On the show today, I have Tommy Hackenbruck, a multiple CrossFit Games Competitor and top-10 finisher. He finished second in the 2009 Games and won the 2012 Games in the team competition. Tommy also played linebacker on the University of Utah, Fiesta Bowl Championship Team.
Listen in as Tommy gives his tips on maintaining your ability to sprint and improving your cardiovascular capacity in general. He then explains how he built up his mental toughness over the years, defining it as “the ability to remain calm under extreme or uncommon circumstances”, and why staying in shape has always been key to doing so.
Tommy and I discuss the value of a coach, especially for aspiring athletes and first-time gym-goers, and why newbies should not be setting expectations for themselves at the beginning of their fitness journey. Finally, we dive deep into the differences between true mental toughness and bottling up your emotions at the expense of your long-term mental health.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [03:22] Tommy’s background
- [10:58] Maintaining your capacity to sprint
- [14:45] Developing your mental toughness
- [28:28] Setting yourself up for success in any type of training
- [35:45] Distinguishing mental toughness from showing no emotions
- [49:12] Rekindling community in 2021
James Cerbie: We just recently switched over to this platform so we can get video and audio. So, yeah, all right, we’re going, we got this happening. Okay, a little bit of a learning curve here for me also. But going live with Tommy Hackenbruck. Tommy, thank you so much for chunking out a little bit of time today to just come on and shoot this shit with me.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Of course, man. I just want to catch up with you. It’s been a while. Yeah, since we were coaching together in Salt Lake.
James Cerbie: It has been a hot minute. That was, I was actually thinking about that recently. It’s hard to believe that was almost. Four and a half, five years ago. When I first came to Salt Lake.
Tommy Hackenbruck: In 2015?
James Cerbie: Yeah, somewhere in there, 2015, 2016, because I had to do a year and a half worth of pre-recs before grad school started, and then grad school is another two and a half years’ experience, and so, yeah, almost five years.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Do you regret any of that time spent in academia?
James Cerbie: No.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Now that you’re out of it, or are you glad you did everything you did?
James Cerbie: Really glad that I did the academia experience. The learning was incredible. So, from that standpoint, it was incredibly beneficial. It’s just more I don’t want to do research for a living. That was the only reason I decided I wanted to leave. I was like, I don’t want to write grants or do research for a living. I would rather run a business and work and help other humans, either training or talking and helping with coaches. So that was the primary reason. But I actually really enjoyed being in the lab because you learn a ton. You’re constantly challenged mentally. The conversations were the biggest thing I miss.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, but you learned that term 50-pound brain.
James Cerbie: No.
Tommy Hackenbruck: That’s how I’d always describe you to people. I’d be like, yeah James…He’s got a 50-pound brain. Out of any coach I’ve met–I’m trying to wrap my brain here. You’re probably the most passionate, maybe by far the most passionate about the geeky part of sports science and strength and conditioning. It just, it always exuded, and how excited you got about talking about that stuff. So makes sense, like you’re really cut out for it. But I’m glad you’re outside of the lab, sharing the information now and educating coaches because you got a wealth of knowledge.
James Cerbie: Appreciate it, man. Thank you. So, let’s do this before we get off and running too much for the people who are listening who maybe don’t know who you are. Can we give them just a quick background on Tommy Hackenbruck, who you are? Because you have an incredibly impressive background as both an athlete, competitive athlete, and then a lot of time spent as a coach and a gym owner as well.
Who is Tommy Hackenbruck?
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, I have trouble sitting still, I guess. My sports background is significantly just college football. Lots of stuff before that, but played University Utah, played linebacker up there. And that’s where I kind of really got exposed to, just high-level success, high-level organizations, high-level teams. And I think that really just kind of set my path and set my trajectory afterward. And then from there, I spent a few years in construction, just I’ve always kind of tried to follow my passion and I was either following my passion or I was avoiding getting a desk job and wanted to know.
So, I did that. And then I just kind of dove into gym ownership. I guess you just had to drink the Kool-Aid with CrossFit, did a few workouts, and decide to take a weekend seminar and start coaching people like most of us did. So, they took me back to Salt Lake in 2009. I was there until three years ago and just sold the gym this year. But I’ve been a gym owner and CrossFit athlete, coached a couple of CrossFit athletes, been a team member, and I guess unofficially the coach of my team that I was on. I felt more like a teammate than a coach. Actually, had a good friend doing most of our programming.
And so, he was kind of in a coaching role, too. But it was like with made-up sports, it’s like big-league hockey or something, right? Like there’s no coach, there’s just a player out on the on-ice or whatever. It’s like rec league stuff. And one person, basically, if you’re the coach to designate a coach, it just means you have to do all the crappy stuff like book hotels and book flights and make sure the other teammates aren’t forgetting to do what they’re supposed to do.
