The Fast-Exercising Mathematician: Jacob Heppner

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Sean (00:00):

Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On this episode I speak with four-time CrossFit Games athlete Jacob Heppner. You know they say it’s lonely at the top, but what if entrepreneurs didn’t have to go it alone? Now you don’t have to. Chris Cooper has compiled more than a decade’s worth of hard-won wisdom into 15 free guides on everything from marketing and retention to hiring and firing. You can download them all for free at TwoBrain Jacob Heppner has competed at the CrossFit Games four times and he is coming off his best career finish in 2019 when he took sixth. Overall, we talk about how math led him to a job at Fort Leavenworth, his passion for community service and the lessons he learned about being successful under the new Games format in 2019. Thanks for listening everyone. Jacob, thanks so much for taking the time to do this today, man. How are you doing?

Jacob (01:04):

I’m doing well. How about you, Sean?

Sean (01:04):

I’m doing great. What are you doing to sort of deal with this new normal that we’re all living in right now to keep your training where it needs to be?

Jacob (01:14):

I mean, so I stay, sorry, I’m laughing because we were laughing before we hit the record button. Right now, like, honestly, yeah, the new normal is a bit different for a lot of different people. Luckily as I’ve spoken before, I have a blessing of having something—I have a barn on my property that I turned to a gym many years ago because not because I had foresight. I wish I did. Just because they didn’t have any space in the gym I was currently going to at the time. But like the new normal right now, I just, you know, it’s different, right?

Jacob (01:50):

We’re all training, we’re all trying to do certain things, but there’s always that, you know, that we’re definitely taking the motto of CrossFit of unknown and unknowable and just basing it across our whole lives. Right? So who knows what next week is gonna bring? But you know, it’s exciting. There’s a lot of opportunities there out there to do different things. You know, training is staying the same. We’re still training for, you know, I think a given right now is we’re going to have Rogue online’s qualifier and so that may be it, you know, like that may be the only one we do. And then we go straight right into 2021 season, which would obviously really stink. But we’re going to train for that. We’ve got a lot of other things going on we’re juggling our lives in the Heppner household right now. But that’s the big one is just training for Rogue.

Sean (02:36):

What was your athletic background growing up?

Jacob (02:42):

I was terrible at football. I played football, I was the worst on the team. I literally, Sean, I’m not even joking with you. I’m pretty sure. So I did tutor a lot of the guys on the team. I was a math guy and so I tutored all the guys on the team. I definitely brought the team GPA up and I’m pretty sure they kept me on there because my scholarship got better every year and I’m thinking to myself, OK, my scholarship, I’m a realist. Right. I’m thinking, OK, I’m going to play. I played for four years. My scholarship went up every year and I’m thinking I didn’t get better. Not like I started at some point. So maybe like the GPA went up and they’re like, OK, well let’s give Heppner some bonus points because the he’s going to be tutoring all of them. I don’t know.

Sean (03:24):

Then how do you wind up actually playing in college at Central Methodist University?

Jacob (03:29):

So that was actually during college. Yeah, that was the GPA during college. So I was very decent in high school. But you know, like high school athletes are different than collegiate athletes as far as collegiate are different than professional. But I was pretty decent in high school, but then went to college and that’s when I was improving GPA. Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t just walk on at college and be a total crap. But you know like it teaches you a lot of things in life, teach you certain things. Looking back, I mean if I had to go back I wouldn’t change it. I was terrible. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and it teaches you work ethic. And one thing I did learn was from there on out, I decided, you know what I am not going to do—I enjoyed football, don’t get me wrong.

Jacob (04:08):

But I said, I am not going to do anything in life than I am not good at. Like if I’m not good at something, I’m not going to spend time wasting time trying to get better at it. Like, you know, obviously there’s, you know, that doesn’t apply to everything in life. Like if you’re not good at reading, would you not practice reading? But like, you know, certain things like I’m not going to waste time doing a hobby that I don’t enjoy. I’m not good at. So that’s kind of was my sell out after football. Like no more. No more of this.

Sean (04:33):

In 2011 you were one of 11 NCAA FCS players named to the AFCA good work scene for community service. What did you do to receive that honor?

Jacob (04:45):

We did a lot of community service. We did just a crud ton of community service for college. Just a lot of stuff. Walking school bus, I helped operate a bone marrow swab drive on campus, just a lot of stuff. That’s pretty much it. I did a lot of things in college. I stayed, you know, like to be honest, like you don’t tend to change as a person throughout your life if you take a thread and you put throughout your life. I stayed very busy in college at all times. I didn’t have any—honestly. We always joke about it at my house. My wife and I went to the same college and I wouldn’t say she was a partier, right. But she went out and had a good time in college, like all college athletes do.

Jacob (05:26):

But I was in the library. I didn’t go out very often. I stayed very busy doing things, I was very driven and that transfers into my life now and what I do, not just in the CrossFit space, right. Not just, you know, cause if you look at it, Sean, like and you’ve been here before and so are a lot of athletes, like I’m not going to compete the rest of my life. Obviously I don’t plan on it, you know, cause I can’t compete, at 60 years old, those guys are crazy. I can’t do that. Those guys are, if anything, those guys need more notoriety. But like, you have to ask yourself at some point, you know, all this drive, you need to think about, OK, what’s next? And do other things to keep yourself busy with other things in life after your done competing. And so that’s kind of what my life the last couple of years have been transitioning and doing. Anyways. To answer the long story short, I don’t even know what your question was, but there you go.

