On the show today, I have a good buddy of mine, Spencer Hendel, joining me. Fortunate enough to play at the highest stages of fitness, Spencer Hendel is an 8x CrossFit Games competitor, finishing 5th in the individual races and 5th in the team races. During his time competing in the Games, he developed a love for teaching CrossFit, leading him to start his own affiliate gym, which he managed for a brief period. Shortly after, Spencer managed a friend’s CrossFit gym before it was unfortunately forced to shut down due to COVID-19. Since then, Spencer worked as a part-time coach. Today, Spencer works at CrossFit HQ and travels frequently both within the U.S. and abroad to teach the Level 1 and Level 2 Certificate Courses. With a heart of wanting to make a difference and help others, in the summer of 2020, Spencer received his EMT Certification and immediately went into a paramedic program which he is currently undergoing.
Spencer and I discuss the variables and attributes that helped him develop his love for health and fitness. He shares what lead him to become the athlete he is today and how his move to Boston was the first big step and peak into his professional career in CrossFit. We then dive into programming approaches and how targeting weaknesses in training can help gain capacity in specific regions. Spencer also shares his programming approach of sticking to broad, general and inclusive programming in order to specialize in more than one area.
We then move to the importance in understanding the difference between doing CrossFit as an everyday training methodology versus training CrossFit as a sport to compete and become a top 1% athlete. For those who want to compete in CrossFit, Spencer gives a lesson on how critical it is to surround yourself with others who are better than you to push yourself to be the best. We transition away from the fitness realm and dive into the community-building side of CrossFit and how it creates culture and environment through competition. Spencer also shares a powerful message around what his plans are moving forward in helping and changing lives through emergency medicine.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [03:19] An introduction to Spencer
- [07:49] Why Spencer had so much success as a CrossFit competitor
- [15:25] Spencer’s approach to programming
- [20:30] CrossFit as a sport (for athletes) versus CrossFit as a training methodology (for the average person)
- [26:40] Spencer’s advice to those who want to become a CrossFit competitor
- [28:20] How CrossFit nails community-building
- [34:23] What Spencer plans to do in the future to change lives and help others
James Cerbie: Hi folks! Welcome back to another episode of Rebel Performance Radio. I’m really excited today to have my good buddy, a good friend of mine that I grew up with back in Charlotte, North Carolina, the one and only Spencer Hendel.
And, you know, one of the reasons I was so excited to get him back on was one he’s just an awesome dude. So, that’s a given. But in the sport of CrossFit, he was enormously successful. He went and competed at the Games in 2009, 2010, 11, 12, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, finished as high as fifth as an individual competitor. And I can tell you from firsthand experience, a truly amazing athlete and an even better human.
So, I was really pumped to get him on the show this week to dissect and talk about what were the biggest variables in his own mind, if he was going to be auditing himself. What were some of the biggest variables, some of the biggest reasons why he feels he was so successful in the sport of CrossFit, especially considering the fact that in the sport of CrossFit, he is a giant. He’s big. He’s got really long levers,
Not too many people that are 6’2”, 6’3” competing in CrossFit and doing really well. So, phenomenal episode today. We dive in and dissect what are the biggest variables that contributed to Spec of being successful in the sport of CrossFit, things that you should be able to steal, take and use immediately in your life and your training in everything that you’re doing.
I hope you enjoy. Let’s jump into the episode today with Spencer Hendel.
We are live with the one and only great and powerful Spencer Hendel. Spec, dude, thank you so much for chunking out some time here on a Thursday evening to just kind of catch up and talk shop.
Spencer Hendel: Thank you, James.
James Cerbie: As a back story for everybody listening, Spec and I grew up together way back in the day, played baseball together for four years.
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, good amount of time.
Yeah, back in the Charlotte Cobra days. Throwback and a half on that one. And then it’s funny because a lot of people know this, some people don’t. My first real passion in this whole strength and conditioning realm came because that summer we spent when your dad opened CrossFit Charlotte. That was a phenomenal summer because it was just, wake up, do a little something. We’d meet over at your dad’s place.
