Episode 01: Bobby McGee – Six Time Olympic Running Coach talks about Primal Running


Triathlon Research iTunes

Unleash the primal runner within with help from 6-time olympic running coach Bobby McGee. [Click To Tweet]

Six time Olympic Running Coach Bobby McGee shares stories from his early days of running and run coaching. In this episode you’ll hear techniques that will help you become a better endurance runner.

01:02  Bobby shares his history of growing up in South Africa and feeling the pressure on the sporting world from the apartheid.
14:19  The difference between runners in the US and runners from South Africa
16:50  Examples on how to open up the proprioceptive set points
20:35  Bobby talks about the ranges of motion of the top triathletes and runners “In terms of blood flow, function, and range of motion… one of the worst culprits is a car seat”
24:05  How to eliminate the things that are holding you back “We don’t have to train that hard, we just have to train that consistently”. If you look into the past of great athletes it’s mostly a question of them finding a way to do their training without breakdown.
27:24  Recovery time from a long run “The more work you can do… the more successful you will be”
31:25  How an age group triathlete can lower their run time. Bobby evaluates a good coach on only 2 things: 1. The athletes must get better from season to season 2. Those athletes must put out there best performances on the day the athlete and coach decide it was going to be the peak event
35:05  Differences between speed endurance and muscle endurance
43:34  Don’t spend a lifetime trying to figure out what works.


Suzanne: This  is  Suzanne  Atkinson  and  I’m  here  interviewing  Bobby  McGee  tonight.  And   we  are  going  to  learn  more  about  Bobby  McGee,  his  background  in  coaching  and   how  he’s  been  able  to  develop  such  a  large  following  of  rabid  coaches  and   athletes  who  are  all  eager  to  hear  his  running  advice. Bobby,  you  and  I  were  just  talking  a second ago  about  you  introduction  into  Run   Coaching.  Do  you  want  to  go  ahead  and  just  tell  that  short  story?

Bobby: Yes.  I’ve  been  involved  for  a  long  time  so  I  guess  my  introduction  to  Run   Coaching  was  because  I  didn’t  initially  have  a  job  as  a  track  coach  or  a  cross-­‐ country coach,  I  coached  hockey  players. I  didn’t  get  a  chance  to  travel  overseas  in  those  days.  There  was  apartheid  and   sports  moratoriums  and  that  sort  of  thing.  And  I  didn’t  really think  of  myself   necessarily  as  the  distance  running  coach  but  I  knew  I  wanted  to  coach  distance  runners. While  I  was  in  the  military  I  coached  a  couple  of  guys  through  their first   marathon  and  that  was  a  lot  of  fun.  I  was  training  for  the  same  marathon  as  they   were.  But  by  the  time  1986  rolled  around,  I  got  an  opportunity  to  do  bake  sales   and collect  money  and  stuff  like  that  so  that  I  could  travel  internationally  to  go   and  talk  to  coaches. And  I  was  kind  of  freed  up  to  do  that  because  South  Africa  was  a  long  way from   being  readmitted  into  the  international  sporting  arena.  I  was  coaching  in  this   country  that  was  not  a  threat  to  anybody  but  I  knew  all  the  coaches.  I  knew   Charles  Elliott and  Frank  Halliwell  and  Harry  Wilson  and  Walter  Gladrow  and  a   number  of  the  other  top  coaches  at  the  time. And  I  contacted  them  all  to  go  and  visit  them  and  they  had  no idea  who  I  was. Only  two  coaches  turned  me  down;  John  Paul  Olanzi,  the  Italian  marathon  coach turned  me  down  and  at  that  time  it  was  the  whole  thing  about  the  Conconi Curve  was going  on. There  were  being  a  lot  of  questions   asked  about  the  performance  of  the   Italian  athletes,  the  marathon  runners,   the  steeplechases,  the  10000m   runners.  I never  got  to  see  them.  They   had  this  wonderful  program  going  on  at   the  University  of  Ferrara  and  they  had   amazing  performances.  In  retrospect,   who  knows  what  was going on  there? The  other  one  was  the  great  Scottish  coach,  Tommy  Boyle  who  coached  Yvonne   Murray  and  Tommy  McKean.  Yvonne  Murray  was  the  commonwealth  games   winner and  world  record  holder  I  think  for  the  10000  but  he  didn’t  want  to  speak   to  me  on  political  grounds.  So  those  were  the  two  that  didn’t  speak  to  me. I  became  good  friends  with   coaches  like   Frank   Horwill   who  coached   Tim   Hutchings.  And  he  also  designed  the  approach  which  Peter  Coe  followed  when   he  coached Sebastian  to  those  Olympic  medals  and  world  records. It  was  wonderful  to  be  able  to  get  in,  I  think  the  coaches  were  surprised  I  knew   their  athletes  and  their  training methodologies  and  their  approaches.  And  they   were  happy  to  share  with  me  because  as  I  said  I  was  a  nobody  and  that  kept  me   going  at  that  time.  So  that  was  a wonderful. A  friend  of  mine,  who  was  a  sprint  coach  in  a  very  small  rural  area  and  I,  rented  a   vehicle  in  Holland,  an  old  Opel  Ascona,  and  we   drove  Belgium,  France.  I   remember  entering  the  Peripherique  in  Paris  at  5:00  in  the  afternoon  driving  on   the  wrong  side  of  the  road  as  a  South  African. “We  don’t  have  to   train  that  hard,  we   just have  to  train   that  consistently”. I  went  to  the  French  Championships  and  spent  a  lot  of  Germany  and  in  England.   Those  were  amazing  days.  And  nowadays  with  my  work  with USA  Triathlon  as  we   look  for  daily  training  environment  coaches,  fulltime  coaches  who  just  want  to   coach  the  drop  legal  game,  I  think  of  those  days  and  I  think  those  are the kinds  of   individuals  that  we  are  looking  for. Not  looking  for  the  money,  not  looking  to  have  a  roof  over  the  head,  that’s  the   same  roof  over  a  year.  So  those  were  good  days, I  was  very  privileged  to  be  able   to  learn  by  the   seat  of  my  pants  as  opposed  to  a  more  formal   structured   approach  through  a  college  or  something.