Sean (06:15):

Well, basically what you did to receive the honor, and I think you answered that very well. But you mentioned the bone marrow drive and if I’m not mistaken, that was for your sister Emma who went through treatment for leukemia. So what was it like watching someone in your family have to deal with something that serious?

Jacob (06:34):

Yeah, it was difficult, right? It’s super difficult obviously. So right now the Heppner household was big supporters of St. Jude because she had a acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And then of course got pulled into, luckily we were blessed to be pulled into St. Jude research hospital. And as most of your viewers may or listeners may or may not know that you don’t pay for a dime. But of course St. Jude is funded upon all donations. And so I think what they hope is that, you know, you have families like hopefully like we’re a good representation of that, that realized we don’t have to pay for a dime of this. And then for the rest of their lives, they will continue to give back because of what they’ve done for them. Right. Not just because, Oh, it’s a good organization, no, because of what they’ve done for us. And the fact that my sister will impact other people’s lives also. And hopefully they give back because she is a walking story, a walking essentially a walking billboard for them for a lack of better terms. But yeah, so we were always continuing to give back to that organization because of what they’ve done for us.

Sean (07:34):

Where do you think your passion for community service came from?

Jacob (07:39):

Honestly, I think I don’t know. I think we’ve all been put here for some reason or another on this earth. Some of us are good at fitness, which isn’t that cool? Right? You’re like, Oh yeah, you can do Fran really fast. That’s really cool. And a lot of people have different gifts or talents they’re good at. Mine fortunately or unfortunately is the ability to exercise fast, which sounds stupid when you say it, but I think we’ve all been given something like this. And also along with that is the want and need to give back. And I think you need to realize, take a look at yourself and realize, what am I good at? What is Sean Woodland good at? Well, Sean Woodland is good because he’s a great speaker, very eloquent, people trust his opinion and then you have to ask yourself, how can I use that to impact people?

Jacob (08:26):

And that’s what you do and that’s what I do in different ways. Right? And so I feel a lot of people need to look at themselves and think about that. I think a lot of people don’t unfortunately do that. But I think we’re all given something we’re good at and taking that and using it to the best of our ability, whether it’s our want to give back or want to exercise more or want to keep people up to the know in a sport you’re passionate about. There’s always ways to do something like that.

Sean (08:51):

You were really good at math and probably still are. What was it about that that drew you to it as a career?

Jacob (08:58):

Honestly I went into college undecided. And had no idea what I wanted to do. I remember showing up to my career lady, whoever you show up to when you’re a freshman. She’s like, what do you want to do with your life? You know? And you know, I think I said, give me the hardest major you have. I think I vividly remember saying give me the hardest major you have. I’m going to do that. And she goes, well, that’s probably math. I think at the time her hard was, I hate math. I’m going to give you math. Right? So I was like, cool, give me all the math classes you got. And so we went with math and I just kept going with it and I think I took every class that college had to offer.

Jacob (09:38):

And then they had to make more classes because I think I ran out of them and thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved it. Looking back and the always the advice I’d give people you could probably attest to this also is what you major in in college isn’t really that important unless you’re a nurse or a doctor, right. Unless it’s you know, like a tech school that’s something different. But it’s the thinking that it gives you the drive you have. I mean like a lot of people major in business, which is not, you know, like my wife did that, my father did that. That’s great. That’s great. But that shouldn’t stop me from owning a business. What did you major in Sean?

Sean (10:12):


Jacob (10:12):

That’s not fair, you’re doing what you went to school for!

Sean (10:21):

I’m the outlier.

Jacob (10:22):

All the folks listening, he’s an anomaly.

Sean (10:22):

But I know plenty of people who did broadcasting who were like philosophy majors.

Jacob (10:30):

That’s the thing is like a lot of people seem to think, they get so stuck on the well, if I go into business, I got to own a business. Or if I go into math, I got to be a math teacher or I gotta be a geek at NASA. Like I went into math and I count the joke is I count by 45 and I multiply by 2.2. I don’t use math for anything now. You know, like I tutor kids for fun. I enjoy it. And if I had to, if I have to go back and do it, be a math teacher, I probably wouldn’t mind it. But it was enjoyable time and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sean (10:59):

What was it like being a mathematics technician at Fort Leavenworth?

Jacob (11:02):

That was good job. That’s where I first found CrossFit, but that was my first internship. I got introduced to CrossFit there on Fort Leavenworth, which was actually like, I never moved very far away. It’s like 30 minutes up North of me, 20, actually. Went there and got introduced to CrossFit but also introduced to the world of the Army there. And I come from an Air Force family from my mother’s side, but you know, like when your grandpa’s already retired and your uncle flies but also flies for like United, like it’s not like a, you know, you’re not like invested in maybe the green suit background and the guys who wore boots on ground. But being able to be there and see those guys and talk to them and become best friends with them, it was really cool to see that background, that camaraderie and it gives you a lot of respect for the people who lay down their lives for our nation and give us the freedom that we have today.

Sean (11:56):

So how did you find CrossFit there?

