Pro Strongman to Rock Bottom & Back Again (with Travis Ortmayer)

Today I’m talking to pro strongman and multi-time World’s Strongest Man competitor Travis Ortmayer. Travis rocketed to early stardom after turning pro and was on top circuits for years. But then a series of personal setbacks — including addiction — sent him tumbling toward rock bottom. I’m going to give an important warning here: This episode is raw in places and deals with issues surrounding addiction, recovery, drug use, and suicidal thoughts. If you or anyone you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide or self harm, please dial the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8.

With that said, I want to personally thank Travis for sharing his difficult and emotional journey, including battling multiple personal demons. He’s been at the top, at the bottom, and worked his way back up. Impressive doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Travis Ortmayer on the BarBend Podcast

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao and Travis Ortmayer discuss: 

  • Travis’ New Year’s Eve celebration (2:00)
  • “My whole world revolved around my workouts” (6:00)
  • Dropping out of school to pursue strongman full time (9:00)
  • “Living that fast-paced live, training the way I did, I was starting to burn the candle at both ends” (15:00)
  • Hitting rock bottom (20:00)
  • Pulling himself out of a dark place (23:30)
  • Rediscovering Travis’ passion for strongman (30:30)
  • The longest-ever gap between World’s Strongest Man appearances (32:00)

Relevant links and further reading

Transcription

Now, rather than having this negative momentum, I’ve got this positive momentum. I’m coming out of the shit. That was what changed my life. That was the most powerful thing I’ve ever learned.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest coaches, athletes, 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 Pro-Strongman and multi-time World’s Strongest Man competitor Travis Ortmayer. Travis rocketed to early stardom after turning pro and was on top circuits for years. Then a series of personal setbacks, including addiction, sent him tumbling toward rock bottom.

 

I’m going to give an important warning here. This episode is raw in places and deals with issues surrounding addiction, recovery, drug use, and suicidal thoughts. If you or anyone you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please dial the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

 

With that said, I want to personally thank Travis for sharing his difficult and emotional journey, including battling multiple personal demons. He’s been at the top, at the bottom, and he’s worked his way back up. Impressive doesn’t even begin to cover it. Now, let’s get on with the show.

 

Travis, thanks so much for joining us today. Joining me today. I say us like I have a whole team of people, but no, it’s just you and me. We’re just talking.

There’s all the voices in your head. We don’t know.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s just me, myself, and I. This is the first podcast I’m actually recording in the new year. Did you do anything to celebrate New Year’s Eve? I always like asking people this.

Oh, man, no. No, not this year. My father was recovering from a heart attack. We hung out here and kept nice and simple. Very chill.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s good. No one’s mad. No one’s trying to catch an Uber home when the price spikes. No one’s arguing over the check at the end of the night. I wish I could have traded places with you, to be honest. That’s what I’m saying.

Uber is cool, man. I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed it. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

For those who don’t know who you are, give us the like Sparknotes Version of Travis’s athletic career, because I can remember, basically you’ve been toward the upper echelons of the Strong Man game, but you didn’t just show up one day. Obviously, there’s more of a progression there and I’d love to hear about that story.

You want the story first, or just some of the bullet points of where I’ve been?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Let’s do the story. Let’s do this. Let’s do it.

The story, all right. I started working out when I was 11 years old. I was just bullied relentlessly in school. That’s the fat kid and I just moved from Southern California to South Georgia. I just didn’t fit in. Fat kid. Black kids hated me because I was White. The White kids hated me because I was fat from California. It was awful.

 

I would come home after school, and we had this little screened-in room on the side of our garage, and I would just work out. I mowed lawns one summer to save up enough money to buy a weight bench. That was it, man. It was $55. It was a Fighter Master 1700 from Walmart. [laughs] Then my mom was proud of me, so she bought the weights. That those plastic, cement-filled weights.

David TaoDavid Tao

I know exactly what you’re teasing. I still see them in old hotel gyms sometimes.

[laughs] Exactly. Those are classics now, man, but they came with dumbbells that did not have a barbell. One afternoon, I don’t know why I thought this was wise, but I went in the kitchen. I took my mom’s broom and I sawed the end off, and I tried to play it off like I didn’t know what happened to it.

