Brian Alsruhe: Lifting Through Rock Bottom (Podcast)

Brian Alsruhe is a champion strongman athlete who has overcome an astounding list of setbacks: two back breaks, a brain tumor, parasites, and a bone marrow infection, to name just a few. After finding help through the strength community, Brian is building a brand and gym around putting intensity and focus back into training to help more people lift through adversity. Brian’s story is unlike any we’ve heard before; this is one you won’t want to miss. 

Our conversation gets heavy in some sections. Brian discusses his experiences with illness and injury, including thoughts regarding self-harm. If you or anyone you know are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255 as well as online.

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Brian Alsruhe about:

  • Brian’s upbringing and introduction to strength athletics (2:42)
  • Learning strongman from the legendary Mike Jenkins, and fulfilling a promise after Mike’s tragic death (4:00)
  • Paying it forward in strength athletes, and how the community rallies around each other (9:04)
  • “I don’t know how much more beat up my body can get and still be productive in 20 years” (12:20)
  • Brian’s fascinating story of overcoming medical challenges and adversity (14:17)
  • Designing workouts around his medical limitations and “suffering beautifully” (18:08)
  • Finding help from within the strength community (22:00)
  • Why Brian’s dream training partner is “No One” (27:38)
  • How to put intensity back into your training (31:20)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Because the truth of the matter is, if you learn how to deal with the hard set of squats, then that bleeds over into other areas of life. Then you learn how to deal with the hard issue at work, which might help you deal with the hard issue at home, which might help you deal with that phone call you get at two o’clock in the morning where someone that you deeply care about, you have a real problem in your life now, and you need to learn how to learn how to deal with it.

 

If you haven’t learned how to persevere instead of just quitting when things get hard, then that could crash you.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today, I’m talking to gym owner, YouTuber, and Maryland’s Strongest Man titleholder, Brian Alsruhe.

 

Brian owns and trains out of NEVERsate, a strength facility dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in powerlifting, strongman, and sports conditioning.

 

Beyond that side of Brian’s life, he’s better known as one of the most transparent, and in some views, hardcore voices in the strength community.

 

Brian has also overcome some intense physical and mental obstacles to training. In today’s episode, we talk about Brian’s health battles, training recovery, his inspiring origins in the sport of strongman, and much more.

 

It’s an episode a bit different than any we’ve done before, with a guest unlike any we’ve had. A quick heads-up that some of the topics discussed are extraordinarily serious. Brian is very open about challenges he’s faced regarding mental health and well-being.

 

I do want to take a second to say we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to it.

 

Brian, it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast today. You have a very interesting story and a really, really interesting history in strength sports.

 

Tell us a little bit about how you got involved in strength sports because your professional background before that was counterterrorism, so how do you make that leap to where you are today? Who was your inspiration behind that?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Yeah, so first, thank you so much for having me, David. This is awesome.

 

I literally was listening to your podcast with Silent Mike right before we start recording this. I dig what you’re doing, so I really appreciate you having me on.

 

Yeah, my story’s an interesting and very unique one. The small town where I come from in Maryland actually has a ton of super athletes for lack of better term that win a ton of gold medals, or become professional athletes, or one of my buddies who I went to high school with, was Mike Jenkins.

 

Some of your viewers or listeners may recognize that name, and strongman because he got up to number two or three in the World’s Strongest Man. He was a fan favorite because he had such a positive attitude.

 

He and I went to high school together, and actually were personal trainers together, and training partners and things like that.

 

We ended up splitting parts because I went into counterterrorism, and he left to go to continue to pursue his strongman career as well as open a gym up in Pennsylvania. We’re both from Maryland.

 

We were literally apart for probably close to 10 years. Just every once in a while you get contact over social media, or text, or whatever. Pretty much like as friends do. You just separate, right?

 

Then I actually randomly ran into Mike’s very first sponsor who now is a huge part of my life, but I’d never met the guy before. He told me that he was going to have a Christmas party. He had seen me lifting on YouTube before, said he wanted to sponsor me for a strongman competition except I had never touched a strongman implement. I’d never thought about it.

 

He sponsored Mike Jenkins, and he said that he was going to have a Christmas party, and that Mike will be there and maybe I should show up. Catch up with Mike, and maybe Mike could convince me to do the strongman contest. I was like, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll placate you, and say that I’ll do that.” but whatever.

