How to Breathe Fire (with Bill Grundler)

Today we’re talking to Bill Grundler, a coach, athlete, and media personality who’s been one of CrossFit’s most visible personalities for nearly a decade. Bill also owns CrossFit Inferno and co-hosts the Get with the Programming Podcast, which analyzes programming in the CrossFit landscape including Worldwide Qualifiers, Age Group Online Qualifiers, Sanctioned Events, the CrossFit Open and CrossFit Games. In our episode, Bill — once a career firefighter — explains how CrossFit methodology caught on so quickly in the first responder community. We also discuss what it’s like being a veteran of the competitive CrossFit sphere — a true fire-breather, as some in the community call it — along with Bill’s second career in the broadcasting booth. 

I do want to give a second to mention today’s sponsor, 1600 WODs. Available now, this book by coach Chris Gale is a collection of over 1600 WODS from the head coach/programmer at CrossFit Kenko. Seven years of the exact programming used from day one at the affiliate, and a nearly endless source of inspiration for fitness enthusiasts around the globe. Google BarBend + 1600 WODs to learn more and find your copy today.

1600 WODs
1600 WODs
1600 WODs

This book is packed with over 1,600 CrossFit WODs to keep you busy for about six years (or less if you're a workout fanatic).

Bill Grundler BarBend Podcast

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Bill Grundler about:

  • The “Get With the Programming Podcast” (2:30)
  • How do you determine a “good test of fitness”? (7:30)
  • Bill’s most memorable moments covering competitive fitness as a broadcaster (12:30)
  • Can you program against athletes like Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey? (17:00)
  • “Itching for competition” (26:10)
  • Performing EVERY workout with a weight vest: What did Bill learn? (35:00)

Relevant links and further reading:


Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

When someone gets to see Babe Ruth point to the outfield and then hit it out there, or you get to see Wilt Chamberlain do what he does, or you get to see Muhammad Ali do what he does, or you get to see Tiger Woods hit the top of his game, or Michael Jordan at the top of his game.


When you look at those characters, there’s nobody else even in their spectrum. Here we are in our sport, and we have that exact same thing.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by


Today I’m talking to Bill Grundler, a coach, athlete, and media personality who’s been one of CrossFit’s most visible people for nearly a decade.


Bill also owns CrossFit Inferno and co-hosts the “Get With The Programming” podcast, which analyzes programming in the CrossFit landscape, including worldwide qualifiers, age-group online qualifiers, sanctioned events, the Open, and the CrossFit Games.


In our episode, Bill, once a career firefighter, explains how CrossFit methodology caught on so quickly in the first-responder community. We also discuss what it’s like being a veteran of the competitive CrossFit sphere, a true fire breather, as some in the community call it, along with Bill’s second career in the broadcasting booth.


I do want to take a second to give a shout out to today’s sponsor, “1600 WODS.” Available now, this book by coach Chris Gale is a collection of over 1600 WODS from the head coach and programmer at CrossFit Kenko, seven years, the exact programming used from day one at the affiliate, and a nearly endless source of inspiration for fitness enthusiasts around the globe.


Google BarBend plus 1600 WODS to learn more and find your copy today. Now let’s get to it.


Bill Grundler, I think this is maybe the second time we’ve chatted. We ran into each other I think it was at CrossFit Regionals or some competition, years and years ago, but I’ve been a fan for a while.


The first thing I want to talk about is your newest…You’re always doing new stuff in the media department.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler


David TaoDavid Tao

ou’re staying busy, man. Your newest, it’s not so new anymore. I say it’s newest but not so new anymore. Your current podcast, who’s it with, what’s it about, and why should people be listening to that podcast right after they listened to the BarBend podcast every week?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Right after the BarBend. [laughs] Myself and Chase Ingraham…It was Chase’s brainchild first. He hit me up on New Year’s Eve this last year, and he’s like, “Dude, I want to start a podcast. I’m scared shitless, but it would be really fun to do. My idea’s talking about CrossFit programming.”