Suzanne: Yeah,  it  sure  sounds  that  way.  So  you  were  a  runner  and  you  were  training  for— was  it  mostly  the  marathon  distance  or  did  you  train  for  all  distances?

Bobby: No.  I  started  triathlon  in  1986  but  fore  that  I  used  to  run  cross-­‐country  at   university.  But  I  was  a  useful  schoolboy  around  that,  I  could  get  under  a  few   minutes  for 800m  and  somewhere  around  4.45  to  the  mile  I  think  I  got  down  to   4.30  was  about  as  fast  as  I  went. But  I  was  a  much  better  field  hockey  player.  I  was  a  goalkeeper.  So when  I  was  in   university  that  was  my  primary  sport  other  than  recreation  I  guess  as  a  phys  ed   student.  And  then  ’86  I  went  back  to  university  to  specialize  in  exercise   physiology  for  motor  aspect  and  sports  psychology  for  the  specific  purpose  of   coaching  distant  runners.

Suzanne: And  so  this  was  after  you’d  gone  on  your  world  and  European  tour  to  meet  other   coaches  or  was  that  before?

Bobby: No.  That  was  after  that  when  I  went  to  meet  with  those  coaches.

Suzanne: Okay,  I  understand.  So  did  you  feel  like  the  things  you  were  learning  from   shadowing  the  other  coaches,  did  it  fit  with  what  you  had  studied  in  university?   Or  did you  find  that  they  were  doing  things  that  you  hadn’t  been  formally   trained  about?

Bobby: As  I  said,  I  was  extremely  fortunate  in  those  days  because  coaching  school  kids,   you  obviously  could  try  to  create  national  champions,  you’d  try  to  get  athletes  to   go faster  than  they’d  previously  gone.  But  the  country  had  a  lot  of  good  athletes   that  were  operating  in  isolation. Some  of  the  athletes  were  seeking  political  asylum  especially  the black  athletes   because  they  wanted  to  go  and  participate  internationally.  And  the  sporting background  was  supposed  to  be  for  their  benefit  and  they  went  out  being  hit  by   a double  whammy,  their  sporting  background  and  they  couldn’t  travel.

Suzanne: So  did  what  you  learned  from  your  practical  experienced  line  up  with  what  you   had  studied  in  school?

Bobby: Not  so  much  my  pre-­‐grad  stuff.  That  was  basic  background  stuff.  But  I  think  my   post-­‐grad  stuff,  the  Honors  Degree  that  I  did,  all  the  projects  and  the  thesis  and   the  things  that  I  chose  were  specifically  with  that  in  mind.  And  so  it  was  very,   very  practical. I  would  go  in  to  an  exam  or  I  would  go  in  to  write  a   thesis  and  that  thesis  was with  a  specific  individual  or   groups  of  individuals  in  mind  so  it  was  very,  very  real   for  me.  But  like  teaching,  you  need  three  or  four   years  of  teaching  under  your   belt   before you  can   even  begin  to  think  that  you  are  a  teacher. The  sports  world  is  the  same.  I  had  been  from  ’81  to   ’86  before  I  went  back  to  school,  I  had  been  coaching   athletes  so I  already  had  four  or  five  years  of   coaching  under  my  belt.

Suzanne: Yes.  I’m  sure  that  made  a  big  difference  on  how  you  approached  the  formal   education

Bobby: Huge.  And  I  think  the  story  that  I  wanted  to  tell  was  the  guys  that  I  was  at  the   university  with,  all  who  were  my  lectures  or  some  of  the  athletes  that  I  looked   up to that  I  was  in  the  sixth  or  the  seventh  cross-­‐country  team  of  the  university,   cross-­‐country  teams  were  either  former  world  record  holders. One  of  them  was  Dani  Milan  and  he had  run  2.16  in  Munich  around  about  the   time  of  the  Munich  games  and  had  beaten  in  that  race  where  he  held  the  world   record,  had  beaten  Olympic  silver  medalist  in  the 800m.  In  training  sessions  I   went  out  on  training  sessions  with  world  class  athletes  myself. And  in  those  days  track  and  field  was  very  big  in  South  Africa.  We  had  that  Italian runner  who  was  a  South  African  but  had  Italian  citizenship,  Marcello  Fiascanaro,   and  he  was  actually  the  current  world  record  holder  for  the  800m. “The  more  work   you  can do…  the   more  successful   you  will  be”. So  I  was  not  theoretically  looking  at  trying  to  get  athletes  to  a  place  that  I’d   never  seen  before.  I’d  actually  seen  these  guys  running in front  of  me  and   knowing  what  was  possible.

Suzanne: Yes.  That  makes  a  lot  of  sense.

Bobby: Yes.  And  it  was  the  time  of  Zolla  Budd  as  well  and  Mary  Slaney.  It  was  also  the   time  of  the  huge  drug-­‐infused  runs  of  the  East  Germans  and  the  Russians.  So  I   was  seeing  a  lot  of  fast  running  at  least  for  a  woman  we’d  not  seen  until  only   recently.

Suzanne:   So  how  did  you  take  the—you  are  working  with  lead  athletes,  you  are  working   with  people  forming  at  the  top  level  of  their  sport  and  also  over  short  distances.   How  did  you  translate  that  into  coaching  for  triathlons?  Was  that  a  natural   transition  for  you  or  was  it  not  until  you  personally  got  involved  in  triathlon  that   you  started  to coach  on  that  aspect?

Bobby: I  think  what  happened  was  that  I  used  to  enjoy  my  running  and  worked  quite   hard  at  it,  I  was  never  a  really  high  mileage  runner  or  a  particularly  successful   runner. In  South  Africa  in  those  years  if  you  didn’t  run  under  three  hours  for  the   marathon  you  weren’t  really  a  runner. If  you  hadn’t  done  the  Comrade’s  Marathon  you  weren’t  really a runner.  If  you   couldn’t  at  the  drop  of  a  hat,  in  the  middle  of  the  night,  after  six  beers  run  less   than  four  minutes  for  10K  you  weren’t  really  a  runner. I  used  to  go  into  races and  we  had  Elana  Meyer  in  the  province  where  I  lived  and   she  ended  up  winning  the  silver  medal  in  the  10000  in  Barcelona.  And  so  I  used   to  measure  my  ability  against her  races.  So  I  could  finish  a  race  and  say  I  was   second  woman.

