Steph Hammerman: Inspiration Is the Spark, Motivation Is the Fire

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Sean (00:00):

Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode I speak with adaptive CrossFit athlete Steph Hammerman. The Two-Brain Radio archives are full of great shows you might have missed. We’ve got amazing stories from the community, sales and marketing tips, and the best of the business world all delivered in three shows every week. So to the stay in the loop, subscribe to Two-Brain Radio wherever you get your podcasts. Steph Hammerman is one of the most well known adaptive athletes on the CrossFit landscape. She is the first Level 2 coach with cerebral palsy. She is a cancer survivor and has completed a hand-cycle marathon. She also owns Hammer Driven Fitness in North Carolina. To call her a fighter would probably be an understatement. We talk about growing up with cerebral palsy, how she started to and continues today to use her voice to advocate for others, how she got into CrossFit and why the societal perception of adaptive athletes still has a long way to go. Thanks for listening everyone. Steph, thank you so much for doing this today. How are you dealing with this kind of new normal that’s going on right now?

Steph (01:11):

Hi Sean, it’s so awesome to be here and thanks so much for asking me. This new normal is definitely interesting. I own an affiliate in Knightdale, North Carolina. We’re CrossFit HDF, excuse me, also known as Hammer Driven Fitness. So obviously we’re shut down like the rest of the world, but we’re using technology to the best of our ability and taking as much advantage as possible. We’re running classes daily, trying to keep people involved and you know, I think it’s really cool because not only are you bringing your community together, we’ve also talked about opening it up to the entire world. And while some may think that it’s risky, I think it’s been paying off and it’s been a lot of fun.

Sean (01:58):

You obviously have a lot to deal with when you’re running an affiliate. I’m just curious when things get back to normal, what are your intentions with keeping around what you’re doing right now as far as the online stuff is going?

Steph (02:11):

Yeah. So I mean, I don’t hundred percent have an answer what that’s going to look like because we don’t know the exact timeframe of when we’re going back to normal, but we’re trying to build it out to a point of maybe giving somebody an option, whether it’s daily or you know, three times a week. I’m not really sure what that’s gonna look like, but you know, there is a reality of the fact that some people might not feel comfortable right away going back into the affiliate and you have to be ready for that. You know, it’s definitely hit hard, but at the end of the day you kind of have to roll with the punches and I think that’s what we’re planning on doing. Yeah. Yeah.

Sean (02:50):

When you were born, I’m going way back here, you said that doctors told your parents that you would never read, speak or write because of cerebral palsy. How did your mom and dad react to that?

Steph (03:02):

You know, it’s interesting. I was actually just talking to my mom today, because I’ve done something pretty cool. I actually signed a book deal this morning.

Sean (03:11):

Oh, congratulations!

Steph (03:11):

Thank you. And so I’m working on that, but I was talking to my mom about it and, you know, there’s different ways that people can react and I’m very, very grateful for the amount of resources that my family was able to have access to. I think, you know, I’m not in their heads and you know, I don’t think we’ve ever really had a deep conversation about it, but I’m sure it was scary at the time. But I also have a twin brother that’s completely able bodied and an older brother that’s able bodied and a younger sister. So they kind of never really treated me any differently. I think that’s what made it the best was that I was treated like anybody else in my family, whether it was good, bad, whatever, in between, you just kind of lived your life. And so I’ve always lived like this very quote unquote normal life. And, I don’t know. I don’t see my life that’s very much different.

Sean (04:11):

What kind of lessons did you take from the fact that you grew up around able-bodied siblings who didn’t treat you any differently?

Steph (04:20):

Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because now that I’m looking at my life, I’m 30 now and I’m actually interacting with more people with different abilities than I ever have in my entire life. And for a long time I kind of stayed away from that reality because I felt like I didn’t want to be boxed in, right. I didn’t want to be friends with somebody just because they used a wheelchair or just because they had cerebral palsy. I certainly didn’t want to date somebody that had a different ability because I felt like that’s what people expected of me and part of my personality is if you say you think I’m going to do something, trust me, I’m going to prove you that I’m going to do the complete opposite. And so I think growing up with able bodied siblings only helped kind of build that fire, build that independence and be able to be where I am right now.