I’m like, “Dude, that’s awesome.” He’s like, “Hey, would you come on the show with me? The first one? We’ll talk about the Masters programming.” I’m like, “Yeah, all right. That sounds good.” Me and Chase have had a long history anyway with our commentary stuff that we do.


We’ve done a lot of the off-season, big events. We’ve done Dubai. We’ve done Wodapalooza. We’ve done Granite Games. We’ve done all the big ones, East Coast Championship, all that kind of stuff. We have a natural banter with ourselves.


We have a good flow, a real conversational…My work with him, it’s different than when I work with Sean Woodland. The tempos are different, but when I’m with Chase, we definitely have a good time. It ends up being a here’s two dudes hanging out with a beer just talking about whatever we’re talking about, whether we’re at a competition or we’re doing this.


We had a really good time the first time and then COVID hit. Was it COVID first? It was COVID first. We were talking about, like what should people be doing when they’re at home? What workout should they be doing? How should they be training? What should they be doing? What are gyms doing?


He’s like, “Hey, would you be on the show with me again?” I’m like, “Yeah, totally. Anytime, just let me know.” After that one, he was like, “Hey, how about just being my normal co-host, and we’ll just do it whenever we do it, but it’ll be me and you.” I’m like, “Yeah, man. Are you kidding me?”


It’s weird because I would consider him one of my best friends, even though we are literally states apart from each other. I talk to him probably more than most people that I talk to because we’re doing the podcast so much, always talking about different ideas and what we want to do. We have a really cool connection.


Basically, what the gist of the podcast is — it’s called Get With The Programming — we analyze programming from all types of different events. The idea to start off with was we wanted to look at the Games. Our first big episode were we went back to every single CrossFit Games, looked at every single event, piece by piece.


How they turned out, how the results were finishing and then, at the end of that, would we have made any changes? What did we like about it? What did we not like about? We’re programming geeks. We get into the numbers, and how it looks. What’s the intent supposed to be? Did it happen right? How many pushes and pulls did you have and all these other kind of stuff.


At the end of that, we pull up the CrossFit level two checklist of programming. You can chart every single pro, every single event, every single workout, and see — did you have a well rounded event? We use that as well as the general definitions of CrossFit to find are we truly finding the fittest by our definition? It’s been really fun to do that.


We just started a new one. One of the coolest ones we did is we had Dave Castro on for 2020. We didn’t do the analyzing while we had him on the show, necessarily, but we had him talk about how he came up with them. That’s something that a lot of people…It’s good for them to hear, because for the most part, when people do workouts, it’s just throwing shit together.


It’s like, “Oh, this is hard.” Obviously it’s a good workout. “Well, not that.” Making something that hard is not difficult. Anybody can do that. What’s the intent behind it? What are you trying to achieve with it? The first person that I ever heard say this was Dave. He feels it says, “Creative outlet.” He sees it as a painter or a sculpture and a sculptor.


That’s the same thing to me and Chase too. We come up with an idea. We have, whatever our workout, we know what that ball of clay is supposed to look like. You sit there and massage it. You build it into this little thing. When you’re done, you feel like here it is. I’m presenting this whatever.


Sometimes in your mind it works out well. It was cool to hear Dave talk about which ones worked out the way he wanted, which ones didn’t work out the way he wanted. After seeing it being put to the test, would he have changed anything? How did he get to the numbers that he got to? How he went through all the tests [indecipherable 7:38] , that was really, really cool.


We went back. We analyzed all the Games. We just started. The Open is going to be coming up to the normal time. We’re analyzing the open competitions now as well and looking at the events.


What are they doing? Is it a good test? Is it doing what it’s supposed to be doing? If it’s a qualifier, trying to find the fittest or whatever that might be. It’s been super fun. We throw a lot of our goofiness in there as well.


We do these things called rush moments. We’ll take each year. What are our four memories or four big things that we remember from that time? Whether it was at Games or in the Open, and sometimes a personal story; sometimes there are event competition type stories. Sometimes there are certain things we did in our gym. Whichever.


It’s been fun, and we’re getting a good group of people that are starting to listen to it. It’s a place in the CrossFit space that it hasn’t been looked at. We aren’t a news source but we want to find our spot.


