Interview with Master Athlete: Bill Grundler

If you are in the CrossFit world, you most likely are familiar with Bill Grundler. He is a father to two, beautiful girls, a lifelong athlete and competitor, a long-time coach, a CrossFit affiliate owner, CrossFit Games Masters Athlete, named 2nd Fittest 45-49 yr old in the world in 2015, commentator/broadcaster/analyst for the CrossFit Games, fitness consultant to public safety agencies, and a retired captain from the CAL Fire Department. 

His credentials are impressive, but the thing that drives him every day is the improvement and advancement of people he works with. 

“Age is just a number.  Life doesn’t care how old you are.” - Bill Grundler

Tell us a little bit about where you are from and what led you into CrossFit?

I am a lifetime athlete. My main sports are wrestling and swimming. I did swimming for fun and for the girls, but wrestling was my main passion. I’ve competed since I was five years old and have been lucky enough to have had some success. I was a state wrestling champ, collegiate state champ, wrestled internationally, swam at the state finals in high school, competed in triathlons and did well in my age division, was one of the top beach flag competitors in the nation for lifeguard competitions, and competed in firefighter challenges. I have competed in CrossFit for 10 years (just missing going to the big show in the open division being 15 to 20 years older than everyone else), was the second fittest man in the world in the 45 to 49 division in 2015, and I’ve won the open competition every year in my age division for the last seven years.

I found out about CrossFit around 2002 from a buddy of mine that actually was a member at the original Greg Glassman CrossFit gym. He knew that I like to do crazy workouts, so he told me about it. I thought the workouts were fun, but I didn’t really understand the purpose behind them. I would play with them every once in a while, but I was busy doing my regular Globo gym routine. Eventually I got bored and wondered why I was lifting as hard as I was with nothing to compete for; as well as my shoulders, elbows, and knees were getting extremely sore from the overuse of the same movements. I read an article by Greg Glassman called What is Fitness and the lightbulb went off. From that point which was around 2006, I started incorporating CrossFit. By the end of the year I was all CrossFit and anti-regular gym routines. Now I’m pretty much a CrossFit fanatic. LOL

You started the Legacy Programming & Master Experience Seminars.  Tell us what that is all about.

I’ve always been told that I was the guy carrying the flag for all the other older athletes. I’ve always been proud of that and I want to be able to give back and help the older crowd keep kicking it and really believing that age is nothing but a number. This is why I have my Legacy Program and my Master Experience Seminars. It’s my way of giving back to other older athletes that want to excel and it’s my goal to help 100,000 masters athletes.

Since older athletes have a “little more wear and tear” on their bodies, we need to have programming that works best for us. However, being and older athlete doesn’t mean one should have some watered down, “easy” program, but it also doesn’t mean that one needs the same programmed volume of what the twenty-somethings are doing.

LEGACY is designed to handle the most ELITE Masters athlete and it has all the appropriate scales and modifications for ALL Masters athletes to be able to enjoy the same stimulus appropriate to them. This programming has a unique way of making sure that YOU get the BEST version of the day for you. It’s not just simple levels or lighter weights.  It’s truly tailored to YOU!

“Mobility decreases injury and increases ability.”

What does an average week of training look like for you and how does it change when training for the CrossFit Games?

When I’m training for the games I train five days a week for about an hour and a half a day. Obviously when I’m in heavy training mode, I will also spend more time with mobility to keep my body moving. When you’re in training mode, you also have to consider your sleep, your recovery, how you’re eating, and really assessing how your body feels and how it’s working. An average week of just regular life stuff has me at about 3 to 5 workouts a week and these are the regular class workouts. Since I do the programming for the gym, I know how great our workouts are and doing those is all I really need to keep myself going. In fact, the last two years for the open and the online qualifier I only did our class workouts as training for them. When you get really busy in life with kids, the business, & just life in general, training takes a backseat and so you need to be as efficient as possible.

Do you have any specific routines when you compete, lift and train?