James Cerbie: Yeah, it’s a lot of figuring it out on the fly.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah. Glorified babysitting of adults that act like children.
James Cerbie: So, you’re a linebacker at the University of Utah and then as a competitive CrossFit athlete, you guys won the team competition three times?
Tommy Hackenbruck: No, won twice
James Cerbie: On the team, twice,
Tommy Hackenbruck: 12 and 13,
James Cerbie: And then as an individual. You had a pretty successful run there as well with a handful of top 10 finishes, if I remember correctly.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, yeah. At five. Let me see now, four individual appearances, three top teams. So, I always thought I had a good chance when I got to the CrossFit games, as long as there wasn’t too much CrossFit involved. I was always more nervous about just getting there than competing once I was there because I’m a taller guy. You can’t really tell on a computer screen and a podcast.
James Cerbie: You’re a giant in the CrossFit World,
Tommy Hackenbruck: To a bunch of CrossFit-ers, I look like a giant. And if you see me on the street, I probably look above-average height, below-average looks.
James Cerbie: Well, actually, it’s funny. I have a mutual friend coming on here in a few weeks. Spencer Hendel is going to come on. We’re going to chat because we grew up together back in Charlotte and he’s a similar type of giant in the Crossette world, where it’s just from your height and your limbs and your levers. It’s going to take you so long to cycle through movement compared to somebody who’s 5’8”.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, yeah. Spencer…we’re almost identical. And so, our size is very similar in competitions too. Strengths and weaknesses, and he’s a hell of an athlete, from what I hear, probably missed out as a professional football player. And I know Spencer is a pretty legit Baseball player who probably could have played in the big leagues. Maybe, maybe not. But he had a lot of the tools for that.
James Cerbie: Yeah, he threw very hard from a very early age. Yeah, Andy, his dad is an unbelievable athlete, linebacker for the Dolphins in the NFL. For a while, Speck got a lot of that. Dude is just super impressive and a lot of ways, just a phenomenal athlete across the board for sure.
Why Jumping and Sprinting is Genetically Determined and Without Continuous Practice Can Cause You to Lose the Skill Altogether
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah. He’s one of the most impressive natural athletes I’ve competed against, and just been around. There are a few freaks on my football team that just pop into my mind right away. But yes, this is one of those guys. Is this when he jumps, he just looks different than everybody else? He almost looks like he teleports an extra few inches in the air every time. Very, very explosive just now. A lot of it seemed natural because that’s one of the probably, and you attest this better than me, but out of anything you see people doing in the gym, jumping is the one thing that’s really hard to coach. You can increase someone’s jump over a certain amount, but some people just have this free, jumping ability.
James Cerbie: Jumping and sprinting; I would put both of those in that same category of we can make that better, but it’s going to be inherently capped. It’s so genetically determined. And there’s a long-time athlete, when you get around people who are just fast or who can jump? It’s different. It’s just a different world. I could train for the rest of my life and I’m never going to be able to do that.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, I saw you run in some forty’s the other day. By the other day, I mean, it was probably like a year ago, working on your starts. How’d that go?
James Cerbie: It’s getting better. That’s one of the big things I’m working on right now because I want to be able to sprint again, because when college and sports ended and you just fall in love with lifting, then you generally stop sprinting. And so, I don’t remember the last time I really opened up the full-out sprint. And so, the biggest thing I’m working on right now is getting to a point where I can open up in the full sprint and not blow my hamstring. But yeah, that’s good.
Tommy Hackenbruck: I remember the last time I really opened up sprinting. It was right after I was trying to come back from knee surgery, my third year, my second year of college. And I blew my hamstring, and I haven’t done it ever since. Yeah, I’ve ran really fast, but I’ve never tried to, like, really open up, like, I literally get to ninety percent and that’s when I know I’m there. If I push it any harder, something bad will happen.
James Cerbie: Sprinting is one of those things. It’s one of those things where if you stop doing it, you lose it really quickly.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yes.
James Cerbie: So, any recommendation to the younger crowd, if you’re still coming up, don’t stop sprinting, because once you stop, it is an enormous pain in the ass to get back to being able to really sprint again. And it’s funny because you think about what we did back in the day. Think about a normal day when you’re playing football. It’s like you sprint all the time.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah. Warmups, conditioning, agility drills. It’s a constant. And the younger kids out there, if you don’t like conditioning because it’s hard, just go run a 5k. Go run three miles and then decide right then and there. Do you want to keep sprinting or do you want to run 5ks all your life because that’s way less fun than sprinting.
James Cerbie: Yeah, sprinting is way better. I have no interest in the long aerobic game. It’s important; we need it. But yeah, I would much rather just run repeats than have to go run a 5k.