We’re playing with the numbers man, nerd now. Drink some coffee or drinking some beer. Whatever it is, whatever time of the day is it we’re doing it, and having a good time with it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about from a programming perspective. What is your favorite iteration of the CrossFit Games? From 2007 to 2020, what do you think? Personally, add a little bit of subjectivity. What was your favorite test of fitness?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

If I was to look at the overall everything. I’m talking the test, how they turned out, the races, the production, everything, I would say 2018 was the best year. The best year of the Games.


As far as the test goes, I did like the test at the ’18 Games. The things that they had in there were some really…You had your heavy lifts, you had your Total, you had your unknown and unknowable with the Chaos, you had the long ruck runs.


You have the Sprint event, you have the strongman events. There was a lot of cool things. They hit a lot of different avenues. That was one of the best tests.


What’s interesting is probably one of the cleanest iterations of the test without knowing it was the first CrossFit Games, the 2007 CrossFit Games. It’s funny because Chase didn’t think it was at the time until we went over it.


It was simple — three events. They had one long event. They had one strength event. They had the one hopper event that we just had the reloaded version this year. If you look at what those pieces were and you take the definition of fitness within our definition, within the CrossFit’s definition of a fitness, it hits everything.


It hits all 10 physical fitness traits, physical qualities or characteristics. It has the hopper model is built in there, it has large loads long distance quickly. Are you able to go with a longer…The different modalities constantly varied functional or increased work capacity across broad times and [indecipherable 11:17] …I got like 9,000 definitions in my head right now.


It really hit all of them. As simple as it was, it was probably the most basic…We can’t do it today. It won’t work the same way but it really, as far as per the book, it was probably one of the best test because it was stripped down but still had everything. It was awesome. Overall I would pick the 2018 Games. I really liked it.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to that in just a second, but first a quick word from our sponsor, 1600 WODS. Never ever run out of workouts again. Whether it’s finding a new challenge or following a well program template from start to finish, 16 WODS is seven years of top notch programming in one convenient book. Now let’s get back to the show.


From a media perspective you’ve had a ring-side seat, a very high-level athlete for a number of years. When we talk about the Open here in a second I want to get into that because I know it’s often your bread and butter. You’re a fantastic CrossFit open athlete, have been for a while.


We’re talking about the media perspective. You’ve been a color commentator at all levels of the sport. You’ve done the Games. You’ve done events that are qualifiers. You’ve done smaller events. You’re doing a podcast with a schlub like me so all levels you’ve got covered.


From a media perspective when it comes to the content people are getting out of the Games and you’re working on as a broadcaster, what do you think was the…You mentioned 2018 as far as the quality of coverage.


Are there any moments — it doesn’t have to be 2018 — that stick out in your mind as a broadcaster, a moment from the Games or from any competition that you enjoyed bringing to a wider audience?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

That’s a good question. There was a lot of conversation about the Games this year. I got hit up by a bunch of people saying, “The Games are boring this year because we know Mat and Tia are going to win. It’s not even a competition. It’s not this, it’s not that.”


What I hope we were able to bring this year was not the fact that Mat and Tia beat everyone because it’s boring, but the fact that they got to see something in sports that happens once or twice in a lifetime.


When someone gets to see Babe Ruth point to the outfield and then hit it out there, or you get to see Wilt Chamberlain do what he does, or you get to see Muhammad Ali do what he does, or you get to see Tiger Woods hit the top of his game, or Michael Jordan at the top of the his game.


When you look at those characters, there’s nobody else even in their spectrum. Here we are in our sport, and we have that exact same thing. Whether I’m a basketball fan or not, honestly I never have been a basketball fan. I like it for what it is, but I’m not a die-hard even the football fan or anything like that. It’s never been my thing.


However, I still can appreciate the absolute undeniable perfection that these athletes are able to perform with above everyone else. Part of me is the athlete in me. I get angry that someone can be so good and no one can take him down. I don’t like seeing anyone that can’t be challenged. However, as an athlete, at the same time I can completely appreciate that they’re that good.