We’d train for one to two hours and then go play baseball at night. And that was the first time I really fell in love with training, with lifting, because before that I didn’t really have any care in the world for the weight room. But that was the one that I got bit by the bug real hard. And at that point, you were wrapping up in App State and you were already competing as an individual in CrossFit.
So, for people listening who may not know who you are, can you give them the quick rundown on who Spencer Hendel is.
Who is Spencer Hendel?
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of different faces. I wear a lot of different hats. My early fitness career I’m an 8x CrossFit Games competitor, competed as an individual from the 2009, 10, 11, 12. I missed 2013, 2014 and then ended up going back 2015, 16, 17 and 18.
2017 and 2018 were my two years as a team athlete and my best finish at the CrossFit games as an individual was fifth and my best finish as a team athlete was fifth as well. So, you know, I’ve been fortunate enough to play, if you will, at the highest stages of fitness. And that was fun. It was awesome. It was a great experience while it happened. And then kind of along the road of competing in CrossFit, I also found a love of teaching CrossFit as well and being able to explain to others how I do what I do and how other people should attempt to do what they want to do.
And getting that stuff across isn’t always the easiest thing as an athlete, but there are those few and far between that are able to both be very good at what they do, but also be able to explain how they do it and teach others how to do it. So, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that as well. So, I currently work for CrossFit HQ and I travel around the world, mostly the United States. Now, I don’t really get outside the United States very much anymore, but I’m teaching their level one and level two training courses where we basically teach coaches how to be coaches.
And once you pass the level one test and you go through that weekend, you can call yourself a level one trainer. And with that level one training certificate, you’re able to coach at a CrossFit affiliate or open up your own affiliate. And that’s what I do as far as teaching. For a long time after competing, I did owner affiliate. At one point in time, I got out of that and just started kind of managing a gym, one of my friend’s gyms, actually.
And since Covid happened, that gym actually got shut down. We weren’t able to pay the rent anymore, so we had to unfortunately shut that down. And then I actually started just becoming a part time coach and doing some personal training on the side. And I kind of took a step back and looked at my life and what I want to do with it. And, you know, in all honesty, I love teaching people things that they never in the million years thought that they could do.
I love the look on their face when they do something that they never believed in themselves that they could do. And I think that that’s a cool thing to see. And I think it’s a cool thing to be able to, for lack of a better word, change somebody’s life for the better. And while that’s been my goal and then what I do as far as the fitness world, for the longest time, I kind of thought about where else could I make a real change in the world and change in individuals?
And I started going down the emergency medical route and I got my EMT certification back in the summer of 2020 and then immediately went into a paramedic program. So, now that’s where I find myself in the middle of the paramedic program and I’m actually pretty pumped and pretty jazzed up about where life has taken me and where I am right now. And, you know, I had my fun in the fitness world, and I don’t ever intend on stopping that stuff.
I always intend on doing CrossFit and having some involvement and CrossFit and doing the level one, level two seminars. But now I think a majority of my life is going to revolve around literally saving somebody’s life.
James Cerbie: That’s huge. That’s awesome. I love that for you. That’s great. Fantastic, dude. So, I would love to maybe rewind back a few years, back in those early CrossFit days and you think about your career there as a competitor. If you are going to audit yourself, what are some of the things or some of the attributes, some of the variables that you felt allowed you to be really successful there as a competitor? Right. Because you’re a phenomenal athlete. And in the CrossFit realm, you are an absolute giant, right. You’re already a big dude. But then in the CrossFit realm, especially when you consider how long your levers are, you’re a giant and you were very successful for a very long period of time in an incredibly competitive sport. So, I’d love to know if you’re auditing yourself, what are some of the reasons why you think you had that success?
The Attributes and Variables That Lead Spencer to His Success in CrossFit
Spencer Hendel: I think there’s a lot of things that allowed me to succeed in the manner that I did. My father was a big part of that, as you said earlier, and how you got into fitness. I think that from a very young age, he got me into fitness, got me into weightlifting, got me into just the love of being in shape and working hard for what you wanted. I was always taught from a very young age that you can achieve things; you just have to work hard at it.