 

I’ll come to the Christmas party then I’ll see my friend. Except that Thanksgiving morning instead of playing on that Christmas party, we got the call that Mike had died.

 

He died in his sleep of an enlarged heart. That was pretty much a blow. Instead of going to a Christmas party, we ended up going to a funeral. At the funeral, I was sitting there and I’m surrounded by all these strongmen who…these guys flew in from Iceland, and all these crazy places just because Mike was such a good guy.

 

I saw an intensity in those people. I was involved in the mixed martial arts world at the time, but I just found out that I had a brain tumor. I couldn’t no longer get hit in the head anymore. Those dreams that kind of died, and I was searching for something with intensity.

 

Honestly, all that kept going in my head was when Mike and I used to train together. I always placated him and said, “Man, yes, I will do a strongman contest with you.” because he was always saying, “You’re going to be great at this. You’re going to be great.”

 

All that I knew about strongman was guys who were 6’8″ and 400 pounds. I’m like, “I’m not that. I’m not a big fat guy.” I’m not interested. I had no idea there were weight classes and stuff.

 

Anyway, I’m sitting at the funeral going, “I always told my friend that I’d do this. I never did. Here we are on the other side. It’s a promise that I never fulfilled, and that means a lot to me.”

 

They’re at his funeral. I turned — I was sitting next to a sponsor — and I said, “Sign me up for the next strongman contest. I never touched an implement. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it for Mike. I always told him I would. I’m going to stand up to that and do it.”

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had been lifting weights seriously for this entire time. It’s been part of my life since I was 13. It’s not like I was unfamiliar with stuff.

 

Literally, I got signed up. The weekend prior to my competition, I drove up to Mike’s old gym where his wife, Keri, who is now Brian Shaw’s wife — who is four-time world Strongest Man, awesome guy — but she showed me pretty much how to pick up an atlas stone and how to press a log. Then the next weekend, I went out and competed in my first strongman competition.

 

Then literally, about four months later, I quit my counterterrorism job because I was tired of being gone from home all the time, opened my own gym, strongman gym, and started learning about this stuff, started a YouTube channel. Now, I’m doing things that I never thought I would ever be able.

 

Later this week, I’m hanging out at Elite FTS with Dave Tate, lifting with those guys, being on this podcast, hanging out. Dave Tate’s a pillar in the strength world. I’m like, “I never thought Dave Tate would know my name.” Now, we’re hanging out.

 

Like I said, before this podcast started, I have no business being where I’m at. It’s just been the grace of a lot of good people. I work hard and things worked out after a whole lot of pain, I guess.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing that I absolutely love about the strength community, and this is, I think, reflected in your story is the fact that people are so giving. The first reaction you get from people is not what can they get out of you. They’re not asking for things. They’re offering things up.

 

I think some of that, in my experience, goes back to the fact that while these strength sports are more popular now — CrossFit is really popular now, weightlifting’s grown in the US, powerlifting is grown, strongman’s grown in the US — when you were first finding out about strongman and getting into it, it wasn’t like they were turning people away. It wasn’t like these sports had the luxury of turning people away, right?

 

The communities were so small, and I think you still feel that today. Is that something you still get today?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Absolutely. Also, now, I’m a gym owner, which I never planned on being. My whole life, I never wanted to be on YouTube. I’m such an introvert. It’s so opposite of anyone would have guessed where I am.

 

I’ve been able to literally — I’m trying not to name drop and be that guy — but I literally get to work with some of the strongest people in the world, a bunch of world champions. There are world champions at my gym. There are people literally who have moved from other countries to train at my gym that are best in their country.

 

The one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how big you are, to all the way up to Brian Shaw — who you can’t get bigger in the strength world than him — they all still need to do normal people things, because no one’s getting rich or famous in strength sports, right?

 

Everyone stays humble. You never get too big because even if you are the biggest world champion in the world, you know that it wasn’t that many years ago when you were looking for someone going, “Can you look at my squat? I don’t know what’s wrong with my squat.”

 

If someone did not help you along the way, you would not have gotten to where you were, and it wasn’t because you paid that guy or whatever. It’s because they were like, “Man, I’m just trying to help you out.”

 

I don’t think you forget that because no one has gotten big enough. I don’t know enough about CrossFit world, but I know they make more money than anyone in powerlifting, anyone in strongman. You know what I mean?