Jacob (11:58):

Yeah, this guy walked in, his name was Major Craig. I told the story—I’m so good at this, literally I can recite it off the top of my head. Craig comes up to me, he goes, Hey, he goes, I know you’re doing football. I had one more year of football left. And he goes, I know you have one more year of football and you’re training cause I see you out there running sprints on the field and you’re in shape. I said, yes. He goes, I want you to come to this thing called CrossFit. And the first thing I think is what kind of stupid freaking name is CrossFit. Like what the heck is this, man. Sounds like a cult. First thing I thought was this sounds like a straight cult, the way he’s talking about it. And I go, OK, I did the unfortunate thing and agreed to it before I knew what time it was. I said yes, before I knew the details that’d be used. I go, sure, I’ll show up. When is it? He goes tomorrow at five in the morning.

Jacob (12:49):

So I showed up five in the morning and this was actually on Fort Leavenworth. This was actually back when Army installations at the time had affiliates, I think right now they’ve actually been stopped unfortunately. But they had actual affiliates and so I went to an affiliate on post there. And at the time there wasn’t really a per se coach. They had a lot of level ones cause CrossFit HQ worked with a lot of the affiliates and gave level ones for free to them. And so had a lot of level ones but wasn’t like a set coach coach, but a lot of the guys were, Fort Leavenworth was full of a lot of officers so a lot of guys know how to run things, they’re very smart. So I got there and the class was kind of, it wasn’t like an OnRamp, it’s like I walked into a CrossFit gym and they’re like, Hey cool, CrossFit’s at five, go over there and join your first class.

Jacob (13:38):

And so I joined my first class. They didn’t explain it. I didn’t understand the concept that it was for time. I didn’t understand the concept of we’re supposed to go as fast as we can. I, you know, and the funny story I tell people is it’s funny cause every time you ask someone for their first CrossFit story, everyone always says they do Fran. And cracks me up cause it makes me feel like there’s affiliates out there that they’re just like, Oh Sean, is it your first class? And you’re like, yes it is. And they’re like, OK guys, scrap the program and we’re all doing Fran. We’re gonna screw this guy over.

Jacob (14:07):

But mine wasn’t Fran. It was like toes-to-bar and rowing. And so I remembered, couldn’t touch my toes to the bar for the life of me, you know, like not even close and didn’t understand how to row at all. And I just remember the guys yelling at me to go faster. I’m thinking, you know, I’m getting these good solid quality reps in here and I’m getting screamed at. I remember getting done and this guy walks up to me and he goes, his name is, I don’t know what his current rank was, but his name now is Dave Hudson. He actually owns a CrossFit in Leavenworth now. He walked up to me and he goes, Hey, I think you’d be really good at this. And I’m thinking to myself, good at what? What did we even do today? No one explained anything to me.

Jacob (14:51):

And he’s like, he goes, do me a solid, he goes, go back to your desk, research the CrossFit Games for me. And I’m thinking, OK, that sounds even stupider than CrossFit. And he goes, look at the CrossFit Games. And he goes, just do that for like five minutes. Watched a couple videos. I said, OK, whatever. And so went back to my desk, had nothing going on that day. And so I looked up, I remember the first video I watched I believe was the video where Rich Froning came back and won the legless rope climb workout with the year before he had lost to Graham Holmberg because of a rope climb. Right? I mean I thought it was the coolest thing. Like there’s people watching these guys, I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t understand why they’re not using their legs. You know, I don’t get it.

Jacob (15:31):

But I remember thinking to myself, this is so cool. People are watching this and said, this is an actual sport. And you know, I come from a sport background. Granted, I always stood on the sidelines, but I came from a sport background thinking, well, people are watching people work out? I was like, I could totally do this. Granted at this time, all I’m good at is rowing and toes-to-bar and I’m not even good at those. But yeah, that was kind of the genesis story. And then I remember at the time, calling my good friend and saying, I think it was that week I called her and I said, I’m going to go to the CrossFit Games one of these years. And she of course was like, I don’t know what that is. At a time though. That was my future wife at the time. But yeah. So yeah, that was pretty much it.

Sean (16:05):

You wound up going to the Regionals for the first time in 2013 and you take 18th. So what did you take away from that experience?

Jacob (16:15):

Honestly, I had no expectations. I came in, took 18th, you know, I had so many holes and so many gaps. I couldn’t even tell you. I couldn’t barely do a muscle-up. So they threw 30 at us for time, but luckily we had a burpee in between which was even worse, right. So like I think the worst part about my muscle-ups was the start. As soon as you let me go and do a couple, I could get a rhythm. But of course when you do 30 burpee muscle-ups, there’s no rhythm. It’s just you got to start 30 times. Right. I remember I didn’t finish that workout. I think I was one away or two away, whatever it was. And it was so ugly muscle-ups. And went back and honestly spent the whole year working on a lot of things I wasn’t good at, which was a lot, which was pretty much everything.

Jacob (17:04):

And actually ended up taking second that year behind Kyle Kasperbauer and right before Alex Nettey, and then actually 18th at the Games, which is kind of funny. But I remember vividly that year when I took second after I got second place, or as soon as I knew I got second before the award ceremony, I went up to the leaderboard and found the guy who took 18th, his name is Robert Holloway. He is out of St. Louis. I walked up to him and I told him, I said, look, I said, I said, you might think right now that you’re 18th, which you know, back in the day, you and I could both agree back in the day when there was 40 Regional guys, not super Regionals, 40 Regional guys, the bottom 25 were pretty terrible. And I was a part of that group and I would, I’m not gonna lie.