As my dad always did when he was younger and as what he did growing up. So, I’m very fortunate that he taught me those life lessons early on in my childhood and throughout my athletic career, as well as just my own being, which was very, very important to that. I’ve also had a lot of really good coaches. I learned Olympic lifting, not only from my dad and from some football players growing up, but also Coach Mike Bergner, who is a CrossFit Olympic lifting specialist now, but a very great Olympic lifting coach.
I learned from him. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of teaching sessions with him and learn everything I could, absorb everything I could from him. Another Olympic lifting specialist, Chad Vaughn. I learned a lot from him. Carl Paoli, which is a gymnastics specialist. I’m leaving some other gymnastics specialists out. But yeah, so I’ve been fortunate enough with a lot of really good coaches. And then on top of the coaches, the athletes that I’ve trained with when I moved up to Boston. Well, I mean, even backtrack before I got to Boston, when I was in school at Appalachian State, like you mentioned, and I didn’t really have anyone to train with.
I had friends that casually did CrossFit and would try to push me as much as they could. But it was hard to train for the Games specifically because I didn’t have anyone of that caliber that I was training with. And I was still fortunate enough to have people to train with and still fortunate enough to make it to the games. But when I moved up to Boston, that’s when I really hit my peak and became my best version as far as a CrossFit athlete because I was training with individuals that were making it to the Games consistently: Austin Malleolo, James Hobart, all very big names in the CrossFit world and all very successful athletes in the CrossFit world.
And it was really humbling to literally getting beat over and over and over and over again in training and practice. And it was just a humbling experience to have that kind of a training environment. So, there’s definitely a lot of things that without those things, I don’t know if I would be as successful as I was. It’s important to have that stuff.
James Cerbie: Yeah, without question, I think two things there that have come up on more than one occasion here on the podcast is one, in a sport like CrossFit in particular, where you have to be so good at so many different things. There’s this notion of trying to identify and fill your empty bucket. Right. OK, well, I need to be really good at Olympic lifting. So, let me go find a specialist in Olympic lifting who can help me fill this bucket and make it a strength. And then you do a similar thing with gymnastics. Right. And then you see a similar thing with guys now who are using Chris Henshaw with all the running and aerobic capacity work, et cetera, et cetera.
And then you have that paired with the fact that you’re in the right environment, surrounded by the right people. You will essentially become the average of the five people you spend your most time with, regardless of whatever metric we want to use. And so, having that to pull you forward as well as is enormous.
Spencer Hendel: I mean, that’s what you see with all these guys moving down to Cookeville and all these people hanging out with Rich Froning. I mean, there’s no question that Rich is one of the best in the game as far as CrossFit is concerned. And there’s so many athletes that are willing to move to Cookeville just to be around and have that type of training environment and train with Rich and be there with him and the other athletes. And so, I mean, it’s obviously a testament to something.
James Cerbie: Yeah, without question, because I think the last thing that you want to be, you don’t want to be a big fish in a small pond. That’s probably the worst potential situation you could be in because you’re going to be overconfident, and you don’t have people who are going to actually push you. I would rather be a medium sized fish in a really large pond so that I have something there to strive towards, someone that’s continuously pulling me forward.
It’s funny. I remember actually back in the day when I was at Davison’s and you were at App State, I would login to Facebook in between classes, and I loved seeing videos of you in the student rec center in the weight room there doing CrossFit.
Spencer Hendel: Those videos pop up all the time on my Facebook as old memories and stuff.
And I look back at some of those videos and I’m like, oh my God, they make me cringe sometimes. But I mean, you had to work with what you had to work with. And unfortunately, in our student rec center, just for the students, we had bumper plates.