 

It’s a humbling sport. At the end of the day after everything, all you have is a broken body, probably not a whole lot of money, and stories that you can only tell a couple people that they’ll actually understand and appreciate, where the rest of the public will just look at you like you’re a psycho. You know what I mean?

You can be Ed Coan, and you still need to do some coaching. You still need to do something else. I’m pretty sure Michael Jordan is set. You know what I mean?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You got to have a little bit of crazy in you, especially in the sport of strongman.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

 

Yes, strongman beats you up. It does.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You start competing in the mid-2000s. What was this? Around 2004, 2005, you said, if I have that correctly?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

 

2014. I did a strongman contest over at my strongman gym and did my first national championship.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Got you. In the past say five, six years, what has your competition history been like, what are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what are your goals in this…We’ll get to some hiccups in a second here in the podcast. What are some goals you have as far as a competitor in this sport over the rest of your career?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

I would definitely say from 2014 to 2016, I competed a lot. I did every national championship that I could. I did national championships until 2017, I believe, when I got really sick. We’re going to get in that story.

 

Prior to that, virtually, every local competition that I entered was a first place, which led me to bigger competitions, which typically led me to first place, which led me to national championships where I continually get my butt kicked.

 

I wasn’t mature enough in the sport. I didn’t understand a lot of things. I was still learning how-to-do technique. It was really, really interesting. Some things that I’m most proud of are, I worked myself up to a 740-pound squat, a 735-pound deadlift, 505-pound bench press, 330-pound strict overhead press, 405-pound push press pretty easily.

 

Then I got really sick, which we’re going to talk about, and now I’m coming back. Now, my squat is probably about 720ish, my deadlift is probably about 720ish. My upper body, over the course of my sickness, I’ve had to have multiple surgeries through multiple things. I’ve a lot of nerve damage.

 

Upper body is coming back. Currently, my bench is probably around 405, overhead press probably about 275, with leg drive, probably mid-300s. I’m coming back. I’m coming back now. I think within the next year or two, I should be able to eclipse the numbers that I had before.

 

I’m really looking forward to that. Honestly, as far as competitive, I don’t know yet. Going through what I just went through really changed my perspective on a lot of things in life. One of which was, I don’t know how much more battering my body can take. I’m going to be 40 years old this year.

 

I don’t know how much more beat up my body can get and still be productive in 20 years versus what my logical brain is thinking, that hopefully medical technology speeds up. I’m just going to be completely fine, it won’t be a big deal. I’ll have bionic knees.

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] Yeah, we will all be bionic in 10 years, so it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t bank on that too closely, at least I’m not. [laughs]

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

 

I know. Good, but not quite as fast as I’d like to see.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s talk about the medical issues you were facing, the illnesses you were facing, because this is something…When I talk about an athlete, and I talk to an athlete about their medical history, about injuries, it’s something a lot of people keep close to the chest.

 

I get it. I totally get it. If you’re a competitive athlete, you don’t want to exhibit weakness all the time. It’s something that we all kind of, I don’t know if fall victim too is the right phrase, but we don’t want to show weakness, especially if it’s to our competitors or if it’s to the public. A lot of these things are really personal.

 

The medical issues you’ve gone through over the last few years, you were not only public about if someone asked you, but you put it out there. You put it out there on YouTube. When we were setting up for this podcast, you’re like, “Hey, here’s a video where I explained what I’m going through,” and that’s really fascinating.

 

A reason I’m really excited to have you on the podcast today is because maybe we’ll inspire someone who’s going through their own medical issues to be a little bit more open about it, to talk about it, be more public about it, and maybe find people who have gone through something similar, or just find that support that putting it out there into the world can get sometimes.

 

Again, not always the case. All that being said, let’s talk about over the last three, four, five years, some of the medical things you’ve gone through. Because it’s a fascinating story, and it’s not only just overcoming one thing or two things, it’s about overcoming a lot of things and figuring out how to train through that.

Yeah.

 

Where to start? [laughs]

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Where to start? I’m going to have to give you guys the quick, abbreviated, down and dirty version, because there is so much involved in this story and it’s been like…All right, here we go.

 

About three years ago, one day, I started feeling nauseous when I woke up. I wasn’t thinking that I was pregnant, so I figured it must be something else. Every single morning, I’d wake up and just feel like I was going to vomit, feel like I was going to puke. It would last for a couple hours and then waver off, and I’d be able to go about my day.

