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Austin Malleolo: “You Might as Well Be the Hardest Worker”

Picture of Austin Malleolo

Sean (00:00):

Hi everybody. Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I talk with seven time CrossFit Games competitor Austin Malleolo. What’s the difference between a good athlete and a great one? An amazing coach. Well, the same goes for great business owners. If you’re ready to level up your business, book a free call with a certified Two-Brain mentor twobrainbusiness.com. Austin Malleolo competed at the CrossFit Games for the first time as an individual in 2010 and he took sixth place overall. He would make four more appearances as an individual before switching to team in 2017. Austin has also been a fixture on the CrossFit seminar staff. We talk about how his career as a personal trainer eventually led him to CrossFit, the time he got stranded in China and what possessed him to deadlift 600 pounds and run the Boston marathon in the same day. Thanks for listening everyone. Austin. Thanks so much for doing this today. How you doing?

Austin (01:07):

I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.

Sean (01:09):

My pleasure. How are you and everyone at your gym? Because you have one of the more well known gyms around the world at Reebok CrossFit One. How are you guys dealing with everything that’s going on right now with a sort of new normal?

Austin (01:19):

Yeah. I think like a lot of people are, you know, we’re certainly now in a stage where we’re nine, you know, gosh, nine, 10 weeks in, certainly here in the Massachusetts area of Boston and, you know, we have adapted to, you know, essentially a fully virtual offering, and really, you know, increased the scope of personal touchpoints, which is relatively ironic where, you know, we do way more—we have way more opportunity to talk to people and that’s really what people want. So we’re doing a lot more of that. We’re ready to see people and get back into the gym as soon as we can in the Massachusetts area, we’ll find out actually, you know, hopefully next week, but I doubt that we will be in the first phase as many places have different phases, but, you know, I think that—and then for our staff, you know, so I run Reebok CrossFit One, which is at the Reebok headquarters, but also have three other affiliates.

Austin (02:21):

And so, you know,you know, the biggest focus for me as an owner there is to try to, you know, how have we been taking care of the coaches and doing different things there, but also keeping them engaged in the community while they might be doing different things during this time to help take care of their family. So it’s sort of a never ending circle of what what’s the right thing to do. Do we know the right thing to do? But luckily as we’ve seen the community has been pretty amazing where, you know, our membership has remained vigilant to stay with us and know everyone, you know, across the board is faced with different things right now. But it’s nice to see a huge part of our community is still with us. And, you know, we’re looking good to weather the storm. The fingers crossed that the storm doesn’t last til, you know, winter, you know, you know, but if we can open up in the next couple of months, we should be pretty good.

Sean (03:16):

I’m curious, a lot of gyms have been doing the same things that you were talking about, more one on one stuff, you know, virtual classes, things like that. How much of that do you think is going to stick around when things get back to a kind of normal that we recognize?

Austin (03:28):

Yeah, I think it’s a great question. And I definitely think that if the virtual thing is something that really has, you know, I think every gym’s a little different with—some people really don’t like it, you know, as coaches and you know, this or that, but I definitely think that why wouldn’t you keep it around if it’s a product that your consumer base, your membership wants and that you can deliver. And so at the very least, I think keeping some type of virtual class is going to stick around. Something I think should—and really like the one-on-one, you’re taking a playbook out of an online business, right? So virtual business has been around for a long time, certainly in the CrossFit affiliate it was almost the antithesis of that, which is relatively ironic.

Austin (04:16):

Seeing how CrossFit started, right. You know, from a website, that’s how I found it. You know, I just went to crossfit.com and I read a workout, my coach was, you know, Glassman’s workouts and my poor interpretation of them for a long time, you know? And you know, so, I have a conference call with a few people or a one-on-one and they love it. It’s such a really good way to add value. Nutrition companies have been doing this forever, you know, with their online business and, you know, online programming, but then there’s online coaching, there’s life coaches, there’s mentors. So I think you’re starting to see that shift is that if people want that, why not deliver upon it. And I think, you know, you have your owners, you have your coaches, you have your staff, there’s a lot of time in a day that is for your people to really add some value, make more money, or you can get more value out of your staff. So I think it’s going to stick around. I do think it’s going to push a lot of coaches and owners to, they have to manage more. You have to, you know, which becomes a little more challenging. You have to be a leader a little more. You have to, you know, have your finger on the pulse where it’s easy when things are in front of you. Right. You have a class, things like that. This is going to become a little more challenging to manage for sure.

Sean (05:29):

What was your athletic background growing up?

Austin (05:32):

Oh, so athletic is an endearing term. I don’t think I was ever athletic, but I played football, hockey and lacrosse. Growing up hockey was my big sport. I loved playing hockey and I played, you know, into college a little bit. So, and like roller hockey, my dad and I built a roller hockey rink in our backyard and the house I grew up in. So, hockey was the big sport I liked to play, but I don’t think I was athletic. My dad told me, I’ll never forget this. You’re never going to be the best player. Never going to be the most talented so you might as well be the hardest worker. And that’s when I actually started working out. But, yeah, and then I played, I ran a little track as well. I went to prep school for a little while where you had to play sports three seasons. So, that, you know, looking back, that was probably one of—a blessing in disguise in the moment. You’re like, it’s a pain in the butt, but then you’re like, cool. I played track. I remember those experiences now.

