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February 11, 2020

Podcast No. 60: James Hobart and Austin Malleolo, Elite CrossFit Coaches

On this week’s episode of our of podcast, Mike Lombardi sits down with James Hobart and Austin Malleolo, CrossFit Seminar Staff Flowmasters. What does that mean? They are two of the top CrossFit coaches on the planet.

By Will Ahmed

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Mike, James and Austin discuss the evolution of the sport over the years, and how they found their coaching voices after spending years as elite competitors. They also explore the methods they use to get the most out of their athletes, including what they do with their WHOOP data.

This is a big time of year for CrossFit with Wodapalooza coming up, and WHOOP will have a large presence in Miami for the event. If you’re going, we hope to see you there!

James Hobart & Austin Malleolo Podcast Show Notes:

2:38 – Who Are Austin and James? “Most of you know what [James] looks like because he’s all over crossfit.com. If you buy posters for your gym of what it looks like to air squat that’s James on the posters and the videos,” Austin says. “I did win an open workout this year. I’ve still got something left in the tank.”

6:45 – CrossFit Evolution Over the Years. “I think one of the really interesting things about CrossFit [back] then was it was still very collaborative, I think it still is, even as a competitive sport, but a lot of people were just doing their own thing, trying to figure it out. It was competitive in the sense that the workouts were for time and for weight but I don’t think any of us really had an idea how to compete at it,” says James. Austin adds, “We had no idea what we were doing.”

8:03 – Becoming Seminar Staff Flowmasters & Finding a Coaching Voice. Austin and James are among the most elite CrossFit coaches on the planet, they coach other coaches. “I was really new in the world of CrossFit,” Austin explains. “I got on staff within about a year-and-a-half of starting CrossFit which is unheard of now, but back then that’s sort of how a lot of us started. I was just listening and learning to everything around me.”

11:18 – On the Ground Floor. “One of the really cool things about being an early adopter of something … is you get in on the ground floor and you meet a lot of the people who are at the front of it and pushing it forward. We were both really lucky to get involved with CrossFit early on and meet a lot of people who were already working on seminar staff. Whether they knew it or not, they were already very talented people in previous fields or other disciplines and they brought that to CrossFit.”

13:20 – Finding Value in Those Around You. “I do pride myself on paying attention to people who I think do things, I don’t want to just say better, but do things better and do things differently than me. I always think there’s value in learning from an experience that isn’t yours.”

14:20 – The 3 Questions for Coaches. “Did you get a workout? Did you give the athletes the opportunity to learn a new skill or refine a current skill? And finally, did they have fun?”

17:08 – Tips for New Coaches. “It’s hard to receive feedback and make yourself better if you don’t have a goal in mind. … Keep people safe, make them better at one, maybe two things, and help them have some fun. I think that’s a pretty low barrier of entry for a coach.”

18:40 – Transitioning from Athletes to Instructors. “I felt relatively fulfilled with what I had accomplished as an individual CrossFit Games athlete and a teams athlete and I wanted to find another peak to climb.”

22:45 – Overtraining as Athletes. “Once Austin told me he would rip his bottom lip off to qualify for the CrossFit games,” James says. Austin agrees, “That was the mindset. I was so blinded by that, which I think is an important aspect of an athlete in that moment.”

23:40 – The Time Austin Almost Died. He shares a story about having a resting heart rate of 176 and the doctors couldn’t explain it. “The doctor said ‘you must be dehydrated.’ I said, ‘That’s what you’ve got for me?’”

30:30 – Changing Sleep Habits. “I would bet my hat on the fact that I sleep far worse now, even with the extra [WHOOP] data … I know that I slept far more when I was an athlete,” James says. He doesn’t have the time to sleep that he used to.

33:18 – The Importance of Sleep Consistency. Mike points out that Austin’s recoveries are often strong even when he doesn’t sleep a lot. They discuss how going to bed and waking up at regular times makes a big difference. “I get better recovery scores during the week than on the weekends, yet I sleep more on the weekends. It’s [worse] because it’s different.”

35:32 – Time Commitment Needed to Be Elite. “I think to perform at that elite level, you do have to make an immense amount of sacrifices and the time commitment to it is huge. It’s a 40-hour a week job, plus.” James suggests people who want to compete at the CrossFit Games probably have to quit their regular jobs. “The people who do it and do it well, it truly is their job.”

36:52 – How to Still Be “Pretty Damn Fit.” James shares his secrets. “One of the big things is [schedule and training] consistency. … One of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is ‘Practice good habits poorly.’ What does that mean? You don’t always have to have the perfect day of training to keep moving things in the right direction.”

38:09 – Sleep Data. “I definitely don’t sleep as much as I used to, but I do pay attention to the details of sleep more than I ever have.”

40:04 – Intensity is Hard to Teach. “It’s really important specifically when you’re limiting what you’re doing, but it goes hand in hand, because the less that you do the higher with intensity that you can attack things.”

41:27 – Using WHOOP for Coaching. “It’s hard to stop people from themselves. … For me, as a coach, it’s helped pinpoint what they can do outside of the gym a little bit better to try and buffer their bad decisions,” James notes. Austin adds “Can we pinpoint behavior we might want to change? What can we learn from [WHOOP] about our behavior?”

45:46 – Data Drives Change. “I think what’s really cool about it is when you are compelled with some data that’s specific and measurable and accurate you will start to make changes, whether you like it or not.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised nearly $100 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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