Let’s say that was before its time. And unfortunately, CrossFit is big with handstand pushups. And we didn’t really have a whole lot of places to do handstand pushups. And so, they eventually stopped me from doing handstand pushups on my walls that I would normally do my handstand pushups on because I was leaving scuff marks on the walls. And so, I can remember, I was trying to get this workout in. I need to get this workout. I have to get this workout in.
But I knew that I couldn’t do handstand pushups against my typical walls. And so, I got to a point where I was doing my work outside in the student rec center, but I was doing my hands, did pushups in the bathroom where they couldn’t see me.
James Cerbie: What I would have paid to see the people that walk into the bathroom to see you doing handstand pushups up against a stall. That’s phenomenal. That’s real life right there, man. Real life. That’s commitment.
But it’s hilarious when you think back to those early days of CrossFit where you didn’t actually have a lot of gyms yet and you had a lot of people in a similar situation who are trying to train this way.
And you’re just getting kicked out of gyms left and right because they’re like, well, you can’t do that here. You can’t do that here. You can’t do that here. But yeah, the handstand pushups in the bathroom was a first. I haven’t heard that one. That’s really good.
Spencer Hendel: That was a thing.
James Cerbie: And so, you run a programing service now, right. Called the HAM plan?
Spencer Hendel: Yep, we run the HAM Plan.
James Cerbie: I love it. So, from a programing perspective. Right. You have a ton of experience here as a very high-level athlete. If you think about a couple of potential really big takeaways and nuggets in terms of how you think about programing, are there are a couple of big things that you took away from your time as a competitor in terms of variables worth controlling, ways in which you go about programing and approaching movements, ways in which you think about laying out training, weeks, etc.
How Targeting Weaknesses in Training can be a Good Approach to Programming and Help Gain Capacity in Specific Regions
In a very simplified version, we try to be as broad, general and inclusive as we possibly can. We try to stick to as close to CrossFit typical programing as we possibly can. That being said, what I’ve learned from my own personal experiences, I think play a lot into how I personally program. I know what my weaknesses are, and I know what it takes to overcome those weaknesses. Just for an example, and this is just speaking about myself, is I was always better at anything pressing, so pressing in terms of the sagittal plane, like a push up pushing overhead and a handstand pushup or pushing below the shoulder.
And so, I literally needed to put that stuff into my programming. Almost, I don’t want to say bias, but target those areas of weakness multiple times, three, four times a week in order to gain any capacity in those specific regions. And so, when it comes to programing for the HAM Plan, we have certain months out of the year that we have certain focuses and which we really try to hammer things home. So, we have a monostructural focus for a couple of months, you can guarantee we’re going to focus on that monostructural element, whether it be running, rowing, biking, swimming. We need to hammer those things.
And then there are certain times out of the month that we need to bring everything together because once again, we are a CrossFit programing platform. And so therefore, we don’t want to specialize so much in one area that we lose capacity in some other area. We want to be as broad, general and inclusive as we possibly can and not necessarily specialize in any one region because to sum it all up, if I have an individual that, let’s just say an individual can snatch three hundred pounds. I can tell a lot about that person based upon that three-hundred-pound snatch. They probably don’t have a whole lot of cardiorespiratory endurance, unless you’re Matt Frazier. You probably don’t have a lot of cardio.
So, that’s not to say that someone with a three-hundred-pound snatch doesn’t have good cardiorespiratory endurance. But most people, if you have a three-hundred-pound snatch, you probably don’t have good cardiorespiratory endurance. We want the best of both worlds where we want that individual that, alright, you can’t snatch three hundred pounds, but when are you really going to need to snatch three hundred pounds in a CrossFit competition? You can snatch two seventy-five and finish top five, top 10 in that specific event, which is going to be great considering the entire competition, which also if you can snatch two seventy-five, probably means that you have a pretty good cardio side of you as well.
So, you’re probably going to score very well at that cardio event as well. So long story short, they balance each other out. You’re scoring in the top twenty-five, top 15 percent of those events. You’re not scoring in the top five percent of the listing event and then the lower half of the cardio event. So that’s what we want to try to avoid. And that’s kind of my thought process as I’m going through as I’m programing for the HAM Plan.