The David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge
Tommy Hackenbruck: I got a good challenge for you if you want to do it.
James Cerbie: What are we looking at here?
Tommy Hackenbruck: I actually just finished. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. The David Goggin’s 4x4x48 challenge.
James Cerbie: What is it? I know David Goggin, but I don’t know the challenge.
Tommy Hackenbruck: He came up with this a year ago and then he did again this year. It’s run. It’s just one of his, like, masochistic, just… it’s a mental thing way more than anything else. It’s run four miles every four hours, for 48 hours. So, you end up running 48 miles over 48 hours. But it’s broken up in a really bad way where you never… I haven’t gotten more than three hours of sleep since Sunday. I went out on a Monday for a 4-mile run in between classes and work. I have wanted to do that challenge for a while; I think I’m going to do it. So, I finish a run. I went home and asked my wife, just made a deal with her. I’m like, OK, I won’t let this affect me being at home. I’m not going to make this a big deal. So, I just try to go about my life as normally as possible other than getting out of bed at midnight and again at 3 AM, and jogging, limping four miles. It was terrible.
James Cerbie: So, this actually segues to an interesting topic that I wanted to get into, which is, part competition, part mental toughness, because I think having spent a little bit of time around you, I can attest that you are one of the most competitive people I know and also one of the most mentally tough individuals at the same time. And so, I would love to know with your background as an athlete, is that mental toughness, something that you’ve just you’ve had or is something that you really worked on and built over time?
What it Means to be Mentally Tough and How it Can Help You Become a Better Athlete
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, the first part of the competitiveness I was born with the mental toughness. Over the years, I’ve realized more and more that you can train it. I don’t I think there’s a lot to it. It’s easy to be mentally tough when you’re in really good shape. I’ll tell you that, like, it’s a lot harder to be mentally tough when you’re out of shape. So, I always have to open with that because I think mental toughness is awesome and it’s very valuable and it carries over into everything you do in life. So, my opinion, it’s always worth training, that we train any weakness, or any skill is something you can train, So, yeah, that being said, I don’t know if I’ve always been mentally tough. I’ve always been a risk-taker. I’ve always been pretty kind of stoic in a way, like I think I think it’s just that macho mentality which I’ve had to kind of grow out of.
I remember trying to never cry, like thinking that was a weakness to cry. Right. Like, I think a lot of males go through this or struggle with this, not showing pain if you’re in pain, just kind of shrugging it off. So, I was really big into that. And I like pushing myself. I think that learning the difference between that and mental toughness, I don’t know, almost toxic, trying to be a tough guy thing, which I fell into that trap. I had to grow out of that and realize what real mental toughness was, which is really I wish I had, a great definition just ingrained in my head. But it’s really, I think, just the ability to remain calm under extreme or uncommon circumstances. That’s all it is. Nobody’s so mentally tough that they throw a seven-minute 2k. I don’t know why I’m using growing as an example.
James Cerbie: It sucks.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Running. So, let’s say someone runs a seven-minute mile and that’s the most mentally tough person in the world. You put them next to someone who runs a six-minute mile. That person who runs a seven-minute is not going to all sudden win the race because they’re so mentally tough that they just, refuse to lose. They’re just not as good of a runner. So, it can be misleading. It’s not like people who are mentally tough, just pull these miracles out of their asses, left and right. It’s more just the ability to remain calm. So, people who ride around in ambulances are extremely mentally tough, especially in a very specific way. If they can walk up to a scene that’s completely chaotic and, they check their heart rate and it maybe jumps from like 88 to 92 and everybody else is freaking out, panicking. So, it’s really just about keeping it cool. And what that does make you, I think, a better athlete and gives you the advantage in competitions is there’s a lot of decision-making that happens.
Athletics is not just athletic ability, unless you’re talking about maybe the 100-meter sprint. There are very few things that happen in the course of ten seconds that you can really have an impact over. But I’m sure there are, certain thought processes and things that you practice, and you think about pumping your arms and you lift your toes like there’s definitely thinking that goes on. But smart athletes are usually able to come away with better results. And I think being mentally tough for me has made me a smarter athlete because it’s allowed me to make better decisions when maybe my competition’s a little foggy headed. I’ll use CrossFit as an example, you go for a final workout for CrossFit Games. And Dave Castro just all of a sudden announces some workout. You don’t even realize he’s talking. You barely hear him. And then he’s like, three, two, one, go.