Sean (05:11):

You wrote that at a young age, I found my voice and it was the most powerful tool I would ever acquire and something I never take for granted to this day. What did you mean by that?

Steph (05:23):

You know, there’s some people that live with cerebral palsy that it affects them deeply. And I had one of my really good friends growing up, his name was Brandon and he lived with CP to an extent of the fact that he was actually like kind of trapped in his body. He was brilliant and he was a very attractive person, but he literally couldn’t speak. He didn’t say any words. He really couldn’t use his vocal cords, but he spoke with his eyes. And so from a very young age, I was taught that I was really lucky because I was able to voice what I needed, right? If you asked me something or I needed an accommodation at a very young age, my parents let me kind of fight for myself and advocate for myself. I went to a mainstream school by the time I was six years old, so I was mainstreamed from six years old, all the way to graduating high school and then going to college and really had to kind of fend for myself. So, not to say that I didn’t have resources to help me, but the fact that I was able to speak and was able to speak so well, you know, my parents realized that by the time I was three, I was explaining to people what CP was and they were like, she’s going to be just fine.

Sean (06:41):

You mentioned this before, but you are clearly someone who enjoys proving people wrong. When was the first time that you remember that you actually got enjoyment out of doing something that someone said you couldn’t?

Steph (06:53):

Oh, that’s a really cool question. You know, it’s funny. So I was probably six years old going on seven and I came home from school one day, it was like probably April-ish. And I said to my mom, I’m going to go to camp. And she goes, OK. And when you’re, especially in New York when you go away to sleep-away camp, you go away for eight weeks at a time and you don’t come home. And she’s like, well, what do you mean you’re going to camp? I said, well, I’m going to camp with my friend Jessica, and Jessica was my best friend at the time. And she said, OK, sure. And I was like, no, I’m really serious. So I went to my parents. I told them I wanted to go away to sleep away camp. Nobody in my family had been to sleep away camp.

Steph (07:40):

It was a completely able bodied, mainstream camp. The next thing you know, we had a visit to the camp and I was the first camper to ever use any sort of assistive devices. And that camp I went to for eight years and every bunk that I went to had a little ramp. So you knew where I slept. So to this day, that’s kind of like a little joke, but I think that’s probably when I realized like if I wanted something, I had to fight for it. And one of the rules in our house was if you want to go away and do something, you need to know how to do it either by yourself completely or with minimal assistance or know how to ask for what you want. And so while some of that seems to be like tough, you know, or a tough way to handle that, I think that’s what’s made me so independent was yeah, it was tough growing up and I probably hated it at the time that it was happening, but the best thing to ever happen was me being able to dress myself, me being able to do what I need to do to live this fulfilling life.

Sean (08:48):

You reacting to things the way you did at such a young age is obviously credit to your parents and the support system that you around you. What kind of values did they instill in you that allowed you to be such a fighter so early on.

Steph (09:03):

So I grew up in a very big Jewish family and my parents were not the only like support system, which I feel very lucky to say. My grandparents, especially my grandpa, my grandpa and I are very, very close. There’s like daddy’s girls and then there’s grandpa’s girls and I’m definitely like a grandpa’s girl and he is very successful in his life and he’s always taught all of his grandchildren, you know, there’s 17 of us and from every single one of us he’s taught us the value of hard work and if you want something you need to go after it, but you also need to work for it. And so I think that’s kind of just always been part of our life is, you know, if you want something that’s awesome and it’s really cool to, you know, have dreams and have wishes, but you also need to make a plan of action in order to attain them.

Sean (09:58):

You said that you started advocating for others when you got to college. What type of things were you doing?