Jacob (17:49):

2013 I was terrible. And I remember telling him, look, you think you’re 18th and you don’t think you’re good right now. I was like, but if you put a year in of work, which is what I did, there’s no reason you can’t be on that podium the same way. And I remember him, he hugged me and we talked a little bit after there. I think he came a couple more years to regionals. Never ended up qualifyin of course. But that was the thing is, you know, if you go back and work on things you’re not good at, that opportunity is still there no matter what place you get the year before, no matter.

Sean (18:15):

What were your expectations heading into the Games and Carson in 2014?

Jacob (18:20):

I wanted to be 50th percentile, which was top 20. Yeah. I wanted to be 50th percentile and I snuck right in by the skin of my teeth at 18.

Jacob (18:32):

I think that was the year 2014 what was the final workout?

Sean (18:38):

It was thick and quick and double Grace.

Jacob (18:38):

Yeah. I’ve got stories on stories, Sean, I could sit here for an hour and tell a great story. So 2014, the final workout but the first portion, so portion A, was thick and quick. And of course like as some of your users—you can tell I think differently. Some of your listeners might remember that we were sequestered before that. So we walked out there. We brought everything, jump rope, we brought grips, a belt, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing. So we roll out there and it’s this two inch rope, right? For lack of better terms, I actually call that rope something different, but it’s pretty vulgar. And that time, a regular sized rope was an inch and a half diameter and this is two inches and that’s a big difference for grip and because it doesn’t rotate around your foot as much for a J hook or an S hook depending on which hook you use for rope climb. At the gym I went to an Iron Major CrossFit here in Fort Leavenworth, we had a rope and I’d practiced rope climbs, but it was not to a ceiling because we were in a prefab, the buildings they used over in Iraq to house machinery and tools. So it wasn’t, you had no good support structure. And so my rope was 12 foot tall. Well, I’ll tell you right now, 12 foot tall rope doesn’t train you for a two inch rope that’s 20 foot tall. And so I got out there, it was four rope climbs. Three or four, maybe it was four overhead squats and three rope climbs maybe.

Jacob (20:10):

Yeah, some random number of that adds up to a prime number. Anyways, I did not even finish the rope climbs. I think I was one of the few who only got like one or two rope climbs. I failed that rope climb so many times and it was embarrassing because you have thousands of people that are watching you in the tennis stadium which we all know was packed and they are on you and I can’t climb a dang rope to save my life. And so a lot of people who end up asking me, you know, they’re scared to fail or they’re scared of what people might think of them. It’s like guys, you don’t understand. Like I go to the Games my rookie year, and I can’t climb a rope. Like do I deserve to be there? I can’t climb a rope for the life of me.

Jacob (20:50):

And so, you know, every year there’s things to work on. And so that year I came back and worked on rope climbs along with other things that I was very terrible at. But rope climbs was one of them cause it was very embarrassing, I think the first thing I bought when I got back was a two inch rope cause I was like, by golly, I’m going to crush this two-inch rope by the time it rolls up again. And the fun part was in 2015, we had at Super Regionals, which was Central Regional. So we combined North Central and the Central East guys together is the second workout. First workout was Randy and second workout was Tommy V. And then that had so many rope climbs in it, it was disgusting. And so I vividly remember practicing rope climbs all throughout the whole year thinking I’m going to crush rope when they come up.

Jacob (21:34):

And then luckily Tommy V come up and I thought to myself, I’m going to spank every boy in this Central Regional, and make them look stupid. Well, I took second in that workout because my rope climbs were amazing. But what I didn’t practice was running to the finish line, Sean.

Sean (21:53):

I often forget about that.

Jacob (21:53):

Graham Holmberg edged me out because Jacob thought to myself, Oh yeah, what’s up now boys, look at me crush these rope climbs. Oh I have to run still? I’m out, bro, I’m going to walk this. So this is kind of a funny story that, you know, this concept that we all have stuff to work on and it’s fun to see it change over time. It’s fun to see you say, I’m not good at this. Cool. I’ve got 365 days to get better. OK. Now I get to show you how I have improved that kind of concept.

Sean (22:21):

Well, you go back to the Games again in 2015 and then 2016 you’re top 10 both times, 10th and then seventh. What was the key to not only being that successful but also being that consistent over those two years?

Jacob (22:35):

I thought, those years, 2015, 2014, 2015, 2016 were much different. Obviously I did not go to 17 and 18. Were much different than 19, because 14, 15, I thought especially 16 was very volume-based. It was very based upon, just honestly, what was between your head? What was up here? Like, had you been doing a ton of work? I thought 16 was the greatest year ever because, you know, you wake us up at zero dark 30, you fly us to God knows where, come to find out it’s Aromas, right? We do three workouts that are freaking terrible back to back to back. And then you’re like, ah, y’all, we’re going to fly you back home. Oh, but wait, Delta can’t fly, so we’re going to get home late. Oh wait, you gotta be up at five and go swim 500 meters.

Jacob (23:26):

And I remember just, it was just the concept of a lot of guys just unfortunately couldn’t take it that year because it was, I mean, it was draining for sure. Don’t get me wrong, super draining. Sure. I’m sure it was draining to watch and to broadcast too, because you’re going everywhere and it was draining. And I thought that year was one of the best that I’d been to, only because it was just so, it was just a knockout drag out, let’s just see what you’re made of, which I think is the beauty of the CrossFit Games. So you know, when you only do a couple of events, maybe two events a day, it’s not as fun as, OK, let’s just beat you into a pulp and see what you can do by that night and then let you go sleep.