David TaoDavid Tao

She was probably a little less proud of you after that one, right?

[laughs] I’m pretty sure I got the wooden spoon for that one.

 

I did years of training in middle school, high school. I did two bodybuilding shows in high school. They were fundraisers for the football team, and I wasn’t on the football team. Even though I was the only one in the lineup who knew what all the poses were, I didn’t make it top three.

 

I realized the subjective nature of bodybuilding at that point. Still thinking about doing it, but I moved to Houston right after high school from the Atlanta area. I started training with a guy, we started doing powerlifting. This is something I didn’t know about.

 

All I knew about powerlifting was the TED RCD bench record of 700 pounds because he was trying to sell me something in the back of the magazine. [laughs]

 

David TaoDavid Tao

He played that one. He leaned on that when he squeezed it for about all it was worth for a while there, didn’t he?

Actually, no, man. [inaudible 05:09] why not? Shit.

 

We did a powerlifting meet and we bombed out on squats. It was a big bunch of wasted money and effort. We had bought squat suits and bench shirts. He bought the bench shirt. I bought the squat suit, and then we shared them.

 

This is a funny disgusting part of the story, but when we were checking in, we were told we could not use boxers. We both had to go commando the next day while we were wearing the squat suit. Luckily though, I got to go first and he had to go after, with the sweaty suit. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

There are grosser stories in powerlifting. That’s relatively change. [laughs]

That’s absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. For a 19-year-old that was grosser.

David TaoDavid Tao

All right, so first powerlifting meet in the Houston area, you bomb out on squats, so you don’t even get to the next part of the meet basically?

 

Yeah, we spent all that time and money and it was a waste. I was actually at that point getting frustrated with lifting weights. I had been training now for nine years solid and I was going to school full time, I was working full-time waiting tables.

 

I remember this little thought coming up in the back of my head saying, “Maybe we should just focus on finishing school and work as much as you can save up a bunch of money. And we’ll just work out when you have time.” At that point, training was my life. I didn’t wait tables on Saturday because that was squat day. The whole world revolved around my workouts.

 

I remember that thought coming in. I knew I didn’t like it, but it was starting to gain a foothold. That’s when my friend came up to me and he said I’m going to do Texas’s Strongest Man. I remember thinking like, “Do you mean like those guys on TV? What? Are you crazy? We’ll never be that strong.”

David TaoDavid Tao

This is the same guy that you bombed out of the meet with?

That we did the powerlifting meet with, yeah, same guy. His name is Marshall White. He actually made it to World’s Strongest Man in 2009. He was in Group 2, so we both got a long way. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome.

I was going to go with him, and because I was his training partner, I was just going to help him out at this meet. Support him and be there.

 

Anyway, we’re driving up. Once we get there, he’s signing in and the promoter looks over me he’s like, “You know what? You’re here. Why don’t you sign up?” I was like, “You know what? What the heck?”

David TaoDavid Tao

Those were the old days when you could just roll up and they’re like, “Yeah, we got some spots.”

Exactly. There was no cap. He just wanted my 50 bucks.

 

 I was 227 pounds. I could have gotten in the lightweight division, but I wanted to compete with my friend. He was 275. I signed up to heavyweight and as soon as I said, “Yes, I’ll do it.” My buddy looks up and he stares me dead in the eyes with, “Man, I’m glad you signed up because at least now I know I won’t take last.”

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a great friend. What a friend. What a buddy.

I don’t know what it was. It meant something turned in here and this whole new gear of competitiveness I didn’t know existed, just came out with a fury. I barely slept and then we competed that next day. It was in Denison, Texas, which is right on the Oklahoma border. It was August 2nd, 2002. Hot as hell.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

I was going to say I’m sure it was just 105 percent humidity feeling that way.

 I think it was a 110-degree. It was on blacktop in the bank parking.

David TaoDavid Tao

My God.

It was awful, but it was the absolute most fun I’ve ever had doing anything in my entire life. I still get goosebumps thinking about that day, man. That day changed me. I remember for the next six months after that, all I could think about was Strongman. I dreamt of Strongman every single night.