Understanding CrossFit as an Everyday Training Methodology Versus CrossFit Training to Compete in the Games
James Cerbie: Got it. Yeah, when you think about it as a sport versus CrossFit as a training methodology? Right. So, CrossFit for the person who has no interest in actually competing and going to the Games versus CrossFit for the person who’s trying to go to the games. When you think about that on a spectrum, what are some of the major distinctions there that stand out for you? Because we have people that listen to a podcast that do CrossFit, but most of them have no interest in going to the Games. It’s more like, I’m forty-two years old. I work a desk job, and this is a way for me to stay strong and fit and still look good when I take my shirt off, blah, blah, all that good stuff. Right. It seems like there’s definitely been a distinction. There’s been that evolution of, we have CrossFit as a sport, and then you have CrossFit as a way of trying to work with and help the general population.
Spencer Hendel: Yes. And I think that this is a question that often comes up in the CrossFit level one seminar. All right. So, there’s no question the more you do, the faster you’re going to get what you want, whatever your results, whatever your goals, whatever you want out of the fitness program, the more you do, the more volume you push into a day, the faster you’re going to get your results. But on the flip side of the coin, the more volume that you do, the more you put into a day, that also increases your risk of injury at the same time.
So, what I always tell everyone is that if you’re trying to become one of the fittest persons on this earth, if your goal is competitive CrossFit, you’re throwing your ambitions to the wind, because what you’re telling me is that you’re willing to risk everything in order to gain everything. And that’s just it, but if you’re in this to be able to play with your kids as you get older to do the things that you love outside of the gym, to do everything that you love to do under your own power, in your own control for the rest of your life, one workout a day is all that you need, literally doing whatever the workout of the day is.
Doing some stretching, doing some mobilizing, making sure that you’re warming up, making sure that you’re cooling down. One workout a day is all you need. If you want to do some extra practice, if you have a goal of doing a pull up, if your goal is to do your first pull up, then sure, do some extra pull up work. But if your goal is to snatch two twenty-five for the first time, you’ve got to get in some extra practice.
But it all boils down to what are your goals? And if someone tells me your goal is to be a competitive Crossfitter, well you’ve got to go with what it means to be a competitive Crossfitter or take CrossFit out of it. It can be a competitive golfer. It could be a competitive NFL football player. Whatever it is you’re telling me from right then and there that you’re throwing safety out the window because you’re going to do everything that you need to do in order to accomplish that goal.
But if your goal is to be healthy, stay in shape, play with your kids, be able to do all the things you love outside of the gym, then we really need to think about one workout a day. Workout. Have fun. It should be fun when you work out, when you go to the gym, it should be fun. It shouldn’t feel like a job. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. And you just have to understand your goals because whatever your goals are, that’s going to really tell the story about what you’re going to be doing in terms of volume.
James Cerbie: Yeah, absolutely, I think that a lot of times people just don’t understand the amount of time, the amount of effort, the amount of energy and the amount of sacrifice that has to go in to being the top one percent of the world in anything, whether we’re talking: CrossFit, golf, football, basketball, baseball, programing for a computer, whatever. If you want to be the top one percent of the world in anything, you’ve got to be a little bit crazy. Right?
I think a lot of people like the idea of that thing and that’s what they want to do, but they have no concept whatsoever of what it actually takes to get there. Right. Because when you’re in your peak, what was a normal training week for you? Right. How many workouts are you doing a day?
Spencer Hendel: Yeah. I mean, it definitely varies on the day. But I would say, I’m in the gym for five, six, seven hours trying to get in the appropriate volume, trying to get in the practice that I needed on certain things. And if you have weaknesses, you’re spending extra time working on those weaknesses. You’re going to the pool or you’re swimming. I mean, there’s all kinds of things that I would say the average CrossFitter isn’t doing, or I should say the average person doing anything isn’t doing, whereas the person that’s the one percent is making those sacrifices and getting outside of the normal box.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Not to mention the amount of food you need to eat. You’re almost a professional eater at a certain point, the amount of calories you have to throw down.
