Kenny Santucci: How to Learn Forever and Strong New York

Kenny Santucci is a coach, actor, and athlete who first gained fame in the world of reality TV. Now, through the Strong New York event series, he’s bringing together top minds from around the strength world to present and share knowledge under one roof. The Strong New York founder joins us to talk about building fitness experiences, the athletes who inspire us the most, and how we can turn learning into a lifelong pursuit. 

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Kenny Santucci and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • Moving beyond a reality TV show career (2:25)
  • Finding a love for heavy lifting (5:00)
  • The type of strength athlete that always surprises Kenny the most (7:00)
  • Who was Kenny nervous to meet? (9:10)
  • The growth of women’s strength sports, and why strongman still has so much potential as a spectator sport (16:40)
  • The beginning of Strong New York and bringing together different strength sports (19:30)
  • Looking for expertise in places many strength athletes might not frequent (22:20)
  • Taking risks and fighting the fear of failure (23:30)
  • Making a “fitness holiday” (26:25)
  • Dream speakers for future Strong New York events (29:23)
  • Learning as a lifelong pursuit in fitness and beyond (31:00)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

 If you are a strength athlete, learning how to get strong and getting those little tips and tricks from any type of athlete or any type of coach, can help you get stronger. The idea behind “Strong New York” wasn’t just physical strength. It’s also the mental and emotional strength.

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 and this podcast is presented by Barbend.com.

 Today, I’m talking to Kenny Santucci. He’s a coach, reality TV star, fitness personality, and endurance athlete, who’s also the mastermind behind the Strong New York event series. Kenny founded Strong New York to bring together strength athletes and fans of all disciplines to live together and learn from each other.

Kenny is a strength geek. He eats, sleeps, and breathes everything strength sports. In this episode, we talk about meeting your strength heroes, bringing together strength athletes and fans from all walks of life, and what Kenny thinks it will take to build the next great strength festival and events.

Also, I just wanted 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. Every month, we give away a box full of BarBend swag to one of our listeners who leaves a rating and review.

Kenny Santucci, thanks so much for joining us today. Here’s my first question for you.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

 Shoot.

David TaoDavid Tao

And this is something I struggle with. OK, are you ready? When I introduce you to people or I describe you to people, I never know where to start. Coach, marathoner, TV personality, host, emcee, what’s like the elevator pitch?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

That’s where I struggle too. Maybe I’m really bad at doing it, but I kind of leave a lot of that shit out and just whatever’s relevant at the moment or whatever I’m doing at the moment, that’s kind of what I say I do. Right now, I guess event coordinator or event creator is basically what I’ve been pitching myself as lately.

Obviously, my first love and passion is coaching and being in the gym. That’s been my thing since I was 13, 14 years old. The television stuff, I’ve kind of left behind me but people are always like, “Why don’t you tell more people about it?” I’m like, “I don’t know. It’s just not relevant at the moment, so I don’t give a shit.” It’s like what I used to do.

David TaoDavid Tao

Google is a hell of a thing though.

It always follows you a little bit. You meet someone and then the second time you meet them in between they’ve googled you. They learn a little bit of the back story. What’s your first response there? Do you have to come out swinging, and be like, “Hey, reality TV is not reality.”

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, obviously. I hope that parents are teaching their kids now, that nowadays.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Unless you read it on barbend.com, right?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Obviously. That’s the most reliable source out there. A lot of people ask me about television and shit that went on on television and everything. It was what it was. It was TV and it’s all at the end of the day reality television so we could put that all in the same box.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m curious because when we first met, we were both into…We met at a CrossFit gym. I think 2013 probably, maybe 2014, maybe even earlier. Maybe 2012.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci
  1. Yeah.
David TaoDavid Tao

You had a background more in the triathlon, marathon space before that. These days, you have very meshed in the functional fitness community, CrossFit community, you’re putting together events, which we’ll talk about in a second with.

