Episode 131 – Michael Cazayoux


What’s up everyone? Drew Manning here from Fit2Fat2Fit. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast. This is Episode 131 with my good friend, Michael Cazayoux. His last name is pronounced “Kaz-you” but it is C-a-z-a-y-o-u-x. Some of you in the Crossfit world might have heard of him, he’s been coaching and competing Crossfit for over four years. He’s had 11 years of Olympic and powerlifting experience, he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.  A USA weightlifting coach, CrossFit level 1 trainer and is certified in CrossFit Coaches prep, CrossFit weight lifting 1 and 2, fascial stretch therapy and functional movement systems. So basically, he has been a 2 time CrossFit games competitor on a team.

He’s the CEO of Brute Strength as well. Basically I wanted to have him on the podcast because I was on his podcast called Brute Strength, which if you have not checked out, is a great podcast. I wanted to bring him on to finally interview him because he’s got such an amazing story. We go into his background of him growing up and overcoming drug addiction as a teenager, going through therapy and all the lessons he learned throughout the years of trying to find these outside sources of happiness. Now he’s kind of, adopted this… balance of physical strength, but mental, emotional and spiritual strength as well. That’s why I love him and his story, because it definitely relates to me and my story of embracing all four of those pillars rather than just focusing on physical strength, which is cool, but in the end does not make you happy. And so he’s got a really cool story that you definitely want to stick around for it.

Drew:  Michael, welcome to the show man, how are you doing?

Michael:  I’m great man, thanks for having me on, it’s been awhile since we last spoke but I always appreciate being on the other side of the interview. Thank you so much for, you know, thinking enough of me to have me on your show.

Drew:  No, it’s my pleasure man, I’ve been meaning to have you on for awhile. The last time we spoke, I was in my apartment in Hawaii, I was living out there for about a year going through…a life transition and so a lot has changed for me as well. *chuckle*

Michael:  I bet.

Drew: So, I’m back in Utah, you’re out in Austin Texas now. Right?

Michael:  Yep, exactly.

Drew:  You got married? *laughing*

Michael:  Yeah, yeah, since we last spoke, got married, got a dog. Moved a couple of times, got a house.

Drew: Yep. *Laughing*

Michael:  Getting domesticated.

Drew:  Yeah man, the cool thing that stayed consistent though for you and me is the podcasts  still going. *laughing*

Michael:  Exactly, right.

Drew:  Exactly.

Michael:  And its evolved for sure.

Drew:  Yeah, oh yeah, for sure man. I’m still trying to keep up with all you, with what you guys have going on. I wanted to bring you on personally to talk about your personal story and your journey because I think it’s really powerful and its unique especially in maybe the CrossFit world or even the health and fitness world. I think we have a lot in common, so that’s….. I wanted to have you on for awhile. And I am going to have your wife on as well because I want to share her story too and her philosophies in the near future. So that will be really fun, it will be really cool to have both you guys on.

Michael:  Yeah, you can learn a lot more from her. Hopefully I will make you laugh a little bit more, I’m not sure yet.

Drew: *laughing* Well we’ll see, we’ll see man when we have her on next month. Ok, so maybe start from the beginning, tell us a little bit about, you know, what your passions were as a kid that kind of lead you down this path of health and fitness first of all.  And like maybe the environment you grew up in, you grew up in Louisiana, right?

Michael:  Yeah, I grew up in a really small town, New Roads Louisiana. Ah, about 5000 people lived there and so your question was what has kind of lead me down this path. Not much about my childhood actually lead me down this path, other than I…….the only constant for my entire childhood was playing sports, right? I went through a really big transition around say, 12 years old, and I’m sure we’ll talk a little about that. I got into drugs and so my priorities really changed and the only constant throughout my entire childhood was sports. And I remember my dad bringing me into a weight room when I was probably 8 or 9 years old.  He told me this thing that has stuck with me and smart personal trainers kind of think the same way. He told me something to the effect of, for every press you do, you should do 2 pulls.  Because we’re pressing you know all day in life, which he had no idea how smart that was but I…. I treated my back really well from a young age. I was always doing pulling exercises. I remember going into the gym with him at a really young age and just really fell in love with it. I was always in the weight room, no matter what sport I was playing, I made sure I was still hitting the weights. Probably more than anyone else at my school and so I definitely had this love for the gym.

Drew:  Yeah…So what sports did you play?

Michael:  Football, baseball, soccer, golf. I did powerlifting. I did a couple weight lifting meets. I did basketball for a little while. I went to a really small school so I could play and start in anything I wanted.

Drew:  *chuckle* Yeah

Michael:  Which was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun.

Drew: Yeah that is, that’s really cool man. What was your dad’s background? I mean that really is great advice for a long time ago because it really is all ‘push push’ it seems like in a gym that’s kind of what people focus on, even for me growing up playing football and wrestling it was all about you know, everyone wanted to bench press the most.

Michael:  Yeah, I mean he and his brothers played football and baseball growing up and I think, I think him and one of his brothers both had around a 400 pound bench and 500 pound squat, right, so they were pretty damn strong high school kids. Other than that, absolutely no, yeah no other experience other than that. He’s an attorney and he was a politician for a while.  So, I don’t know where he came across that knowledge.