 

It continued to last longer and longer, and then it turned into vomiting. Then it turned into vomiting multiple times a day, and then it got to the point where I was throwing up 30 to 50 times a day, every single day, for two years.

 

My body weight went from 273, being a literally worldly competitive strongman, all the way down to 216 in a matter of months, and then it was more about what I could hold on to. I stopped eating. There was just a lot.

 

The most frustrating thing about it all was that continually, the entire time, I kept going to doctors and new doctors. I’m based in Maryland, so Johns Hopkins is right near my house.

 

That’s one of the best medical facilities in the world and all of those doctors are like, “We have no idea. You’re the most healthy, dying person we know.”

 

I have a family friend who is a doctor, and she worked night and day doing research trying to figure it out. We traveled to go see doctors, did everything, and for two years, just went through hell. It was absolutely hell. You know how you feel when you have food poisoning or the flu, and you can’t stop throwing up.

 

If someone speaks to you, you’re like, “Shut your face.” I don’t care what comes out. You can tell me I’m the most beautiful person in the world, and I don’t want to hear it, because I feel terrible right now. It was that. It was that every moment for two years. It was really, really challenging to say the least.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Training during this time was extremely limited. Your body weight’s dropping, you’re trying to hold onto what you can. Training has got to be an afterthought when your first priority is just getting through the day at this point, right?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Yes, it was, but to be honest with you, training’s been part of my life for so long and it’s such a mental thing for me, not like the whole, like “Oh, it’s a mental release for me.” I need, because my past, and I’m not even talking about my past in counterterrorism, but I’m talking about my past as a child.

 

I have some really traumatic stuff there that made me who I am, that made me get into counterterrorism, that made me get into lifting, all that stuff. I need to do something extremely hard every single day, mentally, physically. I need to do that or else panic and anxiety and things come over me. I need to challenge myself.

 

Literally, every single day, it was all about how long I could push. It was like to hurry up to fail. Most of the time, I could go 6 to 10 minutes before the puking would completely take over. Then I literally would have trouble coaching. I would have trouble speaking.

 

But I would get like a 10-minute window, and I was like, “Let me design my entire workouts around how badly I can put pain on myself for 10 minutes,” because I need this mental challenge. I need this physical challenge. Or I’m going to go home and I’m going to yell at my wife. I’m going to yell at my dog. I’m going to…You know what I mean?

 

My whole thing during this was about suffer beautifully. I’d put it on t-shirts. I stuck on banners. I did everything because what I realized is as I started telling my story and other people told me their stories, what I learned was no one really cares about anyone else’s problems. It’s not in a malicious way.

 

If you tell me that you broke your leg today, I’m going to be like, “Man, that sucks. I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do,” but the reality situation is that tomorrow I’m going to go on about my life. I might think about you, but how much is going to go on.

 

Once you start realizing that everyone is too old or too fat, or they have cystic fibrosis, or they throw up 30 times a day, or they have depression or PTSD, everyone has something and no one is special. No one’s thing is any better or any worse than anyone else’s because to you it’s a big deal.

 

Everyone’s suffering. It’s how you suffer. My entire message was just trying to get people to suffer beautifully. My training was just trying to pretty much promote that. It was a lot of suffering, [laughs] but I got through it and it was good.

 

I don’t know. Do you want to go into the medical stuff or where do you want to take this, bro?

David TaoDavid Tao

I do want to say, I want to get a little bit into that, but I have to say it takes a special person or it takes a special mentality to look back on two years of health. That’s exactly what it sounds like, and to say it was good. To say that there was good coming out of that.

 

Putting a positive spin on that is something that, only a strength [laughs] athlete will often do in that situation. Not to go too much in the weeds.

 

This isn’t a medical podcast. It might be like the “BarBend Podcast 2.0,” where we dive deep [laughs] into everyone’s specific medical issues, but give us the, if you can, the 10,000-foot view of some of the specific things you were going through. That’ll help contextualize for listeners exactly how extreme this got and then how extreme your recovery has been.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

All right. Within that two year period, I had five surgeries because my body started failing me because I couldn’t hold on to nutrients. Obviously, when we can’t hold our nutrients things break. I’ve had a lot of injuries in my life, a lot, but they’re all due to fighting like mixed martial arts background, my counterterrorism background.