I’m lucky that I get to see that, and I hope that other people, instead of taking the avenue of “it’s boring because they just beat everybody.” to understand what they’re doing. That last event at Atlanta where Mat and Tia basically went rep for rep…That was their decision. They didn’t have to win that event. They didn’t have to do anything in that event, they were still going to win.


The fact that Mat was able to hang with Tia, and he still won that event. He was not racing anybody. He was just working out with Tia. It’s like they were back in their gym, doing their thing in Cookeville, and here he goes. On the final, most ugly, heinous event, he still just crushes…No one could even hang with him. They just couldn’t do it.


That’s how good those guys are. That’s how good Tia and Mat are. I was happy to be able to bring that to them, and I hope that they can see it as that rather than a negative. It’s like saying, “Oh golf is boring because Tiger Woods is too good.” No man, it doesn’t work like that. Come on.

David TaoDavid Tao

Back in the early 2000s, people were saying that. Remember the Tiger…Not to date ourselves too much, but for those of us who remember that…There’s some people listening to this podcast who we’re still in diapers when that was happening.


He wins four consecutive majors. People brought that up as, “Oh, this is getting boring.” Now the PGA had record ratings. They loved it because it’s bringing people from other sports. That dominance was attracting people from other sports, was attracting the basketball fans, the football fans, the hockey fans, you name it.


At a certain point there are die-hards in any community who will just go, “Well this is boring. This isn’t competitive enough anymore. Something needs to change.”


My question for you, and this is something that I know you’ve gotten asked before. It’s something that you’ve talked about on the podcast when you had Dave on. Can the CrossFit Games be programmed against anyone? Can it be programmed against Mat and Tia? I’m not saying it would, I’m not going to get to the conspiracy theory, the tinfoil hats, all this stuff..


Is that even possible to do? You’re someone who knows the variation from Games to Games and what is possible in programming at the CrossFit Games better than all 99.9 percent of folks.


There are a handful of folks who has studied this. I don’t think anyone studied it more than you. There are a handful of folks who know it on level you do. Can a Games be programmed against anyone? Is that even an option?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Can it happen? Sure can happen. When the events are decided by a single person, could it be that he decides to go at someone or set it up for someone? Absolutely. That possibility is there. Is the probability there? Not even close. That’s not Dave’s deal. The thing that’s great about Dave is as…He’s a really interesting cat. He really is.


If you are on the inside with him, and you’re on his team, you’re working with him, you do a lot of things with him, you’re putting together this package deal with the game with him, and stuff like that, you get to see the real Dave. Not the Instagram persona, or the Open announcement Dave, or anything like that. Those are for hype more than anything else.


He is very serious about wanting to put out the best test. I really am happy that he is emphatic about that. He has said multiple times, and even as we’ve looked at the Games, to me, I don’t think that the Games have been programmed harder or programmed against or for anybody in particular.


The events themselves, when he’s doing it, he puts his little blinders on, and he’s starting to look at this project. Not the people in the project, but the project itself. All the different pieces. He talks about his anchor events that he likes to have. Things that pop up there, like this would be a great test.


Then it’s like, “OK, how do we work around this? If [indecipherable 19:42] Atlanta was one of the main anchors, high volume set, then how are we going to work the other events around this?” We have to make sure that we have some weighted stuff. We have to now make sure that we do some odd object stuff.


Granted, this year was a unique year because you didn’t have the playgrounds that you had in Madison or in Carson. I don’t think that is ever an issue.


It’s an easy thing to say because is it possible? Yeah, anything’s possible like that. Is it probable, and do I think it’s happened? I don’t think it’s happened at all. When I look across all the Games, I don’t see that at all. In all reality, generally speaking, take out a wall-ball throw, or a softball throw event, or something like that, take out a handful of those types of things.


For the most part, any year could be set back out. We could take the 2014 or 2015 Games and put it out there. The events would still do the exact same thing to the athletes now. The jump in athleticism isn’t as big as it was like between 2009 and 2014, or anything like that. The athletes are starting to crest as far as how strong they are.