Drew:  Interesting. And did he have you lifting at 8 or 9?

Michael:  You know probably like lifting a bar and I would just go in there and just basically, all I remember doing is bench pressing and pull ups. Then the rest of the entire day I would just watch him work out, not the entire day, just the entire session I would just watch him work out and would just play around.

Drew:  Gotcha. And then so from high school, what happened in college? Did you continue on playing sports?

Michael:  Yeah, so I kept playing sports, I kept playing all those sports and I left for drug rehab when I was 17. And, I feel strongly that I could have played at least at some small schools in either of those sports. But I took a couple of years off and gave a very half-assed attempt at making a college baseball team, didn’t cut it and started running. From there, got burnt out on running pretty quickly after I ran one marathon. And then someone introduced me to Crossfit and I just fell in love.

Drew:  Well at least you can say you checked it off the list man. I don’t know if I will ever want to check that off the list, so you know, respect to you for actually completely one. But, okay so, I mean there is a lot to your story. I kind of wanted to focus a little bit on the health and physical fitness side. Tell us about, you know, going through drug rehab as a teenager. Now that your older and you can kind of look back at your life and analyze it differently, see it through a different lens, what did you feel like…what led you down that path of drugs from a very young age. And what helped you, other than the rehab, what helped you kind of overcome that?

Michael:  I think what got me there, what started me down that path was a little bit of social anxiety, a little bit of just wanting to be cool. It was completely social.  And, the cool kids where I grew up, first off, I switched from thinking cool, you know, at a very young age, I thought the cool kids were the jocks. You know, thee professional football players, just the people that were good at sports, right? And at some point I changed my definition of what cool meant and it meant that they were the bad kids, and the bad kids where I grew up were doing hard drugs. So, I just mixed that with this feeling of invincibility that I had growing up. I think that a lot of kids can relate to that, especially men. I always thought, you  know, that will never happen to me. I will never get into that car accident or I’ll never get addicted to that or whatever may be. I literally thought, I would never have any consequences. And so, mix that all up in a bowl and you get what turned out, it just kind of spiraled out of control pretty slowly, but steadily, right? I never slowed down until I went to rehab. It just turned into a psychological and physical dependence by the time I was 15 years old and then it was just really, no one could get through to me. Not the best therapist in the world. I just had to make a decision for myself that I was ready to change and I wasn’t ready to make a change at that point.  So, then your next question was, what got me better?  So, I left when I was 17 and I went to rehab.

Drew:  What led you down that path to actually go to rehab? Did someone finally get to you at that point and say, hey you need to do this or what?

Michael:  Well, I was still a minor, so my parents, they sent me away. So, what happened was, there was an incident where I was about to get expelled from school. I stole from, actually one of my friends and he wasn’t like a super close friend, but he was a friend that I had from school and I had stole his phone and I got caught. I was all messed up and I was going to get expelled. My parents asked if they could make a deal with the principal where they would just send me to rehab, if he would not put that on my permanent record, right? And throughout that whole process, they learned how bad it had gotten. They definitely knew I was heavy into drugs, they were very aware of that but they also didn’t know the full extent. They learned that I was using needles and shooting oxycontin and cocaine and stealing from a lot of people and just really out of control. And so, they made the deal with the principal and after they learned all of that, they really felt like I needed to stay in rehab for quite a long time. And so, I ended up going to 9 months of inpatient, it was either 9 or 11 months of inpatient rehab and what did it for me, there were two main things. One was just simply putting me in a group with my peers, right? I did at least an hour, maybe two, every single day of group therapy and I got to see others my age, going through the same exact thing, emotionally as well as their stories, their backgrounds. They were overcoming these issues and everything they were saying was resonating with me. And going back to this, this all started for me as a social problem, right? So I always just wanted to impress people, I wanted people to like me. So, when a group of my peers accepted me for who I really was, right? I was able to be vulnerable in group therapy and share my emotions and all that kind of stuff. When they accepted me for that version of me, I started to see kind of a different possibility of what life could be like. The other big one was, I just have an amazing family and they both loved me but didn’t enable me, right? So they….fully expressed how my actions affected them and while I think a lot of parents, they will take their children, and I don’t fault any parent for what they choose to do but I think this, I think a lot of times parents enable them and further accentuate the problem, right? Because they continue taking them back and they minimize the addicts problems and my parents just didn’t do that, they stood firm and they said like you have to meet us halfway in our relationship. We are going to love you no matter what, but your not coming back home, we’re not supporting you, you know, financially supporting you if you are using drugs or alcohol. And, my relationship with my family, was and has always been incredibly important to me and so them taking that stand had a huge, huge positive impact for me. It was for them, in the beginning, that I chose to like really take treatment seriously.