Steph (10:05):

So college for most people, when they think about college, they probably think like partying and whatnot. And well, yes, I had a lot of fun with my friends. I was a social butterfly. I always have been. But as soon as I got to college, I started getting involved in everything I could from housing and residence life to community service projects. And I would just do any student activity that I could get involved with. But then my sophomore year of college I sat on the student board for, what do you call it? Like our political board, I forget what you call it. Like an advisory board. And I realized that no one was really talking about things that people with disabilities needed. Like the push buttons on the doors. Like, have you ever been around the whole campus and thought like, why aren’t some of these buttons working?

Steph (11:03):

Like, are people doing maintenance orders on them? And like kind of seemed like an asshole. But like I just needed to do what I felt was right. And so my school was very small. I went to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. And I became very outspoken and I became friendly with the president of the university. And I was like, I think a really good idea would be to stick you in a wheelchair for one week and let me know how you feel. And he looked at me and he said, if you create it, we will do it. And so what I did was I created an entire week of activities or an entire month, I’m sorry, of activities that students could do from fun activities to educational. And in the month of October they did them. And one of those things was going around the campus for an entire week as best you could using a wheelchair.

Steph (12:04):

And that changed a lot of people’s perspective. The president realized he had these big glass doors with like golden handles and he couldn’t get into his own building. And I was like, you know, you say that you want to have an open door policy, but how can you do that when you know some of your students use accessibility devices? And the coolest thing about this university is that they didn’t just do, they listened and they acted. So when he realized that he couldn’t get into his office or that an elevator wasn’t working, the next week, it was fixed. And so part of my job became literally like pressing all the buttons once a month, like making sure I knew where they were and I was the voice of, I guess you’d call like we had a disabilities office, but I was the voice of the students that basically said like, this is what we physically need. And so that was pretty cool.

Sean (13:01):

I’m curious what kind of reactions you got from people. You said that it changed their perceptions. What were people saying to you after this whole experience?

Steph (13:08):

I think, you know, it was frustrating for some, one of the other things that we did was we created a wheelchair basketball tournament. And so they had a really cool idea about athletics and we had a local basketball team come and play against them, but play from a seated position. So that was really cool. And so people’s reactions were more of out of frustration rather than like feeling bad for me. They were like, man, like this must suck. But at the end of the day, it’s part of my reality. So I don’t really know anything different. I talked to Kevin Ogar about this a lot too and [unintelligible] their situations are a little different in the sense that when they were, they weren’t born like this, right? So they had a life beforehand and it was altered completely. And I think the first time I ever had a feeling of what that was like is when I was diagnosed with cancer. Because CP was part of my life and always will be, right. But being diagnosed with cancer then kind of shifted that of how my body’s reacting and how that changes. So I mean, I think people’s reactions are very interesting because I don’t ever let people feel bad for me. So it’s just not my nature.

Sean (14:27):

Yeah. You mentioned getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma stage three B.

Steph (14:32):

I didn’t mean to jump around.

Sean (14:34):

Yeah, no, that’s good because I was going to talk about this anyway. That was in 2016. So what was it like for you getting that news?

Steph (14:43):

You know, it’s crazy because I’m one that remembers a lot of things. Ty says I have a memory of an elephant, but it’s actually four years ago this week, my life started to really start to change. Four years ago this week I was actually in Cookeville Tennessee training with Rich and it was the first time we ever started to realize that I might be very sick. I was doing a workout with Chris Henshaw and Rich at the time. We had a couple of cool people there and for some reason I just couldn’t finish this workout that he had asked me to film with them. And I’d done it like so many times. And my fatigue level was just like really, really high. And, little did I know a couple of days later we would start to figure out that I would be diagnosed with cancer.

Steph (15:34):

So it was kinda crazy to be at the fittest point in my life and then realize like, you ain’t so fit homie, like kind of sick, you know? And so I think that was a little, it was very interesting to be in that space. But when the doctor looks at you and says, hi, you know, I’m your doctor and we’re going to fix this. But reality is I’ve never worked with anybody with CP before. My, like, my light bulb went off and I was like, this is an opportunity to educate. And so what I did with the doctor was I was like, listen, I don’t have time for this shit, so we need to figure this out. And so what I did with her for 29 weeks, 29 weeks of treatment, I wrote everything down from how I felt to when I use the restroom to what my temperature was like when I worked out, when I didn’t. And I hope that it makes a difference for at least one person.