Suzanne: Good,  it  gave  you  a  sense  of  perspective  then,  huh?

Bobby: Exactly.  So  transitioning  to  triathlon,  I  went  to  triathlon  because  it  absolutely   intrigued  me.  I  was  just  as  enamored  and  absolutely  blown  away  by  the  Dave   Scott, Mark  Allen  era.  I  followed  those  guys  avidly.  I  had  Scott  Tenley’s  book,  I   knew  who  Scott  Molina  was,  I  was  completely  into  that  community. And  I  said  to  myself  coaching triathlon  was  my  thing.  If  I  wasn’t  going  to  coach  it  I   wasn’t  going  to  get  involved  at  all  in  that  level  because  otherwise  I’d  end  up  so   fatigued  I  wouldn’t  be  able  to  train myself.

Suzanne: Right.

Bobby: And  that  didn’t  last  very  long  and  eventually  the  guys  started  asking  me  to  help   them  out.  I  started  off  in  those  days  helping  guys  knowing  very  little  about  the   swim and  basically  knowing  what  I’d  seen  in  the  university. That  was  a  much  more  formal,  theoretical  kind  of  approach  to  the  swim  and   then  practical  side  of  what  I  saw  with  the  specific  events  in  South  Africa.  We   didn’t  have  watts or  anything  in  our  bikes  and  it  was  a  very  hilly  part  of  the   country  so  it  was  just  lots  of  volume  and  just  some  quality  time  trial  type  rides   over  60,  70  miles  that  we  used  to do  and  that  I  used  to  have  these  athletes  do.

Suzanne: What  I  find  really  interesting  is  that  you  had  a  really  interesting  background   exposure  to  a  lot  of  different  types  of  coaching  and  practical  examples.  You   mentioned all  the  different  athletes  you’d  seen  training  even  prior  to  getting   your  advanced  degree. And  then  transitioning  into  triathlon,  what  you’ve  been  able  to  do  is  break  down   all  of the  elements  of  running  well  to  help  people  find  what  you  described  as   primal  running.  When  did  you  first—maybe  you’ve  always  felt  this  way—was   there  a  time  when  the phrase  primal  running  first  entered  your  thought  process   and  you  realized  that’s  the  way  you  wanted  to  help  people  to  run?

Bobby: That’s  an  interesting  question.  Growing  up  in  Africa,  growing  up  in  South  Africa   and  at  that  stage  the  South  Africans  were  basically  running  better  than  the   Kenyans. The  Kenyans  hadn’t  discovered  running.  I  mean  there  was  Henry  Rono   and  there  was  Kipkeino. We  had  much  more  organized  running  set  up  and  as  a  mode  of  transport either   running  a  bike  or  walking  or  running  to  walk  for  the  African  population  just  like  in   Kenya  was  very  typical  in  South  Africa.  And  so  we  never  really  thought  of   mechanics.  We  thought  of  mechanics  for  hurdles  and  for  steeplechasers. And  the  athletes  that  I  coached  for  the  most  part  run  beautifully  and  form  hit   function.  The  more  work I  would  give  them  in  specific  domains  and  the  more   demanding  the  terrain  would  become  and  so  on,  the  better  they  would  learn  to   run. But  also  runners  were  selected based on  their  ability  to  be  durable  and  their   ability  to  be  fast.  So  I  didn’t  really  get  involved  in  the  core  business  of  running  by   mechanics  until  I  came  to  the  US  in  the  early  ‘90s.

Suzanne: That  was  going  to  be  my  next  question,  I  guess  it’s  the  flipside  of  the  question.   When  you  came  to  the  US  in  the  early  ‘90s  what  were  you  observing  that  mad   you  realize  there  was  a  difference  in  the  background  of  runners  in  the  US  versus   the  people  you’d  worked  with  in  South  Africa?

Bobby: It’s  such  a  funny  thing,  I  really  see  the  world  in  terms  of  countries  that  can  run   and  countries  that  can’t  run.  Obviously  the  Africans  can  run  but  the  Kiwis  can  run   too.  And  most  of  the  South  American  countries  produce  really  good  runners. And  I  don’t  know  if  it’s  a  third  world  thing  because  I  mean  with  the  Kiwis  they  are   just—I  don’t know  if  it  was  Arthur  Lydiard  or  what  it  was  or  just  the  approach  to   running.  But  when  I  got  to  the  US  the  first  thing  that  shocked  me  was  how   seasonal  running  was considered  here.

Suzanne: Hmm,  interesting.

Bobby: It’s  absolutely  unbelievable  to  me  that  people  would  not  run  for  six  months  or   train  for  one  race  every  year  like  okay  I’m  going  to  dust  my  shoes  off  10  weeks   before  the  Boulder-­‐Boulder  and  then  I’m  going  to  run  the  Boulder-­‐Boulder,  it   was  just  insane  to  me. And  then  pretty  soon  I  started  realizing  with  my  background  in  perpetual motor   studies  and  with  the  US  model  at  the  time  of  a  lot  of  division  one  swimmers   coming  to  the  sport  of  triathlon  and  being  very  strong  but  being  very  clumsy  and   not trained  in  running. And  all  the  drills  I  had  learned  from  the  400m  hurdles  coaches,  the  110m  hurdles   coaches    and  the  sprint  coaches  where  I  learned  those  from,  were  a natural  fit   for  triathletes  who  hadn’t  had  an  organic  development  process  towards  being   smooth,  natural,  primal  runners.  But  yet  their  hearts  were  in  it  and  I  could  see   when an  athlete  like  Barb  Lindquist  gave  it  a  crack  that  she  had  everything.  She   was  tough,  she  had  back  lined  fever,  she  was  resistant  to  extreme  discomfort. All  she  needed  to  do  was  to  be  put  together  in  a  way  that  she  had  the  bone   density  and  then  also  just  the  basic  form. So  as  you  often  hear  me  say  that  my  process  is one of  eradication,  shortening  up   the  arm  swing,  loosening  up  the  shoulders,  making  the  athlete  more  compact,   reducing  the  strength  component  and  increasing  the  steepness component.  All   of  those  things  it’s  more  a  question  of  maximization  than  it  is  a  question  of   instilling  anything.