Obviously, take Mat and Tia out, those guys are anomalies. These guys aren’t getting 40-pound jumps on a snatch anymore. We started to round that corner where now it’s like, “OK, now we’re honing and now who has the ability to do these things, whatever gets tossed at him.”


They’ve been pretty pure set up rather than the whole baiting against anybody or building against anybody, or for anybody, for that matter.

David TaoDavid Tao

This is a tough question. If you have privileged insider information and someone is going to cut out our connection on this podcast if they’re listening in if they’re listening in.


Someone from a higher authority, blink twice and let me know. Dave has gone on the record earlier this year. This was during a very tumultuous time for CrossFit. He’d mentioned at the CrossFit Games that this might be the last year he programs the CrossFit Games.


Now we haven’t received official confirmation about what was said back in the summer of 2020, and a lot has changed since then. He’s two roles later, two title changes later. It’s a whole different ballgame, quite literally. He’d even mentioned that, “Hey, Rich Froning might be programming the game.”

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

I remember that.

David TaoDavid Tao

To which Rich Froning was like, “No one told me that. That’s news to me.”

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

I remember that too.

David TaoDavid Tao

Interesting. It has been, for almost the entirety of the game, just one guy ultimately calling the shots when it came to Games programming. That’s not to say people didn’t contribute ideas. It’s not to say people didn’t talk shop. Do you foresee that evolving at all heading into next season, into the 2021-Games season?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

In all reality, I don’t have any privy information or anything like that. I can just go off my best guesstimate, in my personal opinion. I don’t see there being a change. I think Dave will be at the helm of that either until he doesn’t want to do it or maybe Eric Rosa starts directing him into something else. I think that really is a specialty of his.


It would be terrible to have one of those situations where you promoted out of what you’re good at, which happens a lot in the real world anyway.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s corporate America.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

You get really, really good at it, they move you right out of that spot. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

You get promoted to your level of incompetence. That’s how it was.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Oh, my gosh. He even said it when we had him on our show. He said he pulls in Adrian Bozman. He’ll talk to a lot of other OG types of people, a lot of the judges, a lot of the flowmasters from the level one, a lot of the training staff, to either get ideas from, or, “Hey, this is what we want. Give me a couple ideas.”


I know he’s had in the past Pat Sherwood has programmed for the Masters in the Team Division. I know Dave Eubanks did some programming for the age-group online qualifier. He’s got some help out there, for sure. Do I think he’s going to be getting out of the chair? Honestly, I hope not. I personally don’t foresee that happening, at least from anything that I know of.


I don’t see next year being anything different. I see him running. When he’s on the show, he’s like, “I already have ideas for next year. I’m already starting to program this. Things that we didn’t get to in the last one, maybe I’ll get to use in this one.” He’s like, “That’s usually how I operate. A week after the Games, my brain is already starting to spin and think about it.”

David TaoDavid Tao

The shortest off-season in the game, it’s always the organizers that have the shortest turnaround. Sometimes you have to start planning for next year’s event before that year’s event is even over.


That’s the tricky part. Bill, you mentioned CrossFit OGs, and you mentioned some names. You mentioned Pat Sherwood. You mentioned Adrian Bozman. I don’t know if we can call Boz an OG. He’s still very, very much in that role, a head jock.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

He’s in, but he’s OG, though.

David TaoDavid Tao

 He is OG, but OG almost implies that your role has changed or that you’re not…I don’t know.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Man, come on, now. Maybe I say OG because I don’t want us to think that I’m out of anything yet either. [laughs] [indecipherable 25:35] .

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m kidding too. It’s just semantics. You’re all OGs. All that to say, you are definitely an OG. You’re someone, when I first started following the sport of CrossFit, that I remember seeing in the update shows, people talking about your Open performances, and you being nestled in a region at the time, with a lot of the top dogs and having some very stiff competition.