Sean (24:06):

We’ll be back with more from Jacob Heppner after this. Ever wished there were a step-by-step guide to business success? Well now there is. Chris Cooper spent more than a decade making mistakes, learning from them and paving the path to wealth. Now he’s mapped it all out so that you don’t have to fly blind. Available to Two-Brain clients, the Two-Brain Growth ToolKit lays out the exact steps you need to take to grow your business and reach wealth all with the help of a certified Two-Brain mentor. To learn more and see if mentorship is right for you, book a free call at Now more with Jacob Heppner. You have some good momentum after those two really good performances, but then you kind of hit a string of setbacks starting with 2017, what happened that year?

Jacob (24:54):

I got patellar tendinitis in my knee, couldn’t squat. And so we had dumbbell snatches which hurt cause you still had to bend, right? Unless you muscle snatched it or like straight leg muscle snatched it and then burpee box jumps, unless I caught it in a really high catch and I knew were going to squat sooner or later. Sure enough, 17.2 we did squat snatches. Honestly, if I had muscled through 17.1 and gotten to 17.2 I probably wouldn’t have made it past 185 pound snatch bar, which I believe was the second bar or maybe the third. I think it went 95 135 185 I wouldn’t have made it past that bar. Well, granted, if I didn’t make it even past that bar, I wouldn’t have made it anyways. So I immediately spent time on rehab and fixing that injury which hasn’t become an issue since then.

Jacob (25:40):

And so yeah, 17 was rough and it was rough because you can’t qualify cause it’s something that’s out of your control, right? I mean, my knee acts up, what are you going to do? Chop it off, get a new one? Ain’t no way around it. So it’s like, OK. So there were some tears obviously shed in this household during that Open, cause I knew, Hey, your season’s done. And then fast forward a whole year and you think to yourself, well, I can’t get much better than that or worse than that. And then you’re given something that is also out of your control but isn’t something that was like a force of nature or it wasn’t like an act of God kind of thing. Right. So it was a standard that I don’t really want to get into, but it’s not something I necessarily agreed with and I didn’t think was really put through the paces. I mean, if you’re gonna give out a, you know, an axiom or a law when it comes to mathematics, you’re going to test it in every way possible. And I felt that there wasn’t a whole lot of testing behind this to make it really axiomatic. Anyways. So 2018 was rough and there was probably more tears then than it was in 2017.

Sean (26:46):

I hate that handstand push-up standard, it’s tough for me as a bigger guy. Why do you think it’s so hard to dial in a handstand push-ups standard that everybody likes?

Jacob (26:56):

Honestly, my personal opinion is you need to get rid of hand—for an online competition, there are certain movements you should get rid of. Handstand push-ups is one of them. Like it’s a great, it is the absolutely great movement, I mean, kind of, and the best part is I give you my opinion, but my opinion, I’m not telling you handstand push-us aren’t good to have an online CrossFit qualifier because I’m terrible at it. I am great at it. I just, I still think they’re stupid. Now in Regionals, in the Games, absolutely bring them back. But I mean for online competition, I just don’t think they’re great because honestly if you look at it and there’s really no way around it, there’s too many moving pieces and variables to really, I mean, I’m pressing my body up. If I’m doing it with a barbell, it’s easy to make sure I’m in one line. It’s easy because if the barbell is not in line, it’s out in front like this. I’m not going to, it’s obviously not going to go up, but it’s different when I’m leaning against a wall or anybody’s leaning against a wall. So it’s just not a great movement. Personally, I think it should go. Not because like I mentioned, not beacause I’m bad at it, but because I think it just isn’t a good one to test. So anyways.

Sean (28:03):

So you go two years without making it to the Games and then the season and format totally changes after 2018. So what are you thinking after all that happened?

Jacob (28:15):

I mean I think a lot of people—what I realized, what I learned in 2018, which I’m sure we’ll talk about when we get to the cuts for 2019 also, what I realized quickly early on in 2018 was when you pay your $20, you pay to play their game, right? So you’re paying to play the CrossFit HQ game and whether or not you agree with it, it doesn’t matter. They don’t care about your opinion. It’s the same for every professional sport. Like just because NFL can make rules that players don’t agree with. Of course they have a union which would, I don’t want to talk about that, but they have the option of creating rules the players don’t agree with. But for the CrossFit, I realized in 2018 that they can make rules that I don’t agree with. Handstand push-up standard.

Jacob (28:57):

And then, so when 2019 came around, there’s a lot of people that, for lack of better terms, thought it was, you know, the cuts were stupid or this was stupid. That was stupid. Eh. It might be dumb and I might not agree with it, but the fact of the matter is, no matter how much grumbling I do or complaining, it’s not going to change what they can do. It’s their sport. And so they’re going to make the choices whether or not. They think it’s good. And so, you know, they’ve ran this sport and so we will see, you know, I’m not no expert in the area. So we’ll see what happens. But the grumbling and the complaining isn’t going to change the situation. It’s honestly probably going to make it worse cause they’re gonna be like, no, we’re going to keep going. We’re going to double down on it.

Sean (29:34):

So after two years of missing out on the Games, what was your motivation level heading into the 2019 Open?