Powerlifters and weightlifters and strongman athletes. When did strength athletics become an interest of yours? Because when I first met you, you were still training for the distance stuff, triathlons.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For sure. When I was on TV, it was more relevant to be a long-distance runner or more of an endurance athlete. When I did the shows, a lot of the final challenge and where you get to make the real money on the shows is through long-distance racing.

A lot of the final workouts, or whatever you want to call them, were day-long, two-day long runs or rocks through all types of shit, terrains and stuff. That’s what got me into doing triathlons and marathons.

I started doing that stuff in 2005, 2006, around there. I felt skinny and beat up. I never really liked lifting heavy. I’ve always been a meathead when it came to upper body strength.

David TaoDavid Tao

That was higher reps of curls and stuff, going for the pump.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah. When I was in high school and college, it was still pretty early and, obviously, Instagram wasn’t what it is now. There were so many people I grew up with who would never go to the gym.

I started going to the gym at 13, 14. I just became obsessed with bodybuilding and all that shit. I would take workouts out of men’s health, muscle and fitness, and muscle development when I was a kid, and do what they were doing.

It was always 10s and 12s kind of bodybuilding and stuff. That’s what I did. I never went too heavy. I’d never wanted to really crush myself.

Then, when I started doing CrossFit and strength training, it was all those 10s and 12s now became 3s and 5s. It’s heavier loads.

I started to really enjoy that, because it was something a little different. Everybody nowadays has fitness ADD. Everybody’s an expert because they’ve done one program, or they’ve done one thing. They’ll do a bodybuilding program and they’re like, “I’m an expert. Now, I’ll give you all this advice on this.”

But until you know what multiple programs feel like, until you’ve done it multiple times, you don’t really know what the outcome is, or what the results look like, or how that feels after doing X, Y, and Z.

I started, I’d say probably after I was done with the shows and I was like, “I don’t really need to run as much or do that stuff as much,” so probably 2010, 2011.

David TaoDavid Tao

You put together events that include athletes from all different types of strength sports and even some endurance sports. You have gymnasts, you have world record-holding dead lifters. You have everyone there.

By the nature of what you do these days, you interact with a bunch of different people in the fitness community.

I gt to do the same. It’s the best part of my job. I get talk to you. Yesterday, I talked to someone who’s an expert on metabolic flexibility. I might get to next week interview someone who’s a world-record holder. You bounce around and you learn a lot from a lot of different people.

What category of athlete or strength athlete, in particular, has surprised you the most, with what you’ve learned from them?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

I would say weightlifting, because there’s so much that goes into it. You have to be mobile, you have to be strong. You have to be dedicated, dialed in. For me, weightlifters are surprisingly dedicated.

Don’t get offended out there. Most of them don’t have great personalities, because they have to be so type A, because you have to go to the gym, do your shit, spend three or four hours there, take a break, and then go back and do more accessory stuff.

So, high level weightlifters are always type A. I admire that, because that’s not me.

I did a big event with Michelob a couple months ago. It was this big fitness event that we brought together all these influencers, trainers, and everything to Austin, Texas. Everybody said, “Oh, you know everybody.”

I geek out on this shit. I love learning about what it takes to be an athlete. I don’t like giving advice on stuff I’ve never done. When I do talk to people who do that stuff, I’m genuinely interested.

I’m also interested in the stuff that I’ve done, because I don’t know what somebody else’s path looked like.

I know what mine looked like, but to understand somebody else’s world, you have to indulge in what they do. Understanding where everybody lays and lies within the fitness space, and really geek out on their shit. I really do geek out on what everyone’s doing and how people transform their bodies.

That’s what drew me to the fitness space. I was really awkward and heavy as a kid. Watching and learning how other people transform or help other people transform is such a mind-blowing thing for me.

David TaoDavid Tao

As a fitness geek, what was your biggest fan boy moment when you met someone? You’ve met a lot of people in this space. A lot of them are your close friends, a lot of people who have massive followings and are really quite inspiring individuals. It’s just like Tuesday for Kenny, right?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

They’re just popping by your gym. Was there anyone where you were legitimately nervous to meet them?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah, I get nervous about meeting a lot of people. I do geek out on everybody’s stuff. I’ve watched a lot of people who no one knew who they were blow up, which is really cool.

