10 Questions with San Diego-based trainer and athlete Mike Deibler, CSCS, SGX, FMS

10 Questions with San Diego-based trainer and athlete Mike Deibler, CSCS, SGX, FMS

In early March 2017, Mike Deibler posted to the Spartan SGX Coach private Facebook group, asking if there were any Spartan SGX coaches that would want to give a recap of the 2017 Greek Peak Spartan Race on his Spartan Underground podcast. I direct messaged Deibler, mentioning that I was doing the both the Greek Peak Sprint and Hurricane Heat and that I’d love to provide the recap. You can check out Episode 27 of Spartan Underground featuring my audio recap HERE, and also my own Barrosofit race recap HERE. Deibler was also nice to enough to have me on a guest for the next episode of his podcast, where I talk about my how Journalism background got me into Spartan Race, and my nutrition and training strategies for preparing for Spartan Races. You can check out this episode--Episode 28—HERE.

A former collegiate All-American high jumper, Deibler holds a B.A. in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut and a M.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Florida in addition to several fitness certifications. The San Diego resident is also the owner of his own gym, San Diego Premier Training in San Diego, CA and he runs obstacle course races all over the United States. Check out this interview with Deibler, an accomplished athlete, coach, gym owner and podcast host who looks to run a Spartan Race in every state that they’re offered.


1.     Barrosofit (BF): How did you get into obstacle course racing? When was your first race?
Mike Deibler (MD): My first race was in 2013 and it was one of those things where I had a bunch of personal training clients telling me about it. Specifically, they were talking about the mud runs getting really popular at Camp Pendleton out here. At first, I wasn't really interested in doing it as I didn't know what it was about. I didn't feel like getting all muddy because I thought it was just one of those, "Hey, you're going to jump in a bunch of mud and then run a 5K," kind of thing. But I had so many clients telling me about it that I was just like, “Hey, I need to check this out, because if they're asking me for training advice I better have at least done one." So, I signed up for the 2013 SoCal Spartan Race Sprint and did it with my wife and we just had fun. When I was finished I was like, "That was awesome and I could've done way better if I had any clue what I was getting into, so I want do this again." I signed up for another one and started training for it and then things just took off from there.

2.     What fitness certifications do you have, when did you get them and why?
I got my NSCA-CSCS in 2006 after graduating from the University of Florida with a Masters in Exercise Science. I'm level one FMS certified and I went through Mike Boyle's certified functional strength coach program. As for the Spartan SGX certification, shortly after I had done two or three Spartan Races, I got an email from Spartan Race saying, "Hey, find a coach near you." I had never even heard of Spartan SGX (the official training program of Spartan Race) because I think it was just starting back then. I looked and saw there was one coach maybe in all of San Diego, or really most of Southern California, and I was like "That's crazy. This is a huge thing growing and there's not that many coaches out there."

I actually contacted Spartan Race and said, "Hey, there's no SGX courses near me but I'd love to use my facility to host a Spartan SGX workshop" And they basically said, "Hey, we're thinking about doing one in SoCal. We're going to look at a few different locations. There's an application, fill that out." They wound up agreeing to hold it here. I got certified and just started growing our clientele of obstacle course racers from San Diego Premier Training.

3.     What is your athletic background?
I was an athlete in college, an all-American high jumper. My personal record was 7’2”, just two centimeters shy of the Olympic Trials. For a long time, high jumping was my life. I was a hardcore athlete, competed top-level and once that was over, my eligibility was up, I had a brief training bout after I graduated to try and go to the Olympics. Eventually, my Olympics training just got to be too much and I got too many injuries that I just had to finally stop and continue on with my life. I wasn't able to continue that so I needed to find something that I was good at that I could train for to fill that void. Once I ran my first couple of Spartan Races, I felt like I was pretty strong at it so I started signing up for the Elite heats. I've done three Elite heats so far, and every one has gotten progressively better where I'm hoping to crack a Top 10 finish at some point soon, so that kind of a motivation too.

4.     What is your training routine like for Spartan Races?
I usually do about a five-day routine. My typical routine would be I do two devoted strength days where my main goal is working on big movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushes, and pulls, not necessarily like an OCR specific workout, it's more just functional strength. These total body strength workouts last typically around an hour to a little bit over an hour. Every once and a while I do a body-part split, but I seem to do best with total body .Then, I try and do at least two runs per week, one of which is a long duration, low intensity 45-90 minute run.

The other running workout would be an interval training workout, with work periods of 1 minute or less followed by 2-4 minutes of recovery. And I would do that anywhere from five to 10 rounds. My last interval session I did was a hill workout where I sprinted up a hill for a minute, walked back down two to three minutes, and did that five times. I typically do this outdoors since it’s usually sunny in San Diego but I might do it on a treadmill.

If I do a third run, it’s typically a tempo run, which would be 30 minutes or so of a hard run where I'm trying to push my pace. I'll rotate between those three running workouts over the course of weeks. I don't necessarily do all three in one week.