Jacob (29:40):

Yeah. I really wanted to go back. I had been sick of, you know, I mean I’m 30 now, I was 29 at the time. I want to go back to Games. And I vividly remember, you know, I’m starting the 2019 Open. I’m thinking all it takes is them putting out one more standard handstand push-up and I could be out again. And they come out with strict handstand push-ups and no forearm standard. And I remember calling my wife and we cheered and we cried so hard and I looked to her and I told her, I said, I’m gonna win this workout. I said, I’m gonna win this freaking workout worldwide and I’m going to make them announce that I won the workout. And then all the hypocrisy is going to see the fact that, Oh, you change your standards. That guy’s not bad at handstand push-ups. He just not good at your standard, which probably isn’t a very good standard. And so I did that workout five times, Sean. Did it five times because I wanted to win that sucker so freaking bad, I wanted to shove it in people’s faces, which is not—kids listening. Revenge is not a good thing because this is not positive Jacob coming out right now. And we did that workout like five times, submitted a score that I believe was second in the world with somebody, in Canada, I think, then me and then Mat and this guy, I don’t even think he even locked out his handstand push-ups and he got jumped pretty far back. Me, which is still an error and a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, but I got a penalty.

Jacob (31:11):

I think it was a seven second penalty for my both my hands. One of my hands didn’t hit the ground before my foot hit the ground crossing the last line. And so when I got that email, I was like, Oh, OK. I thought to myself, cause I remember vividly filming it five times thinking if I win this, they’re going to take a fine tooth comb across this because they don’t want to announce this. As I remember looking at it, thinking this is golden. Sent it in. Well, they must have slowed that video down to one eighth speed, turtle speed. They dragged that slider all the way left and they were like, we’re looking everywhere, which way and left. Anyways, if you slow it down pretty slow, I mean it’s hard to tell, but you can kind of tell. I wasn’t like maybe my finger touched but my whole hand didn’t touch, which you know, comes down to definition of hand, wrist finger, whatever. And so they gave me seven seconds. So I think put me into third and put Mat in the first. Didn’t really matter. It was just a pride thing to me, which obviously is not a good thing to have.

Sean (32:05):

But you get to the Games. And the last time you were there, you know, seventh overall, what did you think of your chances of at least matching that given that you were heading into a new format?

Jacob (32:23):

Yeah. So I’ve always wanted to improve every year. You know, we didn’t really understand how the cuts were going to occur until we showed up. I mean even a week, couple weeks. I don’t remember the situation when the information was released, but we knew that we’re going to be cuts but not exactly how were going to play out. And so we got there and I just decided to give my best in the beginning. Number one, I think Mat nailed on the head number one was honestly one of the best CrossFit workouts I’ve ever seen. And not because I was good. I think I was like 10th, which is not bad, but like not because I was good at it. I just thought it was very smart. It was, you know, running, it had gymnastics, hard gymnastics. It had I mean, a 185 snatch is not light and it’s even harder when it’s on turf.

Jacob (33:07):

I honestly, I’d never snatched on turf. So like we’ve done it a couple of times since then because you know, we’re always used to snatching on our specific spot in the gym. On our flat four floors and you snatch on turf and that’s not the same thing. But it was a very well programmed workout. Anyways, so I think I just decided to give my best throughout every event because I decided, you know, I don’t know at what point I’m going to get cut. At what point is there going to be a workout where I’m going to not do well at? And we’re just gonna have to get as many points to be can the beginning just in case. So.

Sean (33:43):

You have your best career finish, you take sixth. So what did you learn about what it takes to be successful in this new format?

Jacob (33:51):

Say that one more time, Sean?

Sean (33:53):

You take six and I was just curious what you learned about being successful, like what it takes to be successful with this new format.

Jacob (34:04):

Yeah, it used to be in the past where if you weren’t getting cut, you could win the events you were good at and then do OK at the events you weren’t good at. But this one, it takes you. You need to be good—like soon as the whistle blows, as soon as the air horn goes off on event one, it don’t matter what it is, you have to go. Because if if you take the leaderboard, I don’t think they have this option, which whoever’s at CrossFit HQ’s website, they need to add this because you guys used to have it but they got rid of it was the, was the stage category qualifier for your leaderboard. As you can search by stage, you could say what stage in the Open are we, what stage of the Game?

Jacob (34:48):

So you could actually say, I only care about what happened up to event three. And then everything else will be null and void. And we’ll only show the leaderboard up to event three. If you actually look at that and look up to the final cut, I think I was only like seven or eight points away from not making top 10, because the sprint was my worst workout. Go figure. And we talked about that already with Graham Holmberg and so it was my worst workout. But if you look at that and say, OK, you’re seven points away, seven points is like a couple seconds in event one, it’s a couple seconds in event two. I mean it’s literally nothing. That’s nothing. And so like you have to ask yourself, OK, well you made the final cut by the skin of your teeth on all the other events. If you got one more handstand walk error, you’re done. If you got one more, if you missed one more snatch, you’re out. And so I think people will start to realize that after year one that it takes from the get go, it takes, you need to get as many points as you possibly can, feel as comfortable as you can get when you get there.

Sean (35:54):

What did you think when the handstand push-up standard showed up again in 2020?

Jacob (36:01):

Yeah. Well we kind of knew it probably would come up. The best part is that I don’t say it in a mean way, I think. I think Dave is a good dude. I like Dave. I don’t think he’s been vindictive at all. But actually we’re a few cuts in at the Games this year and we’re all sitting up in the stands and he’s down in his seat with Boz and who’s the guy that wears the eyeglass? I always forget his name. Best guy ever, always leads the athletes out for the, he wears one eye piece, a monocle.