Drew:  Yeah, and I was going to ask you about your family. Where your family was in all this and kind of what your perception of your parents, you know, of how they responded to the situations. Because, I don’t know how much of my story you know, but it’s kind of similar. I didn’t have a drug addiction but I had a pornography addiction, I didn’t know how to deal with it. The two things that helped me were the group therapy, like you said, just seeing that your not alone in this addiction. That there are other people, normal people, that suffer through the same thing and that kind of helps you feel like, ok then maybe it’s not just me. You can kind of relate to them and open up and be vulnerable for the first time. Because, I think so much like you, I just didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody about those….*chuckles* those issues. Nope, this is my own deal and I will deal with it myself. But once you embrace the vulnerability of the strength, which like I think you said you know, men have a tough time growing up thinking that. Because we think, you know, that we are going to get made fun of, or our dad might think less of us if we talk about feelings. And so it’s really hard, you know, from at a young age, especially in sports. It’s not like you can go to your coach…*laughing*…you know, your emotional feelings when your about to go on the football field, right? So it’s hard to learn that at a young age, but I think that’s really cool man, to be honest with you. And it sounds like you do have a rock solid family. Where you, kind of, you know, you weren’t enabled, but you felt loved, either way.

Michael:  Yeah, yeah, it was huge for me.

Drew:  Ok, so then after rehab, where did you go from there? Were you completely healed or were you when you went back into the real world, were you kind of nervous that those old demons would kind of come back up or were you like a new man?

Michael:  I was terrified that I was going to relapse, absolutely terrified. But I went to, I went to treatment in Utah and so I wasn’t in the same environment and so those same, quote-unquote, triggers were not there for me. With that said, I was still terrified, I didn’t know how to, like I was a completely different person showing up in the world, like I used to, my identity was a drug addict, unfortunately, right? Like that’s where I got my sense of being cool. I was a drug addict, I was the crazy one. That was my identity, and now I didn’t have that and I was going into college and going to a lot of AA meetings. Like everyone else, I had to slowly find my way. I was absolutely not healed, it took….it took years of just constant AA and therapy and just a lot of hard work on my own mental health before I felt like the cravings and everything had completely gone a way.

Drew:  Gotcha. And with where your at now and with people who know your story, maybe personal friends, have you been able to help people out in similar situations because of what you went through? Do people ever, kind of, reach out to you that have gone through the same, or similar situations?

Michael:  Yeah, all the time. Immediately after treatment, like I said, I dove into AA and I worked through the steps and the last step is that you will basically carry the message and help other alcoholics and addicts recover as well, right? You will take them through the steps and so I sponsored dozens of drug addicts and alcoholics. We had homeless guys that were addicts live with us, me and a couple of roommates. We would take them in and let them live with us for months at a time and try to help them recover. And fast forward until now, and people still like, you know everyone, every person listening to this is in some way affected by some form of addiction. Whether it be pornography or alcohol or work addiction or shopping, whatever it may be, everyone is affected somehow. And so, when a lot of my friends have someone in their life, or they themselves are going through something like that, then absolutely, they call me because I’ve gone through it and been able to recover.

Drew:  Yeah, that’s cool man. I love that your pay it forward mentality. I mean that will help other people out.

Michael:  Oh absolutely.

Drew:  So, I have a question for you, with where your at now and your past of addictive personality, are you afraid to kind of get addicted to certain things so you stay away from say for example, alcohol? Do you drink alcohol? Or do you still have an addictive personality in other ways and you kind of, from what you learned, you can kind of stay away from those things. Or do you have a healthier relationship with certain things to where you don’t have as much of an addictive personality any more.

Michael:  I think I definitely have……I’m hesitant to call it addictive personality, I definitely have a very type A personality and ……..yeah, I get compulsive about some things. With that said, I do drink occasionally now and it’s more about the intention of why I am drinking. Am I drinking because I’m trying to mask some insecurity or something that happened throughout the day that made me uncomfortable or angry or frustrated and if so, then no, I can’t drink. I am very vigilant about when I drink or smoke weed, its……it is…. not an option for me if I have emotions that are undealt with.  That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learned and I make myself go through it like, you know, any normal human being would. Just like actually deal with it, lean on friends, work through it and actually process it rather than just try to cover it up because that doesn’t work.

Drew:  And I think that’s really important for people to listen to, because it’s more about the why behind it, like why are you drinking or smoking weed. It’s the same thing with food, like are you eating your emotions, covering up your emotions and hiding them with these other substances, these other chemicals you are putting in your body. Or do you have a good relationship with food or alcohol or marijuana to where your doing it in a healthier mindset, does that make sense?

Michael:  Absolutely.

Drew: And so I think that’s really important to people to listen to because from an outside perspective it’s like easy to judge,  like ‘oh your drinking, you must be in a bad place, or you must be you know, escaping your reality because you don’t like your reality’.  When that’s not true, like there’s a lot of happy people *chuckle* that can have a healthy relationship with alcohol or sugar or drugs of a certain type. And so, that’s why I was curious to kind of get to your past, because I know some people that were addicts and now they can’t, they just choose to stay away from anything that could be an addictive, that can become an addiction for them. Because they’re worried about maybe that becoming their new unhealthy addiction.