 

That next six months I’d wake up thinking the farmers were in my hands. I wake up smelling the tacky. I was obsessed. [laughs] . It really changed something in me man. I had this clear path where I was going in life. I was going for biotechnology. I was going to start working medical field blah-blah-blah.

 

Then Strongman came in and it took this sharp turn the other direction. Stopped working. I quit my job shortly after that. Luckily, I had saved a little bit of money. It kept me going for a few years. The school started to fall apart pretty quickly. I remember I was going to take the semester off and that semester off was 21 years ago. [laughs] .

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a long gap. You know that’s a little bit of a break

A little bit of a break, man, but you know what? I don’t regret it at all, man. I followed my heart and I put everything I had into a strong man. It felt so right for me. That was 2002. It was a week before my 21st birthday.

 

By 2004, I was winning every competition. I did in the amateur ranks and I won Amateur Nationals, so I got my Pro Card. And then by 2005, I was already at the World Championships, so I was Rookie of the Year with IFSA 2005. [laughs]

 

Then if you don’t know what IFSA is, the IFSA and World’s Strongest Man, they split in 2004 and there was three years where they were separate. I did IFSA of those three years. It was definitely the harder federation.

 

I was going against guys like Zydrunas Savickas, Vasyl Virastyuk, Mikhail Koklyaev. Real heavy hitters. They were monsters, but it toughened me up because when everything came back together, I was at World’s Strongest Man in 2008 and I took fifth in the finals.

 

I took fifth the following two years in the finals, I was three times fifth at World’s Strongest Man. I’ve competed there total of five times with three more world championships with IFSA. Then I went to the Arnold five times. I was third twice and fourth once, but I had a broken ankle at that point, so proud of that fourth-place finish. The only fourth-place finish I’m proud of.

David TaoDavid Tao

Sometimes it’s when you finish right off the podium, right? Not that I have a ton of experience making strong man podiums, just to clarify, but it sometimes those were you just beat your own expectations and no one else really knows how much pain you’re in or the internal factors that you’re fighting.

 

Is that self-victory? Those really stick with you.

Absolutely. No second place is the opposite because you’re like, “You were good enough, but you just didn’t quite pull it off.” [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

I know, this might be apocryphal, but someone said he did a study of Olympic athletes. I’m not sure how true this is a survey. It goes, the happiness level goes gold, bronze, silver because gold, you’re obviously happy you won. Bronze, you’re happy just to be on the podium. Silver, you’re like, “I was so close.”

 

Yeah, that’s exactly it, man. [laughs] Third, your second place as the first loser. In those years, once 2005 happened, I started taking off all over the world and got to compete with the best of the best. I got to have fun. I got every trip paid for.

 

Looking back on my career, and there’s obviously a little bit more after that period, but I feel fortunate that I’ve gotten to do what I’ve gotten to do because I’ve been to 34 countries on someone else’s dime, six continents where I’ve just gotten to see so much, the world has to offer.

 

Then when you’re with the traveling group of gigantic men, people are nice to you, so everywhere we go, we get treated really, really. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a fantastic story, and I think that you also highlight there’s a level of camaraderie because at the top echelon, there aren’t 1000 people who are competing in all of these competitions. There are really only a couple of handfuls of career guys who are doing this. I’ve got to ask of those, who is your favorite to compete against?

Man, in my previous life up until 2012, I enjoyed competing with Mikhail Koklyaev and Derek Poundstone. They always seem to bring out the best in me. I had some really good competitions against them. They were both very tough competitors.

 

I know 2009 I was competing with Poundstone at American Pro Nationals, America’s Strongest Man. It was eight events over two days. By event number six, I think we were so far in the lead, we couldn’t be touched by the rest of the pack, but we just kept hammering the shit out of each other.

 

Neither one wanted to concede any defeat to the others. [laughter] Yeah, man. Now, coming back, it’s all new faces, man. There’s nobody left that I used to compete with or maybe one or Mark Felix is still around.

