Coach Brenna on Getting Strong
Today we sit down and chat with long-time coach, and longer-time member, Brenna Bulach.
Very few people realize you’re one of our longest time members. Talk a little about your joining and years of experience as a member before becoming a coach.
I joined back in July 2011 when I was horribly out of shape and the weakest I’d ever been in my life. I was in grad school at SDSU and a cardio bunny on the university ellipticals – the classic skinny fat globo gym goer. I remember driving my car one day and looking down at my tiny arm on the steering wheel and I wasn’t even able to flex my arm. I had no muscle. Zero. That was the sign to me I needed to pull myself together and get back into a workout routine. I played sports growing up and was a collegiate volleyball player, so I am naturally competitive. Somehow in my 20s, I had lost that enthusiasm and ambition for physical pursuits.
P360 helped me rediscover my inner drive. I remember the first few months of classes at Mission Beach had just a small handful of people (sometimes just me and Pritz). I finally began to enjoy my workouts again. I learned how to push myself again and test my limits. It was the first time as an adult that I was surrounded by like-minded, positive fit people that believed that I could get stronger and faster, and I wanted to prove to them that I could.
I started out at ground zero, just like everyone else. I had never even heard of a hang clean. I’d never deadlifted a barbell. I started off taking only a couple classes a week but soon became a regular, daily member. With now almost SEVEN years under my belt at P360 (how is that possible??), I’ve built a good base and have had the ups and downs and injuries and comebacks. It’s been a fun journey and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me as I continue my fitness journey.
How long have you been a coach here, and why do you do it?
I have been a coach for a little over two years, since November 2015. I do it because 1) I love this gym. I love the people. I want to be a part of something that is doing great things for people. And 2) I do it because I want to help other people discover what lifting can do for them. It has brought so much positivity to my life, and the coolest thing for me is to witness that same realization in other people.
What sort of experiences make you love it?
The people are rad. P360 has created a home for all of us crazy, like-minded people. The members here have gone from being acquaintances in class to being some of my best friends. Many of us in San Diego are transplants from across the country and these people have become family. Training is way more fulfilling when the class is full of friends and family.
As a strong athlete who has put years into serious training, what’s the hardest part about coaching members who want to jump to where you are?
It actually blows my mind how quickly new members are able to build strength and speed. It took me so long and I worked so hard to get where I am today. I was a member for at least 3-4 years before I was able to squat 200 pounds, and ladies now are hitting that mark after just a year or two. However, I think I benefitted from my “slow” progression in strength. Having more time to develop allowed me to discover weaknesses and spend the time to fix them. I was able to build a very strong base of efficiency, technique, and knowledge BEFORE I was exposed to extremely heavy weights. I think people trying to hit those big numbers early in their membership are bypassing the very necessary steps of building a solid foundation slowly that will allow someone to lift injury-free in the future.
What’s something that you struggle with when it comes to your training approach?
I struggle mentally with staying the course even when I don’t see any progress. It’s easy to get excited about training when you’re hitting PRs and seeing dramatic improvements. It’s way more challenging to continue to plod along and put in the work when you’re not making noticeable gains. However, those are the times that separate the successful from the quitters.
If you could go back in time to five years ago and give yourself one bit of advice, what would it be?
Ugh, listen to my body more. Get shoulder surgery. Hahah, but seriously, if you have a problem or injury, go get looked at and get it fixed. Don’t try to skate by and push it just because the thought of taking time off is scary. I did take off 9 months in 2013 to have my ACL reconstructed (for the second time) and it was the best decision. I didn’t gain 40 pounds in my time off and I was able to come back quickly and stronger than ever. Take care of your body folks. We only get one.
What’s something that every person in this gym with strength goals should understand?
You must have a plan. You can’t just wake up one morning and hit a deadlift PR (or at least the one you are capable of with better planning). You need to set some goals, get a timeline mapped out, and set a plan to get there. You can’t just lift heavy all the time and expect to get stronger. All of the coaches are resources to help you do this. No one should be on a solo strength journey. Grab a buddy or a coach and make someone be accountable with you.
What’s the easiest way for someone to screw up their strength progress?
Working out too much. I was very guilty of this in the beginning. No one needs to work out 6-7 days a week. Put more effort into the 4-5 classes you go to each week. Plan two rest days a week. It’s always good to have a rest day after a big heavy compound lift like deadlifts or squats. Your body needs that time to reduce cortisol and repair muscle damage. If you’re going balls to the wall 100% of the time, you will never get stronger and in fact, may regress. Listen to your body and take those precious rest days.
What are some of your favorite kinds of P360 workouts?
I won’t lie and say that squats and deadlifts aren’t my favorite. However, outside of strength-based tiers, I absolutely love those timed challenges that are short and sweet and leave you dead on the floor. Those workouts are a test of how deep you’re able to dig. Can you shut off your brain when it’s screaming at you that that shit is hard and you should stop? That mental test is my bread and butter.
Who is someone who comes to mind that you love coaching, and why?
Someone who I’ve gotten to work with quite a bit because she comes to Weightlifting on Wednesdays is Emily Mitchell. She is just a delight to coach (does that make me sound like I’m 60?). She takes any and all feedback with a smile and immediately makes corrections. I’ve also watched her as a new member knowing absolutely nothing grow into an athlete ready to compete in her first Oly competition! She’s the best.
Why do you love being strong?
Because no one will try to steal my lunch at school. But in all seriousness, being strong gives me confidence. It fulfills my need to have something competitive and self-intimidating in my life. I feel like everyone needs a hobby that where they can see growth and progression. It allows you to see that the hard work you are doing can lead to development. That can be many different things for people. For me, it’s pushing my limits to test strength.
What example do you hope to set for our community?
I hope to show that lifting heavy doesn’t mean that you have to be a bodybuilder or look shredded all the time. There is a stigma that people who lift heavy are dumb bulky meatheads covered in muscle. This is a common thought in both genders, but particularly regarding females and heavy lifting. People see women with muscles as “bulky” and “manly.” I hope to show that lifting can be empowering and confidence-building, and at the same time takes nothing away from our femininity. Females are allowed to be strong. We’re allowed to have muscles. I’m ready for the day when a jacked person is described as “womanly.”
First, For Time.
1 Mile Run @CP
Then, for Structure.
30m Sandbag Lunge
3/s KB Halo
10 DB Piston Bench
10-15” Banded Hollow Hold
Complete 5 Rounds in 25 Minutes.