Spencer Hendel: At some point in time, you’re just trying to eat and you’re not you’re not even counting calories, just shoving things down your throat.
James Cerbie: Bring on the donuts; give me a little bit of ice cream. Give me some stuff that packs a punch.
Challenges Involved in Cutting and Gaining Weight
Spencer Hendel: Not everyone’s like this, but I remember one year I competed at the American Open, which is an Olympic lifting competition. That was one of my goals that year; I wanted to compete in the American Open. Now, I didn’t really care what else happened that year. I just I wanted to compete in the American Open. And I can remember talking to Coach Berkner and Chad Vaughn. And I was like, which weight class should I go for?
Because if I win the 94, so 94 kilos is 207. So, I had to be 207 or less. If I did that, I would have to cut weight. I probably would have had to cut three or four pounds, which I don’t know, may or may not have been challenging. I could have gone up to what they call the 105-weight class, which is from 207 to 231. And I fit right in there, but I was currently at the bottom end of that weight class, so what that meant for me is I could eat nonstop and try to bump my weight up to as close to 231 as I could get it.
It was disgusting how much I was eating. But I eventually went into that American open weighing to 225, which is the heaviest I’ve ever been personally. Yeah. That was something special. But I mean, I literally couldn’t eat enough. I was eating Chex cereal at night. I was cramming peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking milk. All things that I would never do for a CrossFit competition. But here I am in a different phase of my life, and that’s what I was doing.
James Cerbie: I got to 220 one time, and I will never do that again because I just felt like a walking refrigerator. I was just a big blob. I was just doing this in order to walk around, this is terrible. This is not fun.
Spencer Hendel: Yeah. No, not for me.
James Cerbie: So, one more question here in the fitness CrossFit realm and then, I would love to transition to something a little different.
So, if we have somebody listening to this thinking CrossFit’s my thing, I really want to go compete in CrossFit. And it’s going to be a little bit of an unfair question. So, feel free to rephrase whatever you want. If you are going to give them one or two pieces of advice, if this is what you really want to do and this is the path you’re going to go on, if I could shed a little bit of wisdom for you, this is what I would tell you to do to try to give you the best chance to be successful.
Spencer Shares His Advice to Those Who Want to Compete in CrossFit
Spencer Hendel: Man, that is a tough question. But if I was going to shed any type of wisdom or anything like that, one, who am I to spoil anyone’s dreams? People have tried to spoil my dreams along the way and put me down and tell me that I couldn’t do something or tell me that I wouldn’t equate to anything. And this, that and the other things, so who am I to tell you that it’s not going to happen? But I think the best thing that I did for myself was surround myself with people that were better than me.
And I think that you’ll find that in any line of work or any line of athleticism, whether it be CrossFit, whether it be cycling, whether it be basketball, baseball, you name it, the great ones always surrounded themselves with people that were at the time better than themselves. And then they obviously overtook and became the “great ones”. So, you look at Tiger Woods, you look at Michael Jordan, you name it, they were brought up with people that were better than them.
And then they grew up learning what it took to be the best. So, I think that that was definitely the most insightful thing for myself, was being around people like James Hobart and Austin Malleolo and Denise Thomas and people like that that were better than me, not even just from an athletic standpoint. I mentioned Denise Thomas from a coaching standpoint. I mean, she was one of the best coaches that I’ve ever learned from in my entire life and just what it means to be a coach. Denise and John Gilson. I mean, the list goes on and on in terms of coaching. Surround yourself with someone that’s better than you. You’ll learn a lot of lessons.
How Making Training More About Community Rather Than the Programming Itself Can Create Competition and Far Better Results
James Cerbie: Yeah, that’s one of the things that we try to really create a lot at Rebel is we to try to make it far more about the community and the other people who you are on the bus with. Because at the end of the day, if we were to boil things down to this, the nuts and bolts of training programs, the strength conditioning, there are ways that we innovate in that realm, but at the end of the day, the huge, huge differentiators probably aren’t really in that.