Suzanne: Yes.  I  find  that  really  interesting  in  that  the  more  that  I  have  worked  with  you   over  the  years  and  every  time  I  have  the  opportunity  to  work  with  you  in  person   I find  that  I  pick  up  new  things  that  I  carry  away  with  that,  much  like  Sam   mentioned  the  other  night. And  what  I’ve  been  focusing  on  in  the  past  three  or  four  months  is  the glute   activation,  opening  up  the  hip  flexors.  I  mean,  I’ve  always  known  about  those   things  and  know  that  they  were  problem  areas.  But  I  think  I’ve  reached  a  point   where  I know  what  to  do,  I  know  how  to  improve  those  things  in  myself  and  I’m   actually  spending  time  doing  it. I’m  not  making  it  as  much  of  a  seasonal  purchase  I  have  in  the  past. And  now   when  I  do  go  out  for  a  run  I  feel  so  much  better  and  I’m  actually  trying  less  hard.   And  it’s  flowing  better.  And  I  think  that  that  must  be  the  goal  that  you  would like   everyone  to  have,  is  to  just  have  the  run  flow  and  get  rid  of  the  things  that  are   holding  people  back.

Bobby: Yes.  Two  little  examples  that  I’ve  always  used  that  work  quite  well  verbally  and   one  is  if  you  take  a  piece  of  play  dough  or  a  piece  of  clay  and  you  try  to  push   your  finger  in  the  middle  of  the  clay,  there’s  quite  a  large  degree  resistance  in   doing  so  the  first  time. But  once  you’ve  achieved,  once  you’ve  made  this  hole  in  this  piece  of play  dough   and  piece  of  clay  it’s  very  easy  to  just  slot  your  finger  back  into  that.  That   basically  is  the  principle  I  use,  it’s  nothing  other  than  melanization  and  this   melanization  concept. I  think  it  was  understood  by  coaches  more  readily  that  this  idea  of  perfect   practice—one  of  my  great  colleagues  and  mentors  in  the  sport  Jonathan  Oz   speaks  about  the  six  Ps;  perfect  practice  prevents  piss  poor  performance.  I  have   a  concept  that  I  call  addressing  or  resetting  your  proprioceptor  set  points. And  by  that  I  mean let’s  say  for  example  by  firing  your  glutes  and  swinging  your   leg  backwards  you  would  achieve  a  certain  angle,  however  you  want  to  measure   that  angle.  That  angle  is  not achievable  when  you  are  running  because  you  are   busy  with  an  endurance  activity  that’s  a  maximal  one-­‐time  effort. And  also,  not  only  is  that  set  point  not achievable  while you  are  running,  it’s  also   gradually  reducing  as  you  run,  as  you  are  fatigued,  as  your  muscles  tighten  up.   Your  range  of  motion  decreases. You  all  know  what it  feels  like  to get  up  to  do  some  activation  exercises,  really   loosen  out  well,  go  out  for  a  nice  hard  run  and  then  come  back  and  then  are   almost  unable  to  bend  down  and untie  our shoelaces  because  we’ve  lost  so   much    because  we  are  so  fatigued. That’s  why  I’m  a  big  fan  of   opening  up  that  hip  angle  straight   after  runs.  So  anyway,  if  you can   address  proprioceptor  set  point,  if   you  can  make  that  much  closer  to   what  your  maximum  capability  is,   then  your  stride  capacity  is   increased.  And  so  this  is  what   happens in iron  man  and  this  is   what  happens  with  athletes  as   they  get  older  or  they  do  the masses  of  mileage  they  have  to   do  to  be  a  success  at  iron  med. They  start  losing  this range  of  motion  from  the  bike,  they  start  losing  it  from  the   duration  of  the  running  that  they  are  doing.  And  they  either  have  to  ride  up  to  go   fast  and they  can  only  ride  up to  like  110  is  about  all  you  can  ride  up  to  if  you  are   quite  a  small  female  with  short  legs. Then  after  that  you  just  basically  have  to  start  slowing  down. So  if  you  look  at   the ranges  of  motion  of  the  top  triathletes,  of  the  top  distant  runners,  one  of  my   prime  examples  I’m  a  huge  fan  at  the  moment  of  Jenny  Simpson  and  how she   runs.     She  just does  these  massive  1000  triangle  measuring  it  from  her  front  hamstring   to  her  rear  quad  as  she  extends  out.  And  so  for  people  to  realize  that  that’s what we  lose  as  we  get older,  as  we  get  fatigued,  as  we  pile  on  the  strength  and  the   training  from  the  other  sports  is  that  we’ve  got  to  work  harder  and  harder  at   keeping  those hip  angles  open and massive  ranges  of  hip  mobility  work  and  that   kind  of  thing. That’s  what  we  lose  and  then  we  lose  power,  we  lose  spring  and  we  have  to   result  to  a more muscly,  short  kind of  choppy  run  as  opposed  to  a  nice,  looser,   elastic  gait. If  you  look  into  the   past  of  great  athletes   it’s  mostly  a  question   of  them  finding  a  way   to  do  their training   without breakdown.

Suzanne: Yes.  And  I  think  that  in  addition  to  just  age,  our  society  where  the  majority  of   people  have  jobs  that  they  commute  to.  They  sit  in  front  of  a  computer  and  they   spend  all  day  long  with  a  contracted  hip  flexure  so  that  it’s  even  more  important   not  just  because  people  are  getting  older  but  even  a  young  person  who  has  got  a   sedentary job  with  a  lot  of  sitting  time. That  those  hip  mobility  exercises  to  me  seem  like  the  one  of  the  most  important   things  that  most  runners  and  most  athletes  could  be  doing  to improve  their  run,   aside  from  actually  running.

Bobby: Absolutely,  from  terms  of  blood  flow,  from  terms  of  range  of  motion  it’s  an   absolute  no-­‐brainer.  One  of  the  worst  culprits  is  a  car  seat.  As  soon  as  your   ischial tuberosity   or  your  backbones  are  lower  than  your  knees  you  are  in   trouble.