5.     What are some of your favorite exercises?
I don't do anything super crazy because I think most people need to master the fundamentals and I want the biggest return for what I'm putting in while reducing my risk of injury. In the past I'd be the one throwing on as much weight as possible and trying to back squat or deadlift as much as I can. And sometimes that has a purpose, but I kept noticing that every time I would do it I'd have little tweaks and I would need a couple days off, or a couple weeks off even to get back to it. Therefore, I keep it pretty simple. Some of my favorites would be any kind of pullup or chinup, whether it's weighted, assisted. I really like focusing on eccentrics, so you'll pull up to the bar and then slowly lowering yourself down taking about four or five seconds to get back down and then right back up again.

I also love sand bag training and one of my favorites is a rotational sandbag lunge just to get that functional, three-dimensional approach to training. And because of my background, any type of jumping, like box jumps, bounding, single leg hops.

6.     How did your Spartan Underground podcast come about and what is the purpose of the podcast?
I started training some clients and they started asking questions about workouts they could do outside of the gym, or maybe stuff we couldn't get to because there was a lot of group-based training and it was hard to do everything for everyone. In response, I made a website, Spartan Underground, where I posted videos for my clients to see how to do exercises. I posted videos on technique for the different rope climbing techniques, monkey bars, for the rig, Bucket Carry, different workout programs that they could do when they weren't in the gym with me. Eventually I wanted to learn from other coaches to see their methods and see, "Hey, maybe what they do for running is better and I need to switch over and implement that. Or maybe they have strength training techniques that are really cool. Or maybe just mental, psychological tactics that they use to help their clients out."

I got the idea, "Why don't I start interviewing other coaches to 1. help me and 2. I knew other people would be interested in something like this.” I had the idea for a podcast and then I posted it in the SGX Facebook group saying, "Hey, I'm thinking about doing this podcast where I interview other SGX coaches to get their training secrets that we can use to help people get off the couch and be more active and do better in Spartan Races." I received a lot of positive feedback from that post, so I just said, "Alright, I'm going to just pick a couple to get started with," and it just grew from there.

Now, I have the Spartan Underground website which is a paid membership site and the free podcast on iTunes. From a business standpoint, there is that goal just to grow my following, but really the reason I started the brand was just to get people aware that there are these resources out there that are going to help them improve each race.

7.     What do you feel you get out of competing in these races? You've mentioned you did the first one with your wife I believe you said, so what keeps you coming back in general to obstacle racing?
The big goal, which I started with my wife and I want to accomplish it with her, once we started getting into Spartan Races we made the goal of we were going to run a  Spartan Race in every state. And they don't currently offer one in every state, but we figured by the time we got there we'll worry about it and we'll figure it out, and hopefully by then they'll have had one in every state. So that's kind of our big goal. Right now we're at seven states. We have a long way to go, but it's something if it takes us five or 10 years we're going to just keep plugging along until we get every single state. And that's kind of our "why" behind racing is we love racing, we love competing and pushing ourselves. But one, it's something we do together and it's just some quality time that we can do these races, have fun together, plus we get to explore the country and we'll go places that we may have never gone before.

Spartan Race has just developed into our thing where we look and see where we want to go throughout the year and we plan our races around it, and it's become part of our lifestyle which has been pretty cool. Our oldest son is five so he can do the Spartan Kids' Race, and he's done that and had a blast with it so he always wants to do more. So it's just a way for him to get out and be active which is always great.

8.     What states have you raced in so far and what does your 2017 race schedule consist of?
We’ve been to California, Arizona, Montana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, and most recently Nevada for the Las Vegas Super and Sprint. We’re doing the Ohio Spartan Race in May, Idaho in June and Hawaii in August. We may throw one more in there, but those ones are for sure that we're all signed up for. We’ll do more California Spartan Races too.

9.     Where do you train your clients today?
I own a 5,000 square foot facility called San Diego Premier Training where I train/coach clients. I also teach exercise physiology and a couple other classes for a local community college. Plus, I’m the Director of Education for a company called Exercise ETC, a nationwide continuing educational platform for trainers and therapists. Basically I'll travel around the country giving lectures on a variety of topics, and then trainers can come and get the required educational credits for whatever certification they need to have.

10.  Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring fitness enthusiasts looking to start a podcast?
Number one I'd say is just do it, even if it sucks and the quality is not there yet. If you listen to my first couple of interviews of Spartan Underground, I couldn't figure out how to get the audio right, so my guests sound very muffled because I couldn't adjust their audio. Since then I've fixed all that. But I know if I just was so concerned with the technical side of it I never would've done anything. I would've probably given up and been frustrated. So number one is just start. Maybe just get your cell phone and record yourself and just go with that. And if you're going to do interviews, do it in person first and then you can call people up and figure out how to record that way. I did invest in a little bit of coaching where I at least had a step-by-step process so I would know.

After you record it, you have to upload it somewhere so people can get to it so I had to figure out how do I do that. I do recommend finding somebody that's done it before, whether you're going to pay them for coaching or just ask them for tips in how you do the basics technically. Make sure the topic is something that you are passionate about, because if it's something that you're not passionate about, it's going to show and you're probably going to get bored after a couple of episodes because it's hard work. All the editing and the coordination with other people if you're interviewing them, and most likely you have a job that you have to work around and all these other things. So it can get a little overwhelming, so you just start small with something you can manage and then go from there. But if you're passionate about it, you’ll find a way to get it done.

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