Michael:  Right. I think that’s more often the case and I one hundred percent respect that. I did a lot of thinking and talking to the people in my support system about the decision before I made it to not be a hundred present sober anymore. And it was a really tough decision and ultimately came down to me being kind of impulsive and just saying, ‘Fuck it I’m going to try it’, right? Like I didn’t identify with feeling powerless over drugs or alcohol anymore and I just said, ‘I feel like I’ve dealt with the underlying issues that were causes in the first place. And I’m an adult now, I have all of the coping skills necessary to deal with anything life throws me. Drugs and alcohol are not going to be one of those, but I’d like to have a beer with a friend watching a football game.’  So I ended up just trying it and nothings blown up yet, so that was like about 6 years ago and I am happier than I’ve ever been.

Drew:  Yeah.

Michael:  Yeah I totally respect people that choose not to even mess with it because it’s…….I would love to say it’s not even worth chancing, but here I am and I made a different decision so it’s kind of a contradiction I know.

Drew:  Yeah, no it’s all good. I think each person has their own journey and there is no set path for somebody after they go through this addiction.

Michael:  Kind of what I was getting at was, I would never recommend someone make the same decision I did, right? I would never recommend it, but some choose to and are successful.

Drew:  Yeah, exactly dude. So lets shift gears here a little bit. I want to talk about the birth of Brute Strength and tell me about the background behind creating that brand and what it is now and what it means to you and where its evolved over the years.

Michael:  So where it started was, I was working at LSU as a strength and conditioning coach and I was, I had a little side business with my current business partner, Matt Bruce.  And it was called Bruce Barbell and I would basically write the entire training program for someone. I would say, “Matt, I want you to put”….and for listeners, these are CrossFit programs. I guess I should have prefaced that even more. I was on a team that won the CrossFit games twice. That allowed me, or people just started reaching out to me to coach them basically. I would write the whole program and say, “Matt, I want you to put the weight lifting here, here and here.” We had this little team going and at the time…. there weren’t that many people doing that, right? There weren’t that many coaches out there doing that for competitive CrossFit athletes.  In 2014, I stopped working at LSU and I moved back to Salt Lake City for a little while, I was going to buy a gym there, one of Tommy Hackenbruck’s gyms. Tommy was the owner of Ute CrossFit and he’s one of the best CrossFit athletes in the history of the sport. He said, ‘I know you’ve been programming for people one on one, why don’t we leverage the Ute CrossFit name and all three of us team up and make this thing a little bit bigger.’ So that’s what we did and we went into the games. I was coaching a couple of athletes and teams at the CrossFit games that year. I was working with this guy, Chris Hinshaw, who was and is the best endurance coach in the sport of CrossFit.  I realized I would look at his programming, so again, I was working with him with another team, and I would look at the programming that he would send and realize how little I knew about what he was coaching and teaching them. So, I got on the phone with him and my mind was just blown and this created this seed of…..creating a…..a full team of experts for CrossFit athletes. So if you look at a football player, like a quarterback for instance. They have their position coach, they have their quarterbacks coach, they have an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, a physical trainer. They have their head coach, ect…..they have experts in every different area of the sport. In CrossFit, it was and still is, for the most part, just one person acting as the expert in gymnastics, in endurance, weight lifting, general CrossFit, right?  When I met Chris Hinshaw, this endurance guy, and I was already working with this weightlifter, Matt Bruce, I had just come from the football world.  This idea just kind of popped into my head, that we should create that same team for the CrossFit athlete and so that’s what we did.  We got an endurance coach, which was Chris. We hired a gymnastics coach, Nick Sorrel and since then have added other specialties so that we have…..it’s not just one person trying to be the expert in all of these very, very in depth topics or fields.  We have someone who specializes in their thing and at the end of the day, we have one guy who helped put it all together.

Drew:  Yeah, and where did the idea for the podcast come about, when did that become an idea or was the seed planted for that?

Michael:  Barbell Shrugged. They’re such good friends of mine and they were, as far as I know, first in the CrossFit space.  They just came out of the gate and just absolutely crushed it. As you know, they just did a phenomenal job. It was really just early on in the podcasting days period, I loved the interview style, I loved the opportunity to get to meet all the different people and they basically told me that it was a great way to start a conversation with an audience and start to build trust with an audience, which I always really loved. Whether your going to be a Brute client ever or not, this is something that I get to give you, right? I get to give you this 60 minute recording of some expert in health and fitness and you just get to listen to it and download it into your internal hard drive, right? It’s just a great feeling to be able to do that for people.

Drew:  Yeah, and I can relate to that definitely. I think we both actually started our podcasts about the same time, like I think almost, what 2 1/2 years ago now?

Michael:  Something like that, I can’t remember.

Drew:  I can’t remember either. *chuckle* I think we started pretty much the same time. Mine was from Shawn Stevenson and the Model Health Show. It motivated me to start my own podcast after I was on his podcast and I was like, ‘ok, I will check it out’.  So, here we are today. *laughing*  I kind of want to go back a little bit and talk about a certain experience I heard you discuss, I think on your podcast. So Mark Devine, the owner of SealFit, you had done a couple of his, is it Kokoro, is that how you say it?