Suzanne: Describe  that  a  little  mechanically,  why  is  that  angled  to  be  cautious  of?

Bobby: Because  when  your  hip  is  almost  totally  sharp,  when  your  thighs  are  closest  to   your  stomach,  so  that  angle  is  small.  If  you  can  bump  up  the  back  part  of  your   car seat,  get  your  car  seat  as  close  as  possible  to  having  your  knees  lower  than   your  hips  that’s  an  ideal  way.

Suzanne: Interesting.

Bobby:   Like  a  bus  driver’s  seat  or  something  like  that.  You  are  trying  to  tilt  your  pelvis   slower  into  neutral,  you  are  trying  to  put  a  little  bit  more  weight  on  your  feet   and taking  that  posterior  tilt  to  the  pelvis,  you  are  trying  to  take  that  out.

Suzanne: Yes.  And  that  reminds  me  a  little  bit  of  what  you  and  Sam  discussed  in  the  Q&A   call  earlier  today  so  I  won’t  repeat  that.  But  you  talked  about  having  the  pelvis   not  opening  up  too  much  in  the  front.  I  guess  this  is  the  opposite  side  of  that.  Do   you  remember  that  discussion  with  Sam  about  the  two  buckets?

Bobby: Yes.  So  when  you  go  back  like  that  you  are  disengaging  back  muscles.  You  are   putting  your  SI  joint  under  pressure,  you  are  reversing  the  lumbar  spine  curve   and all  those  muscles  go  into  a  shortened  position. And  they  are  also  completely  supported  by  the  chair  so  they  start  to  atrophy,   they  start  to  weaken  and  of  course  the  hip flexors are  shortened  tremendously.   And  that  whole  setup  where  we  become  quite  dominant  and  our  quads  pull   down  in  the  front,  all  of  that  is  assisted  by  lack  of  activity  and  lack of  range  of   motion  at  the  back  there.

Suzanne: Yeah,  okay.  So  let’s  talk  about  some  specifics  about  how  to  fix  these  things.  And   this  is  the  gist  of  your  running  sports  essentials  which  is  getting  rid  of  all  this stuff   so  that  we  can  go  back  to  the  primal  running,  eliminate  the  things  that  are   holding  us  back. And  you’ve  got  several  simple  methods.  I  say   simple  because  they  are  a little  bit   counterintuitive  or  a  little  bit  unexpected.  If   your  exposure  to  training  has  always  been   here’s  my  10-­‐week  plan,  I’m  going  to  lace  up   my  shoes  and  I’m  going  to  go out  and  put  some   miles  on. It  is  much  more  intricate  from  a  physiologic  point  of   view  than  just  stretching  and  then  going  out  for  a  run.  Or  warming  up  for  10   minutes  in your run  then  hitting  your  pace.  So  the  activation  drills  followed  by   the  dynamic  warm-­‐up  drills,  with  or  without  some  plyometrics  and  then  followed   up  by  the  act  of  stretching. That whole  sequence  creates  a  really  nice  addition  for  people  to  start  improving   their  running  naturally  without  putting  a  lot  of  physical  energy  into  the  run  itself.   I  don’t  have  to spend  a  ton  of  energy  to  run  30mph  faster  if  I  can  reactivate  my   glutes,  open  up  my  hip  joint  angles  and  just  let  these  things  start  to  flow. Describe  to  me  how  you  started to develop  these  drills  or  did  they  just  come   about  organically  from  all  of  your  exposure  to  previous  running  methods?

Bobby: You  know  Goethe  has  said  a  lot  of  really  exciting  things  and  one  of  the  things  he   said  there  are  no  new  things  and  I  wish  that  I’d  invented  one  of  these  things.   Sometimes  athletes  say  to  me,  how  can  you  just  give  that  away,  that’s  your   secret  weapon,  that’s  something  that  you  invented. And  I  say,  no  it’s  a  progression  from something that  I  learned  from  so  and  so  or   something  that  I  picked  up  from  so  and  so.  So  none  of  it  is  new  stuff  and  the   whole  science  of  neural  muscular  facilitation  has  been around for  many  years.   But  to  me  it’s  more  a  question  of  metamorphosis. It’s  a  lizard  or  a  snake  in  the  sun  or  a  lion  getting  up  at  night  and  doing  those   tremendous  stretches  that the  feline  population  does.  It’s  preparatory  behaviour,   it’s  anything  that  allows  you  to  stretch  out  and  get  into  the  ability  that  your cardiovascular  system  is  giving  you   without  endangering  or  putting  your   peripheral  system  under  pressure. I  think  if  there’s  anything  that  I  bring  to  the  table  is  this realization  that  we  don’t   have  to  train  that  hard  we  just  have  to  train  that  consistently.  And  that  great   athletes,  if  you  look  into  their  past,  it’s  mostly  a  question  of  them finding a  way   to  do  their  training  without  breakdown. I  always  say  a  successful  professional  athlete  is  one  that  trains  from  planned  race   period  to  planned  period  whereas  most amateurs  train  from  injury  to  injury  or   illness  to  injury  or  illness  to  illness.

Suzanne: I  think  that  was  one  of  the  really  interesting  things  I  took  away  from  one  of  your   earlier  calls  was  talking  about  recovery  time  and   for  an  inexperienced  or   amateur athlete,  say  a  four  and  a  half,  five  hour  marathon  runner. The  time  it  takes  to  recover  from  a  long  run  is  really  going  to  impact  your  ability   to  continue  training.  So approaching it  from  the  recovery  aspect,  what  length  run   can  I  do  where  I  can  be  fully  recovered  in  two  days  and  make  that  sort  of  my  go-­‐ to  long  run.  But  then  try  to  sandwich  things around  that  so  that  I  can  always  be   training  when  I’m  fairly  well  recovered.  That’s  kind  of  a  similar  approach.