 

They’re all due to that stuff. I’ve never injured myself lifting seriously that I needed surgery until I started throwing up a whole lot. Then when I couldn’t hold on nutrients, I tore my rotator cuff, which led to five different surgeries, a bone marrow infection.

 

Where I was averse to on house arrest for eight weeks, where four times a day I had to give myself four meals a day. It took me 20 minutes each time. I was at the Arnold with a PICC line in my chest, giving myself needles in between meeting people, and doing things.

 

I’ve literally been to over probably 200 doctors. I had to go through hyperbaric treatments where they lock you in virtually an MRI machine, except that they locks you like a submarine. They had to cut all the oxygen out. I had to do that every single day for two months.

 

It’s a plethora of medications that have made me sick. It’s been tough. Definitely mentally, darkest on my life. Definitely darkest on my life. I’ve always been a positive person. I’ve always been willing to face a challenge. I’ve broken my back twice like I mentioned earlier. I have a brain tumor.

 

I’ve had medical problems in my life, and I’ve always faced them and continue to train, and been through it, but this by far knocked me down the hardest.

 

After two years of going to doctors, and literally, everyone saying, “You’re going to die. We don’t know why, but literally prepare to die.” It was terrible.

 

After two years, Mark Bell…actually I saw him at the Arnold where I was giving myself those injections my PICC line, into my chest for all the antibiotics to fight the bone marrow infection I had at the time.

 

I saw Mark Bell, who I was a friend with through prior stuff, through my YouTube thing. Mark told me, he didn’t realize how bad my condition was until he saw me, and then he was like, “Wow, you’re dying, aren’t you?” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah, Mark, I am.”

 

Mark put me in contact with this doctor that deals with nothing but Special Operations personnel. She doesn’t deal with the regular community. She deals like Navy SEALs, Delta, people like that.

 

Some of my backgrounds, we go in the same type of places from time to time, which don’t have the cleanest water and things like that. Apparently, at some point, I had been in some water, I didn’t drink the water. It wasn’t anything like that.

 

I literally stuck part of my body into water that was dirty, and that worms virtually swim through my skin, got into my stomach, and it became something called schistosomiasis, which kills over 240,000 people in Africa alone every single year. They don’t know I may have had this for 10 years.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You had a long-standing parasite, basically.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Yes. It could have been up two decades because I had a kidney failure situation literally almost a decade ago. Still had no medical reason for, and now that they know that I had worms they’re like, “Well, that was probably worms.” The parasites have just been throwing medical stuff at me over the last decade.

 

The crazy part was a $3 pill, or a 50 cent pill killed the worms. Those worms aren’t part of my brain. I still have problems with seizures, and now I also have Lyme disease and a couple of other things from my previous application. I’m going to have to deal with probably for the next 20 years that I’ll continue to deal with. As of now, I am parasite free.

 

I am technically on the mend, and now I throw up much less. I’d say probably between 10 and 15 times a day now. That’s my voice sounds kind of fried and I need to keep drinking things.

 

It’s been a ride but now I’m back, I’m coming back so I feel great. I couldn’t be happier to be alive. The strange part is like you said, it was hell. I thought about suicide regularly. It was just always part of it because honestly that sounds like a weird thing to say.

 

A lot of guys are like, “Oh man, that’s weak to say.” and I’m like, “Yeah, you say that but next time you have a flu or food poisoning, imagine it not ending for two years.”

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Coming out of these two years of hell, something that I’m really curious about, and I’ve gotten the chance to talk to a few different athletes who’ve overcome medical issues. What does your training look like when you’re on the med? How do you reintroduce training at intensity, training with goals in mind after coming out of a period like that?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

For me personally, I’ve never really been about competition. I’m good at competition, and I tend to do pretty well but it’s not fun for me, and it’s not my motivation factor. I’ve never got into lifting so that I could win a trophy. I got into lifting because of my mixed martial arts background, and then counterterrorism.

 

It was always about being able to be as capable, and honestly, as dangerous as possible so that when a dare-to-be-great situation rose up, I would be able to answer the call instead of honestly someone taking my life or whatever the case may be.

 

When it became training literally for my life again except against the disease it just became what I needed most. It started out like I talked about, I never really lost the conditioning or a really hard mentally challenging 10 to 20 minutes session, which always involved some sort of random object.

 

Whether it be a sandbag, or a log, or an atlas stone, or sometimes even just a barbell. Doing a big compound movement just again, and again on the minute where I shrunk the rest times.