Michael:  Yeah.

Drew:  Yeah, I want to talk about like your first experience. Because you guys did it, did you guys do it as a team the first time?

Michael:  We did.

Drew:  Okay, and then that one you didn’t go all the way. I don’t want to say you quit….

Michael:  You can, I quit, I quit. *chuckles*

Drew:  *laughing*  Ok, tell us about that and what you learned and then going back again, what changed in your mindset to do it again.

Michael:  Yeah, yeah, I love that story, and I hate it.

Drew:  *laughing*

Michael:  Just to preface it, we sign up for SealFit, and I had heard about it and I had seen it on YouTube and I had saw like some CrossFit games athletes going through it and it looked like a really hard time. But we had just won the CrossFit games and basically I was feeling really cocky and I didn’t respect the camp enough to really train for it. So the CrossFit games are in August or end of July and then the camp isn’t until November. In between that time, all I did was try to get stronger. I did a lot of power lifting and because I was kind of the weaker of the 3 guys, so all I did was try to get stronger. I did very little conditioning, very few CrossFit workouts. I show up there, and again, like I’m not, I’m really……not, it wasn’t what I expected, that’s the bottom line. It hit me in the mouth really, really quickly. I got there and it was a lot harder than I thought, especially considering I didn’t really prepare for it, right? It would have been fine, had I been a good team player and allowed people to help me, instead I really shriveled up and stayed inside my own head. We talked earlier about being afraid to share what’s on your mind and I was just kind of ashamed. I also thought I was hurting worse than anyone else, like there is no way anyone else is hurting this bad. I didn’t share that….so it started as just a seed of a thought, you know, and I would just push it out and keep going. Then it grew and grew as the weekend went on and then mix that with sleep deprivation, which I historically don’t do well with, and it just gets worse and worse and it grows. It feels, my perceived level of exertion is just through the roof, I feel like I just can’t go anymore. We begin this nighttime ruck, that’s going to be like 13 miles round trip, straight up a mountain, straight down, your doing a lot of sprinting and then you’ll stop and it will mess with you for a little bit.  Then you will sprint and then you will hike really fast, it’s an intense hike.  We get, I don’t know, 25% of the way up there and this thought for the first time pops into my head, ‘I think I’m going to quit somewhere on this mountain.’  Then I push it down and I overcome that thought and I say, ‘I’m just going to make it to the top.’ It probably took us, close to 2 hours, right? We’re going up for somewhere around 2 hours, I don’t quite remember but it keeps popping up, it keeps popping up. Finally, at some point, it’s pitch black up there and they don’t tell you how much further you get, that’s part of the…..that’s one of the worst parts.  You have no idea when your going to be done and at some point, I just broke. I didn’t tell anyone but I said, ‘I’m quitting at the next aid station’ and so that is exactly what I did. We got there and I immediately took off my pack and I said, ‘I’m quitting, I can’t go.’   All my teammates, they kind of heard what was going on and they started  yelling at me, ‘You can’t do this, like you can’t quit, you can do this, we’ve got you, we’re almost there.’ I completely shut down, I wouldn’t even have a conversation about it. I got in the truck and that was it.  The next morning….I learned later that I was about 10 minutes from the top.

Drew:  Oh man. *chuckles*

Michael:  We only had about 8 hours left of the whole camp. So I was almost there and I quit right before we finished. I woke up…..well, I get in the car and I just sob, like I have never quit something physical in my entire life. That was the first time and I felt like a complete failure. I was embarrassed and I felt ashamed of myself and I just sat there in that truck and sobbed. Then the next morning I got up and I signed up for it again, which was a year later.  Looking back on that experience, I think it was hands down the best thing that could have happened to me. I was obviously, I was cocky and didn’t respect the camp and it taught me to respect physical things more.  But it also, it taught me how to deal with things that go….that break your expectations, that don’t go according to plan. As soon as that thing was not going how I thought it would, that was the biggest hit in the mouth and I just couldn’t recover from it. It was just so different than I thought and so it taught me to be more resilient and to accept the things that I can’t change, right? At that point, I was in the camp and I should have just accepted it and committed to finishing it. So I signed up again. Go ahead.

Drew:  I was going to say, which is how life it. *chuckles*  Preparing for life is being able to deal with expectations and realizing that life is not going to treat you the way….it’s not going to work out according to plan all the time. You got to learn how to roll with the dices and keep moving forward rather than letting it break you and saying, ‘Ok, well, I am never going to do that again, I’m never doing anything like that because I don’t want to be seen as a failure ever again.’ The fact that you signed up the very next day, shows a lot about you wanting to just learn from that and move forward so that next time, you were ready for it.