Sean (06:29):

Why did you decide to become a personal trainer?

Austin (06:35):

So, you know, I’ll never forget, when I saw my dad do 70 push-ups and, you know, we’re in the basement of the house we grew up in and I was like, damn. And I was like, I can do that. Right. Like every punk kid says I did like two and I was like, so I was inspired. So then I to becoming the workout kid, just because I knew I didn’t want to be on the damn B team forever. I wanted to make the A team, you know, and so I started working out and then so I went to school for exercise science. Cause I was really interested in it, I really enjoyed it.

Austin (07:17):

And so during that time, when I was in school I started to, I was like, why don’t I just try to get a personal trainer license. Cause I could start training people in college. I don’t need to wait for a degree. I can do it while I’m getting my degree. So I got some type of personal training thing. I passed the test and I actually, I was in Portland, upstate New York. And as soon as I passed my test, I drove to the closest gym. I actually drove to every gym I could find. And every one of them turned me down, not one of them hired me. Cause they were just like, you know, I was a college kid with zero experience. So, but yeah, that’s how I started, you know, and I went to school for it and graduated with a degree in exercise science.

Austin (08:04):

But I ended up, I went home for a year and I got my first personal training gig, I showed up in a suit, my dad’s suit, and they looked at me like you’re the first—they literally said this, you’re the first person to ever walk in here for a personal training job wearing a suit. I was like, well, it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I got the job. So I considered it a good thing.

Sean (08:25):

So, before you found CrossFit, what were you and your clients doing for quote unquote fitness?

Sean (08:30):

Yeah, so I was the, you know, classic, you know, meat head, you know, bis and tris, back and chest, you know, legs and then, you know, abs every day type of deal. But when I was in college, you know, I was always, you know, I squatted and, you know, I worked out with the hockey team or the football team and those guys.

Austin (08:51):

So there was a lot of the more compound lifts and I was never the biggest guy, you know, 5’5 and 180 pounds soaking wet. And I would always try to lift with those guys. So I understood what it meant to work out with intensity before I even understood the concepts behind it. Cause I had to keep up. So a lot of my training with my clients was traditional, you know, hypertrophy, bodybuilding stuff, but I always did, you know, and again, looking back just, I would super set it or giant set it or do a bunch of stuff where they were always moving. One, cause I wasn’t a huge fan of just, you know, I wanted them to get something out of it. And I also wanted them to feel like, you know, I was always nervous and still am, anytime I do a one-on-one, which is rare now, that I want them to feel like they actually did something in that hour, half hour.

Austin (09:42):

So I wanted to, you know, for lack of a better way to kick their butt, you know, I wanted them to feel like, wow, that was a workout. So, you know, traditional more isolation movements, but in a circuit style of thing to get their heart rate moving. And then I felt when I found CrossFit, it sort of, it blew my mind cause I was like, this is awesome. I should just do this.

Sean (10:02):

How did you find CrossFit?

Austin (10:04):

So as I was at the gym where I was personal training, and I think if you’ve ever trained in a traditional gym, a globo gym, there’s always one trainer that’s like the veteran right there. You know, certainly for if you’re younger, it’s, you know, they’re like usually like in their thirties or forties, right. So in the personal training business, you know, going to be a little more veteran on the scene there, and they always have like a higher profile or two clients, or like the stories they tell, I’ll never forget, Eric was his name, you know, he trained like an Olympic snowboarder, like, Oh, this guy’s, you know, a guru.

Austin (10:40):

Right. And one day, and he was always doing like new things. And he was, you know, always well read. And he’s like you gotta do this CrossFit thing, Austin. I was like, what is that? I had no idea. And he’s like, Oh, it’s just, you know, type of fitness. And they have this workout called Fran. And it’s kind of like the, what’s your bench press type of deal. It’s like a test, you know, that everyone, and this was in 2008 or nine. And I was like, yeah, let’s do it. And he said, you know, told me what the workout was, 95 pounds and pull-ups. Like 95 pounds. I can, you know, single arm dumbbell press that you know, that’s light. And so I did Fran. And I think I did it in just about five minutes and I threw up into a garbage can.

Austin (11:19):

And it was funny cause when I moved my office downstairs in the basement where I am now, since I’ve been working from home, I just recently pulled, I found my workout log and I found and I wrote down my Fran time and it’s funny. Cause when I transitioned to look through like six weeks on, I have on a page, you have like shoulders and chest and then it transitioned to like, you see like Fran and you’ll see, like I wrote down like filthy 50, fight gone bad, 21159. You start to see different things like, Oh, like the transition happened over like a six week period from when I learned about it. And then I just, then I dove all in.