Bobby: Exactly.  It’s  exactly  right.  If  I  can  get  an  athlete  to  run  for  three  hours,  walk   around  and  then  do  a  quality  workout  the  next  day  and  if  he  just  does  a  90-­‐ minute run and  can’t  do  that  the  next  day  then  I  know. Even  if  I’m  not  going  to  have  them  train  the  next  day,  if  they  wake  up  and  they   say  you  know  I’m  ready  to  run,  that’s  clear messaging  that  the  loading  of  the   previous  day  was  appropriate.  And  obviously  the  earliest  research  in  endurance   success  is  always  the  more  work  you  can  do  the  more successful  you  will  be,  end   of  story. And  so  in  other  words,  find  ways  to  temper  your  work.  Obviously  when  you  are   working  with  high  level  athletes  you  are  also  talking about quantity  of  quality.   But  athletes  get  it  the  wrong  way  around,  they  want  to  go  out  and  do  six-­‐minute   pace  no  matter  what  their  heart  race  is. You  are  welcome  to  do  six-­‐minute  pace  all  day  if  you  can  keep  your  heart  rate  at   60%  of  your  heart  rate  reserved,  for  example. So  we  were  probably  designed,   somebody  once  made  this  speculation  which  I  find  quite  helpful,  we  were probably  designed  as  a  species,  as  a  whole  if  we  were  just  regular normal   individuals.  We  were  probably  designed  to  race  over  about  15  miles. Once  we  started  to  go  beyond  that  we  even  need  some  special  characteristics.   We  either  need  to be  very  light  boned  or  we  need  to  be  very  small  or  we  need  to   have  a  very  low  body  composition  fat  to  lean  wide  ratio  should  be  very  low.  Or   we  have  to  find  ways  in which  to  increase  the  loading. And  that’s  the  fascinating  thing  with  me  and  the  triathlon  is  that  you  can  now  do   all  these  things  that  typically  put  your  peripherals  under pressure  like  the  vo2   max  intensity  or  the  lactate  threshold  intensity. You  can  do  a  lot  of  that  on  the  bike  and  in  the  pool  and  just  make  sure  that  your   peripherals  are  both skilled  and  conditioned  but  you  don’t  have  to  do  20  by  1000   for  example.  Or  you  don’t  have  to  do  25  by  200  to  maximize  that.  I  don’t  know  if   you  saw  the  results  of Mooloolaba  yesterday.  It  was  the  first  time  since  2003   that  US  women  have  gone  1  and  2  in  a  world  app.

Suzanne: I  did,  I  saw  that.  That’s  great.

Bobby: Yeah.  And  also  it’s  very,  very  rare  to  see  a  situation  like  that  where  the  girl  that   came  second,  Katie  Hursey,  was  comfortably  first  out  of  the  water.  And  then  got   off the  bikes  probably  in  the  top  group  obviously  but  sixth  or  seventh,  something   like  that. And  then  at  halfway  through  the  5K  run,  wasn’t  in  the  top  three  and  then  ran   herself into  second  place  behind  Gwen  Jorgensen  who  comes  from  a  more  pure   running  background.  So  it’s  interesting  how  the  sport  develops.  I  know  Katie  is   training  pretty  well and  she  doesn’t  do  masses  and  masses  of  run  training  at  very   high  intensities.

Suzanne: Yes.  It’s  really  great  to  hear  stories  like  that,  they  are  definitely  inspiring.  So  how   can  an  age-­‐group  triathlete  benefit  from  some  of  what  you  are  talking  about?  I   mean  up  until  now  we’ve  talked  a  lot  about  your  experience  working  with  lead   athletes  and  the  keys  for  success. And  once  you  go  beyond  15  miles  racing  you  need  to  have these  physical   qualities  that  are  somewhat  behavioural.  But  to  a  large  part  if  you  don’t  have   built-­‐in  durability,  if  your  body  fat  to  weight  ratio  isn’t  just  the  right  amount—

Bobby: And  the  shocking  mechanics  also.

Suzanne: Right,  and  the  shocking  mechanics.  Give  us  some  inspiration  for  the  ordinary   mortals  who  are  working  on  their  running.  Am  I  going  to  be  able  to  take  my  5k   time from  a  10-­‐minute  mile  to  a  seven  and  a  half  minute  mile? Or  should  I  be  thinking  about—and  I’m  saying  this  hypothetically—should  we  be   thinking  about  our  one  training from an  aspect  more  of  a  process-­‐oriented  sort   of  thing?  If  I  set  up  my  training  so  that  I’m  doing  muscle  activation  and  dynamic   warm-­‐ups  and  followed  with  stretching. I mean physically  I  find  that  very  enjoyable.  But  there’s  a  part  of  my  brain  that’s   always  saying  you  need  to  get  out  there,  you  need  to  run  more,  you  need  to  go   further,  you  need to  do  more  days  a  week.  How  do  you  help  people  balance   these  conflicts  and  how  can  an  age-­‐grouper  put  all  of  that  into  context  for  their   own  training?

Bobby: You  know  it’s  a  beautifully  complex  thing,  it’s  like  being  a  forester.  You  might  buy   a  house  in  2010  and  have  a  beautiful  view  of  forests.  But  that  forest  is  20,  15  or   12  years  old,  however  long  they  let  those  trees  grow  and  then  they  flatten  it.   And  then  you  have  a  terrible  view  again  for  about  three  years  until  you  have   these  little saplings  growing. There  are  a  couple  of  categories  but  it’s  different  for  each  individual.  So  I  think   rule  number  one  is  durability.  I  evaluate  a  good  coach  on  only  two  things; one  is   their  athletes  must  get  better  from  season  to  season  and  two,  is  those  athletes   must  put  out  their  best  performances  on  the  day  that  the  athlete  and  coach   decide  it was  going  to  be  the  peak  event. And  so  to  say  that  a  10-­‐minute  miler  is  going  to  become  7-­‐minute  miler  or  a  30-­‐ minute  miler,  neither  of  those  are  really  correct.  I’ve  had athletes  that  have   come  to  me  that  are  44-­‐minute  10k  runner  and  they  end  up  running  33,  34,  35   minutes  for  10K. Some  of  them  take  four  years  to  get  there,  some  of them take  six  months  to  get   there  just  depending  on  how  poorly  they  have  been  conditioned,  how  well  they   did  their  training.  But  it’s  a  general  rule  of  thumb  with  triathletes  that because  I   think  they  run  less  frequently  they  think  they  need  to  run  harder  when  they  do   run  because  they  need  to  get  as  much  out  of  their  advance  session  as possible. And  that  is  terrible  thinking,  that’s  a  quick  way  to  just  ruin  it  all  for  yourself.  So  a   principle  that  we  use  quite  a  bit  is  actually  letting  the  athletes  swim  really  hard or ride  really  hard  before  we  let  them  run  so  that  they  are  too  fatigued  to  run   fast.