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s timeless. That man is…

Impressive.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah. There’s aging and then there’s Mark Felix, let’s be real here. I do want to ask, you say coming back. You say your previous life. There’s this two-phase situation you’ve alluded to. Talk about why that is a little bit, if you don’t mind.

 

I loved traveling and competing. I absolutely loved it. I loved training. I was a complete savage when it came to both and living that fast-paced life, training the way that I did. I was starting to burn the candle at both ends, and I just crashed at one point, I just broke apart at the seams.

 

For a couple of years, I was on painkillers and it started out with a doctor saying, “Well, you need these because you’re in pain and you could get better sleep, and you could train harder and blah, blah, blah.” and I knew in the back of my mind that that was not the case and I knew maybe, yes, I could get better sleep, but I knew it was not a good idea.

 

In fact, I think the second or third time in my life, this little guy back here threw up a red flag and said, “Now, this is a bad idea.” and I ignored it. Every time I’ve ignored that voice, [laughs] it has been disastrous for me because I ended up taking the painkillers and got addicted very quickly. I had no idea how that was going to be and that was a monster, man.

 

I hated that. I hated that because when you’re addicted to painkillers, when you are stuck on them, they don’t just numb the physical pain, they numb you mentally and emotionally, so my relationship started to suffer.

 

I had married a woman from England. We had a child in 2009 named after my friend Mikhail Koklyaev. We just started to grow apart. Basically, anything that could go wrong for me, started to go wrong in 2012. We had separated.

 

The actual worst day of my life was November 25th, 2012. My then-wife and I had decided we were going to move to England, where she was from. She was getting on a plane and taking my son to go to England and get set up over there, and I was going to sell the house.

 

I just knew that was another time that little guy back here was screaming at me and I didn’t listen. I just ignored. I said, “No, this is for the best. It’s what needs to be done.” I remember dropping them off at the airport.

 

My son with his, it was like a mater from cars, baseball, hat, and his little car’s backpack. He was so excited because he was going on an adventure, and I’m sitting here hugging him. I know that it’s going to be a long time before I get to hug him again. Everything’s screaming at me, man.

 

I watched him walk through the doors at the airport and that shattered my heart. It was the most painful thing I’d ever felt by far. I’ve competed on a broken ankle. I’ve been through some shit, but they pale in comparison to that. There is nothing like it.

 

In fact, it was so bad that I had to stop a couple of times on the way home. I didn’t know how to get out of this pain. I was hurting so much. I went home, and I couldn’t find a way out of it. I broke down and called an old friend who I’d known, had got into some harder shit. She ended up giving me some crystal meth. That was like pouring gas on the fire, man.

 

I was going to have a week. I said, “Travis, you got a week to do whatever you need to do, and then we need to straighten up and get your shit together and get over there.” That week turned into four years.

 

Not the way you want to go, ducking out is not the answer. One of the reasons that happened was after a few days, I realized I didn’t need to take the painkillers anymore when I was on the meth. I thought, “Well, hey, this is great. I can finally get off of these fucking things because I tried several times and that was miserable. That was awful.”

 

Here I found a way to get off, and I’m like, “I quit this. This is no big deal.” Except that the worst deal is a far, far worse deal. I had that monkey on my back for the next few years. If my life was going down slowly once the meth came in, it was like falling off a cliff.

 

It went from a steady decline to a vertical drop, and a perfect storm of everything that could go wrong did. My friends started to ignore me, my family stopped talking to me. I was trying everything I could, talk to my son every day, and my ex-wife was being very difficult with that.

 

I lost my passion. I had already lost my passion for training, and that’s where the last year leading up to this mess had gone. I was a mess because I wasn’t training. I was just miserable all the time. The reason I stopped training was because I was hurting so much.

 

I had broken my ankle in 2010 at the finals of World’s Strongest Man. I did it halfway through and I finished. Took fifth place, but then I started training for the Arnold just a couple months or eight weeks later, seven weeks later. It was horrible.

 

That’s the one that I ended up taking fourth place at, was the 2011 Arnold Classic but with an ankle that was still busted and it just me off and I wanted to take some time off, but my wife kept telling me I need to compete because we need the money, and so I kept competing. The more I did it, the more I hated it.