Michael:  Yeah.  I’m definitely proud of the decision to jump back into it. I signed up for it and ended up doing it.  We went back to the CrossFit games again that year. I did it the week after and had a completely different experience. I was physically prepared but more importantly, I was mentally prepared. I didn’t just go there and try to survive and get through the weekend. I went there with the intention to crush it, to thrive there and to help others thrive there as well. By leading the team there, you know, the little groups, the teams that they give you when you get there, by leading there and also trying to give everything I had, I was able to have a completely different experience. It was still the second hardest thing I have ever done, the first one was the hardest. That was still the second hardest but it felt like 50% as hard, it felt like a completely different experience and it was all because of the conversation that was going on in my mind and the way that I behaved.

Drew:  Yeah, I think that’s such important training and I really wish I would have learned something like that, that mindset training. Even as a teenager, going through wrestling and football, thinking this is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I just have got to get through this, I’ve just got to survive this, rather than going through with the mentality of thriving and doing your best. Rather than just, I’ve got to do the minimal amount to get by so that my coach doesn’t yell at me, right? And I remember listening to Mark Devine talk about when he was actually going through real Navy Seal boot camp, or hell week, he had to do a 1000 burpees or something. He just would repeat to himself, ‘looking good, feeling good, ought to be in Hollywood’. He had a positive mindset, he was like, if I just do one burpee a 1000 times, it’s not that hard verses, how am I going to do a 1000 burpees, you know? That mindset training is huge man. I’m glad you shared that story, I know it’s probably painful to relive….*chuckle*…the hell that you have to go through. People probably that are listening have no idea what you actually go through during through during the camp, but it’s pretty much like hell, right? The sleep deprivation, the amount of physical work you have to do, it’s not easy.

Michael:  Yeah, it’s awful. It’s awful. It was like the hardest CrossFit workout or competition I had ever done and multiply it by 10, literally.

Drew:  Yeah, and how long is it? Is it a whole weekend? It’s 48 hours?

Michael:  It’s 50 hours.

Drew:  50 hours? Dang man.

Michael:  It’s just constant, no sleep, just constant work.

Drew:  Wow man, I still have not signed up for it. Would you ever do it again?

Michael:  I thought about it a lot, I think the only way I would do it is if they did a 5 day.  There are so many other forms of learning that I want to do, right? I think I would gain something out of it but I also think that I’ve learned …… a really valuable lesson there for me. I want to invest my time doing other things, but if they came out with a 5 day, then I would definitely want to see if I had what it took. That would be like a whole hell week, I think it’s like 5 or 6 days. I would definitely see if I could stack up.

Drew:  Yeah, maybe Mark Devine is listening. * laughing*  Gotcha. Let’s shift gears again, I want to talk about more about your emotional growth over the years and spiritual growth as well. And kind of how that evolved from maybe where you were 10 years ago to who you are today. I see you talk about meditation, vulnerability, how did all that….I’m sure it had a lot to do with your story and your background. How did that kind of, really evolve into becoming a main part of your life now days?

Michael:  It happened in rehab. Our therapist, it was all out of lessons in there and our therapists were very, it was very important to them that we understood all the different forms of treatment that we were undergoing. You know, if they were using a technique in group therapy or individual therapy, they would explain maybe the history of it, why it was effective and they just made sure we understood everything. I just….fell in love with it. I was a sponge for this shit. I loved being able to understand why my mind was working the way it was working and then I could actually feel myself progressing, right, and feeling less depressed and less anxious. I would see my friends undergo enormous transformation because of these different therapies. I fell in love with social work and psychology in general. A big part of why it’s still so important to me is because I understood when I got out of treatment that if I don’t put my mental health first, you know, if I don’t put mental and spiritual even progress and growth first, I may not have anything else, right? Because at that time, when I first got out, it was still a life or death situation. Where if I didn’t stay sober, there was a good chance I would end up dead or in jail. So that was my biggest priority, being sober and recovering was my biggest priority for a good 4 years afterwards.  I did a lot of meditation, a lot of therapy, I tried a lot of different exercises for…..like positive psychology, if you will. It really blossomed into this passion to where I love what its done and continues to do for my life. Now it’s not so much…well it’s not all about preventing depression, while that’s definitely still a piece, it’s also about being as sharp as I can be, right? Being as clear minded as I can be, as good of a leader as I can be and I’m also passionate about passing that stuff on to others. I think if you can hack your own mental health, your own mindset, that is the highest leverage thing you can do. Moving up 10% on that is going to move you up so much higher in every other area of your life than if you were just to make a small tweak to maybe what your eating or doing in the gym. That’s my belief, changing the mind first is essential.

Drew: I was going to ask you, how is that, kind of evolved into your view of physical fitness and even for yourself, having that mindset on the emotional spiritual side. How has that shifted maybe how you train differently or you treat your body differently now verses just getting a six-pack, getting as strong as you can, you know, counting macros? Do you see those things tied together now better because of that? Sorry, that is kind of a leading question, but I’m assuming it plays a roll because I know it does for me.

Michael: Yeah, I see my mindset is the most important thing regardless of the goal. When it was making it to and winning the games, then the biggest thing was me being as stress free as possible. It was important to have really high quality relationships, not have a lot of drama in my life and do everything that I could to reduce emotional stress so that it didn’t take away from my physical progress, does that make sense?

Drew: Yeah, no it does.

