Interview: Tom Broback, Bold Base Performance [Tips + Optimization]


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There’s an old quote attributed to John D. Rockefeller stating, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” This adage hints at the potential dangers of going into business with close friends and family.

Today, we’re talking to Tom Broback who has founded Bold Base Performance with his good friend, Brad Baker. He discusses how they use education, experience, and complementary skills to prove that close friends can enjoy being in business together and be successful at it.

If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.

Meet Tom Broback, Co-Founder of Bold Base Performance

tom-broback-bold-base-performance-minnesota

Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back, this is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com and we’re continuing our interview series with fitness experts and tonight we are blessed to have Tom Broback of Bold Base Performance in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis area in Minnesota.

Tom, thank you for joining us today.

Tom Broback: Thanks for having me. I appreciate doing this and I’m excited to talk fitness and anything else related to exercise.

Schimri Yoyo: So let’s just get right into it. How did you first develop your love for health and fitness?

Tom Broback: That’s a great question and I think a lot of people have similar answers where they started off playing sports. I have three brothers, so sports was a big part of our life. Parents are always involved and bringing us and coaching us, things of that nature. A lot of family and friends are in sports.

And with sports comes exercise to get better at it. So, started working out in high school, and then continued that into college, and then grad school, and even until today. So, really, it was that love of being outside, playing sports, but wanting to get better at sports, as well.

So that’s kind of how it started and then it was fostered by having good coaches, good family, and support. That’s kind of how it started back in, I guess as early as elementary school.

Schimri Yoyo: And being in the Twin Cities, I’m assuming you played hockey. But did you play any other sports or am I wrong to assume?

Tom Broback: No, you’re actually wrong. So I should’ve played hockey. Everyone that knows me: I’m 5’8″ and I can’t jump very high, so I should have played hockey, but I actually played basketball growing up. And then in high school, I played football and I ran track.

So those are kind of my three main sports. Then, I did some intramurals in college and I play some pickup basketball now. And I’ve dabbled in running for a little bit here and there—but football, basketball and track are the main three for at least most of high school.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay, well I apologize for regionally profiling. You’re the first person that I’ve met from Minnesota that didn’t grow up playing hockey.

Tom Broback: The basketball scene, it’s definitely getting bigger here. We’re getting better kids. They’re more nationally known, so it’s nice to see that because growing up, it was tough. Maybe there was one guy in the whole state that was in the NBA. But now kids are going out—a couple of kids are going Duke and here and there—so we’re [becoming] a bigger scene, so it’s kind of nice to at least cheer for it locally.

Schimri Yoyo: You get a diversity of sports. That’s awesome. I know those sports fans. They love their sports. Whether it’s basketball, hockey, baseball, or football, you’ve got some devoted, passionate fans there.

Tom Broback: My dad played hockey for Edina, that’s like the big hockey school here, so he’s probably a little disappointed that none of us—none of my brothers played hockey either, so he might be a little disappointment, but that’s okay.

Schimri Yoyo: Now, you have a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, right? So what was your favorite class? You took in your formal training and which one do you think has helped in your profession today?

Tom Broback: So the first class you take at when I went to the University of Minnesota for physical therapy school, and the first class you take is Anatomy. And so you get into the lab for about six weeks where you have class and then you’re with cadavers.

And that really kind of sets up your whole future because everything you’re going to do in physical therapy is going to go back to how you relate to the body and how everything interacts. So, at the time, it was really tough.

You’re already taking Anatomy in the middle of the summer and you’re just starting grad school and you’re learning new place and in the city. But it definitely was an awesome experience and it’s something that I keep going back to in my time as now and in the future.

Schimri Yoyo: And who were some of your mentors in the fitness industry as you began to pursue as a profession?

Tom Broback: Funny enough we were talking about Instagram earlier, but that’s when I started to realize how you can interact with people on national and even global levels. So, once I got done with PT school, I started following accounts like Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Paul Fabritz, and then Nick St. Louis who [does] The Foot Collective.

Those are kind of the four main accounts I started following. And then once I started interacting more with colleagues and people more locally, I started to develop that passion more. But it’s really cool how the Internet social media allows you to interact with people all over the country. Even today we’re doing this [Zoom] interview across the country and that’s just really cool. I think.

Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, technology is definitely helping to bring us together in some ways. In some ways, it can help drive us apart with some of the divisiveness. But the opportunity to have access to a diversity of people is definitely a pro.

Tom Broback: I’m in this industry and for making connections from that standpoint.

Schimri Yoyo: Now, what do you do for fun when you’re not training or when you’re not running your business?

Tom Broback: Another good question there. I do like sports a lot. I watch a lot of sports. My fantasy football team’s not doing well this year, so it’s kind of a bummer. But also, I’m really close to—my family and friends like to have some cabin weekends here in Minnesota, like to get together for birthdays, holidays, and things of that nature. So I spent a lot of time with my close family and friends, but definitely try to keep sports as part that as much as possible too.

Schimri Yoyo: I feel like we’re kindred spirits. I’m a very sports-oriented. It is what I do 24/7, even though I read and write and do other things. But and now my son has caught that bug too, so we get to enjoy that together too.

Tom Broback: It was an awful Vikings game on Sunday (Week 4 loss to Packers), but got to keep cheering for him.

Schimri Yoyo: So listen, it’s still early. It’s still early. We’re only one month into the season.

Good Information + Implementation =  Optimization

So, now describing your philosophy and your practice of strength and conditioning, what one word would best describe that methodology?

Tom Broback: That’s a tough question, Brad and I use the word optimize a lot. So to just kind of—I know you sent for one word—but I’ll elaborate just a little bit. We’re trying to give people the best that’s out there.

There are a lot of different ways to do things and we’re just trying to figure out which ways are the best for you or the fastest. So the word optimization kind of comes to mind.

It’s really tough to pick just one because there are so many good words out there, but that’s probably the one that comes to mind right away.

Schimri Yoyo: No, that’s a good word. You’re trying to optimize, to make sure your clients really perform at their peak or their optimum best. So, I think that that works, that that conveys a good, a good image.

So, in your study or personal training, what have you seen is the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and rehabilitation?

Tom Broback: So, Brad and I just touched on this on one of our recent podcasts: it’s all about the context. Those things are, they sometimes seem so separate, but really they’re so similar. It’s just how you’re applying it. Whether it’s somebody who had an injury and they’re trying to get back to sport or they’re training for their sport or they’re trying to stay healthy.

We’re using a lot of the same modalities, whether it’s strength training, whether it’s sprinting, whether it’s stretching, whether it’s mobility work—you’re trying to do, usually, a shave of the same thing. It’s more of just the context that you’re putting in. So more we’re getting people to understand that those are more similar than different, the farther all those industries are going to go.

Schimri Yoyo: Kind of like a continuum of physical activity.

Tom Broback: Exactly. It’s just that spectrum. It’s like, “Where are you on this?” And we’re trying to build that resiliency to whatever you want to do, whether in your daily life or in sports.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now what are some ways that you help your athletes and clients to be proactive in their training and in their recovery?

Tom Broback: So a lot of what we do is we try to give a lot of education, whether they use it all or not, that’s ultimately up to them. But at least we’re giving them the information and we give them the reason why we think it’s important. So we tell them that, “Yeah, you’re supposed to sleep eight hours,” and then we’ll give them, “This is why. The research shows why eight hours is a good number.” We’ll give them some references.

So we’re going to pop your book called Why We Sleep. We’ll tell them to dive into that a little bit. So, if we give them more than just the action of, “Hey, you need to do this,” and we explain why and then how it’s going to help and ultimately where it’s housed and get them to their goal faster, the buy-in gets a lot better and then they benefit.

Schimri Yoyo: What are some of the differences that you’ve seen between training amateur athletes or laymen and then training professional athletes or high-level collegiate athletes who have aspirations for pro sports.

Tom Broback: So the higher level athletes, we definitely see more attention to detail. They’re usually a little bit more prepared and they really want to know—kind of going back to that why—why they’re doing the workout, why they needed this training. Not that they’re judgemental or defensive, but they want to understand a little bit deeper so they can further their knowledge and also further their gains in a way room around the field.