 

By 2012, I can’t stand this anymore. I don’t want to do it. I don’t even want to walk into a gym. I want nothing to do with this. That was that real beginning of the downward spiral. Then fast-forward beginning of 2012 to November of 2012 and my wife leaving and that’s when things just fell uncontrollably.

 

I was losing my career. I was losing my personal training job that I had as well. Then I lost my house. I played the game and I did a bankruptcy and I could keep it a little bit longer. I played this game several times, so I ended up staying in there for another two years without paying a thing. [laughs]

 

The whole time it’s stressful. You’re freaking out because you like, “I’m going to lose my house at any minute.” I’m living with that stress bearing down on me. I’m living with not getting to talk to my son hardly ever. I’m living with nobody talking to me. My family leaving me and this loneliness and this pain that you just keep trying to hide from.

 

At one point, it got so bad that I was finished, man. I was ready to be done. I was sitting in my bathroom and I tried to call my son and I got the voicemail again. Every time that voice would come up, it was like another knife to the heart trying to talk to my boy. I was ready to fucking end it, man. I was sitting there with a gun in my mouth.

 

The only thing that stopped me initially was I started to think about the aftermath and I thought, “That poor bastard that’s got to clean my brains off the ceiling, I don’t want to do that to somebody.” I thought about trying to find a different way that was a little cleaner.

 

That’s when I kind of nervous laugh, a broken man laugh, like “Why am I even thinking about this at this time?” I thought, “Well, it’s because I’m probably truly not ready to give up.” I said, I kind of broke down a little bit, and I was like, “I’ve got to find a way out of this.”

 

I remember asking myself in that moment, “When is this going to stop? When is this going to be over?” That little voice back here popped up again and said, “You’re going to start over?” I knew what that meant.

 

I knew that everything that I had gained throughout my life as Strongman was going to have to be torn down and rebuilt. I’d already done a fair amount of tearing down at that point. I was probably 255, 260 pounds.

 

As I thought about that and then I thought about my life that got me there, I thought, “What is going on? How did I end up in this spot? How did I get here?” I noticed a trend. I noticed that the more negative thoughts that I had, the more negative things seemed to happen to me.

 

I was going through it for years. I would come home and I’d had this little rhyme in my head, “I hate my life, I hate my wife, I hate myself, I hate everyone else.” I was just so astonished. That’s just depression, misery that hijacked your way of thinking.

 

I noticed the more that I thought about all the negative things and all the things that I lost, the more things that I’d lose, I said, “Wait a minute, let’s turn that around. Maybe if that’s true going this direction, maybe if I start thinking about something good, I could start going the other direction.”

 

It just seemed a natural progression for me. I said, “OK, let’s find one thing, one positive thing.” I’m still sitting there, put the gun down. I’m looking around, my bathroom is a mess. My house is a tweaker house.

 

If you’ve ever been to one, they’re nasty. They’re cluttered and dirty. I had shit everywhere that I was just stockpiling stuff. [laughs] It’s embarrassing to even say, but it was such a mess.

 

I’m looking around, all I see is this trash or I see memories of my son. I started spiraling down. I started thinking about everything that I lost. Again, I went, “That’s another trigger right there. Every time I see something, I go through this whole list of things that I’ve lost.

 

“I lost my house, I lost my wife, I lost my son, lost my family. Every time I’m sad, I go through this checklist. So let’s make a checklist of good things now. Find that one freaking good thing.”

 

I looked around, I couldn’t find anything so I gave up. I put my head in my hands and I looked down, I see my feet. My feet were a little torn up because I had been injecting meth for a couple of years at this point. I don’t know if it settles down in there, but you get this dried-out cracked skin.

 

I looked at my feet and I said, “You know what? They’re a mess, but they still work. My God, I don’t actually have to sit here and do this right now. I can get up, I can walk out of here.” I got this feeling, this surge of joy that came up in the back of my throat. It was the first time in years I had that feeling. It felt amazing.