Sean (36:36):

I don’t even know who that is. I didn’t know we had a guy wore a monocle. Wilson?

Jacob (36:40):

I don’t think that’s it. Is it Curt? I’ll get back to you. We have a guy who does athlete control, he’s been there since like, I’ve been there. I remember that guy every single year. And he was down there with Dave and we’re all sitting there, males and females. That’s probably, at least at this point, 80 of us in total. And Castro goes Heppner, or Jacob, come here. And I look around like oh crap, I haven’t done anything wrong. So I don’t know what I’m gonna get made fun of for here. I roll on down there and he looks at Boz, he goes, Hey, can you give me that measuring tape? And I thought, Aw, we’re gonna have for lack of better terms, a male measure off bro. And he goes measure your forearms.

Jacob (37:34):

So I said, OK, I’m measuring and it’s like, I think it’s like 15 and something. I don’t remember exactly. 15 something and he measures his and it’s a little bit shorter, but you know, again, he goes, one’s a little short. What’s the deal? Why do you have a problem with that? And I go Dave, I said, it doesn’t matter that your forearm, I don’t care if my forearm’s 19 inches or two inches, it comes down to the ratio of the rest of your arm. And you know, it’s just like I can’t solve a variable equation with two variables. This is not going to happen. Like I mean I can give you a range and he just kinda like laughed it off and said go sit down. I was like, OK, whatever. So I actually measured that and then he announced Mary later that night and then made a joke.

Jacob (38:21):

He was like, yeah, because of Heppner, we’re not going to have that standard. And I’m thinking, there’s no way you could have that standard. I was like, half these people didn’t measure right in the Open anyways, so they’re all gonna get caught now and it’s gonna look stupid. Anyways. So we kind of knew that would probably pop up again. And luckily someone had messaged me a couple months ago, a year ago and said, hey, did you ever consider trying it on your fist? And at first I thought to myself, bro, you stupid. Like, you can’t do that. Why would you do that? And then the more I thought about it, the more I realized there’s probably a lot of people that do handstand push-ups on their fist regardless because they have like, they can’t flex the wrist, they have wrist injuries or actually gymnasts do it like that too.

Jacob (39:00):

And so I thought, OK, well let’s just measure it up and see what happens and see if I can get over it. Well it gives me an extra inch and a half, which as we know in that standard is huge and so, practiced it a little bit and thought to myself, OK, I’ll keep this in my back pocket just in case. And then of course that standard came out and I remember just being irritated when it came out cause I just think if it’s not a good decision and you do it again now, it’s not necessarily you think it’s a good decision, it’s just the thought of you’re just trying to slap it into someone else’s face. And regardless of if it’s me or not, you know, not everything’s about me, I’m trying to clarify that. But anyways, so we did it with that standard.

Jacob (39:43):

I think I had to do it two or three times, because it took some getting used to it and is not comfortable on your fist. But had to practice it a few times and got it down and didn’t get a great score, but got a score that allowed me to feel comfortable that OK, I can just, I gotta do well the rest of the week. But then was able to get past it and then to obviously qualify. I think I was 18th in the Open this year or something like that. So yeah, it’ll work.

New Speaker (40:11):

So you have now delved into the world of content creation on YouTube and one of the things you’re doing is that, or do you did was Jacob of all trades. How did you come up with that idea?

Jacob (40:22):

Mike Rowe, dirty jobs. So we had this concept a while ago that’d be cool because you look at the pyramid of CrossFit, right? So now we’re getting into the good stuff. Now we’ve decided to leave CrossFit, listeners. We’re going to talk about the fun stuff. No more talking about handstand push-ups. Thank the Lord. So, the CrossFit pyramid, you know, the base is nutrition and then we have metcons and have gymnastics then strength and then we have sport. And what a lot of people don’t realize in our sport is they don’t take their fitness outside the gym. They measure their fitness inside these four walls and never take it outside to do anything else. And my personal thought on the issue since I’ve been around has always been, it’s a shame. It’s a shame to only define your fitness by how fast your Fran is. That’s stupid. So I said, OK, what if we did something on YouTube for fun where I took my fitness outside the gym. I use it in ways that aren’t necessarily normal, but then also take that money and to give back to people. So we did a season already and some of them were great, dancing in high heels, horseback riding, roller derby. I don’t know if you’ve ever done it before. Holy crap. That was really fun.

Sean (41:36):

I haven’t, but I’ve seen it man. It’s a cool-looking sport.

Jacob (41:44):

It’s vicious. Yeah. And then we did one was his ice cream making. We worked at like a dog. Some of them weren’t necessarily directly correlated to fitness, but we’re still trying to find community aspects to give back. We planned for a season two but unfortunately it was going to be this spring. But unfortunately corona hit and had other plans so we’re going to try and push it back. Cause we were actually planning on trying to go to St. Jude and actually I talked to their marketing department to go there and actually do all like four or five jobs there and to have like all the money goes to St. Jude instead of like six different organizations. It was gonna be one organization. I did them all there on campus. But unfortunately they’re on straight up lockdown and corona’s not gonna let you travel anyways.

Jacob (42:24):

So we’re going to try and probably push to 2021 just kind of see what happens. So yeah, it was a cool concept. I mean I think you do the same thing I do. I think a content creation, I’m sure you probably gonna say the same thing. I wish I would have got into it years ago because it’s huge. I mean there’s, if you get on the ground floor in podcasting or on the ground floor with YouTube creation or whatever the case may be, it’s a lot easier to grow because when people come on the platform they see you. And we got on a probably a little bit later, but we are still at the top end of our sport doing it and it’s still great. But I wish I would have gotten to a lot earlier cause it is an enjoyment to meet people, to meet new people, talking to people, the same thing you do.