The huge differentiators are going to be in the people that you’re doing it with because they’re going to set the tone of the environment and the surrounding because I could put somebody at an absolutely dogshit program, but if you put them in a super competitive room with a bunch of other savages who all want to get better. They’re probably going to get better; not to knock on some strength conditioning programs.
Right. But there are some strength training programs that aren’t very good. But what they crush is culture and environment. So, while the program itself isn’t very good, you walk into that weight room and you see that team and they’re getting better at an alarming rate.
Spencer Hendel: And you’ve got to think, in terms of strength conditioning, I mean, everyone’s doing squats, everyone’s doing bench press, everyone’s doing deadlifts. So, if you were doing squats and deadlifts, why aren’t we getting any better while Team X over there is seeing all the gains and results? It’s because Team X, their community is off the charts. Yeah, and that’s exactly what you’re getting at.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that CrossFit has gotten right. From day one, they crush community. You go into a CrossFit gym and you’re surrounded by a bunch of cool humans that are probably going to be pretty aligned on what you want to do with your life in terms of being more active, getting out there, being stronger, being more fit. You’re being surrounded by supportive people to help you in that. Plus, you start putting numbers on a whiteboard.
If you have a competitive cell in your body, you’re going to work a little bit harder than if you were going to go do this thing by yourself, in a corner of your garage.
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, of course. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and I’ve been to a lot of CrossFit gyms, and they are literally all the same. They are welcoming. They are filled with people that are like-minded. They are filled with people that are optimistic. They are filled with people that are positive. They are filled with people that want to be there, want to be your friend, that want to show you around, that want to literally do anything and everything with you. They are down with anything. So, yeah, I mean, it’s just a cool community to be a part of.
James Cerbie: I’ve moved a good number of times and whenever I move to a new city, the first thing I usually do is I go to a CrossFit gym because I know that I’m probably going to find my friends there. I don’t do it anymore. But I get along with all those people really well; we all have similar end goals in mind. We have similar visions of what we want our life to be like. And when I moved out to Salt Lake, I remember texting you because I was like, hey, could you potentially introduce me to Tommy Hackenbruck?
I literally moved here on a whim and I didn’t know a soul for hundreds of miles in every direction. And I ended up getting connected to Tommy. Go over to you, coach there for a little bit before grad school started. And almost all of my best friends now in Salt Lake and my wife came from that place, came from Ute, and the community and the culture that they had built there.
Spencer Hendel: That’s awesome. Me and you will connect about that, because half of that shit I didn’t even know. So, we’re going to have to connect on that. But we’ll get back.
We’ll connect on that stuff afterwards. It was funny. I had Tommy on about two weeks ago. He’s in Vegas now. Yeah, I like Tommy. He’s just such a good salt of the earth type guy. He’s a good dude. Yeah. He was funny talking about it. He said, Spencer Hendel is the best athlete in CrossFit. He’s like other people would maybe win competitions and other things, but as far as athletes go, he said Spec was the best athlete without question. It’s like, he could run, he could jump, he did more athletic things. That was what we needed. We just did a dunk contest at the games one year.
Spencer Hendel: We did fortunately have the softball toss one year, which was, you know, James, but the people watching don’t know. I had Tommy John surgery on my elbow. That was actually the first time that I was being asked to throw something with my right arm at full speed. Since Tommy John and I hadn’t actually tested it. I didn’t know how good it was going to be. So, this gets announced and me and my dad are getting out the gloves and we’re throwing, we’re throwing, we’re throwing.
And I felt good. And sure enough, the event came up and I ended up winning it, but I had no idea how it was going to do. It was cool.
James Cerbie: Yeah, way back in the day. You had that in high school.
Spencer Hendel: That was my high school senior year. Yeah, both of us.
James Cerbie: Then I had Tommy John, my senior year of high school. Awful. Oh, that surgery sucks. Getting your arms straight again is the absolute worst.