 

I sat with it for a while. I thought about my feet. I thought about how I can get the fuck up and leave. I don’t have to be here and so I went to bed. I got up the next day and I said, “I want that feeling again.” I started looking around for something else. Let’s find something positive.

 

I said, “OK, Travis, you’re trying too hard. You’re looking for something too big. Go with something simple,” and I said, “I got my hands. I got my feet, and I got my hands. These hands are still strong. I could still go anywhere. I can still do anything.” I got that surge of joy again. That is the key right there.

 

The third day, I found a third thing. The fourth day, I found a fourth thing. The fifth day, I didn’t find anything new. I went back through my previous four, and that was where it really changed. Now I’ve got my list. Instead of that negative list, I had this positive list.

 

Every time I started thinking of something negative, I started thinking positive. Go through your list. I got my hands, I got my feet, I got my this, I got my that, that created the fifth day. Every day, I tried to expand upon that, but if I couldn’t. If I was having a bad day, I would go through my list.

 

I came up with a little trick. I would keep a little rock or a nut, something in my pocket, so that every time I reached in my pocket, that was my gratitude rock. I would take it out, I would go through my list. If I’ve got next to my phone or my keys, if I reach in there, I pull that out. Now I’ve got my gratitude list.

 

Now, rather than having this negative momentum, I’ve got this positive momentum. I’m coming out of the shit. That was what changed my life. That was the most powerful thing I’ve ever learned. I knew it was shaking things up, because the people that were around me at that time, misery loves company.

 

Well, they weren’t ready to get out of their shit. They weren’t ready to get out of their hell. Here I was making a move, it was making them uncomfortable. I remember this one girl, this woman said, “What do you have to be so grateful for?”

 

Well, that’s another one right there, because I’m making waves. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Travis, if you don’t mind. First off, thank you for sharing that. I think we have a lot of people on this podcast who are elite athletes, world champions, record holders, Olympians, you name it.

 

We see the positive and we often accentuate the positive of those journeys, but athletes, elite athletes, just like anyone else, can have those dips. They can have those values. They can have those very dark times.

 

In fact, sometimes I would argue people who achieve at those highest levels might be more susceptible to some of those deep pits sometimes.

Absolutely.

David TaoDavid Tao

Those people tend to have an intensity about them, and that intensity manifests in the successes and the triumphs in life. It can sure as hell manifests in the bad ways.

Yeah, it’s that addictive personality or that obsessive personality that can be used for greatness or absolute destruction. I was really good at being a strong man. I was really good at destroying my life [laughs] .

David TaoDavid Tao

I think that what I am really impressed about and really interested in your story. We’re going to have to I mean, unfortunately, I wish this podcast were longer. We’re going to have to have you on again if you’re down for it, to talk more.

 

I do want to hear a little bit about your re-entry into the strong man space and rediscovering that passion because I know it’s been, in the grand scheme of your career, a relatively recent thing, but you’re back on the radar. You’re back in the standings, so to speak,

 

I want to hear just a little bit about what it’s been like for you coming back to that community and reigniting that spark for competition and refining that greatness.

It all started with that moments of finding something good. I’ve been on an upward-trending slope, whatever you want to call it. I mentioned I was 227 pounds at my first competition, then I mentioned how I was going to have to start over.

 

I walked into the gym in 2016, cmpletely sober, clean. I had moved out to Reno. I went into the gym the first day I weighed myself, I was 227 pounds to the duct, to the pound [laughs] . Then it was an upward or uphill battle.

 

I had to… I trained. When you’re rebuilding a physique after taking time off, you have this thing called muscle memory. I’m sure everyone’s aware of that. You can gain the strength that you had very quickly.

 

That worked for me up until about 75% because I had destroyed so much tissue doing what I had done. So after that, it was a real fight to get everything. I trained for two years, then did my first Strongman contest.

 

I went from America’s Strongest Man 2012 to America’s Strongest Man 2017 was my next competition, a five-year gap. It was heavy. It was weird to go back. It was weird, especially with Champions League, because I had spent so much time with all the people in Champions League.

 

They knew all about me. They knew all the rumors. Everybody knew the rumors. [laughs] But true to Strongman form, the greatest bunch of people on Earth, everyone’s been welcoming.