I don’t even know what the workout is so I can sit there and, run out like a chicken with its head cut off or look over and this guy’s doing clean jerks. I’m like, OK, I’ll start doing cleaning jerks. And so, I do five and I set the bar down. I just calmly asked my judge, I’m like, so how many are we doing? So, there is, in a lot of different areas, whether it be on the football field, mental toughness can be as simple as someone pushes you after a play and you just refrain from retaliating because you don’t want to cost your team 15 yards. It just plays out all the time and chimes in whenever you want. I feel bad. I’m talking so much.
James Cerbie: No, it’s fine. It’s great. It makes my job easy.
How to Train Yourself to be Mentally Tough
Tommy Hackenbruck: I can move into the training part of it, too. And how that’s trained. There’s just a ton of different ways to train it. But really, you put yourself in scenarios like just being mindful of when you work out is the simplest thing for anybody who’s training. And I think my first exposure to really difficult, challenging CrossFit-type workouts was in college. We had great strength coach, Matt Bayless. He’s actually the head at Notre Dame right now. He’s really moved up in the ranks and he got his dream job, after being a grade school PE teacher or something like that in South Bend.
Yeah. Work hard, show up every day with a great attitude and dreams do come true. He’s an amazing dude, but he would push us. And that was my first experience of like kind of high-intensity circuits. Those are the very end of our workouts in college. Sometimes it was just a challenge where we like to hang from a pull-up bar and they’d always put us by positions like put you against your competition. So, it was you and the guy who’s trying to take your job and pit you against each other.
Everything was competitive all the time, but I really thrived in that. And it was the first time I’d really had to push my body in workouts to the point where I felt like I was going to puke. That didn’t happen in high school. So, when I was first exposed to that, I realized, oh, this is crazy. But then you feel so accomplished afterward and just, the first time you do it, feel like you’re going to puke, you kind of give in before you really realize what you’re capable of, but you force yourself in those scenarios and you keep coming back and just showing up.
That’s one good way to develop it. And then, breathing is huge. Like, I can’t tell you how many people get in workouts and they’re taking, like, two-minute rest breaks and they don’t realize. And you just calmly walk over, like hey, just take a big breath in and a big breath out. OK, go pick up the bar, they’re breathing so fast, so literally panicked, breathing, keeping their heart rate elevated, don’t even realize it. Nobody needs a two-minute rest break, after doing a set of five deep breaths.
But it’s just something they’ve never been exposed to, working out fast for time or something. So, yeah, I’ve been blessed to have been around some of the best in the business with mental toughness, Navy SEALs, and some different experiences that I’ve had that really just gave me so many more tools. So, I think it was something that I developed early because I was around really good coaches and just, they held us to very high standards. And I am kind of a pleaser. And so, I just kept pushing myself to meet those standards. And then later on in life, I’ve realized you can train it. And it also looks very different. I can be or look like I’m very mentally tough on certain things.
I can go with a lack of sleep, very, very effectively. Some people don’t. But there are other areas of my life where I’m weak as shit like there are certain things that I am not mentally tough, and I don’t have a lot of discipline. And so, those are the areas that I need to focus on. But I’ve realized to bring this full circle by improving in certain areas now, by working on mental toughness and going and facing challenges head-on, actually seeking out challenges. It’s helped me in those weak areas, too. So, it’s definitely a, I think, worthwhile pursuit.
James Cerbie: For sure. Yeah. I think two things there to mention and unpack. The one that I totally agree with everything you said, but the one I was wanting to highlight is…
Tommy Hackenbruck: How many don’t agree with you
Why Your Inner Alarm Mode Wants You to Stop Training and How to Overcome it
James Cerbie: So, the mental toughness, but it’s kind of physiologically when shit hits the fan and fatigue starts happening and the brain’s assessing what’s going on in the periphery. And it’s trying to shout alarm mode at you and it’s trying to get you into this moment of, like, panic and freak out because we’re in alarm mode. It’s the ability to just take a deep breath except not run away from that. You have to be comfortable sitting there taking a deep breath, like, I’m OK. Things are going to be fine. Take a deep breath. Let’s assess what’s going on. I’m going to be OK. Right. But to your point, the fitter you are, the easier that becomes because your threshold for that alarm keeps getting pushed farther and farther. And one of the hardest parts is when people are trying to get back into working out, because once you stop and you try to get back into it, it gets harder because you get a couple of minutes into a workout and that alarm mode is going off big time in your head, and it wants you to stop.