So that attention to detail and that drive that they don’t have those troubles early. They’ll stay a little late, they’ll get in that extra work. That’s definitely a big difference from that standard amateur to the really elite.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now we also have heard about athletes having some serious heat-related illnesses. What are some things that both athletes and fitness professionals can do to prevent this from happening?

Tom Broback: I can use the word “prevent” cause that all comes ahead of the game ahead of the practice ahead of the week even, where you’re dialing in on your nutrition, you’re dialing in your hydration. But also from a trainer or coaching or parent’s standpoint, you’re understanding how much volume and load the kid is getting.

So practicing long hours every day, you got to have those days where it’s a little bit shorter. You got to vary how much are doing at a time to keep them at their optimal performance. But it’s also making sure that they’re healthy and they’re not suffering any of those kinds of illnesses and injuries.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. You mentioned it and that leads to my next question. Nutrition. How, if at all, do you discuss nutrition with your clients? What’s that discussion like?

Tom Broback: I’ve actually read a lot about this lately with advice for what trainers or therapists or coaches should do regarding nutrition because we all know it’s a super important topic. It can be a game-changer between being that standard amateur and being an elite athlete.

But it is such a complex and detailed topic that you really need a lot of background in it to give the right advice to the right person. So I’m trying to stay away from various specific advice because I—that is not my wheelhouse and I am not professionally trained in that.

But I will emphasize general importance like having well-balanced meals, eating your fruits and vegetables, staying hydrated. But I always encourage clients to talk to a professional. Find professional advice because it’s going to make a difference for you and you want that coming from somebody who spent their life training in that.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. So you might give them more principles or more of an overview rather than specific meal plans or specific advice.

Tom Broback: Exactly. At this point, with the background that I have as a strength coach and a physical therapist, it would be probably even illegal for me to give that specific advice. It’s outside of my scope of practice. So I will give general advice, but if they really want the nitty-gritty details, at this point, they need to go someone who is trained in that, and then, there’s plenty of good dietitians and nutritionists out there.

Schimri Yoyo:  That makes sense. You don’t want to try to fake the job of a registered dietitian.

Tom Broback: Right. Because if they went to their dietitian for training advice, I would probably have a little question in my head like, “Why are they doing that?” So it’s the same thing flipped around to where if you’re coming to me for nutrition advice and I don’t have proper training than that, then we need to find someone who can. At some point, I hope to have that training so that I can give that advice because I know how important it is.

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Schimri Yoyo:  Okay. That makes sense. Well, thank you for your honesty and your candor on that topic. Now, how do you measure progress or success for your clients and yourself and your business?

Tom Broback: Success is different for everybody. And what I realized lately is it’s even hard to give advice to people unless you know their exact specific goals. So, what might be successful for me might be way different than what success for you. So we always try to get there very specific, tangible goals.

And usually, those elite athletes know exactly what they want. Sometimes the amateurs, standard, lower-level athletes, they’re a little bit lost. They’re still trying to figure out what they like, what they don’t like. We try to give them written-out, specific goals that they’re trying to attain and those times that they’re trying to do it in. And that really helps us give them advice and build their training programs.

And then, for us in Bold Base, we go over our goals at least on a weekly basis if not more. And we’re always updating them cause it’s always shifting. Some days, we’re looking at this opportunity. And then the next week, we found different opportunities. So we’re always trying to stay on the same page and find work we’re working towards.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now you, your business partner, Brad Baker, co-founded Bold Base together. What are some similarities between the two of you? What are some differences? And how do you guys complement each other?

Tom Broback: That’s a great question. I’m going to have to ask him to see if he gives the same or different answers.

Schimri Yoyo: Don’t worry. I’m definitely going to ask him the same question. So.

Tom Broback: We’ll see if he has positive or negative things to say about me. Haha. So the one thing Brad and I do very well together is when one of us has an idea or we find some new research or we’re working on something, the other one buys in as long as the other one can justify it.

So it’s not that like, “Oh Brad, we should have this,” and he’s automatically going to do it. He’s going to have a question, make sure that’s the right thing that I did my research and, and then the buy-in is 100 percent. It’s not that I have to tell him every week, “Hey, I really want to do this.” He buys in from the second that I can educate him and show him, “Hey, this idea is going to work because of this.”