Sean (16:32):

Yeah. Seven weeks into your 29-week treatment, your doctor says you’re basically cancer-free. Why do you think you were able to beat it so quickly?

Steph (16:42):

I’ll tell you exactly why. So I remember I had to have a surgery to put my port in and she said, you can’t work out for 11 days, or 10 days. So on the 11th day I went to her office and I showed her a video of me doing a clean, 35, 55 pounds or something like that. And I was like, just watch this. And so I made her watch it and I said, can I go back to doing this? And she said, I don’t know why you’d want to, but sure. I looked at her and I said, this is what’s going to save my life. I said, if you allow me to continue being exactly who I am and allow me to continue doing exactly what I love, I’m going to be just fine. So I had three questions for her when I first met her.

Steph (17:34):

And these were three honest questions. It might make you laugh. But these were real questions. I asked her three things. I said, am I going to die? Am I going to lose my hair and can we still have sex? That’s all I wanted to know, three things I wanted to. And she laughed and we laughed. And I said, listen, if you can tell me the answer to these three things, I’m gonna, you know, I’ll be just fine. So she said, yes, you’re going to lose your hair. No, you’re not going to die and yes, you can still have sex. And I said, OK, then let’s fix it. And I remember going into her office on the seventh week, I’d been training my entire treatment because I’m so grateful for this, but I have a very good relationship with Jason Khalipa. And he was able to connect me with a gym in New York.

Steph (18:20):

And, JP gave me a free membership to the New York Brick gym, which was amazing. And I remember going into her office on the seventh week and she looked at me and she said, I’ve never in my life seen somebody like you before. I said, what? She said, I don’t know, but it’s gone. And I’m like, OK. And I said, so am I done? And she’s like, we have to continue to do treatment. And she said that because I was so physically fit before I got sick, that’s the reason that I was able to fight so much easier and because we stayed so positive throughout the whole thing. So like, I’m not trying to make light of cancer, especially in this time right now. I know people struggle with different things. I know people, you know, might not survive it.

Steph (19:14):

I understand that completely. But coming from a personal perspective, we tried to make it really fun. If you know anything about me and my boyfriend Ty, like we just try to have fun with each other and we looked at it like, like a mini honeymoon in a sense. We’re not married, the world can calm down. Right. But we just started dating and like, we needed to figure out how we were going to make that work. And so we just had fun doing it, you know,

Sean (19:45):

Thirsty for more fitness talk? Every week Two-Brain Radio brings you three new shows filled with inspiring stories and actionable advice. Learn the ins and outs of digital marketing and sales on Mondays. Then join me on Wednesdays to hear from the top athletes, coaches and personalities from the fitness world. On Thursdays, Chris Cooper and other business leaders share their expertise on how to grow your business, solve problems and move closer to wealth. Want to chat? Email with feedback and requests, and don’t forget to subscribe. Now back to Steph Hammerman. I’m sure though that there were some rough times in there when you go through something like that. So how did you deal with them?

Steph (20:29):

So when they tell you that cancer is cumulative, they’re not joking. The more you do treatment, so like I remember my first like three treatments, I was like, I totally got this. This is a breeze. Like I didn’t feel anything. And then you got to like the 10th treatment. And I remember that was probably the first time ever thinking like, I don’t know if I can beat this and I the cancer has already gone, but I didn’t know if my body could handle any more of the medicine. And what people don’t talk about, and I think we need to be talking about more, especially as a woman, is your body changes so much. Some people lose weight, some people gained weight. I gained anywhere from like 50 to 80 pounds like it would fluctuate and my body changed, you know, drastically in just weeks.

