ANAHEIM, Calif. – Robson Palermo won the 2008 World Finals event title when he used to train with his personal trainer, Tony Cruz.
Nine years later, Palermo is hoping a return to his former trainer can have the same results that three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes had when Cruz helped him win a record-setting third world title at 36 years old.
“I am 34,” Palermo said. “He really helps a lot. Me and Adriano used to train with him. He trained a little harder with me because I was young. He could push me harder than Adriano. Adriano showed a lot of movement and bull riding to him. A lot of stuff to do for coordination. He picked it up and learned about it because he was training Adriano all the time.
“It has been helping me a lot.”
Cruz is in Anaheim this weekend with Palermo for the Frontier Communications Showdown, presented by Ariat.
This weekend is Palermo’s first event of 2017 after missing the first month of the season because of a torn PCL in his left knee that he had aggravated during the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Palermo, who finished 2016 20th in the world standings, looked strong in Round 1 with what appeared to be a qualified ride aboard Devil in a Bottle, but he was eventually ruled to have slapped the bull at 1.47 seconds.
Still, Palermo said he felt good in his first competitive bull riding.
“I am stronger this year, Palermo said. “I was not strong last year. Last year, I didn’t do nothing. I was doing some stuff in the gym, but not working. I kind of laid off of the gym last year. I started doing stuff at home by myself. For me it didn’t work because I need people pushing me.”
Cruz immediately met with Palermo behind the bucking chutes to discuss how Palermo was feeling following the ride attempt.
“His strength has gone up, but more importantly the flexibility,” Cruz said. “The resiliency of the rigors we have put him through. We gradually have been stair stepping up to this event. He has passed every test I have put him through.”
Palermo moved to Tyler, Texas, in the late 2000s in large part to be closer to Cruz and continue his training.
While his wife, Priscila, was still in college, Palermo would commute 3 hours a day from College Station, Texas, to train alongside Moraes with Cruz.
The two went their separate ways with no hard feelings over time.
“I don’t know why I stopped,” Palermo said. “I should have continued. Now I am going to stick with it. He is a great guy. He understands. He had surgery on both of his knees. He knows how to push the ligaments.”
Palermo would often see Cruz at their local church in Tyler.
During this past offseason, they began talking about Palermo’s rehabilitation for his knee.
He told Palermo he mentally had to commit to training at full intensity if he truly wanted to ride for another two years.
“He was hesitant because he was banged up,” Cruz said. “When you are limping around, you are not the tallest person on earth. He goes, ‘Well I think I want to do two more years.’ That was my cue. I said, ‘I can do that, but you have to decide.’”
Palermo eventually committed himself to training with Cruz at his 42,000 square-foot facility (XTC Fitness & Sports) in Tyler.
Cruz – a performance specialist, trainer and motivational speaker with over two decades of experience – said on Friday that he still remembers he and Moraes being laughed at when the two were working together to extend Moraes’ career.
Moraes won his last two world titles with Cruz as his trainer.
Cruz witnessed Moraes win a world title at 36 years old.
He doesn’t believe that bull riders in their 30s can’t compete with the younger generation.
Yes, it is hard, but it isn’t impossible.
“The only thing I can tell you, seriously, is Adriano sought somebody out,” Cruz said. “Adriano was doing everything.
“I am really able to tap in to where they can put their energy to build back the weakness. It is a process, but it is also a mental process. Building that confidence. The body then goes along with it. You can’t have one without the other. That allows them to perform at such a high level because they have so much talent. We combine all three of those. The talent, of course, the resiliency of the body and the mental capacity to be able to handle the tour.”
Cruz will likely travel to 10 events with Palermo this season to help keep his body in pristine condition. They will train three to four days during the week.
“I said, ‘If we are going to do this, you have to be consistent,’” Cruz added. “Even if you have an ailment, we are going to work around that to keep you on. Once you lay off as a high level athlete, it goes down. It only takes a week for an Olympian athlete to lose a month.
“We are building for a purpose. Not just for a day.”
Palermo weighs 162 pounds. He has lost eight pounds since training with Cruz.
Cruz put Palermo through a light stretching and flexibility session on Saturday morning at the Ayers Hotel.
Palermo takes on Red Rocket (7-0, BFTS) in Round 2 at Honda Center.
The Rio Branco, Brazil, native said he appreciates Cruz’s commitment to helping him regain his prior form.
“He means business,” Palermo said. “There is no fooling around when we train. I want to build my body and get super strong. I hope to finish this year really strong and this is going to help me not be hurt or injured anymore.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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