I met Brent Hruska on Instagram. That’s right. I hashtagged #austintrainers, found him & reached out. I figured I wanted to incorporate more weight lifting into my exercise so we had a phone call.
Brent was open to all my details ( LOL ) of what I wanted to accomplish with him: low cortisol environment, low music, not a lot of people, & a trainer who could work with me on my mind, body & spirit.
As you know, we moved to Austin so I haven’t been able to work out with @kimkellyfit in San Diego or @parkerpilates in LA. I still do Skype workout with them but I need someone I can see in person too. If you’re in LA or San Diego I highly recommend Kim & Betsy.
Anyway, Brent & hit it off. He has some REAL good vibes, his gym is basically outside in nature & he is committed to making small changes every day for big results. Recently he was on the podcast talking about the effects of strength training on hormones, longevity & mental clarity. So I wanted to have in on the blog too.
In this post Brent gets into his journey from body building to steroids to yogi to personal trainer, why he holds a special place in his heart for yoga, things he likes in the fitness space right now & he even shares smoothie tips if you’re wanting to bulk up or lean out.
Without further adieu, meet my trainer in Austin, Brent Hruska.
My Trainer Brent Hruska on Micro-dosing, Lowering Cortisol & How Yoga Changed His Life
♡ Introduce yourself to The Skinny Confidential audience.
Brent Hruska: Hi! My name is Brent & I’m a personal trainer in Austin TX. I’ve been a trainer for the past 16 years and moved to Austin from Seattle in September 2022.
I’m extremely grateful for the connections I’ve made & the clients I have here, such as Lauryn & Michael. They’re amazing people with such good energy, & they’re so generous.
Every client I’ve had the opportunity to work with here has been incredible. I’m so grateful to have been on the podcast & now on the blog. Hopefully both provide some of you with value & help you reach your fitness and health goals.
♡ Your strategy on training is unique because you work on lowering people’s cortisol. Can you talk more about that?
BH: When someone begins to work with me, a lot times they are under a great deal of stress. Maybe they have multiple kids or they’re trying to run a household or they’re a super high performer at their corporate job, or running a business or doing all those things!
Most of the time these people are doing boot camps or high intensity classes & they’re usually under eating too. They’re under a lot of stress in every way. On the other hand, some people are so exhausted that they aren’t doing any kind of exercise at all. They’re burned out.
So there is a way to use exercise to help heal the body & actually gain more energy.
In my own fitness journey I have crashed & burned many times which I will get into later. But in a nutshell I was into body building & steroids, ignored what my body wanted, fueled myself with caffeine & ran myself into the ground. I was working & training clients too much, ignoring boundaries & not working on my own health regime. It’s a bad cycle & it’s hard to break. “How do I get out of this mess” is something that I help my clients with.
We work to restore balance in the nervous system & develop a workout where you have energy after. When you’re in your 20s you can do some wild shit. You can go go go & never really feel it. But as we get older doing boot camps and high intensity training can leave us feeling more depleted.
Strength training is a good way to ‘use your battery’ but in a healthy way.
It doesn’t produce cortisol which keeps your body feeling ‘amped up’ – it actually has a very grounding effect & when done properly doesn’t exhaust people. So along with strength training, I encourage my clients to do things that bring balance to their nervous systems. This means lowering cortisol, aka, getting the stress down. I want them to feel their vitality & vibrant energy & use it as a guide. Stress accumulates in the mind, the body & the emotions so what brings that stress down looks different for everyone.
My goal is for all my clients to do workouts & push themselves in a way that makes them stronger, so they can handle more stress, but not to the point where they can’t recover from it. I encourage my clients to do things that they enjoy & make them feel good, whatever that may look like for them.
Along with fitness goals & doing things that make them feel good, I try to teach my clients how important breath is too. A great way to feel in control of your own nervous system is to go for a walk. No phone, no headphones, just walk. Focus on your breath, in & out of your nose, & you’ll find it’s so calming to the nervous system. In fact there’s a book called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, & it talks about how through the nose is the most effective way to breath.
♡ What are wellness practices that everyone can benefit from?