Sean (11:59):

Why do you think it hooked you?

Austin (12:03):

You know, I think like a lot of, certainly at that point in fitness for me, but you know, in that time in the industry, the monotony of just going to the gym and working out and a question I’ll never forget, a friend of mine asked, you know, why do you work out so hard in the gym? For what? You know, this is after college, I wasn’t training for anything. And you know, it was a question that stuck with me cause it’s a valid question of like, you know, what is your goal? What is your purpose? And for a lot of people in the gym, it’s like, you know, to look good or whatever it might be. But, and when I found CrossFit, it was devastatingly hard, and I loved that. Right. Cause you know, you become good at things and your routine, it just becomes routine.

Austin (12:46):

And certainly when it, you know, in that type of fitness of working out that I was doing and I couldn’t do things, you know, a muscle-up and it took me, I did it, I did it on the first day, but I sat there four hours attempting to get a muscle-up. And I finally got one and I was so frustrated and pissed and you know, but I got one, you know, and so all of these, it was hard. It was challenging. I didn’t even know what things were a snatch or a clean and jerk, no idea, I had to literally look it up and you know, so it really hooked me. And then I found the CrossFit Journal and then I found the CrossFit Games. And when I found the Games is when—I that’s, when I went head first.

Sean (13:27):

What was that feeling like when you said, I really think I can be competitive in this.

Austin (13:35):

So what I did was I, at the time, I think the 2009 Games were going on or right around that time. And so I was there leading up to it. So I bought the 2008 manual, right? Yes. I think I actually have it like a full maniac Yeah. Like I bought the manual from the Games. Right. So remember like all the, it pretty much was like a stat sheet of everyone’s stuff. And I was watching what their workouts were and I was like looking at them. So, and I was like, I think I can do this. Then I bought the movie Every Second Counts, and you know, the DVD came in the mail, you know, and the programs came in the mail. So the programs for the 2008 and the nine Games, cause at that point, the qualifiers were over.

Austin (14:24):

So they had the program done. And so I had those and I was like, I’m going to compete at this. And I don’t know why I thought I could. I had no right to think that at that time. And I went and then I was like, all right, well, what do I have to do? I have to learn more. So I signed up for my Level 1 and I had to get two credit cards to do that because they only gave me a $500 limit and it was a grand. So I had to get two $500 credit cards. I’ll never forget that. And then I was like, I need to learn how to Olympic lift because I don’t know how to Olympic lift. I signed up for coach Bergner’s CrossFit Olympic lifting seminar. And I just went head first. And that’s, I mean, I didn’t even know what a K was, when I first read the workout run a 5 K no joke. I was like, what’s a K? That’s where I was, just as a reference. Double-under. I’d never even jumped rope. You know, like I was like jump rope. Who jumps rope, you know, like I was just a complete idiot.

Sean (15:24):

And you wind up going to the very first Games that were held at the StubHub Center in 2010. What was that experience like competing at that venue in the sports infancy?

Austin (15:34):

It was like the world stage, you know, like you look back on it now and it’s funny, cause it is relatively laughable of the scale because you know, we were in the basement of the StubHub center right next to trucks and exhaust and they give us a cinch bag with a cutoff tee shirt and a water bottle, you know, and that was the coolest thing. Stands where, you know, a third, a fourth full, I mean, we did workouts in the stands with the wheelbarrow and all that stuff. And it was surreal because for me, I’ve been doing CrossFit for a year and it, you know, first off anyone to watch you do anything was unbelievable. So the fact that there were 10 people there let alone a lot more than that was unbelievable.

Austin (16:22):

And, I think every athlete that’s been in the Games, the first thing they often say is competing next to people that you looked up to, that you trained to compete against, but never thought it would become a reality. That was pretty awesome. Right. So I would look back, you know, excited that, you know, I had the programs, you know, I had every person’s best time circled and highlighted, and I figured if I can beat every person’s best time on each workout, I can win. You know, that was the rationale, but now I’m competing against them. So it was really special. And, you know, we did Amanda, you know, on Friday night, you know, just competing, like we learned, all of us learned how to do a muscle-up without a false grip in that workout, because the rings were so high and you couldn’t jump up to get the false grip.

Austin (17:08):

So we had no choice but to figure things out and you know, it was raw, but in the moment, you know, it seemed like you were on the biggest world stage ever. And you only have perspective now because of what the Games have become now. But it was amazing and, you know, just fun. And like, I was young, I went out there with my dad, you know, like, you know, it’s funny. Like for me, you know, have been in a sport for a good amount of time. It was kind of, you know, still, almost like a college sport at that point. Whereas now it’s definitely professional, but it felt a little more like, oh the family’s there. And like everyone’s family was there, you know? And I mean, I know everyone’s family cause we met them that year and we were, you know, we stayed in touch since

Sean (17:59):

Did you or any of your fellow competitors have any idea just how iconic that that locale would be in the history of the CrossFit Games?

