. If you are doing a shorter distance tri, like a sprint or Olympic distance, you are ok with just CrossFit. Some of my best short-distance races were while I was focused on CrossFit training. But in regards to the real distance training, I want my athletes on the bike, in the water, and on the road. I want them doing it, over and over. Their work load and programming calendar depends on their race distance, but I also will mix in explosive movements and gym time. Both are essential. Rebounding on box jumps translates to running. Stronger posterior chain is needed so we don’t break down during races and aren’t simply quad-dominant. At my age, I swim/bike/ride three times per week and CrossFit only three times per week. My body doesn’t recover or sustain like it used to, but I still work both into my programming.
From a mental perspective, I believe it’s highly important to spend time in the water. You have to get used to a pool or a lake. You need to ride a bike for 2.5-3 hours alone. You can’t draft people in the tri, so you need to break out of a group setting and train alone to make you mentally strong for race day. During the actual race, you go through so many emotions over the course, that you need to prepare yourself for that race setting.
Are you currently just coaching or still training to compete?
I am currently training for November’s Ironman Florida. I have a coach who CrossFits so they understand not only the importance of both worlds, but the need and desire to do both. It’s incredibly helpful in my training.
Since it is eight months until your race, are you competing in this year’s CrossFit Games Open?
Actually yes. I have plenty of time in my training that it’s good for me to enjoy the community and just have fun with the Open. I did 13.1. The burpees were fine but I hit a wall on snatches. It is not my strength. I look at the Open similarly to triathlons and other sports. A lot of people put pressure on themselves for the CrossFit Open, CrossFit Games, Ironman, what have you – and I think we lose sight of why we compete. We do it to have fun. So I’m focused on having fun and my goal of Kona in 2015.
Do you think it’s too easy and too common for athletes to lose the fun in sport? Any advice?
Absolutely. It happens in the triathlon world just as it does in the CrossFit one. I call it the “seasons of an athlete.” We start because it’s fun. We get to a point a year or two in and start setting goals, like I want “x” time on Fran or “x” time in my sprint triathlon. Boom, we do it. By our third season, we start comparing ourselves to others and mentally get worn down. It hurts our minds to start comparing ourselves constantly instead of focusing on ourselves and why we started in the first place. By the fourth season, we get back to the basics and beginning and start having fun again. We get back to just the love of the sport. That’s where I’m at now with both sports and I couldn’t be happier.