Chantal: Hey, welcome Jen. And thank you so much for joining us for “In the Trenches.”
Jen: Thanks for having me, Chantal. Appreciate it.
Chantal: Do you want to start off by telling us all about your business?
Jen: Sure. I am a triathlon and strength coach. I’ve been doing this seriously … I finally took my business, probably since 2012, and I really wanted to start working with triathletes just to find out what is going on with the human body. So here’s the thing, real quick, I left my full-time job, benefits, everything, to go back to school and get my master’s in kinesiology so I could leverage my coaching and to really find out what the heck was going on with the human body. So I work specifically with triathletes, plain and simple. I’ve had people ask me if I do personal training or run coaching. I don’t. I work with triathletes. So I’m working with triathletes, whether they’re getting ready for their first Ironman, whether they’re getting ready for their fourth Ironman, whether they’re getting ready for a half-Ironman or even age group nationals here in the U.S. I generally don’t work with the beginners and Olympic distance triathletes, but I am starting to do a programme.
I’m actually putting together a course for that because not a lot of people can afford a triathlon coach. So a lot of beginners will start off going online and getting an online programme, and that’s what I’m trying to put together for the future. But not only am I a coach, but I’m a speaker, I’m an influencer. I’ve been on the TedX stage and talked about my journey to Ironman triathlons. I’ve talked at health and wellness expos. I’ve talked to universities and high schoolers and just try to encourage people. Whether you’re 15 or 65, 75, the way to live your life is live it through being inspired, like goal-setting. People think I’m crazy when I say that, but everything I’ve done, I’ve had a goal, and I’ve accomplished it. So I’m just trying to reiterate to people as a speaker is to get out there and chase those dreams because you’re going to be living your life anyways. So I put that same amount of effort to my athletes that I coach. Like I say to them, “Okay, you want to do an Ironman? Okay, let’s make it happen, and this is what you’re going to do to get there.”
Chantal: Such a great mindset and such a great message as well, Jen. You mentioned in there briefly about that course that you’re working on. One of the things that I was hoping we could dive into today was you have a lot of marketing components or marketing tools, I guess, that form your business. I thought perhaps you might be able to share some of those things with our listeners.
Jen: The biggest thing that I have is my blog. I will do a weekly blog, whether it’s about triathlons, strength training, race. I put together a vlog for tomorrow, and it talks about my post-race … how I did Ironman Mont-Tremblant on August 20th. And it was just what I went through as an athlete because I think people see me sometimes as a super woman that I do everything. But I have those crazy mindsets. Like if I’m out on that race course and I start thinking bad thoughts, just like any other athlete, whether you’re pro or a beginner, we all have that same thought. The big thing for me is I have blogs and vlogs, so I do a mixture of that. Social media is huge for me. Instagram and Facebook have been the biggest things for me. Honestly, Instagram is phenomenal. And then I also have a team, a community that helps me promote my brand. When I say a team, it’s called Rulon Racing, and so I have about 30 people on the team that wear my kit when they go out and do triathlons.
And then I have also … I know, I have a lot. I’m putting together this course, and the course is my IronZen with Coach Jen, and it’s me trying to get into the athlete’s mind because there is so much information for triathletes about swim, bike and run. You could go on Google and find a 12-week programme to get you ready for your first sprint. But when it comes to the mental training, that’s where a lot of people struggle.
Chantal: You mentioned that Instagram is a really valuable place for you.
Jen: It is.
Chantal: I know that you’ve got a lot of people that follow on there. When you say valuable, is that because of the community that you’ve been able to build there or have you been able to generate business off the back of your Instagram account and your followers?
Chantal: Can you talk us through how you get business from your Instagram account?
Jen: Yeah. Athletes will come out and contact me on direct message and will ask me, “Hey, are you taking any more clients for coaching? I’m looking to get ready for the 2018 triathlon season.” And so I will get on a phone call with them, like a 15-minute phone call and just talk them through what they plan on doing for their triathlon season. I have gotten numerous athletes on Instagram just because they are looking for a triathlon coach.
Chantal: Excellent. I assume that is why it’s so important to have an online offering because I’m guessing those people aren’t necessarily close to where you are.
Jen: Yeah, a lot of my coaching that I do is online. I have people in Wisconsin, California, Mexico, Canada, New York, Boston. It’s crazy. Actually, a girl just moved to Sweden. You could say I’m international triathlon coach.
Chantal: You are truly international. I’m surprised that Australia wasn’t on that list.
Chantal: I’m very surprised. It might be after this conversation. So tell us a little bit more about IronZen, about that course. What was the motivation behind establishing a course and then what do people get as part of that?