Austin (18:08):

No, we had no idea, you know, and you know, we never thought it would get bigger because, it was never about money. It was never about pomp and circumstance or about, you know, like there’s a lot of fame now there’s a lot of, you know, you can make real money. You can be a professional, but back then, like we just did it. We loved working out and anything that people were willing to like, I remember when someone after that Games that year and people like we wanted to sponsor you, I was like, what? I mean, I just remember calling everyone like Reebok wants to bring me out. Like, this is amazing. Like, all these things and you know, everything seemed so surreal because nothing had been done before. We weren’t like playing football or basketball or things that were established where you kind of knew what was coming if you were able to make it. We were like, Oh, we’re just working out. And then that’s it.

Sean (19:09):

What then led you to become a member of the Level 1 staff?

Austin (19:14):

So, obviously I was a trainer and then I started utilizing CrossFit methodology in my training clients while I was preparing for the Games. And after the Games, I met a lot of people at HQ, including Dave and knew that Dave was in charge of, you know, HQ, you know, in charge of, you know, what I knew. And so I just remember sending, I’ll never forget, like sitting at my desk up in Syracuse was where I was living. And I was so nervous to send him an email and I just sent him an email. I was like, Hey, Dave, you know, thank you for the CrossFit Games. And you know, it was amazing, blah, blah, blah, blah, would love an opportunity to intern on the seminar staff. And he wrote back, he’s like, sure, these are the processes.

Austin (19:57):

And, you know, a little different now than it was then. And I was able to, you know, get an internship. And I ended up getting on staff that same year, which was so 2010, it was 2010 for me, was quite the pivotal year from so many things were happening. I had two internships and then I found out that I got on staff because you know, for those that are unfamiliar, you know, when you intern you have someone that kind of evaluates you, but they don’t make the final decision. You know, Dave and Nicole and others do, so I hadn’t heard back. And we went out to Lake Tahoe for the coveted Rogue vs. Again Faster throwdown. And Dave was out there. And I remember walking from our cabin. Cause again, the most surreal experience ever was like, we were in these beautiful cabins and walking to dinner and I’m walking next to Dave.

Austin (20:49):

He’s like, Oh, Hey, congrats. You’re on staff. And that’s how I found out I was on staff. And then I didn’t work my first gig until that, you know, until early 2011. So I thought they all forgot about me. I was like, man, maybe they didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know what to do, but I ended up getting a seminar and the rest is history there.

Sean (21:07):

I ask everybody who’s been on that staff this question. So I’m gonna ask you, what is your craziest story from your time working the seminars?

Austin (21:15):

Oh man, that’s a great question. And knowing some of the people that you’ve interviewed and I mean, I don’t think by far I have the craziest of stories. Cause we have some wild animals on our team, but I think one of the craziest, one of the craziest travel stories is when I got trapped in China, in Shenzhen, I’ll never forget it.

Austin (21:46):

And it’s crazy because for me, it broke me. So like, this was like, I’ve been traveling, this was a couple of years ago. So, you know, 40 weekends a year for, you know, for the past, almost 10 years. And you know, and I flew into Shenzhen and you know, which is outside of Hong Kong. And, I’m now trying to fly up to Shanghai and I just, if you’ve ever been to China, it’s very different traveling. And I think something happened in the Shanghai airport, shut it down. Of course they don’t tell you. And I was just in the airport and they’re telling me to go somewhere. And I was in the airport for like a day and a half and I had to get a hotel, no one speaking English. And I was just, I just felt trapped on an island.

Austin (22:34):

And I finally just did my own thing. Like I had to call someone that could speak Chinese to talk to the person. Like it was one of those things and in a small room and you know, everyone’s like, they’re speaking in Chinese, but again, if you’re familiar with Chinese, it gets very intense and you think people are yelling, but they’re not. It’s just the way they communicate. And I was like, this is the first time I’ve ever been in China. So my heart rate’s probably at 180, just at all times, it was so stressful. And then maybe when I was in Korea for the first ever Level @ and I got, and I was the flowmsater, the core supervisor with a younger staff and I had food poisoning and I had to do like, the responsibilities that I had, no one else on the team could do. And I’ll just never forget. I would give a lecture and I would sprint to the bathroom and just fall asleep next to the toilet in a very uncleanly gym, you know, like, and I just remember doing that. It was one of those moments where like, I don’t know how I did it. It was awful. Like you look back like, oof. But those are two experiences that I’ll never forget. And I’m sure there’s some other good ones, but those were the ones that almost broke me.

Sean (23:52):

Well, you competed up there in the old Northeast Regional then the East regional. What was it like throwing down with that talented group of athletes?

Austin (24:01):

Well, I think my favorite aspect of the Northeast, the East region is it was always outside. Even when it became even more, you know, like when they became very, very regulated, we were outside. And you know, what I loved about it was that it, you know, I’ll never forget when I first met Mat Fraser and he didn’t like, he missed it by a couple of spots. He had been doing CrossFit for like six months. Right. And he tells that story, like he just found CrossFit and just showed up at Regionals. And it was always close knit because we always knew, cause the Northeast is, and the East, we’re all really close. Right? Like, you know, you have New York and Massachusetts, you have New Jersey, Connecticut, like everyone’s right around.