Somebody like Alexia Clark, I met her when she had like 3,000 followers. Now she’s got two million followers. Somebody like her, to watch grow was really cool, the path she took, and what she’s done.

Hannah Eden, who will be at Strong New York, it was cool to watch her grow. There was a point where she had 8,000 followers, or something. Now, she’s blown up.

I knew her when she was just doing CrossFit. Now she’s like the queen of doing pump workouts and all this stuff that she’s been doing, these hit workouts and stuff, and she’s blowing up and she’s on workout videos and promoting equipment and stuff like that.

I would say, when I met Jason Khalipa for the first time, I met him at the CrossFit Games, and I just really admired what he was doing in the space, as a gym owner, as an athlete, as a father. You see all aspects of his life and I’m like, “Wow, I really, really admired what this guy’s doing.”

I still had my old gym at the time, so this was 2014, 2015. I went up to him and I was like, “Listen, I have some questions about business,” and he took the 10 minutes and kind of explained some stuff to me and I was like, wow, that was so cool. It gave me goose bumps just talking to him.

For me it geeking out on CrossFit for that longer time, that was the height of CrossFit, it was super cool. I’d probably say I was the most nervous when meeting him.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s interesting because there are those CrossFit superstars today that we can identify. The Tia Claire Toomeys of the world, the Matt Frasers, the Rich Fronings. Froning is now competing as an individual, but he’s still winning team stuff. He’s still the guy.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

He’s still top of his game.

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s someone who can attract a lot of eyeballs and interest, but before all of these, there were athletes like Jason Khalipa.

Khalipa won in 2008, I think, and he was kind of toward that top of the pack in 2009, 2010, 2011. Even before Rich Froning was a name in CrossFit, Khalipa was …

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Was the guy.

David TaoDavid Tao

…like the guy. We talked about geeking out when people meet Matt Fraser or Tia Claire Toomey. I saw someone break down in tears when they met Annie Thorisdottir a few years ago, because she had done so much to inspire them.

For those of us who were getting into fitness and CrossFit in 2011, 2012, Khalipa was that one. You meet him and you’d be like, wow, that’s the pinnacle.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

That’s the guy. He was the guy for some of the early adopters, some people who were doing CrossFit early on. What I liked about him was he was very Rockyesque, because we saw him win and we’ve seen him lose. He had holes in his game.

Nowadays, you look at guys, it’s almost like UFC. I got into UFC really early on because I wrestled all through high school and college. In the ’90s was kind of the growth of UFC and watching some of the guys who were like…

Because I was a wrestler, some of the best UFC guys still to this day are wrestlers. They’ve backgrounds in wrestling and to watch them rise to the top…They have holes in their stand up game, but the wrestling game was on point.

It was the same thing. You got to see Khalipa, he was a monster with weight, but then when it came to some of the gymnastic stuff, it looks like a big bear kind of transition.

David TaoDavid Tao

His nickname is, they called him the California bear. He kind of embraced that.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

If you meet him, he’s thick like that. He’s just as wide as he is thick. So it’s impressive.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing I love about Khalipa, he had those holes in his game. He wins the games of 2008. This shows you how big of a nerd I am that I can think back to 2008 and tell you exactly what happened in the CrossFit game.

He wins in 2008, which was a lot of like moderate weight barbell stuff. He has to do grace with 155 pounds. There’s no one in the world better than Jason Khalipa basically. They gave him a trail run to kick off the games in 2009 and he almost didn’t finish.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

That’s what I was going to say, you only drop dead on that one.

David TaoDavid Tao

It was literally like, do we have to? I don’t think they took him to the hospital, but if that would happen at the games now, they would definitely take him to the hospital, you know what I mean?

He battles back and ends up finishing top 10 that year after getting maybe last place on the run.