Jacob (43:06):

Right. And to be able to change people’s lives, create content that you hope positively impact people out there and put a smile on their face because you know, we’re probably going to talk about right now like we’re stuck at home. It’s not a whole lot of things fun going on, you know? I’m sure right now there’s a lot of depression right now. It’s probably a lot of depression. It’s probably a lot of people that are probably drinking a little bit too much. And so like you hope that you can bring people a smile to their faces at a time that right now their jobs are uncertainty, their lives are uncertain and it’s just tough.

Sean (43:37):

What lessons have you learned from taking some time to walk into other people’s shoes?

Jacob (43:45):

You know, that’s a hard question. That’s the hardest question you probably asked. That’s a good one.

Jacob (43:56):

What it tends to come down to is you have to look at what you’ve been given. There’s a lot of people out there, there’s a lot of guys out there and girls whose only main sole focus is to make it to the Games. And that was me for years. And they tend to just only care about themselves. And I think as you get older in the sport, you tend to realize that making it the Games is awesome and that’s cool. But you tend to realize that you’ve been given the ability to go to the Games and someone didn’t. You took a spot away from someone else. So you should use what you’ve been given, that blessing that whether it’s that social media presence or the people that people respect you or people that want you on your podcast to talk to your listeners because they trust your pain, you’re not going to say something stupid.

Jacob (44:44):

And so you hope that that platform, that stage you’ve been given, you can positively impact people. And so walking a day in their shoes is your question. And I just have to look at the concept and think to myself, I’ve been blessed with something that maybe someone else hasn’t gotten the opportunity to. So if I can help them out in as much way as I possibly can by giving back to the organization or putting a smile on their face or whatever the case may be, yeah, then I’m going to try my hardest, my darndest to do it.

Sean (45:15):

Final question and I know you’re going to have a lot more competitive years ahead of you, hopefully, but what’s been the best part about your CrossFit journey so far?

Jacob (45:25):

People you meet in the community. I think, you know, I could have subtracted CrossFit out of the equation and I’d have been done with CrossFit or I’m done with football. All of us have probably joined an intermural sport, right? Bowling or flag football or softball and we all blown our knees out probably. We all tend to do that. But like you have a community there for sure, but it’s a very small community. It’s just like local guys. Maybe just around the tri-state or like there’s a couple of cities. But CrossFit is worldwide. And so it’s allowed me the concept of having friends and making friends all over the world and to be able to call on them. You know, I’m stuck in a country, I need to go and hang out with them or the fact that I can drop into any gym I want to, whereas, you know, if CrossFit it didn’t exist.

Jacob (46:15):

You know, you don’t have that option. Drop into a Gold’s gym or whatever. There’s that community, that welcoming aspect. And I think honestly when it comes down to it, a lot of organizations and a lot of companies and groups like churches for instance, can learn something from CrossFit because I think one thing that CrossFit has done absolutely well is the community it has fostered. And we care about each other more than anything else I’ve ever seen. Now, you know, obviously the armed forces is different, but we care about each other so much. But we’re also, the best part is, is when you care about someone, you’re also their greatest critic. And that’s also CrossFit, right? You walk into a gym, you’re doing a workout with a guy, and that guy’s judging you. He has no problem saying, Hey, Sean need you to get lower.

Jacob (47:04):

Hey, Sean needs you to open up your hips, whatever the case may be. And so not only are we each other’s biggest critic, we’re each other’s biggest cheerleader. And the best example I have of that is in 2016 at Aromas when there was only 40 of us guys, there are 40 of us girls there. And we had just got done with that God awful trail run and got done. And now we’re doing a deadlift ladder. And there’s no fans there. You know, there’s media, but they’re not cheering. They’re filming, that’s their job. There’s judges there but they’re not cheering, they’re no-repping you; that’s their job. The only people there who were fans were the people you were competing with. And I thought it was the coolest thing because the guys who were last in the trail run went through first and the deadlift ladder.

Jacob (47:48):

And as soon as they got done, we’re in Aromas, it’s hot as crud. You already ran 5k through dirt, right? And some of the guys who went through first obviously were last in the trail run and they’re like five pounds heavier with dirt and sud. And so they didn’t get done with the deadlift ladder, clearing it like Sam Dancer and then immediately get out of the sun. And go in the shade, drink water and just like watch from afar. Now those guys circled up and cheer people on and I thought that was the absolute greatest definition of our sport is that fact that we care about each other and that’s what separates us from everything else.

Sean (48:22):

Listen, Jacob, it is always a pleasure to speak with you. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. The best of luck moving forward and I hope that we get to see you compete in person sooner rather than later.

Jacob (48:33):

That would be awesome. Thanks Sean.

Sean (48:38):

Big thanks to Jacob Heppner for taking the time to speak with me today. Be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel and follow him on Instagram. You can find them at @jheppner66. Thank you for listening to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Sean Woodland and if you’re in business, you need to know something. Certified Two-Brain mentors have been through it all and they’re available to help you reach success. To learn how a mentor can help you transform your business and add $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue, book a free call on TwoBrain We’ll see you next time, everybody.


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