Austin (24:47):

And I always, honestly, I think if you were to pick one person that really unified the Northeast, it was James Hobart because he’s a really nice guy and he always talks to people. Right. So like James would always like train with everybody and then he kind of—when we competed in 2010, you know, we would just stay in touch. We’d train once in a while and he’d do that with everybody. So I think the Northeast was always close from that perspective. We’d always throw down if we could. And then when we became to like the super Regionals where it turned into, you know, you know, Canada East and the Northeast, that’s when you saw like the level of competition, because that brought in, you had Vellner you had Trembley. And that’s when I think, and the Northeast was arguably one of the deepest regions specifically after Rich went team.

Austin (25:36):

So the Central East sort of the central kind of changed its sort of power dynamic there. But, it made Regionals the most stressful, awful time ever competing. But you also knew that like, if you could throw down in the East, you could throw it down anywhere. Even in the open, like if I remember like the depth on the leaderboard, there were people that would not even make it to Regionals that could have made it in any other region. So I think there’s a level of respect everyone had for each other because of that. Cause everyone knew.

Sean (26:11):

Hey guys, let’s take a pop quiz. Which is better for business: Getting new clients or retaining old ones? Both are good, but the longer clients stay, the less you have to spend acquiring new ones and the more money you’ll make. In fact, the average gym owner can add $45,000 a year in revenue just by keeping each client a few months longer. Want to learn how? Well you can with Two-Brain’s free guides to affinity marketing and retention. They’ll tell you exactly what to do with step-by-step actionable advice. Get them both plus 13 other guides for free at Two-Brain business.com/free-tools. And now more with Austin Malleolo. You took eighth at the CrossFit Games in 2012. What stands out to you about the way you performed over those four days?

Austin (27:05):

That year to me means more than—2010, I had no idea what I was doing. And I will tell you the most important thing that I learned from that year that I failed to do in 2011, that I did in 2012 was do well in the beginning. And that, and so I was lucky in 2010 where I think I finished like fifth or sixth in Amanda, which was our first workout, which allowed me to get into the last heat. And then so I rode that wave and I was like, wow, I finished. And it just, I just competed against the heat I was in. I didn’t think about it at that time. And then 2011, I think I finished like 18th or something. And I was, and I really struggled to get into the final heat in 2012. That was my goal and really every year is I knew how important it was for me as an athlete because I’m not the best at really anything.

Austin (28:01):

I just know that if I can be with some, if I can compete and be in a good mental head space, I can hang. You know, I always knew that. So that is the biggest thing I’ve always taken from those three years. I learned so much and that I had to stay in that final heat because I could always stick with them, cause you play up right. And in any sport you play up, you play up and I was able to play up there. And for specifically CrossFit, that’s really, really important because no matter how fit you are, when you’re in competition, you compete and the best athletes are the best, you know, and there’s no doubt about that. And even when you train, there’s a reason why everyone wants to train with Rich, train with Mat because you get better and you have to apply that same concept to competing. You can’t be afraid to be next to them. You have to want to be next to them.

Sean (28:58):

That was also the year of Camp Pendleton, which is, I think a pretty infamous day in CrossFit Games history. What do you remember about that long, long day?

Austin (29:07):

Yeah, the old triathlon, you know, it’s funny. I was nervous. That was the longest swim bike and run of my life in one event right there, everything. Cause back then we didn’t train like we train now, like again, I think it’s for perspective, like now everyone’s like running marathons and triathlons, which I love. We did CrossFit not to do that. Like that’s kinda what it was like, you know, that’s what we thought we were doing. Right. You know, we didn’t really know our history that well of how much coach Glassman loved, you know, biking and all of that stuff and swimming it’s like it was a pool, you know? And so I’ll just never forget one how open, I mean, I, you know, swim, there’s not a lot of open ocean swimming on the East coast, one.

Austin (29:54):

I’d never done that. I was scared. So I was so like, but strength in numbers. I was like, I would never do that alone to this day. If you’re like, Hey, go, go swim out in the ocean, no way would I ever do that. But with 50 other idiots, I’ll do it. You know? So I think that was one of the biggest things of I realized that I would do a lot, one if I’m told to do it by someone that I think is in charge and I have to be with other people, group think’s a powerful thing. I’ll never forget Lucas Parker being fully naked in the changing area because I was right next to him and like, and it was just, and that’s where we really learned about Lucas, no pun intended about what type of man he really is, a great guy, just a maniac.

Austin (30:41):

And just that run, right? Like just learning about, so I’ll never forget Pat Burke. I watched Pat Burke, cockroach in CrossFit. You can’t kill him. He’s been around forever. And I watched him beat, starting to beat every single person on it was like the 12th click run up the hill and I watched what he was doing. And he was doing Tabata and cause like I saw, he was like walking, running and I stole it from him from the back half. And I beat half, I made up a lot of room on the run because my swim was abysmal and the bike was very quick. It wasn’t that much of a bike, a single-speed bike, single speed, mountain bike, and Spealler cramped up. I’ll never forget passing Spealler when he was on the ground.