Now, you look at him in the last few years he competed as an individual in 2014, 2015, I guess it was, around that time, he was winning those endurance events. He was winning the half marathon rows. He was getting top three in those runs.

It’s like he had this huge hole and then suddenly …

 

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

He worked on it all.

David TaoDavid Tao

…not suddenly, but it takes him five years, and now it’s like, no one wants to go against him on the long pieces because he’s worked on it.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

It’s impressive because what I’ve noticed about him was, I almost feel like he’s got to work a little bit harder than some of the other top guys.

You see somebody like Frazier and Froning who they almost seem bulletproof. You’re like, “These guys can’t lose.” They mess it up here and there, but when you look back at everything they’ve done, you’re like, “This guy’s consistently on top of his game.”

David TaoDavid Tao

They always look composed.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah, yeah. They never lose their cool. It’s super impressive. It’s almost like you can’t relate to them. They’re like terminators, right.

Jason Khalipa was a guy where you’re like, “Oh shit, he only took third. Oh, he won.” He bounced around the leader boards so much.

David TaoDavid Tao

He looked like he was working for it by the way.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

He never had a workout where like Froning finishes a workout fist in the air, a quick wave to the crowd. Khalipa wins a workout, you’re like, “Is he going to get up? He might not get up.”

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

There’s a couple points where you’re like, “Oh shit, he’s in trouble.”

When you watch even like the last workout, I think was maybe two years ago, it was like a lunging workout, they had overhead kettlebell lunges or something. Frazier just blows past somebody as if it’s effortless for him. You’re like, “Holy shit, this guy’s impressive.”

You’ve seen Khalipa win a couple like that, but this was across the board, the two of those guys are just so impressive.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Who is your favorite strength athlete, doesn’t just have to be in CrossFit, but who’s your favorite strength athlete to watch these days?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

That’s hard because I love watching the girls. It’s so much more impressive. Think about it five years ago, six years ago, how many women were not doing strength sports, and how fast they’ve grown, how good they’ve gotten? Whereas, guys are always building strength, most guys. The guys who are doing really well…

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s been a cultural norm for longer, that’s certainly…

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

You mentioned like going to the gym when you were 13, 14, that’s like what a young man did, right? That’s not necessarily what society says the norm is or at least not what the society used to say the norm was…

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For whom?

David TaoDavid Tao

…for a woman at that age, right?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

I love watching any female lifters, weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, I love it. I think there’s such beauty in it. Watching the strongman stuff even as a kid. I used to love watching Magnus Fung, Magnusson, those guys pulling trucks and picking up stones.

I remember watching on like ESPN2 on a Saturday afternoon, I’m like, “This stuff is awesome, I want to do this.” Now watching anything…I love the Eddie Hall documentary. I love watching anything with Hafthor, The Mountain.

Those guys are just so impressive. It’s like watching heavyweight fights. You’re watching this monster, this mountain of a man moving just ridiculous amounts of weight that the average person couldn’t fathom lifting with somebody else helping them. I think that’s always super impressive.

Like I said, I love watching girls, any females, do CrossFit, weightlifting, power-lifting. It’s just impressive, because it takes strength both physically and mentally.

There’s so many women and guys who shit on other women because they’re like, “They’re too big, I don’t want to look like that. They’re too bulky.” I’m like, “They earn that.” For you to put them down that they look like that is absurd to me and I’m like, “I think it’s hot. I love that shit. I think the stronger the better, for sure.”

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Speaking of strength, you run Strong New York which is something we’ve chatted about recently and it’s an event series based in New York. New York based right now. I don’t know if you have plans to take it elsewhere but…

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I got to get it to work really well here.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a fair point but it brings together strength athletes, influencers, coaches, researchers, you name it, from different spaces in the strength world. Brings them together for a day of classes, workshops.

People can buy tickets and interact with these folks, ask them questions and basically you get to pick and choose who you want to learn from over the course of a given day.

You could in the same day learn from a powerlifter, and a weightlifter, and a biomechanics specialist and a gymnast.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

And a nutritionist.