Steph (21:20):

So going from being so fit to being and understanding your body to then having no control over how your body is is changing was like, it blew my mind. So I think that’s where I really struggled was mentally just being like, you know, I’m losing my hair. I lost everything on my face, everything on my head. Like it was crazy. And I think mentally going through like, do people think I’m still beautiful? Like how is somebody still gonna love me? Like those were real things. And unfortunately, like, I wish I could kind of go back and tell myself like, it’s all gonna be OK. You know? But during that time, I’m not gonna lie to you. There are some times where you’re just like, is this worth it? You know? Or like why me? I don’t think I ever really asked fully like, why me?

Steph (22:16):

But there were times where I was definitely frustrated and I just wished that like I could stop the medicine from making me feel a certain way. And, you know, I mean, I tried to make the best of it. You would go into chemo and two weeks later you would go again. And so it was just like the cycle, you would have, you know, three days, bad days, and then the rest would be good. And then, you know, it would start all over again. So, you know, it was a little, it was a mind game. Yeah.

Sean (22:43):

What’d you learn about yourself after going through that?

Steph (22:47):

I learned that a lot of people love me. I learned that I am worth it. Which I think was really hard to kind of learn. And I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I think I am. And I think that’s where I started to really think like, what’s next, you know, and like how can I make the most of this situation? Because if I just sat in the chemo room and just like felt sorry for myself, I don’t think I would be sitting here and talking to you.

Sean (23:21):

How did you start your fitness journey?

Steph (23:24):

That’s a really good question. So I’ve always been pretty athletic. When I was a little kid, they had these things called the games for the physically challenged. So it was different from the Special Olympics, but it was called the Empire State Games. And so I’d always been like involved in swimming. Swimming was always like a big part of my life. I used to do some horseback riding and things like that, but as I got older and in my teenage years, I started to kind of like neglect, you know, myself and really what my parents would advise of me. So good luck with that with your son.

Sean (24:03):

Thank you. I was just thinking I’m going to go through that.

Steph (24:07):

But then when I was a sophomore in college, I kind of had this epiphany moment. I saw a picture of myself on Facebook and I was in a sorority at the time and I just didn’t like how I looked. And it wasn’t necessarily that I thought that I was ugly or anything was wrong. It was more like, I just felt like I just didn’t like the way that I physically looked. So I remember giving my grandpa call and saying like, you know, if I could find a trainer, would you help me? Would you help me get this trainer? And he said, as long as you’re going to stick with it, I’ll totally help you. And I did. I ended up working with a trainer for quite some time and he’s the reason that I really started to become an athlete because I remember he looked at me and he said, you’re a beautiful woman, but you need goals.

Steph (24:58):

And I said, OK, well I want to lose, I don’t know what I said, probably like 50 pounds or something like that. And he was like, that’s going to happen. I need like a tangible goal. And I actually went to a race to watch my friend run and he was one of the best runners in South Florida. And I saw these people hop out of their wheelchairs into these bikes and in an able bodied race. And I was like, what are they doing? And little did I know these hand cyclists were real athletes. I didn’t know anything about hand cycling before. And I remember I looked at my trainer cause I was with him and I said, I want to do that. And he’s like, OK, well let’s go talk to them. And little did I know that my grandparents were connected with the head of this organization that did that. So I was like, of course they are.

Steph (25:49):

Of course that would be, right. But I remember telling the head of the organization what I wanted to do and he’s like, OK, what are you waiting for? Get on a bike. And I was like right now? And he’s like, yeah, get on a bike. So I did and I went in the parking lot and he is like, you’re really strong. Your arms are really strong. I think we’re going to sign you up for a marathon. And I was like, wait, what? He’s like, yeah, you can train for a marathon. Right? And so I looked at my trainer and he’s like, yeah, we’re going to train. And yeah, I did, December 4th of 2013 I did my first. Or 2011. Sorry, I did my first full marathon. 26.2 miles on a bike.

Sean (26:30):

That is insane. How did realizing that goal then change you moving forward?