Michael:  Other goals have been to get a six-pack or now my goal is literally just to be as fit as possible for life and that includes being as fit as possible when I am 80, 90, 100 years old. The way that I treat my body is a lot different and my mind set today is one of patience. The meditation comes into play big time here, where…on one hand I want to….I want to look a certain way but I also realize that my body can’t handle that every single day, right? I can’t just pound my body for year after year after year, I have to slow it down sometimes.

Drew:  Yeah, no and I have had to learn that as well so I can definitely relate to that.  As far as coaching goes, do you still coach individual athletes or teams? Is that still a part of your job or no?

Michael:  No, I don’t. About a year and a half ago we hired a director of strength and conditioning who oversees all of our programs. We hired him so I could focus on the business and help us to treat our members better basically.

Drew:  Ok, I was going to ask how it kind of carried over into you coaching people now or athletes instead of just on the physical side. Yeah you want to get them bigger, faster, stronger but do you also coach them on the mental and emotional side as well to help them have a healthy relationship with their minds and their body and their soul.

Michael:  I don’t do that very often on a one on one basis. But we do that in a couple ways through educational material that goes out to all of our members on all of our programs. We spend a lot time creating content that we sent to all of our members on nutrition, mindset, goal setting, training, recovery, you know everything under the sun. The other one is just by the way that I influence my team, right? I make sure that everything that I’m learning I am passing on to my team. So part of my team is all the coaches we have, and through that they pass on the same messages that I am passing on to my friends and my family and everyone that I am in one of one contact with.

Drew:  Yeah, I gotcha, that makes sense. How did you and your wife meet? I am really curious to know the story, I will probably ask her as well when she is on. *chuckles*  But yeah, how did you guys meet?

Michael:  At the Barbell Shrug Masterminds.

Drew:  Cool man.  So she was there, she was a coach?

Michael:  No, we were both participants. It was one of the very first Masterminds that they put on, it was in California. She was living in Toronto, I was living in Utah and we met and it was just like glue man. We were inseparable, you know, we moved in together like a month and a half, two months later into an RV and traveled around for a few months. It was, you know, almost love at first sight if you will.

Drew:  *chuckles*  That’s really cool man, that gives me some hope. *laughing*  Really quick before we end here, I know you read a lot of books. What are your top 5 books you would recommend for someone to help….or what are the top 5 most influential books you’ve read?

Michael:  That is a tough question. These are 5 of my favorite, I don’t know about the top 5. But my most gifted book is “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown, it’s about the power of vulnerability. I’ve given that book dozens of times. The next one would be “Mindset” by Carol Dweck and that’s like a…anytime I am teaching people about sports psychology, that’s the very first place I start. That’s distinguishing a growth mindset, verses a fixed mindset, and how to work on and build a growth mindset. For sexuality, I like “The Way of the Superior Man” and that’s on masculinity and femininity. It’s an amazing book for any couple, whether your straight, gay, male, female, anybody can read this book and get a ton out of it. What else? I love the “Harry Potter Series”. I’ve spent so many, just amazing hours, just lost in those books. Those are without a doubt my favorite books of all time, so whether your an adult or not, I think you can have some just pure entertainment out of those books. And a recent one that I listened to actually is called “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger, it’s about the importance of community for human beings and it talks about the way that the human brain evolved to crave human interaction and to contribute to others in their tribe. It’s an absolutely fascinating book and it’s been a huge like impotist in my life recently, where I am putting so much more stock in building a community here in Austin.

Drew: Yeah, ok cool man. I wrote a few of those down. I’ve already read “Daring Greatly”, that’s probably top 2 or 3 of mine, to be honest with you. It changed my life, the other ones I had to write down though. Except for Harry Potter, I don’t know man. It’s the time, I think that’s the thing for me. I know they are amazing books, it’s just you know, do I want to dedicate…how many books are there? 7, 8?

Michael:  Yeah, yes.

Drew:  I mean they’re not short books. *chuckles*

Michael:  It’s just for pure entertainment, you know what I mean? I started doing this thing recently where I listen to non-fiction. I will put on a podcast app and put it on like 1 1/2 to 2 times speed and just soak up a ton of information when I am walking or maybe doing some kind of cardio or working out or whatever. I’m just learning while I am doing other things and then I’m only reading fiction. So, it’s been just a great way to really still enjoy myself while also learning a ton and you know, getting through a ton of books.

Drew:  Yeah dude, I love that, it’s a great balance. Ok, kind of interesting question, have you ever had your own Fit2Fat2Fit Experience or journey, not where you gained it intentionally but maybe you were injured, gained some weight or maybe you took a lot of time off and you gained more than you expected. Have you ever had your own Fit2Fat2Fit Experience. *laughing*

Michael:  Absolutely, absolutely. So I won the CrossFit games two times and then I had a lumbar fusion done. This was a big time surgery, it was 8 hours, I have a 6 inch scar in the front and in the back. The recovery was just super, super long. I could barely walk for about a month, I couldn’t walk more than 400 meters for about a month. I didn’t touch a weight for 3 months. It wasn’t for 6 full months before I was even cleared to do things like squat or deadlift. In that time, I got really depressed, I went through an identity change, right?  I retired from competing and I just figured I was kind of done as an athlete, so I went through this identity change and I was depressed. I just said, “F-it, I’m going to eat whatever I want.” That was like the heaviest, that might have been the heaviest I’ve ever been, it probably was.