David TaoDavid Tao

A nutritionist. It’s just there’s a lot of different options. You’ve put on thus far there have been two of these?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

This is going to be the fourth one.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s going to be the fourth. We’re recording this now in November 2019 and, in December next month, there will be the fourth ever Strong New York. The biggest one.

What inspired you or what caused you to say, “Hey, we can have events where we’re taking people from different strength sports, putting them in the same room and putting them in conversation.”

I asked that not from like a, “Oh, what inspired you, Kenny?” but more from a perspective of, “Oh, that’s why I started BarBend.” I was like, strength athletes can learn from each other and people who are interested in weightlifting might also want to hear about powerlifting and CrossFit and strongman.

For me, this is almost the events version of what BarBend, of what our team does online. I’m curious as to how that thought first crossed your head.

 

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

I love the saying, “Big isn’t strong, strong is strong.” If you are a strength athlete, learning how to get strong and getting those little tips and tricks from any type of athlete or any type of coach can help you get stronger.

The idea behind Strong New York wasn’t just physical strength. It’s also the mental and emotional strengths. Just like I was talking about a weightlifter, having the mental strength to go into the gym consistently every day and work on things.

There are days that you don’t want to work out. There are days that you don’t want to go to work. There’s days that you don’t want to get out of bed.

How do we find the strength emotionally, physically and what is that thing that gets us out of bed? For me, that’s the most important thing.

I don’t care what you do. I love strength sports. I love endurance sports. I love anything that gets people moving and that puts a smile on peoples’ face, and that’s what I wanted to create. I wanted to create an event where people could come and enjoy fitness.

There’s so many layers, when I talk about why I came up with it, it was almost like a perfect storm of all these things that I was super interested in coming together.

When I first heard about the High Rocks event, I’m like, “Oh, I love that. That’s something I’m good at. That’s what I used to do on TV. That’s what I like to do in the gym and there’s kind of a lifting component. There’s an endurance component.”

When I got the opportunity to partner with those guys, I’m like, “Oh, this makes sense.” I was like, “That’s a great balance for what I’m doing with…I have access to all these weightlifters and strength coaches and coaches in general. Coaches who do general pop fitness.”

I wanted to put them all in the same room and help everyone learn. Traveling around to different events, I mean for the past 10 years, I’ve probably been to every fitness event there is across the country, and the one thing I noticed, I was always getting on a plane to go there.

I’m like, “I live in the greatest city in the world. Why the fuck don’t we have a fitness event?” I want everybody…what was fitness in New York to me? There was a lot of boutique fitness here so I needed to get those guys involved.

There was a lot of cycling. It’s a pain in the ass to get bikes and stuff. Eventually that will hopefully be the evolution of Strong. We do a ton of running. People love to run here in New York, so I wanted to incorporate all these things.

Where I found the most strength was one, community, and two, a lot of just doing bodyweight stuff or strength sports and gymnastics. I learned so much from David Durante. He’s one of the guys who I have consistently come back to Strong because I’ve learned so much from him.

Joe DeFranco is another guy who…I learned so much from him. I followed these guys for years when I didn’t even know who they were. I was just reading about them in magazines.

When putting these events on, I was like, “All right, I want to learn from the people who have inspired me and who could I inspire?”

Even if one person walks away from the event with a smile on their face and excited about going to the gym or excited about life, then I’ve won. That’s, ultimately, what I’m trying to do here.

I’m not afraid of failing. If I lose the tens of thousands of dollars I put into this, I’m OK with it because, at least I’m getting up to bet.

When I first got on television, people are like, “What are you doing? You’re not going to be a television star or anything.” For me, I was very happy about where I ended up with television.

I got to host shows. I’ve gotten to do so much stuff. I felt like I did really well with it. I won a couple times, like I said I had my own show.

Then when I got into fitness, my family, my friends were like, “What are you going to do? You’re going to be a coach? You’re going to be a fitness expert? You can’t make money that way.”