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, I mean, I wanted to play baseball. I mean, baseball was my first passion, and to be honest, I still even think about it. I’m kind of like you think if I got on the mound right now, I could throw one hundred miles an hour. You think I could just be the rookie and all of a sudden just zip it in the catchers?
James Cerbie: They’d never know.
Spencer Hendel: You never know, but that time is long, long gone. Maybe in my next life.
James Cerbie: Excellent, dude. So, I think where I would like to go next here on the back end of the conversation, on the form the guests fill out, we talk about what are one or three things that you’re really excited about right now and changing lives and helping others is one of your answers, which I absolutely love. So, I just wanted to ask, what does that mean to you and how do you think about going about carrying yourself in the world to bring that out and to make that happen?
Spencer’s Plans to Change Lives and Help Others Moving Forward
Spencer Hendel: So, I talked about it briefly in terms of what I do as far as being a coach and the thing that makes me tick, as far as being a CrossFit coach and maybe just a fitness coach in general is seeing that look on somebody’s face when they accomplish something that they never thought that they could accomplish in a million years. And you helped facilitate that change for them reaching that goal or help them reach that goal, which I think doesn’t happen every day.
But it’s what keeps me going and when it does happen, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. And so, I was thinking about how else I could apply myself to helping someone or changing someone’s life and started to look at emergency medicine. I started to look like police and fire and things like that. But the police, I don’t have anything against the police or anything like that, but it just didn’t tickle my fancy.
So, firefighter kind of tickled my fancy a little bit. But the EMS thing, Emergency Medical Service, being an EMT and eventually a paramedic, I can really do some good there. People are really sick, and people really need some help. So, I did my EMT in 2020 summer and then eventually got into a paramedic program here at the beginning of 2021. So, when this is all said and done, hopefully by 2022, I’ll be a paramedic and saving people’s lives and helping save the world one person at a time and kind of play my part in terms of being a paramedic and everyone that I touched, everyone that I get my hands on, try to make them just a little bit better and hopefully lead to a positive outcome.
James Cerbie: I love that. I think the way you said it there at the end is really, really powerful in terms of just trying to live and carry yourself in a way that every single person that you have the opportunity to interact with, every single person that you do have the ability to touch, they leave better off because of the fact that they were able to meet you and interact with you in their lives.
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, people are having bad days all the time. And I think that one thing that keeps me going a lot of times is you think that at certain days your life is bad. Well, I mean, there are counted on your hands; count it on your hands and toes. Count it however you want. There’s a million other people out there that are having worse days than you are right now. And any opportunity that I can get a chance to interact with someone, get my hands on and physically or emotionally, mentally reach that person and affect them in a positive way, that is ultimately what I want to do.
And I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have these experiences. And if I can use those to help affect somebody’s life in a positive manner, then that’s what I want to do.
James Cerbie: Beautiful. I think that’s a fantastic note to end on. I don’t know if we could end on a better takeaway message for people than that right there. So, let’s do this for people that are listening that want to come check you out. I know we mentioned the HAM Plan earlier, but where can people go to learn more about you? All the cool stuff that you have going on, where is the best place to find you? If you don’t want to be found, you can say no, but where should they go?
Where to Find Spencer Hendel
Spencer Hendel: Yeah, I mean, the HAM Plan is what I’m doing with my life. I’m trying to kind of get away from social media a little bit. I care less and less about it. And I’ve got a daughter that’s eight months old and I try to be on my phone less and less. Really trying to not be on social media, trying to not be on Facebook and Instagram all the time; trying to live my life in the present. And there’s a lot of things going on in front of my face right now that are really important to me.
So, if you want to find me on social media, you’ll probably get a post from me every once a month. It is not going to be super updated. But if you want to get in contact with me, I’m always available to chat and to help you in any way that I can. But it’s pretty simple. Email just firstname.lastname@example.org. Email me any time.
James Cerbie: Excellent. Really enjoyed this. Thanks for chunking out the time. Stay in touch better than we have been. Everybody have a beautiful week.
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