Austin (31:26):

And I thought two things to myself. I was like, either I’m doing really well or he’s really in bad shape. And he was in really bad shape, but I told myself that I’m doing really well. That’s how I emotionally got through the back end of that run.

Sean (31:38):

You have a great individual competition career, and in 2017 you made the switch to teams. So why was that the right choice for you at that time?

Austin (31:47):

So it was a really hard decision, personally, cause when you’re—there’s a bit of an ego when you’re an individual and you feel that you can do anything and it’s the coveted competition and there’s a lot to that. And I think, and I saw the field changing and I saw myself getting older. My life has changed and just getting busier working and things like that. And I also, for the first time

Austin (32:22):

really wanted to try to be a part of something a little bigger than myself, which was be a part of a team. Individually you represent a community, but when you’re a team of people that are coaches or members of a gym, which is what the team competition was back then, it was always different even like when we had, we always had a team go to Regionals and you know, that team was always the team. It was something that was very special. And so it was just the right time from where I was in coaching. And also just knowing that, when I started to question, do I want to put in six or seven hours a day, really, could I do it? And I was starting to fight some injuries, things like that, where it was just that, you know, the eyebrow is starting to raise like, you know, do I want to do that?

Austin (33:11):

And also am I going to scrape by and barely make it, or is injury going to come up again and I wasn’t ready emotionally for that. So I knew with a team, we could put a good team together and, you know, obviously and seeing what Rich was able to do, and Rich’s good friend of mine and you know, and just talking to him a little bit about that, of how much more he enjoyed that. And I think that was helpful to get some perspective. So going team, it was hard selfishly, but looking back, it was super fun and I really enjoy, and now even to this day, like the feeling of team training, I love, and it’s actually what led me to not compete when the team changed, because I really liked to—I like to train with people.

Austin (33:57):

So the team training was fun because you get a bunch of people in a room and you’d throw down.

Sean (34:01):

Speaking of that are your competitive days behind you?

Austin (34:06):

You know, I think it’s, yeah, it’s again, it’s safe to say that competing is no longer one or two in my list. And certainly since the competition has changed so much and what I mean by that is the format specifically for teams and even with individuals, how you would even qualify. It’s something that has become way more of an investment, but if you want to make it to the CrossFit Games as a team, you got to travel far and wide and find the right people. And so from that perspective, that’s a little beyond my scope of where I can put time and energy.

Austin (34:53):

So most likely, probably not going to compete again. But you know, I still kind of train like, you know, I’m trying not to lose as much fitness as you know, I don’t want to lose fitness. I’m definitely not training to, you know, set massive PRs and things like that. But I still try, I still train with a bunch of maniacs over Zoom and actually in the morning now I train with Paul Tremblay and Craig Kinney every morning, you know, five days a week. So we throw down. But you know, I think we’re all kind of in the same boat of, we’ve got a lot going on and specifically now, and, you know, we’ll train not to lose too much fitness and if an opportunity arises, maybe, but I don’t see that happening certainly with the landscape of competition now. And, it’s no one really kind of knows what’s happening.

Sean (35:40):

You mentioned massive PRs, in 2019, I believe you deadlifted 600 pounds and then ran the Boston marathon in the same day. So what motivated you to even contemplate doing that?

Austin (35:54):

Yeah. You know, and I think you kind of picked up on it. I liked to do things and, you know, I love to compete. I still love it. And so I was asked to run, I didn’t qualify for the Boston marathon, at my age group, that would be no, not gonna happen, but you know, so I was asked to run the Boston marathon for a charity so of course, which is funny because, you know, again, it goes back to, if someone asks me to do something athletically, you know, athletically fitness wise, I for some reason always say yes, right. And I was like, yeah, sure. I’ll run. I didn’t even think twice about it. And then I got to thinking, you know, and this comes back to Level 1s, you know, we talk a lot about in our what is CrossFit and what is fitness lectures, sort of what we’re training for.

Austin (36:42):

We want you to be able to have this 500 pound back squat and this five minute mile. And I thought to myself, you know, I think that if I’m going to run, I’d like to run a four hour marathon. And I feel like I could deadlift 600, which is about a 30 pound PR. And if I do that in the same day, I think that’s a pretty good, without specifically training for either. I feel like that’s a pretty good determinate that CrossFit is pretty damn effective. So I decided to do it. And you know, my longest training run was 12 miles and I maybe deadlifted, you know, I barely ever deadlift cause it’s a strong suit of mine. So I mean, I deadlifted up, you know, once or twice a week, if that, and you know, things like that, you know, leading up and I was able to, you know, I lifted 600 and ran the marathon about four hours and 20 something minutes. So I missed the four hour mark, but it was close.