Steph (26:35):

Oh, it was the best thing ever. So that was 2011 and I remember at the end of that race, it was four hours, 34 minutes and 16 seconds and you talk about like a clock and you know CrossFit and a clock, like that clock can read into your soul, like makes you think about things. And I just remember looking down at my hands and my hands were so gross and I looked up at the clock and I’m like, that’s cool, but I think I could do better. And so I had a friend that was coaching CrossFit. We’re going to fast forward to 2012. Had a friend that was coaching CrossFit. And I had told her that I was kind of getting a little tired of the trainer situation. Like I loved him dearly, but I was kind of bored and I wanted something new to do, but I wanted to be a better cyclist.

Steph (27:25):

And she’s like, without hesitation, she was like, come to my gym. I’m going to introduce you to the owner. And I was like, OK. So on May 3rd of 2012 I walked into my first CrossFit gym with my crutches in my hand in my power chair and I met this guy named Turbo, his name’s Scott Lefferts, but everybody calls him Turbo and he owned CrossFit Hardcore, the Garage in Boca Raton and this guy’s straight up from like New York. OK. Like full on like big buff dude looks really intimidating. And I said, hi, I’m Steph. I want to be one of your athletes.

Steph (28:05):

I started the conversation, I told him that I was a hand cyclist but I wanted to improve my times and he had never worked with any adaptive athlete before. And you looked at me and he’s like, you really want to do this? I said, yeah. He said, OK, get on the floor. I’m like OK. I got out of my chair and got on the floor and he’s like, OK, you’re going to get back up. I’m like, OK, I’m going to get back up. It took me like 25 minutes to get back up. And he was like, well that’s a burpee and we’re going to work on it. And I said, OK. And he said, you’re going to come back tomorrow? I said, yep, I’m going to come back tomorrow. And that was the start of my fitness journey.

Sean (28:48):

So what do you think about, what was it about CrossFit that hooked you?

Steph (28:54):

The people. And it’s eight years later now, right? Like it’s so crazy to think, and I really hope that people listening to this understand that, like that’s what still drives the CrossFit community now more than ever. Like you need to forget about the things that make us different, you know, whether you’re a different gym down the street, kind of break those walls back down because the people are what kind of kept me going. It didn’t matter that I used crutches. It didn’t matter how slow my Murph time was. It mattered that I was there and that I was doing it and that people would cheer me on regardless of what I was doing. And I think not to say that people have forgotten about that, I think that it needs to be reminded, is that like community is so much more important than just the fastest Fran time, you know, or going to the CrossFit Games.

Steph (29:55):

Like, yes, I think that’s important, but your average person just wants to be included. And I think that that’s what made this experience and continues to make this experience really special. You know, think about our friendship, right? Like we wouldn’t have become friends if I didn’t open my mouth and say, Hey, I want to know who you are. You know, and having that kind of conversation. I remember when you came to watch me do the mile time on my crutches and you know, you think just, and I’m not trying to take anything away from it, but you think because somebody is like a big name in the community, like you can’t go up and talk to them. Right. And that I threw all that stuff out the window because I just wanted to be around cool people. And I think that’s kind of what makes it different is like people ask me all the time how I make opportunities happen.

Steph (30:52):

And it’s literally I just open my mouth and say like, this is what I want to do. Like, can it be done? And if the answer is no, then the answer is no. But you never know what’s going to happen. If the answer is yes, it could change your life completely.

Sean (31:05):

Why did you think that CrossFit would be a great avenue for adaptive athletes to compete?

Steph (31:12):

You know, I can’t take credit for that. I think what’s really cool is that this community has grown so much, especially in the eight years that I’ve been involved. But I think it just naturally started to grow. You know, you talk about Stoutie, Chris Stoutenberg out in Canada that runs Wheel WOD programming and Kevin and all of our stories kind of intertwined with one another. I think that the adaptive platform is growing. I think that the reason that it works so well is that it can be adapted to anybody that needs anything.