I’m curious. You and Chase, your co-host on the podcast, both OGs, both competed at a very high level in the sport, both still extremely fit individuals from what I can tell unless your quarantine has been…

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Trying. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Unless you’re hiding something. How has your approach to training as an athlete changed over the course of your career in CrossFit and your exposure to the sport? That’s a big question. We can break it down if we need to.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

I can flow with that one. I will say this. When I got into CrossFit, especially at the competition side, I was itching for competition. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I was a wrestler and a swimmer, forever and ever. Wrestling was my big sport. Swimming, it was fun. There were girls in bathing suits, so it was fun to do too.


A nice off-season thing instead of beating on people. When I got out of college, and I wasn’t coaching anymore, I was doing triathlons. I was doing lifeguard competitions, and anything to try to find that competitive itch that I had to scratch. Got into CrossFit. Wanted to go to the first two Games, but that’s when I was still working in fire.


I was on a fire for the first one, 2007 Games, had the flyer and everything. I was going to go. I got called on a fire. Then the 2008, we were on a staffing pattern. We had firefighters and engines that were out of county doing big fires, and then we were stuck, not able to go home. I missed that one again.


2009, I started competing. I loved it, man. All of a sudden, it was that wrestling feel all over again where you step out onto the mat or out onto the floor, and three, two, one, go, and you hit it. It’s not necessarily a one versus one thing, but it’s you out there by yourself.


You don’t get to hand the ball off to anybody. You don’t pass it. It’s either you’re going to lift the barbell or you’re not going to lift the barbell. I really, really like that.


I would default into my old training mode, which is whatever it is that I’m doing, I’m now training for it. I can’t even remember the last time I did exercise. I don’t exercise and try to stay healthy. That’s never been my deal. I don’t know how to do that. At least I didn’t at that point.


Once I realized that there were competitions in this, I was, “OK, now we train for that.” I just went head full bore into that. That’s how that was for years, and years, and years. I was kind of a holdout on the whole Master’s thing. I didn’t want to do the Masters thing. I didn’t want to be good in this area.


I wanted to be just line us up man. Line us up. If I win, cool. If I lose, OK. That’s fine, but I know what I did. I know exactly where I stand. I know exactly how I finished. It’s not, “I did decent, but it was because…” Then here’s all the [indecipherable 29:17] .

David TaoDavid Tao

You don’t want these additional qualifying layers. You just want to see where you compare.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

No. If I’m 1st, 10th, 100th, 1,000th. OK? Cool. I like that. I’d liked having that. It was easy being older than everybody else. You’re not supposed to do well anyway. There’s really no pressure on me. You know what I mean? That was nice. It was nice not having that pressure. You could just go out there and just go for it.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s like being the opposite. It’s like a reverse Justin Medeiros. Right?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Totally. 100 percent.

David TaoDavid Tao

The opposite of a prodigy.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Exactly. When Justin came out, it was, “Dude, you’re really not supposed to do anything. Oh shit! Look at that. You did great on that.” All right. Then you get your ass kicked. You’re, “Hey man, you’re still out there with the best.” It’s a win-win. I enjoyed that.


2014, I blew my knee out at the Regionals. That was my first big injury. I had full ACL reconstruction. I had hopes of wanting to be able to come back in the next season, but I couldn’t get it rehabbed enough, at least in the Open division.


I still did the Open. Even with that, I was able to qualify into the online qualifier for the Masters. I wasn’t going to do it. I’d never done the Masters. My brother, I was able to coach him into competing really well. That was his first year. He’s, “Hey, I think I qualify.”


Got him into that. Helped coach him with that and everything. Help get him into that position. He was like, “Hey man, I know you don’t do the whole Masters thing, but I love for you, if you’d do that, to do this with me. We can both qualify at the Games. I think we can both do that.” That was 2015.


We both qualified into the AG, the online qualifier. Then to the Games. That was my first shot at the Games, was actually that year in the Masters division. Training as hard as I could, with intent in mind, the Games in mind, all that kind of stuff. That continued the next couple of years.


They made the switch. CrossFit then made the switch. It used to be that the Masters were in the beginning part of the week. The Open was at the end part of the week. I could compete, and then I could jump right into my commentary chair and do my thing in that way.