Sean (37:28):

How were you feeling when you crossed the finish line?

Austin (37:34):

Those last six miles, it was awful. So painful. I mean, I was getting passed by what I would dub like my grandmother. Right. I knew things were really bad. I was so out of it, I’ll never, it was so painful and I expected it. I didn’t know what I was going to feel cause I’d never done it, but I knew I was going to be in a pain I’ve never felt before, because I’d never touched that before. But crossing the finish line was, it was one of those, I was like, I just, I was so happy it was over, you know, but then also it was one of those things like, you know, you did it, you checked the box and you don’t get—you don’t ever get that feeling with CrossFit because this is very different where it’s never like, you know, check the box type of workouts. CrossFit’s not like that.

Austin (38:22):

It’s, you’ve got to do the damn thing to finish your workout, but you know, for a marathon, it’s you just keep moving and. And the respect I earned for a lot of people, I think it’s easy certainly in the CrossFit community, even anyone outside the endurance community to think that the endurance community is, is I think it gets a bad rap certainly from—but the level of commitment these people have to train is unbelievable. And I hated it because it took—so I ran, I remember running 12 miles, like this is the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life. And this is, I fell in love with CrossFit even more in training because I was like, I can be so efficient with my time, but I also garnered such a massive respect for the wild animals that actually trained for that. So it was interesting.

Sean (39:20):

You mentioned James Hobart and the friendship that the two of you have. You guys are both behind the HAM plan, so first off, what is the HAM plan?

Austin (39:29):

So the HAM plan, you know, it’s an online programming platform. We offer everything from affiliate programming individuals to at home programming and it actually started so HAM plan, there’s sort of ends of the spectrum. It started for Hendel and Malleolo, but also, so Spencer Hendel and I started it, and it was great cause it was our initials. Spencer also loves rap music and ham was a Kanye West song, lyric going ham hard as A, as you could probably feel fill in the blank, just want to make sure our audience is age appropriate. So we have a PG version and then like a rated R version of the title. And about two years ago, James came on board and it fits great cause his last name’s Hobart.

Austin (40:20):

So we have a silent or invisible H and it works. Spencer and I started, we were training as individual competitors together and we’re very different athletes for those of you that don’t know Spencer, he’s like 6’2, 215 pounds. He’s very good looking. He’s an Adonis, you know, and I’m the opposite, you know, I’m like, I’m like a Hobbit, right? So, you know, 5’5, so, and people would always ask us, how do you train together? Cause you’re so different. And you know, we would just change or tweak workouts. He would do handstand push-ups. And I would do, you know, push press as an example, right? And so we created a program around that. And then as we really dove into our affiliates, opened up more gyms, one of our biggest issues was that competitors were, it became a huge trend where competitors were doing their own thing in gyms.

Austin (41:14):

And I just wasn’t a fan of that because as a gym owner, I had no one in my gym that would just come in and do their own thing. They always took class. We took class. We just did extra stuff on top of that, if we wanted to do that. So then we created our affiliate program to mesh with our competitor program. And that’s how we really started the wheels turning to kind of deliver a product that we really now we’re really happy with. And now it’s very affiliate focused. We have a huge individual program, but you know, most individual athletes are also at the affiliates. So we really like having that symbiotic relationship because, you know, we get the affiliate from the sense of how that can be a bit of a dichotomy.

Sean (41:54):

I ask this again, another question that I asked to a lot of people who were specifically involved in programming, but what makes programming good?

Austin (42:02):

So I really think the programming doesn’t matter. It’s how it’s applied. It’s how it’s done. Right. And I think so what matters about the programming is how it’s understood. And that’s something that is, you know, so what we always say is we want to drive results through understanding and that’s something that it’s, cause if I read a workout, right? And it’s supposed to have a certain stimulus on it

Austin (42:52):

and you don’t get that stimulus because you, it goes too heavy or whatever it is, workout doesn’t matter. So what I need to, as a programmer is to transmit that understanding of the workout to you. Now, what makes it even harder is if you’re programming for an affiliate, because now I need to, if you’re a coach, I need to have you as a coach, understand it so intimately that then you are going to then scale and apply that workout to your members appropriately. And so that is what makes programming so important. And that’s why it’s very challenging to deliver a virtual product appropriately. And that’s why you’re really starting to see the game starting to be really leveled up because you have to deliver so much to an affiliate, to an individual for them to actually understand it, to get the proper value.

Sean (43:47):

You are now a dad. So how has that experience changed you?

Austin (43:52):

Perspective. And what I mean by that is I used to hate the saying, you don’t understand until this, or until that. Being a parent, that’s true. And it’s not a knock on someone that’s not a parent, but you know, I’m a better manager of people. I’m a better leader. I’m a better business owner because of it, because now I, and I don’t know how you could properly manage or lead a team of people that have kids, unless you have kids, quite honestly, because I there’s just things I would never understand. And as you, as I’m sure you know, and the empathy that you feel for parents in certain scenarios. Certainly now where we see working, like working parents from home, you know, my wife and I, we both work from home full time and we have a kid at home, you know, if I didn’t have a child, there’s no way I would be able to have the perspective to have to properly manage and lead my teams that I am.