When I am in competition mode, I take a supplement called ATP mechanics pre-and post. This is a full spectrum amino acid blend that helps with my body to get the needed nonessential amino acids as well as the essential amino acids. As we get older, our liver doesn’t produce as much nonessential amino acids anymore and that affects our recovery. Other than that, it would be using floss bands on my hips, joints, and knees to keep them as movable as possible, & I use a crossover symmetry band for my shoulders.

When things get really tough in WODs, do you have any mental tricks that you use to stay focused and keep going?

In the heat of battle the worst thing you can do is start to have a discussion with yourself. Trying to figure out why things are or are not going as well as they should be just slows you down and gets you out of your flow. Small Mantras like, ‘you’re OK’ or ‘just one more’ repeated over and over in silence helps conquer a lot of the things going on in your head. I think this is very important during the competition.

I also try not to get frustrated when plans have to change during the work out. There will always be things that happen.For example, you thought you could get 15 reps on broken but realize you need to change that to five. You need to be able to make that switch and have that be OK. Otherwise you’re just going to get frustrated and start slowing down.

Beforehand, I think it’s important not to get into too much of deep thought about what you have to do. I like to keep what is in my head as light and fun as possible because once I get into it, I will be going for it! So, there’s really no reason to overthink what will have to happen.

“Being older doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t push hard.  It just means you have to push at the intended intensity for the workout.

And this will be relative based on YOU and your abilities. NOT on your age.”

Are you proactive in your joint health?  If so, how do you protect your joints from cartilage damage?  (Exercise, supplements, diet, can discuss your seminar here, etc.)

I try to be as proactive as possible by being very aware of how my body is feeling. Using the floss bands, lacrosse balls, barbell mashing on muscles, etc. are used to keep my body as movable as possible. Then, I’ll get into mobility movements to ensure that I can move as efficiently as possible. The better movement I have the less chance I have of getting injured.

As far as my diet goes, I try to stay away from inflammatory type foods like bread, sweets, and pastas. I’ve also taken omegas to help promote joint health. During my master’s experience seminar, I go over many mobility tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years from some great coaches and explain to older athletes how important maintenance both proactive and reactive are for the longevity and fitness. Mobility time isn’t about the social aspect. It’s got to be as important as the work out.

What do you feel are your biggest weaknesses and strengths in CrossFit?

My biggest weakness is my max strength on the lifts. I will never win a one rep max lift on anything, but the flipside of that is I think my biggest strength is my capacity in a lift. This means I could lift 85% of my one rep max for more reps than any of my competitors. I also feel one of my strengths is my mobility and flexibility. Because I don’t have many issues with that I’m not fighting against my own body.

What would you say your greatest accomplishments are and why?

It’s easy to say my athletic stuff, but I think what’s more important is the length of time I have been able to compete. So many athletes, younger and older, see a time frame of their competitive time. They won’t say it, but they train, eat, etc. so they have their “hay-day” of 3-8 years. I have been competitive my whole life and I want to be able to continue to be competitive for years to come. This is the Fountain of Youth and I drink from it daily. 

 “Age is nothing but a number “ can’t just be a MEME on Instagram.  It CAN BE and is a real thing if you believe it is!  I think that this is what Master Aged Athletes really want.  They want to still compete but not be all broken so they can still play hide and seek.  My ability to do this, and bring the information to the Masters Realm is something I’m very proud of and enjoy doing. 

“There’s no EASY way, but there is a RIGHT way and a WRONG way!”

What’s coming up for you?  Any particular goal or challenges you’d like to pursue next?

Right now, I’m honestly just concentrating on my kids (two daughters 18 and 4), my business CrossFit Inferno, my Master Experience Seminars, my Legacy Program, and my commentary work. That’s not to say I won’t find something fun to compete in, but I don’t have any major athletic pursuits on the horizon.

We wish you all the best, Bill! 

Bill Grundler
CrossFit Games Master Athlete
Not only is Bill an incredible athlete, coach, and father, he is also a Live and Post Production Analyst for CrossFit and other Fitness Events that are broadcasted over a variety of broadcasting platforms and companies ranging from private event and local broadcast companies, to FloElite, to ESPN, to CBSsports. He has worked as both a Color Commentator and solo commentator running both Play by Play and Color Commentary.