It’s trying to get you to stop, trying to get you to panic and freak out, and being able to take a step back and take a big breath in and out and say, I’m OK, I’m not going to die. Right. I will get through this. I will be fine. Let’s just take this one step at a time. And I think that is incredibly important and really. Essential to highlight for people is that is very much a trainable thing, right, and just, yes, be fair with yourself and how you’re going to do it. Give yourself great exposure. Right. Don’t choose a challenge right off the bat that you’re just stacking the deck against you. You work your way up to that over time. And I think you’ll be surprised where you end up in three months. If you’re smart with how you approach it, maybe you don’t go from I haven’t done shit for a month. OK, well, I’m going to go do Murph today. Right. Maybe not the best strategy, but we can get you there over time and you’re going to be in a really good place.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah. And it’s just like training a deadlift or snatch. You have to do a bunch of reps. No one picks up the bar, day one, doesn’t matter how good of coaching. You can watch a thousand hours of YouTube videos. You go to pick up the bar for the first time. You’re not going to do it right. Everything’s going to be off. Nothing’s going to feel familiar. But someone who’s done thousands of repetitions picks up that bar. When you talked to Spencer Hanley. I mean, if you watch that guy snatch, he’s amazing. He’s one of the best weightlifters, of the early CrossFit days, if not the best. So, yeah.
And when you’re talking about people who are new to training or have been out of it for a while and, it’s the exact same thing, it’s not that you’re mentally weak because you showed up and you wanted to quit halfway through the workout, or maybe you did quit halfway through the workout. That’s totally normal. The fact is you overcame something just to show up. So, you already had some success. You already had a win. And just approach it again and modify your strategy a little bit. And then that second time you’ll be more successful, set yourself up for success. When I took off and did this forty-eight-mile running challenge, I set myself up for success based on where I was. So, I didn’t train for it. A lot of people do. I could have trained for it. I probably would have felt better and ran faster.
But I decide to do it on a whim, and it sounds extreme for most people. I’ve done multiple fifty-two-hour no sleep challenges where I’m up working out, doing the physical activity the entire time. So, to me, because of my past, this wasn’t as extreme. So, for me, I set myself up just in three ways. I said I want to run the whole thing like you. Even if I feel like walking, I’m going to run the whole thing. I didn’t run fast. Most of my miles were around ten minutes, but that was a small goal that I know I can accomplish.
I haven’t been doing a lot of running lately, but I knew I could keep at least jogging for that. So, I didn’t set myself up saying I want to run seven-minute miles for the entire challenge. That would have been a complete failure. There’s no amount of mental toughness that would have allowed me to do that. I set myself up for success that way. And then another goal was to not interrupt my daily life like I still coach all my classes. I was here at five a.m. coaching, and then as soon as I got done, I’d go for another run. I was at home helping out with my kids, so I didn’t want to interrupt my daily life, and that I also didn’t want to mess up my body. So, I listen to my body throughout and just checked in every once in a while, and I made sure I wasn’t doing anything that was going to be detrimental long term.
And honestly, my knee was pretty sore going into it. And it actually feels better now than it did two days ago. So, I just I took precautions. I kept my running slow. But that should be no different than somebody starting up in the gym or how they approach, getting back up to the gym, get back in the gym just set up some really realistic expectations and make it more about just showing up and doing the work consistently and less about, some sort of imagined perceived performance that they have to be able to do or else this is just a waste of time. Like, you got to find the journey. What you’re there for? It’s should really be no expectations when it comes to fitness.
Why Having a Good Coach is Important for New and Existing Clients
James Cerbie: For sure. And I would say I think that those expectations, that’s why they’re having a good coach is so important because you have enough experience as an athlete that you can set those parameters for yourself really well. But for the people walking in the door who are maybe a little bit too frightened to actually be in the gym or this is like way outside their comfort zone, they don’t know themselves that well. That’s where having a coach is so important because the coach can help set those expectations and the standards. And here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s the thought process. Here’s what we’re going to focus on right now. And the coach can define the range and what we’re going to define as wins. Right. And so, I think that’s another important point to bring in here, like the value of a coach. And this is enormous.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yes. And then a conversation that happens with that coach. I have an athlete I coached yesterday that, we’ve had multiple conversations; she wants to feel good outside the gym. She bikes a lot, she skis a lot. We’re doing overhead squats. Her form is looking great. You want to put on some more weight, that’s looking pretty easy. What do you want to do? Because you’ve told me you like feeling good outside here. What you’re doing right now is great and you’re going to benefit from this. Do you feel like challenging yourself weight-wise or do you just want to walk out of here and feel good about having a good day? I want to feel good about having a good day. So, we stopped right there. And that’s because of the communication that she’d given me that I know to do that because I don’t have a dog in the fight.
I don’t care if she overhead squats one hundred and fifteen or one hundred eighty pounds. Like to me, if it were me, I’d want to overhead squat 180 because that’s how I’m wired. But that’s not a win for her, because if she throws some way, some extra weight on there and then, feel a little shaky and tweaks her shoulder and it’s just sore for the next two days, that’s not what she signed up for. Yeah, good. Coach. Well, we’ll keep you in check. They’ll keep you safe. And also, a great coach is going to listen to you and coach you towards your specific goals in the right way. So, the communication is huge, for clients like do some kind of deep soul searching, figure out what you really want and let your coach know that. If you don’t tell them what you really want, you start making progress. They’re going to get excited and they’re going to want you to make more progress and that’s natural. I mean, that’s what coaches should do. But not everybody wants that.