Drew:  What did you get to?

Michael:  210, so not too much over what I am now. That’s about 15 pounds over where I am at now. But it didn’t feel good at all, in fact it felt awful. I was just really down on myself, I had no self esteem and so once I was cleared to start doing my rehab, I hit the ground running and I became obsessed with it. Like all of the clam shells, and stabilization exercises and bosu ball stuff, like all the little hip and core stability stuff I could do, I became obsessed with it. I used it as a…like I couldn’t do very much and so I used this as a chance to retrain my body so that I would have perfect technique on everything when I was fully cleared. It just started as a very…I was just focused on doing the work, right? Not achieving any sort of result, but just doing the work and I don’t know, over the next 3 months I was back to the weight that I was before, then got cleared and got really strong again. It was definitely a powerful experience for me.

Drew:  Yeah, it’s good to be humbled and its good to have those experiences where you value your health so much more when you lose it, you know? *chuckles*  And your like, oh man I definitely took this for granted before. I think those are really important experiences to have.  But obviously I had to ask, being the Fit2Fat2Fit guy if you had a similar experience.

Michael:  Yep.

Drew:  *laughing*  Not intentionally though, I know not everyone is crazy enough to do that, but anyways, Michael, I just want to say thank you for coming on. Where can people find you, yourself personally, but also the Brute Strength brand.

Michael:  I’m on Instagram @MichaelCazayoux and my company is @Brute.Strength and you can find us online at BruteStrengthTraining.com, go check out the programs that we offer. There’s some free ebooks on there, one that we call the secret strength weapon, it’s something that you can add to the beginning or end of your workout that your already doing to help get you stronger really quickly without beating your body up too much.

Drew:  Hmmm, I’ll also check that out myself actually. *chuckles*  I’m curious to know what it is. *laughing*  Well, thanks again for coming on, I really appreciate everything you do for this industry.  Helping people, not just with physical fitness, that’s a small piece of it, right?  But it’s also everything you do, sharing on the mental and emotional side as well. Super happy to have you on and if your ever out here in Salt Lake, let me know. I’ll let you know if I am ever in Austin, I do have some plans to come out there this year, so I’ll keep in touch man.

Michael:  Thank you brother, it was an honor to be on the show.

Drew:  Appreciate it man, we’ll talk to you soon.



Hey everyone, thank you so much for listening to this episode on the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast. I really, really appreciate all your support you’ve shown me throughout all the years. If you love the Podcast, then please go subscribe to the Podcast on ITunes. If you love the Podcast, please leave us a review, it definitely helps out with rankings, which means more people listening to this Podcast when they see it. Feel free to reach out to me on social media @Fit2Fat2Fit or at Fit2Fat2Fit.com with suggestions or comments or concerns, anything that you guys think I could do to make this Podcast better for you. I definitely want to bring the highest quality content to you, the most value, because I know your investing 30-50 minutes per day when you listen to the Podcast. I really appreciate all the support and like I said, follow me @Fit2Fat2Fit on social media if you want to reach out to me with any comments, questions or concerns. Thank you guys so much and we will see you guys back here next week on the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast.


“Episode Recap”

Brute Strength founder and CrossFit athlete and trainer, Michael Cazayoux, joins us to talk about overcoming addiction and ego and the power of embracing meditation and vulnerability. He talks about how he has remained sober and his love for helping others who are struggling.  We hear about his belief in promoting a healthy relationship with our mind, body and soul. We also learn how Brute Strength was born, how he met his wife and one of the biggest lessons he learned in life.


“What We Learned”

  • Learning to understand your mind and the way it works can give you great power as well as help with depression and anxiety and addictions.
  • The importance of promoting a healthy relationship with our mind, body and soul. You must put your mental health first. Everything else in life, your physical and spiritual well being, build on your mental health.
  • Embracing the power of vulnerability and opening up to your peers, can give you a great freedom of acceptance and understanding.
  • Your mindset, in any area of your life, can make or break you. What you perceive is your reality. Meditation can help you establish and build a healthy mindset and relieve stress.
  • Failure can sometimes be positive. It can teach you that things won’t always go as expected and to break your expectations. Always commit to finish, even if you feel you are failing. You will learn from it and move forward.


“How to Utilize What We Learned”

  • Learn more  about building a healthy mindset by downloading a meditation app.
  • If you are struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety or any kind of mental health issue, get treatment and seek out therapy to learn more about establishing a healthy mind and lifestyle.
  • Read some of the books recommended by our guest to learn more about your mind and finding a healthy balance.
  • Don’t forget to make time for entertainment in your life as well. Enjoy a good fiction book or a movie. Don’t push yourself to the breaking point.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Join a race or a competition, begin a training program, set personal goals, learn, grow and move forward.