Jen: The course is still really new, and I’ve done some beta testing for my athletes. What I’m trying to do with the IronZen course is trying to get athletes to understand that the mindset plays such a big role when you’re out there on that race course. This is what … It’s not just about your triathlon race course. It’s everyday life race, right? Because there are days where you might have a little angel sitting on your shoulder telling you how awesome you are, and then you have a little devil on the other shoulder telling you what an awful mom or parent or dad or athlete you are. You have to learn to battle the little angel and the little devil not only in the triathlon world on the race course, but in everyday life. The IronZen with Coach Jen was just me trying to put some thoughts together for the athletes to really dig deep on the mental side of training because as triathletes, we swim, bike and run and repeat. But a lot of athletes will not work on the mental side.
Chantal: It is a fear for a lot of fitness professionals that if they get too niche with their target market, then perhaps they are missing out on opportunities or they won’t have enough money coming into the business in order to survive. You are a proven example of someone who is extremely niche in specialty. I’m guessing it probably hasn’t always been easy for you. How has the journey been in regards to setting yourself up to cater to this particular niche and how did you go from when you initially started out to where you are today? Do you want to just tell us a little bit about that journey and how you have made it a success?
Jen: Sure. I knew I wanted to work with athletes. I knew I wanted to work with triathletes because that was my specialty as an athlete myself. When I started my business, I did everything and anything you can imagine. I did stuff with the running groups. I did stuff on strength training, which I still do strength training, but it’s all online now, and I’ve written a book about that. I did classes. I did group classes for the strength training for the thing, for triathletes. I did nutrition plans, and I’m not even a nutritionist. I did personal training and I have my master’s, but I don’t have a certified or anything like that. I was trying to do everything and anything just to make a buck. It wore the shit … It wore me down so bad. So bad. I just got to a point where I was like I don’t want to be chasing money. And so I started thinking about what are you good at? You’re a pretty bad-ass athlete, and you know how to rock the shit out of a race course, because obviously, you’ve gotten to Kona. Now you need to do that for your business, and what does your business do? It coaches athletes. It coaches triathletes to cross the finish line with a smile.
When I became super specific with what I was doing in my business, the money started flowing in. I think a lot of people get scared because it’s that whole fear, right? Everybody is scared if this doesn’t happen. For me, if I fail, at least I tried. But I’m not going to fail. I’m going to move on from something. I had strength classes for triathletes, and it was very similar to CrossFit, but people didn’t understand the difference. I wasn’t making people do muscle-ups and heavy snatches and tyre flips. I was trying to get triathletes to come into the gym and start lifting. But my return on investment was so low that it just got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore, and I have a really good entrepreneur friend. He goes, “Jen, fall fast.” He goes, “If you’re going to do the classes and they don’t work out, then just move on. Try something different.” I think that’s the mindset I’ve always had in my business. I’m going to try it. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to move on. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But then one day, it may work.
Chantal: Jen, how long was it from a time perspective? How many years was it that you went down the path of doing that everything to everyone and then having the exhaustion and then realising that you had to focus in on a specialty area? Give us an approximate time frame.
Jen: Let’s see. What’s this year? 2017? It’s been about a good five years. I started 2012, really took it on in 2013 and then honestly, [Sue Zimmerman 00:12:23] caught me at that moment of last year. I guess it was last August, July sometime where I was like, I’m done. I’m done. I just don’t want to do it anymore. So then she finally is like, “Okay, get rid of this. Stop doing this. You need to focus on this.” I always knew to go with triathletes. I always knew that, but I never really said to myself, “Okay, just stop all this and just focus. Stop it. The money will come in.” The crazy thing is I’ve had the most money in my account since I started. It’s sort of crazy.
Chantal: I wanted you to share that story because I just think that there are so many fitness professionals out there that can relate to what you’re talking about that have gone through those challenges of just going, “I’ve got to take all these clients because I’ve got to make ends meet, and I’ve got to make enough money to pay my rent” and whatever it might be, but it’s getting to that stage where you feel okay to take that leap of faith, to specialise in a particular area. I think that Sue is a good example of you don’t need to do this by yourself. There are people out there that are experts in this type of thing, whether it be social media, marketing or sculpting an online business, and I think you are just a wonderful example of how that journey can progress and can turn around to take you to where you are today, and you’ve now got this phenomenal business, and you’re working with people that you can relate to and people that can look up to you in an area that you’re a specialist in. So thank you so much for sharing that with us.
Jen: Yes, for sure.
Chantal: For our listeners that want to go and check out your website, what it is that you do, your social media pages, where should they go to find out more about your business?
Jen: You could go to jenrulon.com. J-E-N R-U-L-O-N.com. That’s the website. You can go to all my social media is Coach Jen Rulon. So Instagram, Twitter. I think I’m even on Pinterest. It’s funny because I’m on a lot of social media, but I do a lot of automation. But I really focus on the Instagram and Facebook. My Facebook is Coach Jen Rulon, MS, like for master’s of science.
Chantal: This has been such a great chat, and I loved hearing all about your business. Congratulations on everything that you’re doing.
Jen: Thank you.
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