Tommy Hackenbruck never liked the idea of working out in a gym. As a linebacker on Utah's Fiesta Bowl champion football team, he needed more than the draw of rows of stationary machines to keep himself motivated.
He needed it all to have a purpose. And he found that he wasn't alone.
"A lot of college athletes have a hard time adjusting once it's all over," Hackenbruck said. "It seems like we all continue to look for an outlet for competition."
So, while living in Oregon with his wife, Bobbi, in 2009, Hackenbruck discovered the fitness phenomenon that is CrossFit. He was drawn to the challenge. He found his competitive spark and, just months later, he brought it back to Salt Lake City and opened the Ute CrossFit gym in Sugar House.
It didn't take long for the gym to be filled with former collegiate athletes, gym owners and fitness fanatics looking for a new challenge.
"There was a huge demand for something like this, especially in an active community like Salt Lake," Hackenbruck said.
But CrossFit is like no other sport. Each day is a test of limits. No two days are the same, and each workout is more grueling than the next.
After all, competitions are equally tough and even more unpredictable.
Two weeks ago, Ute CrossFit sent a few teams to the Regional Crossfit games in Denver. For each coed team, the only certainty was that each test would be grueling and the next one unknown.
"One minute you could be climbing up a rope or doing pull-ups, and the next you're running with sandbags," Hackenbruck said. "You just never know what's next, so you've got to be creative and train for everything."
The top Ute CrossFit team, made up of Hackenbruck and five other former NCAA Division I athletes, endured a series of tests that would floor the most well-trained gym rats to place first in the region and earn a spot in the World CrossFit Games at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles July 13-15. Now, they've got their eyes set on the world team title.
"We've got a great chance," Hackenbruck said. "We're definitely not getting outworked by anyone."
Even now, the team members have no idea what they'll face on the world stage. The schedule of events is released right before the competition begins, leaving individuals and teams to train the best they can for any kind of challenge.
For Hackenbruck and the Ute CrossFit team, that means focusing on the basics and working on individual weaknesses, sometimes working out together up to three times a day.
According to team member Adrian Conway, a former Weber State University football player, the coed dynamic of the team aids in that preparation.
"It's a great balance. When we get stubborn, the women just come in with a different approach and get us back on track," Conway said. "Our women may actually be our strongest asset this year."
It's like no other sport, but it takes a level of commitment like that of collegiate or professionally paid athletes. And it's exactly what Tommy Hackenbruck and the athletes of Ute CrossFit needed to fill the void.
"You learn a lot about yourself when you push your limits," Conway said. "It's something we all do together and then can apply to the other parts of our lives."
Hackenbruck gets 'CrossFit'
The top Ute CrossFit team of Tommy Hackenbruck, Adrian Conway, Mike Cazaoyoux, Mary Lampas, Erin Bennion and Taylor Richards-Lindsay will compete for the team title in the World CrossFit games at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles July 13-15.
Hackenbruck placed 23rd individually in the World CrossFit games last season.
Since 2009, CrossFit has expanded from a 300-venue outfit to a fitness empire, with more than 4,000 affiliates worldwide.
Hackenbruck, a linebacker on Utah football's Fiesta Bowl championship team, opened Ute CrossFit in 2007. His wife, Bobbi, a former Utah soccer player, also hosts a running clinic at the gym.