BH: There are so many! Walking, hands down, everyone should be doing it. For me, it allows my mind to go so deep & organize my thoughts but without me intentionally thinking about anything. It’s so good for my mind & it’s one of my favorite things to do in the morning. It helps me visualize my day & my week and I feel more calm & centered for the day. It also helps me be so much more present with clients. Also, the morning sun & being in nature is just the best.
Meditation is so good too. I love Headspace or the Alo Yoga app, but really the best way to meditate is to just sit & focus on something. For me, I like to focus on my breathing. I imagine vibrant energy flowing into my body.
I love yoga too. Being very physical is a good way of me to get into a mindful state & yoga has really changed my life & benefited me a lot ( I get into it more soon ). It’s a very relaxing, regenerative style of stretching. I always recommend it for clients with injuries or scar tissue. You can go on YouTube or literally just pick a couple poses, do them on the floor & hold them. This is great for connecting to your mind too.
Float tanks are another thing I love.
It’s the ultimate mediation hack. You don’t even have to do anything. It’s a deprivation tank & you float in 1000 lbs of epsom salts & you just float in the dark. Eventually your mind reaches a place of quiet & a state that feels like when you’re between consciousness & unconsciousness. Sometimes you have some wild, vivid crazy dreams, but it’s so relaxing. I used float tanks a lot in a time where I was out of balance & working way too much. I would be so amped up with cortisol & it got so bad that I could barely fall asleep. The float tanks really helped because no matter how stressed my nervous system was. It instantly balanced me & gave me time to reflect.
Eating mindfully is something I think we’ve all gotten away from. Diet is important, but again it’s individual. It depends what workout you do, for example, when lifting weight you should have a bit more protein, BUT. the important thing here is we should all try to eat more mindfully. Try eating without your phone, or without the TV on or at your work desk.
When I was in India doing my yoga teacher training, every meal had to be in complete silence. In order to honor our food & be mindful, we couldn’t speak. So try it! Start with just one meal & see how present you can be for just 10 minutes. Afterwards, note how that meal made you feel.
Those are some things that work well for me & other clients but things are different for everyone. One thing I can say is that walking is good for everyone! Go on walks! WALK WALK WALK!
♡ Give us 3 workouts anyone can do at home, right now, with no equipment.
BH: The way I like to look at home workouts, especially if you don’t have equipment, is to use your full body. You can use your body weight to burn fuel & create strength in the whole body.
Simple body weight exercises for the lower body are lunges, squats, split squats, step ups & then variations of all those things can be done.
You’ll also want a ‘pushing’ movement & a ‘pulling’ movement. Pushups & dips work your chest, core, biceps, triceps- and you can do variations for these too. The ‘pulling’ movement is a bit harder because you will need some kind of equipment. The key is to focus on strong contractions ‘as if’ you are pulling something. This is where you could get some bands or a kettlebell to do a rowing movement or something like that. In my opinion you don’t need any other home equipment than a pull up bar &resistance bands.
Anyway, here are 3 at-home workouts for you!
A1: Push ups
A2: Alternating Reverse Lunge
A3: Hip Thrusts
30 seconds work / 30 seconds rest x 5 rounds
A1: Chair Dips
A2: Chair Step Ups Right Leg
A3: Downdog Pushups
A4: Chair Step Ups Left Leg
A5: Flutter Kicks
30 seconds work / 30 seconds rest x 3 rounds
A1: Wall Sit
A2: Frog Pumps
A4: Split Squat Right Leg
A5: Sit Ups
30 seconds work / 30 seconds rest x 3 rounds
As you gain more resistance to these exercises you can increase your time, or your rounds, or add more exercises.
♡ What smoothie do you recommend for someone trying to gain strength & bulk?
BH: Whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight, it comes down to calories in vs. calories out. That’s it.
Smoothies are a good way to increase or decrease calorie intake actually. It can be challenging for a lot of people to eat more, so smoothies are great for that.
If you want to add more calories to your diet to increase your muscle mass you can add nut milks, nut butters, hemp seeds, extra scoops of protein powder. You can even double or triple your normal protein. ( Check out some protein recommendations here ).
One thing though is to keep away from adding too many vegetables. It adds extra fiber, but not many calories. Bananas & dates are healthy high calorie options too.