Steph (31:53):

Whether you’re 80 years old or you’re somebody that recently got injured or you have cerebral palsy, there’s something that you can physically do. And I think that’s what’s pretty amazing about it is over time, you know, we started throwing workouts at each other in 2013, 2014 and now those workouts have turned into an entire platform that Stoutie runs every day. And so I think it’s not one person that thought like, Oh, this is going to be a good idea. I think when we were able to, I think it was, yeah, it was 2015, we were able to kind of all get together the core group of us, and kind of realized that there was like magic in a bottle and realize that we all had so many different things that we could offer to the community that, you know, it was important that our voice be heard. And I think, you know, I think Dave Castro, I think Greg Glassman did a great job of kind of letting, just letting our voices be heard and not really stifling it. But I think that it still has a long way to go.

Sean (33:04):

You did your first competition in 2013, I think it was the Crush Games in Miami. What did that experience teach you?

Steph (33:11):

Oh man, that was the coolest experience of my life. Again, that’s one of those experiences where you just, you just ask, right. I met Miko Suna and we’re still friends to this day, actually just messaged with him today and I said to him, I don’t know what I’m doing but I want to show people what I’m doing and I hear about this Crush Games idea and I just want to try it. Just let me know like if you’re willing to do it. And he said yes. And he introduced me to now somebody who’s one of my best friends, his name is Brandon Fullwider. And Brandon was my right hand person and literally just said, anything you need, just tell me your scales. Mike told me the workouts in advance. I scaled them to whatever I needed to be. I wasn’t really in a division.

Steph (34:01):

It was necessarily more like a, like an exhibition kind of thing. But one of the coolest things happened there where Brandon and I got to know each other and he kind of pushed me. He was a really good coach and I wanted to PR my clean. My clean at the time it was like 35 pounds and I would do it from my knees and he was like, I think you could do 40 and I was like, OK. And so at the last minute he ended up putting 42 pounds on the bar and didn’t tell me. And he was like, just try it. I’m like, OK. And I tried it maybe three or four times and Dylan Maletsky was there and Miko Suna had said like Steph the hammer Hammerman or something like that. And I had 10 seconds left and I swear this could probably be on like ESPN top 10 of the week or whatever. I have three seconds left and I made the lift and it was like the coolest experience of my life. Like the whole crowd went wild and I was like, that’s such a cool feeling. And that’s what led me to want to reach out to Guido and really start the ball rolling with, you know, Wadapalooza and creating more of an avenue because that feeling was so cool and I wanted to be able to give that to more people.

Sean (35:16):

Why did you want to become a coach?

Steph (35:19):

I think because people think I couldn’t, like I’m not gonna lie. Like I didn’t know if I could. And I remember I met, um, chef Wallach, David Wallach. And he looked at me and he was like, not only are you going to coach, you’re going to coach for me. And he was the first person to, that I knew of, that actively had adaptive athletes coaching. And I was like, cool. And people ask me like, how I became such a good coach and like, yes, I think it’s such a great compliment. I don’t think I’m the world’s greatest coach. There’s certainly things that I need to learn or need to be better at. But I took my mistakes one at a time and I learned from them, you know, and I think one of the things that makes me relate to people so well is that I just make them believe in themselves. I didn’t make you do double-unders. I didn’t make you do butterfly pull-ups. I didn’t make you do muscle-ups cause I can’t do that. You know, like I just made you really believe in yourself.

Sean (36:22):

What is the biggest challenge that you have when you’re coaching someone who is not an adaptive athlete?

Steph (36:29):

It depends on, now, I’ve gotten a little bit more comfortable, you know, obviously anybody can walk in the door. But especially if they’re coming from complete ground zero, just effectively communicating, realizing what cues might work for somebody and what cues might not. I think one of the coolest challenges that I’ve been given in the last three weeks is I’m working with a deaf athlete. And we’re having to, you know, work on some sign language. I think it’s really important that people not forget that people with disabilities come with all different kinds of different abilities. And you never know who’s going to walk in your door. So I think the most challenging thing for me is just finding what works, whether you’re an adaptive athlete or not, because not all adaptive athletes are the same.

