On today’s show, I interview Kenny Santucci. Kenny Santucci spends his days being the general manager of CrossFit Solace in New York. On this episode, we go deep into him growing up overweight, what it was like to be a reality star, his journey into fitness, and the strong New York project that he’s hosting on December 1st that is going to showcase all different types of fitness and getting people better. I really enjoyed this conversation with Kenny.
We talked about a lot of things that I didn’t know about him from previous conversations of knowing him for the last couple of years. He’s an amazing guy with an even bigger amazing heart.
Enjoy the show,
Angelo: Kenny Santucci, how are you?
Kenny: Good, how are you buddy?
Angelo: I’m doing great man, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to be on the show. I really appreciate it.
Kenny: Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be on your show.
Angelo: Thank you. Kenny and I met—where did we meet? At either Wodapalooza, the games, or one of those…
Kenny: I think we originally met at regionals or something, or like an open workout.
Angelo: Yeah, you know what, the Open Announcement. We both went to the Open Announcement together.
Kenny: About two years ago.
Angelo: The first year the games I missed, so two years ago. Then we are just kind of been seeing each other ever since through mutual friends and [inaudible 00:01:49] and all that. It was great to catch up with you at the games and I’m excited to have this time to just grill you for an hour and ask you some of my own questions.
Angelo: I think you and I have very similar backgrounds, we are both Italian kids, we both grew up fat, and now we help people with CrossFit. I’m really excited to dig into this. Tell me about your youth, growing up overweight and what that experience was like for you.
Kenny: Miserable. I was very unhappy in myself. It’s kind of supercharged my life. It’s been 20 years since I was overweight but I still struggle, which I’m sure you do as well. Once fat always like—even if it stuck in the back of your head and you don’t physically see it it’s still lodged in the back of your head that fear of, I don’t want to be heavy again. I don’t want to be out of shape and miserable all the time. Because anybody who tells me, ‘oh, I’m okay being fat’, you are not. It’s very uncomfortable- I know what it feels like and I don’t like it. Physically, emotionally, mentally it feels like shit.
Angelo: No doubt. For you with your family how were they with you? Like my family my father, it was very bad to be overweight. How was that from your parents when you were getting a little chubbier and stuff like that?
Kenny: I tell people the story all the time. When I was—I had to be going into 4th or 5th grade, we all went to the doctor, my mom brought me, my two brothers and my sisters all there, my doctor is like, “he gained 25 pounds and that’s abnormal for a kid of his age, you need to put him on a diet”. My parent’s version of putting me on a diet was not allowing me to eat bread and butter anymore, but I could eat everything else I wanted. We were eating pasta and pizza and all the other bullshit. So it wasn’t much of a diet at all. I gained more weight and more weight, and by the time I got to high school I was 230 pounds.
Angelo: You were short too, right?
Kenny: I wasn’t really short. I was probably 5’8. I was probably one of the taller kids but I was definitely fat.
Angelo: Okay. As far as your family now, have they advanced in health and wellness through you and stuff like that, or is it still kind of that old paradigm?
Kenny: Funny story; my older brother who was kind of my workout partner for ever has gained a shit ton of weight and looks like hell, and he’s got four kids now, kind of always giving me excuses for why he doesn’t work out, but I’m trying to get him to get back into it. I actually got him to CrossFit for a little bit. My little brother looks like a meathead. He’s still does those [inaudible 00:04:34] workouts and old school body building things. My sister and my brother-in-law I got them to CrossFit.
My mom I got into CrossFit when she was 62, 63. She is now 67, so she’s been doing it for like 4 or 5 years. She had a heart attack, a massive heart attack like two years ago, three years ago, and it saved her life. The doctors were like, “we weren’t expecting your—basically the heart attack was clogged arteries, you can’t get blood flowing through, but the doctor was so surprised about how strong her heart was, and he’s like, “what are you doing?”, and she is like, “I do CrossFit with my son”.
He’s like, “keep doing it”. The doctor called me that day and he was like, “listen, you got to dial it back a little bit for a while, but keep pushing your mother”.