♡ What smoothie do you recommend for someone trying to tone & lose weight?
BH: If you’re trying to lose weight, you want to create fullness so more veg than fruit ( up to an 80/20 ratio ) is good. Use frozen fruit so you don’t have to add ice cubes that will make it watery.
Berries are great because they’re high in fiber, then play around with some vegetables. You can add cucumber, avocado, some carrot. See what you like but just try to make it mostly veggies with some fruit for energy.
I love a smoothie with frozen mangoes, frozen pineapples, cilantro & a bit of avocado.
Try to eat seasonally too. Go to your local Farmer’s Market & see what’s in season. Doing this really gives you a mindful connection to your food & you’ll be more in align with your environment & what’s happening climate wise.
I can’t back it up with science for you, but doesn’t eating what’s in season seem like a good idea? Wouldn’t it feel strange eating watermelon in November?
♡ What’s something problematic you see in the diet & fitness space?
BH: I’ve always had a problem with the way women are marketed to. Look, all is fair in love & war but one of my pet peeves is when women are marketed too the way they are today.
The fact is, we all were born with different genetics. Some people are skinny, some people have lots of muscle, all women can’t be Victoria’s Secret models & all men can’t be NFL linebackers. YES, a lot of training, blood, sweat & tears go into those careers, but a lot of it is genetics.
For instance, there is no amount of dieting, steroids or training I could do to run 60 yards in 5 seconds, or whatever they do. LOL. I could never perform on that level.
Again, these people work hard, there’s no doubting that. Athletes & models work their asses of, but they’re also born with certain structures & abilities.
It bothers me when workout classes tell women that if they do it, their body will look like this or that. 90% of the time that isn’t going to happen for most people. Yes, a lot of bodies do change from certain workouts, but most don’t.
Pilates & barre are amazing workouts, they have so many benefits, but they aren’t going to turn you into a model.
If you really want to change your body you need to lift weights, but you don’t have to do it in a way where you’re trying to enter a body building competition. But you do need to do it in a way where you are adding more weight than last week & in a way that will get you the body you want.
So ya, the marketing really bothers me, & that goes for marketing on social media too. You should only be comparing yourself to your past & present self & continually improving on that. In the body building world, we would always say that your only competition is yourself.
You can try different exercises & see what your body responds to, what feels good & how your body changes. I encourage everyone to experience every kind of workout because they all have different effects for every body.
Personally, I believe that 90% of women should be strength training with a dash of other types of workouts to help them achieve their goals. Different seasons of your life required different things though. For instance, there was a time in my life where I only did yoga & didn’t lift a weight for 3 years. I got smaller & kinda ‘skinny fat’ but that’s what my body needed at the time.
Everyone needs to do what works for them.
♡ What’s something amazing you’re seeing in the diet & fitness space?
BH: I love that everybody has the power to share their fitness, health & wellness story very easily. AND it can go viral! Anyone can go on Instagram or TikTok & share their experience. Whether you have Hashimoto’s or some rare disease, you can go online and share what worked for you and what didn’t.
We have the ability to share our experiences with each on such a grand scale & it makes people very relatable through hardships, journeys & successes.
Seeing before & afters of people really got me to change my body & ‘buy in’ to the whole fitness thing. Some of you might remember a program called ‘BODY FOR LIFE’ – it was one of the first programs out there & it was great. It wasn’t crazy, it was just 6 small meals a day ( with a protein, carb & fat ), one cheat day, my dad & I would workout 3 days a week in the garage doing 20 minutes of intervals, it was great. But those before & after pictures & stories really got me to buy in to it all.
So that’s what’s amazing right now. People can share their stories & it’s one of the reasons I started a podcast, Bodies By Brent. A lot of end results look the same but the journeys & experiences that get people there are truly unique.
♡ Talk to us about meditation.
BH: I think every single person in the world needs to develop some kind of mindfulness practice. This means something that just makes you aware. That’s where your power is. If you are wanting to change the way you think, or change your habits then mindfulness can help you consciously be aware of what you’re doing or thinking that is not productive to your goal.