 

Everyone has been supportive. Everyone has been…even when there’s I wouldn’t say bickering, but if there’s guys who don’t get along or guys who do get along, I’m outside of that.

 

I’m outside of all of that.

 

I’ve risen to this point where I’ve got this level of respect just because I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m friendly to everybody, and I try to pick everybody up along the way.

 

I genuinely want to see my competitors do their absolute best, that’s true as a whole strong man, most guys are that way, and it’s really because we don’t want to beat you when you have some excuse, I want to beat you at your best.

 

That’s the camaraderie of Strongman. When I came back, it was welcoming. I got welcomed right back into the brotherhood, it was really cool. Especially, World’s strongest man.

 

Now, I had a falling out with World’s Strongest Man in 2011, 2011 had an issue falling out. Then in 2021, I got invited back, it was a totally different experience. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

 

It was the massive welcome back just the support from all the crew, the way they handled everything. They did such an amazing job. I actually set a record for the longest gap between World’s Strongest Man appearances ten years [laughs] , you better believe I’m going to set the record for the longest gap between a finals’ appearances.

David TaoDavid Tao

Travis, unfortunately, we’re out of time, so I have to end on that note because I want that as a little bit of a teaser, right? Because your story is so interesting. Again, I’m so thankful that you shared not only the triumphs.

 

It’s easy to get on this podcast with any number of people who have done amazing things. You talk about, oh, I won this, I won this, and I won this, but everyone has their challenges. Sometimes the people who have the most success, they can go to the deepest, darkest places too.

 

I’m just so incredibly thankful that we’re kicking off the New Year and new recordings with something that’s a little different than what we normally do. It’s not all just the sunshine and rainbows sort of stuff. Sometimes it’s clawing back from that through the mud, through the gravel.

Clawing out of the darkness, yup.

David TaoDavid Tao

Man, there’s strength to push press a 400-pound log overhead. But there’s also strength to drag yourself out of a tweaker’s house and out of that dark hole. Man, that takes a whole different level of fortitude. That probably makes the weight seem a little less intimidating some days.

It does. One of the things that I learned is that I’m hard to kill. When you know that you’re hard to kill, it’s kind of liberating.

 

 I know that I’m a tough son of a bitch, any way you slice it. I think it’s taught me a lot. The whole lesson, life is lessons, a series of lessons, but it’s given me different sides of the same coin. I’ve seen different perspectives.

 

I’ve been at the top, I’ve been at the bottom, and I’ve been everywhere in between twice, which is something I carry into my coaching business because I’ve got a lot of different athletes. I’ve got a lot of different mindsets. I’ve got the guys who are on top of their shit and I got the guys who are trying to figure it out.

 

I feel like I can relate to everyone at some level. You don’t always know what somebody’s going. You don’t know how they feel. You can’t know how they feel, but you can understand what they’re going through, then give them space to work it out on their own and some guidance to work it out on their own.

 

That’s one of the things that I liked the most about coaching. Programming is great, diet is great, but getting that extra little 10% out of somebody that they didn’t believe that they could do. I love that.

David TaoDavid Tao

Where’s the best place for people to follow along with not only you’re competing, your competition career, your competing career, your competition career…Jesus, I’m an editor, come on.

 

Where’s the best place for people to follow along with that, and also the work you’re doing coaching?

The best place to find me is @travis_ortmayer on Instagram. I think it’s underscore, Travis Ortmayer. There’s only one of them.

David TaoDavid Tao

You can find it, their search function works. People can find it.

I check my DMs. I try to reply to everyone I can, and that’s a great place to inquire about coaching. I also have a website, travisortmayer.com or texasstoneman.com, my old nickname.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a great name. I’m glad you kept that URL, too. That’s a great one.

Yeah, I worked hard at that one. I worked real hard for that one. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Travis, I really appreciate it. I feel like we’ve only had part of your story, so I’d love to have you on in the future.

 

I’ll reach back out to tell the rest because there’s so much going on. I super appreciate you sharing, and Happy New Year my friend

Happy New Year, thanks for having me it was an absolute pleasure.