Suzanne: That’s  pretty  clever.

Bobby: Yes  and  it’s  an  essential  concept.  For  example  I  might  give  an  athlete  early  in  the   season  some  let’s  say  half-­‐mile  repetitions  or  something  like  that  but  I’ll  only   give them  15  to  30  seconds  recovery.  So  in  other  words  they  are  never  going  to   recover  enough  to  do  anywhere  near  the  kind  of  speeds  that  they  could  do  for   those  half-­‐mile repeats  if  they  were  fresh.

Suzanne: Sure,  that  makes  a  lot  of  sense.

Bobby: And  that’s  how  I  distinguish  the  difference  between  speed  endurance  and  it’s   come  from  my  middle  years,  speed  endurance  and  muscle  endurance.  Muscle   endurance is  an  exercise  physiologist  term  where  you  are  increasing  the  body’s   ability  to  do  sub  maximal  for  long  periods  of  time. But  speed  endurance  is  the  ability  to  do  an  endurance event  whether  that’s   800m  or  whether  that’s  a  26-­‐mile  race,  at  the  intensity  so  that  your  muscles  can   maintain  that  workload  that  is  possible  given  your  cardiovascular conditioning.   And  that’s  why  I  say  a  lot  of  marathoners  would  do  far  better  to  run  less  mileage   and  do  a  lot  more  walking  and  a  lot  more  walk-­‐running. Then  their  race-­‐day performance  would  be  superb.  If  you  want  to  be  a  10-­‐ minute  miler  you’ve  got  to  go  out  there  and  do  quite  a  lot  of  work  at  12  and  13-­‐ minute  mile  pace.  And  it’s  not possible  for  many  people  to  run  that  slowly. So  they  want  to  go  out  and  run  maybe  10-­‐minute  pace  but  only  for  six  or  seven   minutes  at  a  time.  So  that  their  overall  pace  or their  walk  rates  is  in  that  11  or   12-­‐minute  range  which  is  ideal  for  a  10-­‐minute  miler.

Suzanne: Yes.  I  think  it  takes  a  lot  of  faith  for  an  athlete  to  completely  switch  their   approach  to  training  and  maybe  be  willing  to  give  up  what  they  perceive  as  some   race objectives  or  race  results.  Do  you  find  that  there  is  a  transitory  period  when   you  start  working  with  athletes? Do  they  have  an  immediate  improvement  when  they  adopt  your methods?  Or  do   you  find  that  there’s  a  period  where  they  may  have  to  accept  some  lower  times   in  races?

Bobby: No,  it’s  very  interesting.  It’s  my  analogy  about  the  forest.  Whether  you  are   activating  or  whether  you  are  doing  plyometrics  or  whether  you  are  doing   strength exercises  or  whether  you  are  doing  active  release,  you  have  to  keep   careful  track  of  what  you  are  doing. So  if  you’ve  been  some  active  release  work  and  you  suddenly realize you  know   what,  I’ve  gone  eight  weeks  without  an  ego,  what  changed?  I  did  active  release   work,  okay  so  it’s  likely  to  be  the  active  release  work  but  you’ve  got  to  do  it  for   eight  weeks. To  get  back  to  the  question  that  you  did  ask  me  is  I  completely  disagree.  You   slow  athletes  down,  you’ve  give  them  enough  volume  and  you  give  them  some   consistency.  And  then  after  a  six,  eight-­‐week  period  you  just  let  them  go  out  and   run  a  5k  or  a  5  mile  or  something  like  that. They  are  going  to  run  plenty  fast  and  they  are going  to  say,  wait  a  minute,  we   haven’t  done  any  training  yet.  That’s  the  first  realization.  The  second  realization   is  this,  oh  I’m  probably  training  very  hard  anyway. So  if  you look  at  a  30-­‐minute  miler  and  you  tell  them  that  85%  of  their  mileage   needs  to  be  super,  super  easy  that  doesn’t  leave  a  lot  of  mileage  to  do  quality   work  in.

Suzanne: Right.

Bobby: And  so  whether  that’s  first  run  or  whether  that’s  vanity  or  that’s  ego,  we  had   that  gym  rat  mindset,  we  had  that  football  coach  mindset,  if  we  are  not  suffering   it’s not helping.  The  reason  why  you  have  these  endurance  athletes  that  are  so   evergreen  and  they  are  perennially  successful  is  they  are  utterly  cheating. They  are  going  out  there  for hours  and  hours  on  their  bikes  or  running  or  hiking   or  swimming  and  they  are  going  ridiculously  easy,  as  easy  as  it  would  be  for  a   sedentary  person  to  do  nothing.  That’s how  easy  it  is  for  them  to  collect  those   easy  miles.

Suzanne: That’s  a  good  frame  of  reference.

Bobby: And  so  that’s  what  they   had  developed  themselves  into  if  they  are  not   perambulating  at  this  intensity.  They  are  not  happy,  they  are  not  healthy  and   then  they perform  perfectly  well  out  there.  I  had  that  experience  as  well  and  it   depends  on  the  athlete’s  personality  type. But  the  moment  you  give  them,  they  come  to  you  the  first  time they  might  be   quite  fit,  they  might  be  unfit.  You  give  them  some  sort  of  a  trial  and  then  you  do   really,  really  easy  work  with  them  for  6  to  10  weeks  and  then  you  give them a   trial  again. And  they  will  invariably  run  way  faster  than  they  ran  before  and  they  would  also   be  running  at  the  pace  that  they  would  have  expected  a  lot  of  hill  running  to be able  to  do  that  or  a  lot  of  track  work  or  a  lot  of  quality  work.