Up to this point, I’m pretty happy about where I am. Same thing with this. People are like, “What the hell are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m going to give it a whirl.” I don’t even look at the other side of it. I’m not like, “Oh, my God, this is going to fail. It’s going to fall apart, and I’m going to lose everything.”

Fuck that. I don’t care about living in my car. I don’t care about moving back to my mom’s house. When people are afraid to fail, then they don’t take risks. If you’re not taking risks, if you’re not stepping up to the plate, then you’re never going to get a chance to hit. Step up to the plate.

David TaoDavid Tao

What about the events have you learned from the first three iterations, which were a bit smaller? Smaller venues, smaller lineups of people pre-speaking and presenting. What kind of feedback are you getting from attendees? How is that influencing how you’re approaching this event differently?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

The feedback that I’ve gotten was from the Jordan Shallows of the group and the Stefies. The fact that they come back and they’re excited about doing it is like, “OK, I’m onto something.”

When Hannah Eden just put up a post today about her coming and she’s like, “I was waiting for Kenny to give me the invite for this and I’m so excited I had to say yes.”

I’m like, “Holy shit, people are noticing this and they’re getting excited about it.”

There’s so many layers to why I think it works is because it gives all the fitness professionals a chance to mingle, get to know each other, learn from each other. It gets the everyday person a chance to work with some of the best in the business.

It gives us a chance to all reunite and collaborate and share ideas and learn from each other, as well as support a good cause.

I truly believe and I’ve said this to multiple people, there’s three ways I think we can heal the world. We’re not going to make it 100 percent but three things that really make me feel good. I know I’m not the only person in the world that feels this way.

Music, you hear a song and it just warms your soul. There’s something about a song you like where you’re like, “Makes me feel so good.”

Food, because when you’re hungry and you eat something you really wanted, or even when you’re just chilling on the couch having ice cream, you’re like, “Feels good.”

And a workout. A workout and food and music is something you would share with other people.

My whole mission is to create something where I could put all these elements together and have the best people involved, and have people look forward to it like a holiday.

When I traveled around, I’m going to the Food and Wine Festival here which was awesome in New York, and then I went to the Coffee Festival, and you go to a Boat Show and the Car Show and Comic-Con and all these events.

I’ve been to all these things multiple times. I’m like, “I need to do this for fitness. There needs to be one for fitness.” That’s what I wanted to create. I wanted people to come together and look forward to it and bring everybody together, especially New York in December. There’s no better place, Christmas in New York.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I want to push on this. What is the negative feedback you’ve gotten? What didn’t people like about the first few events? What did they want you to change? What steps are you taking to make those tweaks?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Just elevating the experience, trying to get more people involved.

I think my biggest downfall is that I haven’t been great about putting together some sort of video that explains the event more. Because there’s so many layers to it, and there’s so many people involved, that it’s hard to get that elevator pitch down perfect. I think that’s where I’ve dropped the ball a little bit with it.

I was talking about it yesterday with the guy who’s going to help me film a lot of it is a how video.

How do I encompass all this? The last couple of videos that I’ve done and the last couple of videos that I’ve shared, it looks like this meathead experience. People are just lifting, but that’s what gets people the most excited, right?

You’ve got somebody like Vas picking up 850 pounds. Everybody is deadlifting, from my mom who is 68 years old to Vas who’s…

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Just for the record, I don’t know who Vas is.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Vasiliy.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, OK. Vasiliy Polovnikov?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yes.

David TaoDavid Tao

OK, because not everyone…yeah. People listening to this, some of the names they might recognize, like Jordan Shallow. We had him on our podcast recently. He’s going to be at Strong New York.

We’ve actually done some film content with him at BarBend, but some of these other names…You said Stefi, I assume you mean Stefi Cohen?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

Some of these names, in certain circles in the New York fitness space, they roll off the tongue. We’ve got to contextualize them a little bit.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For sure. I got you. I’ll pull last names up now. That’s where I might have dropped the ball a little bit, and that’s where I need to tighten it up. That’s the feedback that I’ve gotten that people are like, “I don’t know what the hell’s going on.”