Sean (37:17):

Yeah. You’ve said that societal perception of people with adaptive needs has changed, but it has a long way to go. So where do you think that we still need to make progress?

Steph (37:28):

I think in the CrossFit community it has gotten a lot better because I feel like a lot of us now, we’re putting ourselves out on social media being like, these are things we can do, right? So if myself or Kevin walks into your gym and you’re like, cool, I just want to work out with you guys, I really hope that it starts turning into, you know, instead of it being like, Oh, you’re so inspiring, to man, that’s really cool. Or man, let’s celebrate those real PRs. So I always joke that if you and I worked out together for six months, you would just realize like that’s how Steph works out, right? It would just become normal. And then you would start to understand the scales. So I think societal perception’s always gonna be there. I’m never going to change somebody’s perception if they don’t want it to change. If somebody wants to learn and they’re eager to change and they come to me and they say, how can I make this better? That’s different. But I think, you know, I think societal perception’s always gonna be kind of hanging over us and it’s job to just continually educate the best we can.

Sean (38:39):

How do you feel when people say you’re such an inspiration?

Steph (38:43):

I’ll be honest. It’s a very back and forth feeling because I want you to understand that when somebody tells you you’re inspiring, that’s great, but what did I physically inspire you to do? And so like my joke is, you tell me I’m inspiring, but then you go stick your hands back in a bag of Cheetos and go sit on the couch and watch TV. Did I inspire you to do anything? But when people tell me that I’ve motivated them to do something, that’s creating change. So think about inspiration as the spark and motivation is what creates the fire, right? And this blazing fire of people going to do things and move forward and make a change in their life. So while yes, I understand that a lot of people think it’s inspiring and they gain inspiration, think about the word inspiration. Inspiration has to lead to somewhere. If I’ve inspired you to do something, I’d love to see that end result.

Sean (39:46):

As an adaptive athlete, how do you want people like me to treat you when we see you at our gyms?

Steph (39:54):

Like normal. I don’t know, if I’m talking during class, tell me, stop talking. There’s no reason to treat somebody like a china doll, right? If somebody comes to a CrossFit gym and they’re coming to you and they’re being vulnerable enough to say, I need your help, right? Adaptive athletes don’t necessarily have to be people that use assistive devices. Adaptive athletes can be the guy and the woman that’s coming to you at 500 pounds and needing to save their life. You’re not gonna make somebody that’s 300 plus pounds go and run a mile, you’ll know how to scale that back. So I don’t understand why when you see an assistive device that automatically like goes out the window. And so I would love to see like that correlation kind of be the same. I’m coming to you and saying, I know that you do amazing things and I really need your help. I pay you for your knowledge. Right? I know I don’t pay you to baby me. Right? And so I think if you want it in real terms is I think one of the best things that Stoutie does. One of the best things that Kevin does and a lot of these gym owners do is, OK, we understand what you need. We’re going to meet you where where you are, but we’re also going to push you to a point that you didn’t know you could go.

Sean (41:22):

You always have something going on. You’re always working on something. So what is next for Steph Hammerman?

Steph (41:27):

Right now trying to figure out kind of how we’re going to kind of deal with this crisis. And you know, fortunately I hope it goes away soon. But like I said, I’m really trying to work on bringing a book to life. This has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and hopefully create this new kind of platform for people of all different abilities and you know, show people that fitness, not necessarily just CrossFit, but fitness in general is so important regardless of how old you are or what you look like.

Sean (42:03):

Steph, it’s always a blast talking to you. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and best of luck moving forward and I cannot wait to read your book.

Steph (42:09):

Thanks so much.

Sean (42:10):

I want to thank Steph Hammerman once again for taking the time to join me. If you’d like to follow her on social media. She is on Instagram. You can find her @Stephthehammer. Thank you for listening to Two-Brain Radio. Do you want to take the guesswork out of entrepreneurship? We have a ton of free resources to help you do just that. For free access to guides on marketing, retention, buying, selling, and more, visit TwoBrain Thanks for joining us everyone. I’m Sean Woodland and we’ll see you soon.


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