Suzanne: Yes.  That  makes  a  lot  of  sense  and  I’ve  recently  experienced  that  one  of  the   fellows  who  was  in  one  of  your  calls  this  past  week  had  been  doing  a  lot  of  really   intense  work  and  he’d  been  doing  1K  repeats  at  about  a  7.15  minute  pace  as  a   5k  workout. He’d  do  5  by  1K  at  a  pace  that  he  thought  was  challenging  with  lots  of  rest  in   between,  maybe  45  seconds,  90  seconds  in  between.  And  that  was  a  very   challenging  workout  for  him.  I  started  coaching  with  him,  it’s  been  less  than  a   month  and  I  gave him  a  speech. I  said  I’m  going  to  deliberately  try  and  give  you  less  work  than  you  are  capable  of   because  I  really  want  to  find  out  what  your  abilities  are.  I  want  to  be  able to  do   some  of  these  other  activities  and  we’ll  work  you  back  to  the  point  where  you   feel  like  you  are  getting  a  good  workout  every  day. So  he  trusted  me  and  just  very  easy running,  a  lot  of  activation.  I  had  him  do  a  lot   of  core  and  stretching,  the  dynamic  stretching  and  he  did  test  the  other  day,  a  5K   test  after  about  four  weeks  of  this. And  he went  just  as  fast  as  he  was  doing  in  the  interval  work  that  he  was  doing  in   December  with  a  lower  heart  rate  and  with  no  rest  in  between  them.  It’s  the   same  experience. He  was  shocked,  how  did  this  come  about,  I  haven’t  done   anything.

Bobby: Exactly  right.  And  so  you  know,  the  mind  has  to  be  changed  as  well.  An  example   of  what  I  do  there  is  I  would  have  the  guys  do  a  time  travel  or  a  performance test   if  they  want  to  do  a  5K  I’ll  do  a  3K  test,  if  they  want  to  do  a  10K  I’ll  do  a  5K  test.  A   quality  workout  for  them  might  be  10  200s  on  the  dirt  at  their  5K  pace. So  you are  talking  about  2K  worth  of  work  at  the  intensity  that  you  expect  them   to  run  4  or  5K  at  with  no  rest  in  between  the  Ks  and  they  are  resting  a  minute  or   more  between these  200s.  So  you  can  see  it’s  a  piano  lesson.  It’s  not  a  workout. The  purpose  of  the  session  is  not  to  increase  their  vo2  max  or  to  increase  their   endurance  or  to  increase their  lactate  threshold. It’s  just  for  them  to  learn  pace  and  all  the  easy  stuff  is  much  more  useful  for  that.   So  if  you  look  at  research  done  into  training,  with  the  endurance stuff  it’s  clear   that  the  biggest  bang  for  your  buck  in  terms  of  quality  work  is  probably  through   sub-­‐threshold  work  not  even  quite  threshold  work. So  go  out  and  run  5  or  6 or  7  half-­‐mile  repeats  at  an  intensity  that  is  three  to  five   beats  lower  than  your  lactate  threshold,  that’s  an  absolutely  great  workout.

Suzanne: Right.  Well  Bobby,  I  have  way  more  questions  that  I  would  like  to  ask  you  but  I   think  that  some  people  might  get  bored  of  listening  to  them.  And  I  hope  that  in   doing  this  interview  I’ve  been  able  to  create  some  thoughtful  points  for  people   listening. Do  I  need  to  work  more  on  my  approach  to  stretching  or  my  approach  to  joint   mobilization?  Do  I  need  to  work  more  on  reducing  my  mileage  so  that  I  can   break  through  a  plateau? You’ve  put  out  a  lot  of  free  videos  that  are  available  on  YouTube  or  on your   website  so  people  can  go  there  to  check  those  out.  And  you  also  have  a  fantastic   product  called  the  Run  Transformation  course.  I  think  you  have  over  100   individual videos  there,  do  you  know  how  many  individual  videos  are  in  the   course?

Bobby: I  haven’t  a  clue.

Suzanne: I  was  just  looking  at  the  numbers  the  other  day  and  not  all  of  them  are  long,   some  of  them  are  two  or  three  minutes.

Bobby: Yes.  But  it  is  about  10  hours  worth  of  stuff.

Suzanne: Yeah,  that’s  probably  a  better  way  to  look  at  it.  Every  time  I  talk  to  you  I  just  get   really  inspired  to  go  out,  go  for  a  run  and  just  keep  running  better.  It’s  very   motivational  having  these  little  injections  of  hope  from  you.

Bobby: Thank  you  for  having  me  Suzanne.  I  think  as  a  parting  message  I’ll  just  say  to   people,  don’t  spend  a  lifetime  trying  to  figure  out  what  works.  If  you  had  success   no matter  how  corky  it  is,  if  you  are  pre-­‐race  dinner  is New  England  clam   chowder  45  minutes  before  you  race  well  then  go  for  it. Find  stuff  that  works  for  you,  don’t  do  all  the facilitation,  all  the  activation,  all  the   active  stretching  in  a  rote  fashion. Do  it  like  a  scientist  would  do  it;  try  a  little  bit   here,  try  a  little  bit  there,  see  if  it  prolongs  your  training capacities,  see  if  it   increases  your  strive  capacity. Don’t  do  things  because  some  expert  said  you  need  to  do  them.  There  are  100   ways  to  achieve  success  and  getting  stuck on  classical  stuff  or  being  a  faddist  and   going  for  all  the  modern  stuff,  neither  are  necessarily  the  answers. Experiment  with  these  things,  listen  to  your  body,  see  what  shows up  day  after   day,  look  at  those  natural  cycles  of  48  hours  to  five  days  and  don’t  be  afraid  to   assist  yourself  in  training.  Then  I  think  you’ll  find  success  very  quickly.

Suzanne: Yes.  That’s  great  advice,  don’t  spend  a  lifetime  trying  to  find  out  what  works.

Bobby: Exactly.

Suzanne: Well  thank  you  very  much  for  your  time.  I  know  you  have  to  go  and  be  with  your   kids.  So  have  a  great  evening  and  I’ll  talk  to  you  soon.

Bobby: Thank  you  Suzanne,  take  care.

Suzanne: Goodnight.

Bobby: Bye.

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