James Cerbie: Yeah, without question. So, I think a topic I’d love to circle back to that. You mentioned earlier when we were talking about the mental toughness bit is the separation and thinking of mental toughness as I can never express emotion. Right. Because I’m a guy. I’m a man. I can never express emotion. It’s not OK to cry. And I can appreciate that for sure because if you grew up playing sports and you’re in a locker room, that’s really pooh-poohed like it’s just that’s not really what you’re being trained to do. You’re being trained for the exact opposite. So, what are some things that helped you, I think, distinguish the mental toughness that we’ve been talking about from that idea of mental toughness is just never showing emotion, never crying, never doing any of those things.
How Emotion Fits into Mental Toughness
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, it was. And I’ve had some good role models in my life, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t totally down that path. I’ve seen coaches cry, and guys, I in my head, I was I’m like, oh, that’s really cool. This guy really loves his family. This is deep. But actually, I got to a point because I was like, so I was, trying to be like that at a young age that I actually got to a point. I don’t even know if I was capable of crying. Like, I watch a really sad movie and I feel sad, but I think I went two or three years at one point without ever shedding a tear. And I started to get worried. I was like, and this is like not good.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Kels comments all the time. She’s like, I’ve never seen you cry. And I’m like, Yeah, that’s true. It hasn’t happened. I haven’t really had anything that’s hit that threshold yet.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Yeah, so, I mean, just being, I think, more in touch with my feelings helped, just more open to that and talking about that. And so, the biggest thing to help me was just meeting my wife. I was in a pretty bad situation, for a lot of years, married for nine years with my ex. And neither of us were happy. So, it just it wasn’t good for either of us. Wasn’t any fighting or anything like that just kind of empty? But, without going into detail on that, when I met Ali, she’s very communicative, likes to communicate great. Asked me lots of questions, encourages me, opens up more about stuff. And there are a few times I was a blubbering, to her.
I kept so much inside that, I think being forced, not being forced to do anything but just being open to, like, talking about it and sharing. And then I see my children born was a big kind of pivotal moment for me. It’s just such an emotional experience. And then and so then when that happened, I kind of I like kind of grasp onto I was like, OK, remember this like to because I think a lot of it’s I feel, I feel sad. I watch a sad movie. I feel sad. Right. Like something sad happens in life. You feel sad. But I always try to keep the emotions at a certain threshold, like just not. And so, it’s hard like there’s this real fine balance with this mental toughness where there’s a benefit to that of not letting your emotions drive you. Like, that’s a lot of what you’re doing is keeping those emotions in check and thinking logically.
But I think I had to find a balance to where I am able to tap into those emotions, because I think that’s what I wasn’t allowing myself to do, is to feel emotions really fully. And so, once I realized I could do that, it was eye-opening. I was very like for me it was like very therapeutic when I finally, like, just broke down with how I think where I was telling her she should marry me because I had all this baggage. I had some debt I had to pay off. I just wanted to get all my stuff right before I, moved in that next chapter of my life. And I don’t want to drag her into the mess that I created. You worked for me at the gym. You kind of got a little bit of insight into it. I was way in over my head. I don’t regret too many things. But opening two gyms, I regret it in a huge way. I had a great thing with one gym I had a grasp on it. I had a huge impact on a lot of people.
I went and opened two more gyms and I felt like I was useless. I felt like I didn’t have an impact on anybody, and I was just dropping the ball everywhere. So, it was hard. There’s also a lot of good that came from it. I know our clients were still in good hands most of the time. We had great coaches. You like all our coaches really genuinely cared about people. But anyway, I just had this mess of a life I felt like and I didn’t want to bring her into. I was apologizing to her. That’s kind of hilarious, looking back. But it was really to just let go of that stuff and then move on. And she’s like, no, I love you. I want to marry you. So, whatever we got to do, we’ll just do it together. My previous marriage wasn’t like that. I didn’t feel like she was on my team 100%. It’s kind of funny to use those words.
But without it, it was like the first time I felt like, oh, she’s actually going to support me no matter what, and like I’m going to support her. And so that was I was kind of a breakthrough thing for me. But yeah, I think it’s I think especially like that advice for males, it’s I don’t know if I was even afraid, but, like, you have to try you have to, just like working on mental toughness, like you also have to learn how to tap into your emotions a little bit. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap of always bottling up emotions and being completely logical all the time. Everybody’s wired a little differently. I know some dudes who are super, super emotional. They don’t have any problem with that or, anyone out there, like, I think you and I are probably.