Austin (45:09):

So it’s changed me a lot. And also it’s, you know, it gives for me, I train as hard as I do sometimes now, because I still, I want to be, you know, like, and I know this sounds weird, but it’s true. Like, I want to be the dad when she’s older of like that, I could do anything that I want. My dad’s like 63 years old, he can do handstand push-ups and muscle-ups. And I work out with my dad. And I’m 33. I feel like my dad’s doing the damn thing and I want to be able to do that. So that part that gets me going too.

Sean (45:42):

Yeah. That was my next question actually is how has becoming a father impacted the way that you view your fitness?

Austin (45:50):

Yeah. You know, it’s, I view my fitness as one, I’m super inspired to never, ever stop, you know, or like it’s, cause you know, some Games competitors, when they stopped competing or like, or there’s off seasons, like no working out or like, for me, I love working out even more now. But it has forced me to work out in different, you know, working out is not my number one goal or priority where, you know, like even today, like, you know, Haley’s up from her nap. So this is an hour where I leave my wife alone with Haley, which means I know as soon as this is over, I run upstairs and I have Haley for the rest of the night until downtime. Cause my wife’s got to work out and do other things. So I got to work out first thing in the morning, so the priorities are shift and change. But it also highlights it. You just get it done. Like I’m not a huge fan of working out at five in the morning, but I get it done.

Sean (46:53):

Kids are like little sponges and I’m sure that you want to raise your daughter to appreciate fitness. So how are you incorporating fitness in the way that you raise her right now?

Austin (47:02):

Yeah, I always try to have her around, now that she’s a year and a half, a little older, so she’s mobile and aware. And so always around me working out when she can, so on the weekends, when I can work out, you know, after she wakes up, but I try to always, it’s just movement, where, and so like I always just try to have her around me and we’re moving, she’s on my shoulders, we’re squatting, we’re playing, we’re running around. It’s always, it’s just movement. And that’s something that I really tried to make sure that, I mean, maybe I created a beast because she never stops moving now, but you know, in the gym, you know, she’ll hang from the rings now, she loves it. It’s fun. And I think growing up, fitness was a punishment for a lot of us. If you played team sport, fitness was often a punishment. Fitness was never something that like, Oh, it’s like, dry land training or whatever it might be. And you know, my goal is to make it fun. Like I enjoy it. I love it. And so how it’s perceived as never a job. It’s an opportunity. It’s a good time. I think that’s a big piece for me.

Sean (48:13):

Final question. You have had a foot in basically every place you can possibly have it in the CrossFit world, but what has been the best part about your time involved in this whole world?

Austin (48:25):

Hmm. You know, I know it sounds cliche, but the people, you know, and to be honest with you, I think it’s really during this time where you know, where a lot of us are not around each other, I haven’t done a seminar. It’s the longest I haven’t done a seminar in ever, since I started, which is crazy. And it really, this morning I did a group of, I have a mentor group for CrossFit and we worked out together 8:00 AM and you know, it just made me really just miss people, not only my fellow trainers, but the CrossFit community, you know? Right after that, one of my coaches, his father passed away from COVID two weeks ago and we did a memorial workout in honor of his father and 150 people logged onto the Zoom workout this morning.

Austin (49:16):

Literally, I teared up when I heard, you know, my coach, GC, addressing everyone. It gives me goosebumps because that’s the biggest thing. And honestly, and that’s why I have gyms and do this stuff. And I love, and it doesn’t seem like a job. Yeah. I work seven days a week, but I have a hobby that’s dubbed a job and I love it. And you know, it’s a very special group of people, the amount of emails and phone calls I get from people I’ve never met that are asking for help, or just checking in or saying, thank you, I do a podcast. And they say, thank you for the inspiration. It’s like, they’re just so nice. And you know, it’s very easy nowadays to be overwhelmed with not nice and you know, and so it’s so refreshing. And I think that’s the, no matter what, whether you’re at the CrossFit Games, at the affiliate, you’re at a seminar, you know, it’s just, people are really awesome. And it does restore faith in humanity all the time. And certainly nowadays where it’s easy to get sucked into a dark hole. You know, it’s a really refreshing, refreshing community, even through difficult times.

Sean (50:27):

Austin. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, best of luck to you and your family. And I hope you’re out back doing what you love very soon here.

Austin (50:35):

Well, thank you very much. Thank you for the opportunity.

Sean (50:38):

Huge thanks to Austin Malleolo for joining me today. If you would like to follow him on Instagram, you can find him at @amalleolo. Make sure to subscribe and join me every Wednesday for inspiring stories from the fitness community and interviews with your favorite athletes and coaches. Miss an episode? Don’t worry. You can find them all in our archives at twobrainbusiness.com. Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Sean Woodland, and we will see you next time.

Thanks for listening!

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday. On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

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