David TaoDavid Tao

Change shirts or put a shirt on, and then you’re good to go.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Totally. There was one day that there was an overlap. That was fine, but the next year, they decided to put it all together. They wanted to get the festival fields. The Masters were run at the exact same time as the Open. It was, “Well, choose.” Now I need to decide which one I want to do.


I love to compete, but with the way the media set up is, I was afraid that if I got out of that chair, they’re going to fill it with somebody. I’ll be damned if they’re going to let good-looking Dan Bailey take my spot. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Because you know that’s who’s right behind you. You know it.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

He’s in there man. I’m, “Sorry my friend. I’m going to keep on sitting down over here.” That definitely changed it. When I knew that I couldn’t really make it to the Games anymore.


There were two years where I was, “OK, let me see what happens.” I kind of wasn’t training as hard and still did really great in the Open. I did great in the online qualifier, but I wasn’t gunning with the game sitting out there for sure. It was more of a, “Let’s see what’s going to happen.”


When I found out I had to make a decision, that was, “Ah, OK.” I still did the Open because our gym does it now. I’m not training at all like I am now. The workouts that I do, I mean I’m a program guy. I program some pretty damn good workouts for the people, and I do those too. Now that’s where I am. Now it’s business.


I have two kids. I have a 19-year-old and a 5-year-old. I want my world to run the way it’s supposed to run, and business are supposed to run the way it’s supposed to run.


Now with all the COVID stuff, you got to be on the hustle. I have a lot of irons in the fire. Right now, I’m always being asked, “Are you done competing?” I will never say that I’m done competing. I’ll just say that the priority isn’t as high as it used to be, but I still love that. Once you get the juices flowing, I love that feeling.

David TaoDavid Tao

I can tell it how you’re describing it. If you wake up tomorrow morning and you’re, “I’m back. I’m training this year. I’m going all at it.” You don’t blame it on me, all right? Don’t.


When your family is like “Oh, you know [indecipherable 34:21] ,” don’t blame it on me.


I have to ask something. I remember this from the earlier days of a bygone era of CrossFit covers. It was I believe a Regionals preview one year. They were talking about this guy, Bill Grundler.


You have to tell me if this is apocryphal or if this actually happened. One year you trained basically the whole season, the whole year, wearing a weight vest so that when the workouts came around, when Regionals hit, everything would feel easier by comparison.


Is that true? What was that like? How did that decision come about? [indecipherable 34:56] .

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Yeah, I did. It was probably not a whole year. I did it for probably three months. I got a weight vest. This was before all the 5.11s, all the cool ones and stuff like that. I don’t remember what this one was called.

David TaoDavid Tao

You basically, just taping led bars to your chest at some point.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Yes. I just duct-taped the round metal plates. Whatever. A company hit me up and said, “Hey, we’d love to give you a weight vest if you’d wear it in a couple of pictures,” or whatever. “OK, cool. “I did a couple of workouts with them. I was, “Huh, that’s pretty cool.”


What’s weird is that I had a weight vest that I was using probably 10 years before that. I got it from my dad. This thing was way old. It was a canvas vest with these weird metal buckles and had true little sandbag pocket deals that you would put these little sandbag bags in. There wasn’t anything metal on it.


I was using that in this event called Beach Flags for a lifeguard competition. Beach Flags, if you haven’t seen it before, if you watch the Australian Sanctional this past year, the very first event was a Beach Flag event.


It’s like a musical chairs in the sand, like a sand sprint with musical chairs, where you’re chasing down or running to a plastic piece of hose about a foot long that’s stuck in the sand in a line. You’re all lying down on the ground. They say, “Heads up. Heads down.”


You get up super fast, turn and sprint. Grab the hose, and then, whoever didn’t get one, they’re out, and just keep wedging them down that way. I had a sandbag for that that I would use back in my old lifeguard days when I was training for that kind of stuff.


