Scott Hildebrandt: Value In The Struggle
The barbell is loaded with 575 pounds. Travis Mayer steps up. It’s the max deadlift event at the 2023 Rogue Invitational. In January 2023, Travis sustained a wrist injury that caused him to sit out the CrossFit Open and miss the Games. Alongside Training Think Tank Coach, Max El-Hag, Mayer spent the year training and rehabbing his wrist.
Mayer’s chest swells as he inhales deeply, bends down and grips. Mightily, he presses into cemented feet. Legs convulsing against the weight, Mayer wills over half a ton to his hips, setting a personal record and making an epic comeback. Travis is a role model for the community demonstrating there's value in the struggle.
Role models are those who lead by example and show others the way to success. As CrossFit athletes, we look up to elites for their level of accomplishment. They motivate us to do better and be better every day. While the achievements of the elite may seem far off, we can look for guidance at our local CrossFit affiliates. The coaches at home boxes exemplify the right path and support us along the way. They create connection and model the CrossFit lifestyle that advances us in our goals in and out of the gym.
Scott Hildebrandt, head coach of MKG CrossFit in Seattle, Washington, is a role model for his family and community teaching the principles of CrossFit and values for living an impactful life. He greets each member with a smile and fist bump, coaching class after class 5 days a week. His patient tone and authoritative guidance progresses his athletes to meet their fitness goals. After classes, he is often heard conversing with members about parenting and relationships offering helpful insights and compassionate attention.
Hildebrandt and Mayer model greatness at a micro and macro level. In the interview below, Coach Scott Hildebrandt shares how he upholds a strong character and trains others to stand up to each struggle they meet.
Q: How did you develop a growth mindset?
The challenges of my upbringing helped me deal with difficult times. I grew up in a small town in the midwest and lived in a trailer park from age 7 to 18. It was just my mom, younger brother and I. We didn’t have a lot, but we had each other. It was the many difficulties we faced growing up that developed a philosophy that keeps me grounded: things are never as great as they seem and are never as bad as they seem. When stress arises, this mindset allows me to keep calm and focus on a solution. Instead of festering on the problem, concentrating on the solution brings the most positive outcome.
Q: What lessons do you want to impart on your children?
I want my kids to know it’s alright to make mistakes. I firmly believe there’s a learning opportunity in every mistake. How they apply what they learn brings growth and evolves them as human beings.
Honesty and integrity are really important values for our family. We tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. I want my boys to truly value honesty in themselves and in others. Telling the truth is essential in maintaining trust in relationships. Once you have honesty then you can work on integrity. Having integrity is doing the right thing whether it benefits you or not. I like to think of it as putting honesty into action. I have weekly conversations with my boys about doing what’s right even when no one is looking. A saying I often repeat is: Let your actions speak so loudly no one can hear what you are saying.
There are no shortcuts to success. Excellence takes time and devotion. Through this process is how you develop grit. I believe grit is a really undeveloped characteristic in many children today. We live in a society where they want things to be fast and easy. I want my kids to see and know there's value in the struggle.
Q: In what ways do you uphold a strong commitment to yourself and your family?
I uphold my commitment to my family by spending quality time with them on a daily basis. I believe giving your time is the most precious thing you can give anyone. It’s very important for my family to know I love and support them.
I’m committed to taking care of myself physically through CrossFit. It helps me to be centered so I can be happy, patient, and encouraging. I view my commitment to the gym as an investment into quality of life as I age. I hope to be around for a long time. I want to grow old with my wife and see my boys grow and develop into men.
Q: What are your family values?
The family values my wife and I have for our family are love, honesty, integrity, loyalty, empathy and respect. It all starts with love for us. We believe having a deep affection and attachment for one another creates a strong bond which will keep us together. There are many simple ways to demonstrate your love for your family including giving your time, physical affection, verbally expressing your feelings and an unexpected gift at an unexpected time. There’s not a day where I don’t hug and tell my wife and boys I love them.
We believe families should support one another no matter what. It’s easy to be supportive when things are good. The test of loyalty is being present when the chips are down. I model my loyalty to my family in the good and especially in the difficult times.
My wife and I teach our boys empathy, to understand and be sensitive to the experiences of others. Never judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Not everyone has the same life experiences or opportunities. This past summer we had our oldest son volunteer once a week at a local food bank. It was beneficial for him to give his time, see the needs of others, and make a difference.
Q: How does the condition and appearance of your body affect your physical and mental health?
At age 39, I was in the worst physical shape of my life. I joined a local CrossFit affiliate, set the goal to be in the best physical shape by age 40, and dedicated myself to 3 to 4 classes a week. In the first year, I went from weighing 197 pounds at 19% body fat to weighing 180 at 10% bodyfat. Each year thereafter through increased volume, I’ve been able to add muscle mass, especially in my legs, back and core.
The condition and appearance of my body has a positive effect on my motivation, confidence, happiness, patience. Prioritizing CrossFit lowers stress and increases energy. These positive mental health benefits then lead to improvements in workouts, sleep, and diet. It’s quite amazing how the mental and physical benefits can create this beautiful ring of harmony.
Q: What do you do when you get discouraged?
When I’m feeling discouraged, I remind myself to enjoy the process. I’m not going to achieve every goal or bench mark I set for myself. Last year, I set the goal to be in the top 200 in quarterfinals for my age group. I finished 204th. All of my effort to achieve this goal fell just short of target. However, from a positive mindset, I succeeded in being better than I was last year. Some goals come quicker than others but if I enjoy the process and put enough work in I’ll get there. There’s value in the struggle.
***November is Men's Health Awareness Month. It a reminder for men to prioritize their mental and physical health. Reach to the men in your life and offer encouragement. They could be struggling in silence.