 

After that then it became about trying to gain a little bit of my strength again. I’ve always lifted in giant set form. I don’t do traditional straight sets of five sets of five or anything like that. It’s almost like circuit training except with bigger compound movements. Then I was able to start adding that back in.

 

Once I could do a hard conditioning, then strength stuff, then I started being able to do a little bit more assistance. Then after the assistance became more of a finisher, and now I’m able to kind of get back to training for real now. I’ve got it back on.

David TaoDavid Tao

You talked earlier when we were prepping for this podcast. I asked about training partners. A question I often ask people is, who’s your dream training partner? You got a great answer for that.

 

The answer was, no one. It’s the first time I’ve actually got that answer. You’re someone who prefers to train alone. Why is that? Tell us a little bit about your mindset there.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

 

Man, I don’t know how I’m going to talk about this stuff. I’m a complete jerk.

It’s not people can’t physically keep up with me. In order for me to push the way that I need to push, I go places inside of my mind that other people don’t go to. Not necessarily a negative spot.

I know a lot of people talk into negative stuff to liftings, like killing puppies, and listen to Destler music, and stuff. That’s not me at all. I listen to reggae music, Otis Redding, when I lift. You know what I mean? I’m all about positive vibes.

I go to different intense places in my mind, because I’ve had a very intense life. I draw upon different things. Even if it’s just about being as able to execute as well as possible, then I really need to focus on my cues, and I really need to focus on certain things.

When people talk to me, or people leave there, like, “Come on, man, you’ve got this.” I don’t really hear it, but I’d rather not be there.

When I’m in the gym, I’m always surrounded by people who really support me. They care about my success, as much as they care about their success. They’re my brothers and my sisters, and I love them, but no one does exactly what I’m doing. We don’t work out together.

I don’t do what anyone else is doing. When they’re squatting, I stop what I’m doing. It’s more important to me to watch them, and if they need something on there. I wouldn’t call it training partners. You know what I mean? There’s a team. It’s a practice at my gym.

The team shows up and the team practices. If someone needs something, someone’s there. For the most part, if you talk, you talk, but if I’m completely silent, silent all session long, no one looks at it like I’m always in a bad mood. People like, “He’s just in his thing.”

So much of my time, especially, coming out of that sickness. I mean to say that I would be crying, I’d be sobbing during my workout, out of thankfulness, sometimes.

I was just so thankful that I lived, and I was able to do something I loved. I work with a lot of adaptive athletes, who have lost their arms, who have lost their legs, or have some mental issue, or some physical issues, like Miles Taylor. Everyone knows Miles Taylor.

He goes to my gym. He has cerebral palsy. You watch Miles go every single day. Somehow, you look at puking 30 to 50 times daily, like, “Yeah. I got something too.” He’s got something. His isn’t worse than mine. Mine’s not worse than his. We’re just getting through it together. We’re trying to do it smiling.

When someone will come up, and be like, “Oh, man, my boss is mad at me.” At my gym, no lie since I’m the owner. We will throw you out, because there’s no need for that. Everyone’s dealing with something. If it doesn’t make us better, we keep it out of the gym.

Too many times in my life, a training partner needs a therapist. They don’t need somebody to push them on. They want to talk to you about their day or their job. I’m like, “Bro, I love you, but right now, this is about you getting better, me getting better. Let’s do that. We’ll talk after.”

It says five people do that. The people who do that, tend not to want those people either. They just do what they want to do. You’re there for each other, when you need each other. You’re more of a team. You know what I mean?

David TaoDavid Tao

What are some tips you might have for people who lack intensity in their training? Let me rephrase, for people who might have difficulty going to that intense place, or reaching that intensity?

 

Obviously, don’t check your phone during the middle of training, don’t treat it like the work water cooler, where you’re just gossiping between sets, because that takes your mindset out of there.

 

What are some things that people can do to be more present in their training, and to gradually level up their mental intensity during that training?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

A lot of people look at training like a chore, like something they need to do. I don’t enjoy training. Everyone’s like, “Oh you must love it.” I’m like, “No man, I’ve done it 25 years.” You do it because it’s part of your life. You don’t do it because every single day you’re like, “Yay, I get to go squat 20 reps.” That doesn’t happen very often.