And the same goes for him. He’s like, “Hey Tom, we should try this out this week.” And we do. And it goes well. So that part’s been really awesome. Finding someone you can work with where the buy-in and the goals are so similar.

What [Brad] does a really good job of is that idea creation and that visionary aspect: What’s the big picture? Where are we trying to go with this? Who are we trying to influence? How are we going to do this? What’s our legacy? He has those big ideas and those visions.

And then I’m usually kind of the operations guy who focuses on how we’re going to get there. So, we complement each other in that way. And that’s really fun to explore and find as well.

Schimri Yoyo: Well, I was going to say that that’s complementary skills. You’ve got the big-picture guy and the day-to-day detail guy. That’s good.

Tom Broback: We, we stick to our strengths cause there are some times that I’ll spend way too much time on trying to think of new products and there are other times he spends too much time on an Excel sheet and it’s like, “Hey, let’s just flip.”

And we do a lot better that way. But that works and it’s good to try new things that you struggle with too because that’s when you learn a lot about yourself and you may find new talents or strengths.

Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. In what ways do you guys at Bold Base balance helping your clients push towards their physical peaks or that optimization, as you said, and also try to limit that burnout or fatigue?

Tom Broback: Absolutely. So there’s always this big picture of where you’re trying to go with your life and it’s not being in the weight room 24 hours a day, every day. You have a life, you have a family and friends, you have hobbies, and some days you wake up and you just don’t want to do anything.

So we always try to optimize that time in the weight room or in your training or getting ready for your sport, but also gave you the big picture of like, “Hey, we’ll show examples of us doing stuff with our friends and family on our podcast.”

We’ll tell stories about the wall. We’ll go to a cabin for a weekend and have a good time and then we’ll come home. We’ll get back to work on the base. So every successful person has figured out that balance and we just try to help people find that they are in whatever capacity that works for them.

Schimri Yoyo: Judging by the clients of yours that have made the most progress under your tutelage, what would you say are some common traits or shared values that they all possess?

Tom Broback: Absolutely. The biggest shared value I find is consistency. Whether you’re doing it twice a week or whether you’re doing it daily, whoever can be the most consistent for a period of time is going to get those bests results because, usually, the intensity follows, the attention of detail follows, the asking the questions—all of that comes around if you can be consistent with what you’re trying to do.

So the biggest thing I try to preach to people is: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be every single day for four hours a day, but you need to be consistent—whatever you’ve committed to—and that’s going to get you to your goal fastest.

Schimri Yoyo:  Alright. Now I’m switching gears a little bit. Think about your day-to-day working on the business. How do you budget your time and energy between have many professional goals?

Tom Broback: So, Brad and I both have a nine-to-five job where we worked for a hospital base, outpatient orthopedic clinic. So, 40 hours a week is dedicated to that. And then some spare conferences and meetings and things of that nature outside of that. But it’s a lot of discipline with the Fridays and Saturdays, and the early Sunday mornings if you can get up and get stuff done because that’s where you’re going to see the change in starting something like this.

So we’ve been really good at finding that free time outside of our busy work week. But it’s a never-ending battle between “Should I sit and watch this movie or should I upload a picture to Instagram or study for a test coming up that I want to help talk to my patients about?” Things like that. So it’s always a never-ending challenge but it’s been an awesome ride so far.

Schimri Yoyo: Brag about your stuff a little bit. What makes you and Brad and the team at Bold Base Performance unique in the fitness space?

Tom Broback: Brad and I really try to strive for taking the newest and the latest research or evidence or what other people in the industry are doing. And we tried to implement that as soon as possible to give the person the best of all the worlds. So whether it’s, for example, Mike Boyle talks a lot about doing kind of single-leg squats versus doing back squats with heavy bars.

So, we implement that right away because we find that it’s better for our patients and our clients and it helps with the risk of back pain. So that’s like one example where we find it, we try to implement it ourselves right away, and then we started implementing it with our clients and we try and do that as fast as possible.

And it’s awesome with the Internet and social media because we can access all this great research, all these great coaches out there and trainers and therapists and combine what they are doing into the best practice.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, what have you learned so far in your business that you wish you’d have known when you just first started off the bat?