An easy way to develop this is by walking. Go without your phone, focus on breathing & see what comes to you. You’ll notice the presence that comes to you on your walks will carry over into time with your family, or when you’re in the shower or wherever. There are opportunities throughout our whole lives ( & every day ) to develop awareness & mindfulness.
Another time i love to meditate is when I’m cleaning. For whatever reason, whether I’m cleaning my car or the house, I reach such a meditative focused state. Cleaning has such a therapeutic effect on the mind.
So really, meditation is just focussing on something, anything, to bring you into the present moment. There are so many things that can help you with this. I also like to treat my workouts like meditations. I pay attention to the mind-muscle connection & am mindful of my breathing between sets. The mind-muscle connection is everything if you’re trying to change your body.
There are actual studies that suggest people who visualize their strength ( mind-muscle connection ) saw great growth & change opposed to those who didn’t. So workouts are a great way to meditate & be present in your body.
♡ Talk to us about micro-dosing. Would love to hear your thoughts.
BH: Psilocybin or magic mushroom micro-dosing is when you take a dose so low that you aren’t ‘tripping.’
I micro-dose often actually. I suffered from depression a lot in my life but I didn’t even realize it, it’s something that has recently come to me. Growing up in Seattle was rough because it was dark all the time. It’s cloudy & rainy & my nervous system doesn’t do well with that.
On that note: another thing I want to say is that your individual body has a climate & environment that it thrives in. If you are in a climate or environment that you don’t love, MOVE. MOVE MOVE MOVE. Do it. It will be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Back to micro-dosing. so you take a very low dose, & I just do it when I feel I need it every few days. It helps me shift my mind & my mood to a more present state & gets me out of my head. It’s a very beneficial tool to use when you’re meditating, going on a walk or a hike. It deepens your presence & the experience.
It’s also a great tool to use when you are working on a project, brainstorming or doing anything creative. I encourage you to do your own research & find information on different types of micro-dosing. For me & a lot of people I know it has had a very positive effect on us. It’s a great way to relax without involving alcohol.
♡ You train a lot of women. What’s an easy tweak women can make when it comes to their relationship with food & fitness?
BH: This might not be an easy tweak but if I could wish something for all women with the snap of a finger, it would be to let go of the guilt they have over what they eat.
Guilt & food causes so much harm & damage. Food is an amazing thing: it allows us to nourish ourselves, connect with people, helps us make memories & it feeds us emotionally which can be a good thing.
These thoughts that carbs are bad and bla bla bla does so much harm. Flexible dieting is best & that’s where you eat mostly whole, real foods & let other foods come in as you see fit. Eating what you want sometimes isn’t going to kill you. Letting go of the guilt when you eat something you ‘shouldn’t’ or throw food away or binge, or sneak food behind your family’s back will be a healthy habit to get into it. The guilt causes so many more problems than the Venti Frappuccino you just had in the car by yourself.
Practice letting go of the guilt.
It’s not easy, but become aware of why you feel guilty & where it’s coming from. Give yourself some grace, love & kindness.
Also, trust yourselves. I wish women would trust themselves with what their bodies need when it comes ot exercise. If you’re a woman who is thinking about starting strength training, just do it. It’ll be the best thing you ever do. You’ll feel stronger, your hormones will regulate & you will watch your body transform. Now, if you go somewhere & the trainer makes you uncomfortable or you just don’t like it, then don’t do it. But continue your search & find some kind of resistance training. It’s just so good for you emotionally, mentally & physically.
♡ How do you wind down? Share your nighttime routine.
BH: It sucks. LOL. I am not perfect. My life is a collection of experiences that allow me to learn & apply those experiences to my clients. I am far from perfect & I’m continually trying to improve myself. My night time routine is something I’m working on & trying to dial in.
My ideal night time routine would be doing 10-20 minutes of stretching, then 10-20 minutes of reading then going to bed. I recently got a new bed & I’ve been sleeping like a champ, so I’ve been doing a lot of that.
Sometimes I just watch a Seinfeld episode, listen to some music then go to bed. It’s always changing, & it’s not perfect, so I’m working on it. I have unlimited pass for floating so sometimes I’ll go to a float tank & I pass out as soon as I get home.
I can tell you what NOT to do though- do not go on your phone before bed. Try to give yourself a 2-3 hour window without your phone before going to sleep.