I tell people, “Just come and experience it.” It’s one of those things where if somebody tells you about a great meal, and you won’t fully understand it unless you try it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who would you most like to get at a Strong New York event, who you either haven’t been able to get in the past or it hasn’t necessarily crossed your mind that it was possible to get them to present?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

 I reached out to this woman, Wendy Suzuki, who’s a neuroscientist. She did an awesome TED Talk. I’ve read her book. She explores what’s biologically going on with the brain when you exercise and what it’s doing for you.

Having her do something similar to her TED Talk at Strong would be awesome. She was unavailable the weekend of Strong, so I didn’t get a chance to have her there. But she is definitely somebody I want there.

My grandmother passed away with Alzheimer’s about five years ago. My dad passed away in September of Alzheimer’s.

A lot of what I learned from the doctors and from her TED Talk and from her book, is that the better care we take of ourselves…

I’m not saying you have to look like Stefi Cohen or some bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m just saying take better care of yourself. At the end of the day, the people who are affected by it the most are not just you. It’s the fine people around you.

Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that it wasn’t really affecting my grandmother or my dad as much as it was affecting everybody around them. When I say, “Hey, learn about nutrition, learn about sleep, learn about working out.”

I’m not saying you have to make this your whole life or the only thing you do. If you tweak a couple of things and make a couple of things better, then you’ll make everybody else’s life around you a little bit better. That’s the underlying message.

Back to who I’d love to have there, somebody like Joe Rogan. I love listening to his show. I’m sure every guy does and every girl does. That’s why he’s got the number one podcast in the world.

He’s one of those people where I love his message. I love what he’s talking about. I love what he’s doing. Everything and anything he’s about, I listen to with open ears, open eyes, and an open heart. He’s really doing some cool stuff.

Eventually getting to the point where somebody like him is doing a half-hour talk and helping people understand. I’ve learned so much from listening to his show.

I was listening to “Drama,” Rod Durick. His cousin, he’s got a podcast. He had said something on his podcast and on his Instagram about how much he’s learned from listening to other people’s podcasts, and how much he’s learned from having discussions with other people.

That’s been my journey. I’ve gotten the opportunity to sit down with so many great people. The fact that Dave Durante was at Solace for so long, and we became good friends and…

David TaoDavid Tao

Solace, for those who might not know, is the gym where the first three Strong New York events were held. Now, you’ve expanded and you’re going to be doing it in a much larger venue.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

For sure, yeah. We went from 11,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet. It’s definitely a bigger space.

Learning from these people, you’ll never learn as much as they have. You take a little bit from everybody, right?

If you could leave Strong with learning from Dave, learning from Jordan, learning from Stefi, and learning from anybody and everybody there. Somebody you’re working out next to. If you could learn from everybody, if you take a couple of little pieces, then you’ve already become better.

Your day is enhanced. Your month is enhanced. Your life is enhanced from that moment on.

David TaoDavid Tao

Kenny, where can people follow along with what you’re doing, what’s going on, and what’s the latest with Strong New York?

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

On my Instagram, I share as much as I could. I should be better about it, but I hate talking into my phone but @kennysantucci and then @strongnewyork. We focused mainly on Instagram, because I think that’s where most people get their information.

Then we’ll funnel that to the website. Building a website and doing all that stuff isn’t my forte. I don’t have a big enough team yet.

Everybody’s like, “Oh, how many people are on your team?” I’m like, “Yeah, there’s two of us.” Eventually, we’ll get to the point where we get a fancy office like BarBend.

David TaoDavid Tao

It takes a bit.

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

I know, for sure

David TaoDavid Tao

Kenny, thanks so much for joining us today. I’m personally looking forward to not only the upcoming iteration of Strong New York but any events you all put on in the future, because I’m biased here as the founder of BarBend.

I absolutely love places, physical and online, where people from different strength sports and different strength communities come to share their knowledge and their experience. So, I’m a very big fan of what you’re doing there.

 

Kenny SantucciKenny Santucci

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.