 

A lot of people need to realize what a gift they have. Not only physically, because I deal with people all the time who don’t have their legs. They would die to feel the burn of a set of 20 squats. They would literally give up 20 years of their life to feel that again, because they lost their legs in an accident. When you see that, and you see it as a gift, then it changes a little bit in your head.

 

Number two, not only is it a gift in that way, but it’s a gift to push yourself mentally. There’s so many places, or so few times in your life when you get to really push yourself to a place where you either need to choose to persevere, or you need to choose to quit. It doesn’t happen in your job very often. It doesn’t happen with your relationships very often.

 

Very few times, can you put a weight on a bar and go, “I am going to do this until I literally, I’m screaming inside my head to quit. I will get the chance to make a decision how far I want to push this.” There are very few times in your life that you could do that with anything, other than physical activity.

 

Few people will go there because they want to avoid the pain. We live in a hedonistic culture, where everyone wants the pleasure, and they want it now. There is such beauty in suffering, and learning how to deal with hard things.

 

The truth of the matter is, if you learn how to deal with a hard set of squats, then that bleeds over into other areas of life.

 

You learn how to deal with a hard issue at work, which might help you deal with a heart issue at home, which might help you deal with that phone call you get at two o’clock in the morning, where someone that you deeply care about…You have a real problem in your life now, and you need to learn how to deal with it.

 

If you haven’t learned how to persevere instead of just quitting when things get hard, then that could crush you. It could make you be on Prozac for the rest of your life, or it could make you commit suicide.

 

You have a chance to build mental toughness every single day. Whether it be a set of push-ups, going for a run, doing a set of deadlifts, or yoga. It doesn’t need to be super hardcore. Anything can be hardcore, it’s just how far do you want to take it. You can learn from that every single day, and if you don’t, then you got weaker.

 

I get stronger every single day. Every single day, I get stronger. If I didn’t do that from the time that I was a young man, then when I started throwing up 50 times a day, trust me, I would have eaten a bullet. No doubt in my mind, but I didn’t.

 

I just learned how to focus on the next step, or the next second, or the next minute, or the next rep, or the next round, or the next whatever.

 

That’s how I learned I had to get through life at a young age. That’s exactly how a Navy SEAL gets through his training. That’s exactly how a chemo patient makes it through the next day. That’s exactly how you make it through a hard workout, except there’s not as big of consequences.

 

If you can learn it now in an easy thing like a Tabata overhead press. If you can learn it there, learn it there. Don’t learn it when you’re going through chemo. Be strong when you go through chemo, so that you can support your family, and you can live, and you can be prosperous, and you can suffer beautifully.

 

Learn it now when you’re healthy, when you’re happy, learn to suffer beautifully now. Trust me, time wins. You’re going to lose your biceps, you’re going to lose your deadlift PR. Time wins. If you don’t build something mentally, then you’re going to absolutely fall when things get hard.

 

It’s just, you have an awesome opportunity. I just hope everyone can take advantage of that because that’s the beauty in training, is you look back.

 

You might remember your deadlift PR, but you’re always going to remember some stupid drop set that you did with some guys in high school of 21 curls, where you’re, “I can honestly say that was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.”

 

You know what I mean? Those stupid workouts. Those are what you remember.

 

That’s, 50 years from now, when you’re in a wheelchair sitting on your porch because you don’t have knees, you’re going to remember those things. It’s not going to matter if you had a 705-pound deadlift or a 710-pound deadlift. It’s going to be the relationships you built, the mental things that you learned. That’s the game. I just hope people realize that sooner than later.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 Brian, thank you so much for joining us today. Where is the best place for people to keep up to date with what you’re doing and with your gym?

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

You can check out my YouTube, which is a pretty decent size, but I’m always looking for people. I do a lot of instructional stuff there.

 

That is just “Brian Alsruhe,” which is my name, which hopefully will be linked on here. You guys can just look it up and spell it out, but you’d mess it up. I mess it up all the time.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

[laughs] Yeah, It’ll be all linked to the show notes.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

 

Yeah, it’s not easy. Then also on Instagram, and everywhere else, you can find me at NEVERsate, which is never satiated, N-E-V-E-R-S-A-T-E.

If you just look that up, I am the only NEVERsate there is. I am also one of five Alsruhes in the world. It’s a made-up last name.

You look up either one of those things, you will find everything about me, online.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Awesome, Brian. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

Brian AlsruheBrian Alsruhe

Thank you.

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