♡ I know you love yoga. Talk to us about that.
BH: Yoga saved my life. I used to body build & I was in great shape, but I got into steroids when I was young. I was so focussed on becoming a body builder. Along with a lot of other trainers, you think that if you win some competitions & look really good, then you’ll get lots of clients. It’s a very shortsighted view on how to be successful.
When I was 25 I got to a place where I realized I wasn’t progressing like everyone else because I wasn’t taking steroids. It was this eye-opening, curtain has been lifted feeling, realizing what other guys were doing behind the scenes.
So I said fuck it, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna go all in. It was exhausting trying to change my physique & I didn’t want to be doing that until I was 50 years old so I thought, lets see if I can do something with this. And it was a fun experience.
I never ended up even doing a show because every time I was almost ready, I wasn’t ready. I would binge eat, but the steroids really exacerbated it & gave me a bad relationship with food. They also made me emotionally & socially a hermit. The only time I felt good was when I was lifting weights. I was anti-social & just beating the shit out of my body.
I wasn’t paying attention to what my body needed at all. One time I was walking to my car & I could hardly breathe because I was so heavy. It was just so dumb, but it was fun. And I learned a lot.
So I got to a point where I decided enough was enough, no more of this.
It’s an addiction & I didn’t realize it because I was young. I decided to come off cold turkey & start to do things that felt good for my body. And that’s a totally different way of thinking then I had ever had before.
I used to think yoga was so stupid & such a waste of time. A lot of my clients were doing hot yoga & I just thought it was a waste of energy & it made them sore before they worked out with me. But I decided to try it. I went to a class.
The instructor was a Buddhist nun & had a degree in cognitive behavioral therapy. She taught us the real principles of yoga. She taught us the practice of asana, breathwork & meditation. So we would learn from her about the philosophies of east & west & do these visualizations of letting go of stress.
I just remember being so present. More present than I’ve ever been & being able to notice what was happening right in front of me. For the first time ever I could ‘see’ my stress & anxiety. I’d never thought I had either of those things before. They became this separate entity from my SELF.
The first few times I went to yoga classes I had these intense emotional releases. I would cry & be weepy, but every time I left I felt lighter, more in tune & aware. That’s what led me to follow the path of what my body needs & focus on that.
A lot of people say they have a spiritual awakening of some sort in their lifetime & it’s something I’ve been upondering for a while.
I think it refers to when you become aware that there is a deeper self than the person you think you are. The spiritual awakening is the awareness of yourself & your soul. You are not your thoughts or your emotions, you are not your body. There becomes this deeper awareness & consciousness & I think that is the awakening. It’s a life changing thing to experience & that was just the beginning for me.
So, yes, yoga holds a very special place in my heart because it helped me become aware of myself on a deep level. It helped me understand my stress & anxiety, it helped me quit smoking. It’s helped me develop mindfulness where I wasn’t engulfed in emotions & could make good decisions.
♡ What’s a book, podcast or resource you recommend? (can be on any subject)
BH: A book everyone should read is The Untethered Soul. I have never come across a book that’s done a better job of explaining what mindfulness is. The evolution & process of becoming awake. It’s simple, powerful & I love it.
Obviously I love The Skinny Confidential HIM & HER podcast, but another favorite is The Huberman Lab. His podcasts are dense & he covers one topic & goes very deep on that one thing with the latest research. It’s a very cool thing for us to have access to right now. Andrew Huberman kinda weeds through all the research & made up shit out there & only brings you information that’s beneficial to you. He cuts through a lot of the bullshit that’s out there. I always recommend it to my clients so they can hear for themselves what is true & what’s not.
♡ Where can everyone find you? Pimp yourself out!
My website is bodiesbybrent.com & you can listen to my podcast Bodies By Brent on Spotify or iTunes. It’s a place where my clients share their journeys & we discuss the latest in the fitness & wellness space. It’s an extension of me as a coach, without actually having to train with me. Hopefully it provides value & education to help you reach your goals.
AND be sure to listen to him on The HIM & HER podcast where he talks all about strength training for hormones, mental clarity & longevity.
+ scope this post on how to manifest something.
++ learn how to create your own meditation station at home.