Meet Brandon Rynka, a strength and endurance adventure athlete from Burlington, Ontario. Today, Brandon is a Fitness coach, speaker and writer – though his biggest claim to fame is being known as Canada’s first athlete to complete an Olympic Tree-Athlon; he is the second person in the world to completely this feat. (If you’re asking yourself what exactly is a Tree-Athlon, don’t worry, we asked Brandon ourselves as you’ll see in a bit).
As with most athletes, Brandon’s history with physical sport and endurance goes far back; he did point fighting and football as a child, advancing to play university football and wrestled at U of T. He started working out when he was 15, knowing that he needed to grow to perform further in Football – he fell in love with the process, growing into the unique endurance, adventure athlete that he is today.
Currently, Brandon is in the process of completing his latest event: 10 half Ironmans in 10 straight days, with 50, 000lbs of lifting at 1.5 x his body weight following the completion of each half Ironman. This is to be a nationwide endeavor, each Ironman taking place in a new city for a total of 10 Canadian cities and 6 provinces. Once he has completed his challenge at one city, he will be getting into car to drive to the next one.
To follow Brandon’s journey, visit his Instagram (@brandonrynka365); in the meantime, we had the honour to ask Brandon a few questions before he headed off:
IFM: This is a very unique challenge, that frankly not a lot of people would take on. What motivated you to do this challenge?
Brandon Rynka (BR): I’ve been doing challenges that involve elements of strength and ultra endurance for 4 years now. This project was a natural progression – something bigger, longer, more dynamic. The “Iron Cowboy” James Lawrence had a Netflix documentary where he did 50 Full Ironmans in 50 days across 50 US states. I wanted to do a take on this project, but had no desire to do that much endurance, especially without any lifting (I love lifting). Instead, I decided to do half Ironmans (still a hell of a challenge) but add in a massive strength component, hence the 50,000 lbs, at 1.5 x my bodyweight, which makes this a challenge I’m not sure any other athlete could achieve.
Secondly, as a corporate wellness educator and speaker, I take on challenges that require a high degree of strength; physical yes, but also emotional and mental strength. This applies to the corporate culture and society as a whole, more now than ever. We are becoming a weaker, more fragile, easily broken, chronically stressed, undisciplined society. I truly believe this stems from a lack of genuine strength. This project forces me to become a stronger human being. I use my experience through my challenges to provide education, insight and passion to those I speak to.
IFM: How do you approach your training, and what mindset do you need to be in to get ready for events such as this?
BR: I approach my training like I approach my coaching and life in general, with intensity. Yes, I have fun, and keep things light, but I’m also working like I’m trying to set a record – which I am. My goal is audacious. I therefore need to have an audacious work ethic when it comes to training. I stay focused. I progressively overload my programming. I plan my workouts so I can recover between hard sessions, while still increasing my work capacity daily. It’s training with intention and respecting my goals requirements.
IFM: Obviously, you have a long history with sport and fitness – What was that thing that motivated you to start, the spark as it were that set off the rest?
BR: I started working out at 15 in grade 9 when I was playing high school football. I knew I was a good player, but undersized and if I wanted to be a captain, provincial top performer and play university football I had to become one of the stronger, tougher players on my team. From there, I fell in love with the process of training, growing, and being dedicated to my craft. I fell in love with the structure and discipline of doing what 99% of high school kids were unwilling to do. I never looked back.
After running a business in BC a year after graduating, I decided to shut down, accept a job at Goodlife as a fitness Advisor. From there I started my own training/consulting/speaking business within the world of health and fitness.
IFM: Okay, let’s get the elephant out of the room – What exactly is a Tree-atholon? And what motivated you to take on that sort of challenge?
BR: A Tree-atholon is an Olympic distanced triathlon with the additional hinderance of the weight of an 80lb 7ft tree.
Ross Edgley, a well-known adventure athlete in Great Britain, was the first strength/endurance athlete I saw doing this, along with other epic strength and endurance feats, and I wanted to be the first in Canada to attempt and complete this.
IFM: I think it can be said that some of your competitions are rather unique. What draws you to these sorts of feats?
BR: I love challenging myself. I love combining elements of strength with ultra endurance. Ultra running has become a passion of mine, and it’s such a personal battle. It’s the one sport I got into that was purely me vs me. Some of the hardest challenges in the world come from this space. I wanted to go out and blur those lines of strength and endurance, show a muscular, strong athlete can still do these amazing feats of endurance.
One thing led to the next, and here we are. I love being a versatile athlete who takes on challenges most people would never think of, 99.9% of the world can’t do, and that almost everyone looks at and thinks is crazy. At this point it’s part of my business and allows me to educate from a truly authentic place; not as a theorist but as a genuine practitioner who has experienced exactly what I’m educating and helping people/companies with.
IFM: Finally, this is a question we always like to wrap up with here at Inside Fitness, what advice do you have for other people who may be interested in following in your footsteps? Or are just looking to get active themselves?
BR: Do it for the right reasons. This started as a passion, and led into a passion that could help others. If it’s done for the wrong reasons, it’s devalued immensely. The process is where I get the most of my fulfillment. It’s the growing into a more disciplined, structured, humble, strong human being that makes this all worth it. I love training. I love inspiring others, and using my experiences to tell a story. So, if you’re going to challenge yourself, do it for you and don’t tie it to an extrinsic reward system. You’ll be much better off.
For those looking to get active, some advice: Do it for you. Do it for ALL the benefits, not just to look good at your wedding or on vacation, but to become a stronger, healthier, happier version of yourself. Be patient. Educate yourself by seeking out education from credible professionals and sources, this will save you time, get you real results and keep you consistent. Worth the investment every time.