A little bit in this, you have a very scientific brain, very mathematical. It can be difficult, I think, sometimes. And so just look at that as maybe that’s a weakness of yours that you need to put a little time and training into it. I’m not saying I need to go to therapy or anything like that, but just maybe forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, a case for me, like it’s out of my comfort zone to sit and just have a conversation with my wife and just talk about feelings. That’s very uncomfortable.
Finding Time and Tools for Personal Growth in 2021
James Cerbie: Yeah, likewise. I would definitely throw myself in that boat. It’s funny you mention that because that’s one of my biggest priorities for 2021 is to work on that side of me in terms of my own personal growth. When I sit down and think of what are the things that I want to try to accomplish in 2021? Growth in that area personally was the biggest thing for me when I thought about what are some really good personal goals I can go after. And so, it’s something that I’m actively working on and pursuing in different ways like I’m going to be going on a really cool backpacking trip here. And in April it’s 10 dudes. We’re going to be out in the Grand Canyon. And it’s actually Michael Carey putting it on. He’s running these backpacking trips now, which should be pretty cool, but I’m really looking forward to it because that’s going to be, I think, one of those situations where I get out in nature, be on an awesome experience, going to be five days long, be surrounded by a bunch of just really cool, awesome other guys and be able to work on yourself in that way, which can be difficult to do.
And I think that another way to do it; my brother-in-law has a really awesome men’s group and Austin, Texas, and they meet once a week on Wednesday nights and they just get together and just chat and talk about like, how’s life going, how relationships, how’s business, how’s job stuff? And so, it gives them that consistent outlet to be able to have real meaningful conversations because sometimes that can be hard. Right. And you need to be surrounded by the right people, I think, to be able to pull that off sometimes and just be willing to laugh at yourself a little bit along the way at the same time, for sure.
Tommy Hackenbruck: That sounds awesome, man. And that’s, I think now more than ever, that’s really maybe this message is what needs to be out there more, because it’s been a year of a lot more isolation and there’s a lot of bad stuff happening because of it. It’s really unhealthy for us to be isolated and not communicating. And also, I don’t know, like occasionally, you’ll see headlines and stuff and sometimes things can be a little bit overreactive, but I find myself thinking like, man, am I just a piece of shit just for being born a man? And did I trust me? There’s like five hundred women who are ready to say, oh honey, you don’t even know how much shit we have to deal with.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but yeah, I’ve heard man, I’ve heard just too many sad stories lately of, of guys, I think just feeling helpless and in despair. And we’ve all been there in some way, shape, or form, some more than others. But again, we tend to bottle up those feelings and stuff. And so, I think that it’s good, sounds like you have some great resources. And I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing that stuff because I think more guys need to hear it specifically. And I think girls need to hear this, too, because they can, we’re all responsible. Right, for if we have a friend who’s struggling. We’re all responsible if we see it. We need to be able to get that person help. So just knowing that there are more things out there that might help some guys who are feeling lost or, just as hard man on a lot of unemployment this year. That really hurts everybody. But especially a lot of guys kind of wrap up their self-worth and their job and productivity and their ability to feed their family. That can be really, really devastating to somebody’s self-esteem. It’s just been a tough year.
James Cerbie: Yeah, absolutely. One of the biggest things that I want to do with Rebel moving forward, now that we’re slowly getting to a point where I can probably actually pull this off is for me, it’s always been about the community and the people who are involved. And so, as the covid situation calms down a little bit and I’m allowed to do these, I want to have more situations where we can have training camps or weekend-long get-togethers where it’s an opportunity for people in our community, guys, and girls, to come together and just be surrounded by a bunch of other really cool humans that are going to be on a similar journey as them that can help support them. And what they’re trying to accomplish. And I just come together for 48 to 72 hours and have a really good time. It can be a nice reset button for people because you can get in this groove of life to where, especially after 2020, you can start to feel really alone and your journey and what you’re trying to accomplish. And so yeah, hopefully once I actually can, I’m working on putting those together. It’ll be a little bit of time before
Tommy Hackenbruck: We’ve got a great idea. How about you bring one to Las Vegas once I get a jump up and down here.
James Cerbie: Let’s do it. I’m all for it. All for it. Yeah.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Laying some groundwork right now. So hopefully we’ll have a spot here in Las Vegas in the next six months. And we really want to put emphasis on hosting seminars. We want to really set up shop in, with a structure that we want basically fifty-two weekends a year booked with no different experts and seminars, stuff going on.