Anyway, I had this new weight vest, and I was doing some different pictures and stuff. I’m like, “I like how this makes me feel. It makes things hard. I’m going to do this. I’m just every single event, I’m just going to keep it on and just wear it to where…”


Everyone knows if they’re doing gymnastics, if they lose some weight, all of the sudden, the gymnastics get really, really easy. I was like, “That’s going to be the thing I’m going to go for.”


I remember I was doing clean and jerks, and handstand push-ups, and rope climbs, and muscle-ups, and everything with a 20-lb vest on. I wouldn’t say that it’s something you should do all the time because what I realized was yeah, you do get stronger, but it doesn’t push your intensity level. It’s like those masks that…

David TaoDavid Tao

Like an elevation mask.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Yeah, those elevation masks. Everyone is wearing a mask now, but…


David TaoDavid Tao

 Different type.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Totally. But those elevation masks, where it’s like, “You see. Now I’ll do this, and then when I take this off, I’ll be able to go so much faster.” It’s like, “Well, no. What you’re doing is you’re getting used to working on less oxygen.” “Yes, but you’re only really able to push to 80 percent.”


Same thing with a vest. I found that if I was to do it right, I would have used that more as a phasal type of a tool. I would have used that for maybe a month, or maybe six weeks, and then take it off. Then I can go back through those events.


Then now that I have the “strength” from that, now I ramp up the intensity and the speed with that. That would prep me into whatever competition I was doing. Yeah, it was a fun little test to myself. That’s what it was so fun about. You could just test shit like that. I liked that.


It was, “Let’s just see what’s going to happen. What do I got to lose? I’m the old guy. Who cares?” I’m like “What do I got to lose on this? Let’s give it a shot, see what happens.”

David TaoDavid Tao

In my mind, I imagine you rolling up to Regionals, having not taken this vest off for months. Then right before the first workout, you unbuckle it. It falls to the ground.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

[laughs] I feel so light now.

David TaoDavid Tao

You float across the event apparatus, basically.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

It’s weird. Honestly, I think that was for the 2012 year, if I’m not mistaken, and that was my best year ever. With the Open, with Regionals, I think I missed going to the Games by two spots that year. I was first out of the first day, third out of the second day going into it, and just couldn’t hold on to it. Damn, slipped through my fingertips.

David TaoDavid Tao


We won’t name names as to who denied you that glory. Bill, I super appreciate you taking the time. I like that you’re OK with me bringing up some old esoteric bits from a bygone era and an earlier day, when we didn’t know if like, “Hey, maybe the secret is you just wear a weight vest all year. Maybe that’s how you succeed.”

We’re a little smarter now. You’re a lot smarter now in your programming. Where’s the best place for people to keep up to date with what you’re doing, as well as the podcast and the work you’re doing with Chase?

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

Sure. I have a couple different things. You can look at my Instagram, @billgrundler, and see what I have going on there. You can look at my website,, where you can also see that I have a Masters Template Program. It’s a program built just for Masters athletes.


What I like about that is it allows the athlete to use their ability at their ability level. It doesn’t pigeonhole you. I hate this about other Masters programs. If you’re 40 to 44, you’re only doing these weights. If you’re 55 to 60, you’re only doing these weights.


It allows you to do your thing at your level, but it explains the intent of the workouts, and scales and modifications of the movement so that you are able to get those proper intents. You can find that on there. You can reach me there for personal coaching or monthly programming, either individual or for different gym programs there as well.


With the Get With The Programming, you can find us on all the podcasts, Get With the Programming, or on Instagram getwith_theprogramming. We’re in the middle of doing the Open right now. We just did 2011. We’ll be setting up for, I think, actually, 2012 just came out because we were talking about the Seven Minutes of Burpees.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I remember that. Oh, boy.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

That gross shit. Other than that, you can find me either on our gym site,, that’s our gym, or any of the different commentary type things, Games, Open, that kind of stuff. I usually end up on one of the commentary teams for that. Busy guy, busy guy.

David TaoDavid Tao

A busy guy and a very familiar voice to those in the CrossFit community, and hopefully, after this podcast, a few more folks outside the CrossFit community. Bill, thanks so much for joining us.

Bill GrundlerBill Grundler

David, thank you very much, man.