Tom Broback: Well, there are a lot of things I wish I would have known. I guess the biggest one is to have that end goal in mind. When an event changes, that’s fine, but you always got to know what you’re working towards so you’re not just trying the shotgun approach and going a million different directions.

Having that endpoint [in mind]: “Where are we trying to take this? Who are we trying to impact and how are we trying to help the people around us?” Having that always centered is going to get you to where you want. So, keeping that in mind through the whole journey, it can definitely make a difference.

Schimri Yoyo: Now, how do you guys use your platform and your business to serve that great? The Twin Cities community there?

Tom Broback: Yeah, so we are really trying to give as much education about fitness and health and therapy and training out there as possible. So, whether we’re talking about getting back from an ACL tear or talking about the effects of sitting all day, there are a lot of different strategies to educating people about their health and wellness and we try to hit on many of those platforms as possible.

Schimri Yoyo: You touched on it a little bit about social media and technology. But can you give us a little more specifics—whether it’s your different Facebook Pages or Instagram—about how you’ve been able to use social media and technology to promote your business and to leverage your space in the fitness world?

Tom Broback: We started our own Instagram accounts to get some of that educational piece out there because when we’re at work, we can only see so many people in a day versus you get on social media and you can affect hundreds if not thousands, and hopefully at some point, millions of people with one post or with one podcast or with one video.

So, we started with Instagram and then we—our big approach was really trying to get to the podcasts because we’ve listened to so many and we’ve learned from so many. And we really wanted to put all that information that we get into this audio platform.

So we started the podcast earlier this year and it’s been great because I get friends and family texting me, “Hey, really excited to learn this or learn from you guys.” Because I don’t, I can’t see everybody on a daily or weekly basis, so reaching people in those two areas have really helped us connect with other people, but also spread our message and help educate.

Schimri Yoyo: What do you think is next for you and your business? Where did you and Brad see yourselves going in the short-term future and in the long-term future?

Tom Broback: In the short-term, we’re definitely trying to continue this educational model through social media, through our podcasts, through our website, giving different seminars and spin classes and working more with clients face-to-face. That’s definitely in our short-term future, in our long-term future.

Man, I wish—sometimes you want to fast-forward five years ahead and know where you’re going to be at. But what’s also fun is the every day leading up to those five years. And I appreciate every single one of those days.

So, we just want to make a big enough influence on not only Minnesota but the entire country, if not the entire world in the realm of health and fitness. So we’re trying to impact as many people in positive ways that we can and we hope those numbers keep growing and growing and the kind of quality of those interactions remain as high as they are today.

Schimri Yoyo: Thanks again, Tom, for your time and for your expertise and sharing your love for exercise and education with us. Just one final question before we go.

Do you have any resources that you’d like to recommend to our audience? It could be books, podcasts, magazines, and it doesn’t all have to be fitness-related. It can be business or philosophy or something that you find helpful that you think would be of benefit to our audience as well.

Tom Broback: Absolutely, I do. There are so many. It’s hard to just pick some of the best ones. I mentioned the book, Why We Sleep. If you’re really trying to change your performance, check that book out by Matthew Walker.

Another good book I read this year was Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. That’s outside of the fitness realm, but I definitely [relevant] to anyone who’s trying to excel, accelerate their life, maximize their performance, whether it’s at work, home, schools, or sports.

And then I’ve got a couple of others that I already mentioned earlier: Nick St Louis. He’s The Foot Collective on Instagram. Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, and Paul Fabritz. Those are my four—I call them the Mount Rushmore.

mount-rushmore-public-domain

They are the guys that I look up to the most at this time. And I hope there are more men and women on that list in the future. But I love all the content they put out in books, podcasts, and Instagram. So, if you’re looking for some new information, check one of those four out and it’ll be worth your time.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright, well thank you again for those recommendations and it’s awesome that unbeknownst to you that a couple of those guys are exercise.com clients and trainers.

Tom Broback: That’s what I like to hear. That’s awesome.

Schimri Yoyo:  So, thank you again, Tom, for your time. We look forward to interviewing your co-founder, Brad Baker, later on, this week as well. And we wish you both much-continued success with Bold Base and with your influence in Minnesota and beyond.

Tom Broback: Wonderful. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. And good luck to you in the future as well.

If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.





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