James Cerbie: Let’s do it. I would love that because the experience bit for me is where I’m going to spend the vast majority of my time simply because that’s where I think I can help provide the most value and give back the most for people. And in their lives, this is where it’s like I can get really bored pretty quickly, just talking sets and reps and how much weight to lift. Don’t get me wrong, I’m obsessed with performance and I think it’s awesome. But it would be a real I would be disappointed myself if I never took the scope of what we’re doing beyond, oh, well, how much do you deadlift? Right. I would be very disappointed if we couldn’t expand beyond that limited scope as a company. And what we do.
Tommy Hackenbruck: Are most of your Rebel Performance peeps train at home or do you have a pretty broad mix?
James Cerbie: We have a pretty broad mix right now in terms of people who are either at home or their gyms are still open. It’s entirely dependent upon what state they live in, to be honest. So, we do offer we have a lot of one-on-one individualized personalized training, but we’re trying to push more and more people into a team-based training atmosphere where you have a forum where you can connect with other people, you get to compete, you get to have fun to throw down. And so, it’s obviously not as good as the real thing in person. But I can tell you from being a competitive athlete for the vast majority of my life, that I miss the locker room. And my friends and just throwing down and having a good time more than I miss my actual sport, and so my goal is to try to recreate that for people remotely as best as I can. And then we have quarterly and personal meetups so we can bring that actual face-to-face component to the table.
Tommy Hackenbruck: That’s awesome, because, yeah, I’ve been in Vegas three years and really, I started coaching just because I missed it. So, started coaching at the gym here in September for two and a half years. I don’t really ever go to the gym and. I realize how much I miss it when I got back in here and just the relationships and everything else that you build and being able to celebrate successes and people and see them do well and yeah, that’s something that’s real. But I trained the entire two years, so training at home is great. I was very productive. I maintained my fitness. I did a lot of good things. I lifted some weights. But the social aspect and the community aspect are huge, and I didn’t have that at all. So, it’s been nice to get back into that. And that’s really a big key component of it. I think for anyone training at home, it’s great. And you’re getting the physical part of it. But there’s, I think, another huge part of it that boutique gyms can offer, and or really any gym can offer if you can find your group, your crew. So that’s a really huge benefit of gyms, which is why it’s such goddamn shame gyms are being shut down. That’s, I’m sure, go over that with other folks on the podcast. So, we don’t have to dive into that one.
James Cerbie: Yeah, my viewpoint on this, and people can disagree with me, but it’s just. Yeah, I don’t think that. You can tell a small business that they have to close their doors, especially now that we have more data on the mortality risk associated with exposure. It’s like how can you tell a small business owner that they have to close their doors? That’s the beauty of capitalism, right. All right. Open your doors. If people are comfortable, they’ll come. If they’re uncomfortable, they won’t come. Right. And then the business owner makes the decision of, well, is it costing me more money to have my doors open to paying the bill? Maybe I did have to close for a little bit. But, yeah, that is that’s another huge one that we could dive into. But I know that you have a class coming up here in a few minutes, so I want to make sure that we’re kind of on top of your time.
Tommy Hackenbruck: What are we got to cover? We got two minutes.
Where to find Tommy Hackenbruck
James Cerbie: Two minutes. So, in two minutes, let’s wrap up with where people can find you, more about you, what you’re doing. Just if they’ve listened to the episode. They enjoyed it. And they want to follow Tommy Hackenberg or potentially reach out and connect. What’s one of the best places for them to go for that?
Tommy Hackenbruck: Email is [email protected] It’s pretty straightforward. Feel free if anyone wants to reach out. Instagram is probably the easiest way; most people are on there. If you’re not on social media. Good for you. I’m very torn about it. But I have an account I’m somewhat active on there. So, it’s @TommyHacksaw. And if anyone sends me a DM or whatever, I’ll respond to it. And yeah, pretty soon I’ll be coaching here in Vegas and pretty soon I’ll be opening a gym here with a couple of other really good people. So hopefully down the road, if anyone wants to get in touch, just book a trip to Vegas and swing by and come do some training.
James Cerbie: I love it, that would be amazing. Tommy, thank you so much again for chunking out some time this morning and between all of your four-mile runs and limited sleep.
Tommy Hackenbruck: I just finished at 8 am. Get back a few minutes so I could get that last run.
James Cerbie: No problem at all, man. Really glad we got to connect. This was amazing. We’ll have to get together in person here soon. But yeah. Thank you for tuning in, everybody. Be sure to go follow Tommy and all the really cool things he has coming up here in Las Vegas.
Tommy Hackenbruck: All right. Thanks, James. Appreciate it. Good catching up.
James Cerbie: All right, there we go.
- Send Tommy an email here: [email protected]
- Follow Tommy on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/tommyhacksaw/
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