My mom is healthy she’s ever been 30 years now, she does it every day. Unfortunately back in April my dad had a massive stroke and he’s been in the hospital since April, a week after my birthday.
Angelo: Oh my god, I’m sorry to hear that.
Kenny: It’s alright. Since I’ve been alive he’s been about 250 pounds, he’s about 150 pounds right now. We don’t know how much time he’s got left. But one of the things I’m a big advocate of now is taking care of yourself, it’s not even about pushing weights and being strong as fuck and all that bullshit that everybody is putting up on Instagram and doing back flips, it’s just a matter of keeping yourself healthy enough so that you don’t deal with these diseases.
My dad had a stroke, he’s got dementia, a lot of this stuff isn’t caused by not working out, but it’s a catalyst for these things to happen a lot sooner than they normally would. I’m not saying exercise is the cure for it, but it is. It will prolong the inevitable, because if it runs in your family you have certain issues and problems biologically, working out—I always say there is nothing wrong with getting strong, if you are getting stronger, if you are getting better, if you are strengthening your body, if you are super charging your mind by putting it through physical exhaustion, if you are doing these things, or replenishing red blood cells, all that happens through exercise.
All the stuff that I research and I look at, and I find interesting I always send to my mom because I want her to be—and now she is 67, I want her to be well aware that this is what’s happening. My parents come from a generation and they surround themselves with friends who are like, “we are older, we shouldn’t workout, or we are going to get hurt in this mess”. My aunt’s had gastric bypass, my cousin’s had it twice, I’m like, “just fucking work out”. “I don’t have time to work out”. Okay, but the time you spend recovering from your surgery is months and weeks.
Angelo: For sure.
Kenny: Just fucking spend 20 minutes, 30 minutes working out, do something. I have friends like you all over the country who have gyms and stuff. My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law all go to my friend’s gym out in Cowell, New Jersey and they love it there. They feel like they are part of a family because I’m close with them, and now my family goes there. That’s the beauty of CrossFit too. You feel like you’ve known somebody 100 years, and you are like, we will get a couple of workouts together and stuff.
Angelo: Something about that share of suffering that brings people together.
Kenny: Sure, sure, I love it.
Angelo: So you got high school, you are overweight, when did you start working out? What was your beginning of your journey?
Kenny: I think it all stemmed—and I’ve told this story pretty often, I was in 8th grade and I was going to the first 8th grade party that year. It was the year before I went into high school. I remember looking in the mirror and just being disgusted with myself. I was fat, I had like a fucking track suit on, a zip up track suit and I looked like a fat old [Inaudible 00:08:53] with these thick glasses on. I was just unhappy with myself and I promised myself as soon as I got into high school there was a gym at the school, I’m going to work out every day, I’m going to play every sport I can.
My freshman year I was football, wrestling and baseball. Honestly the next year I ended up breaking my hand playing football so I started wrestling fulltime, all the time. I was like, this is my sport. It was a combination of starring to read muscle magazines and nutrition books and things like that. Obviously even today, still today, as much as we know there is still a lot of information that’s skewed and different understandings of what nutrition is and what we should be eating and shouldn’t be eating, the debate between carbs and fats and all these other shit.
I was like, I’m going to eat salads with chicken for lunch, I’m going to have smoothies for breakfast or eggs for breakfast, and at night I would just eat like tuna out of a can.
I went from 230 pounds starting high school and I graduated at 160.
Angelo: Wow, so you lost a third of you?
Angelo: It’s crazy. When you were at that weight, did you—it feels a little bit extreme as far as like your nutrition and all that stuff, did you feel like it was hard to stay at that weight, or did you feel like it was just easy?
Kenny: No. 160 felt comfortable and I got myself into this routine. When I was a kid I used to drink soda and eat [inaudible 00:10:35] salami and all that shit. Now it’s like anything like that, I can’t even look at that shit. Everyone [inaudible 00:10:43] that pepperoni, pizza, it’s like I’m drunk and I’m out somewhere, but other than that I kind of stay away from that stuff, cakes and stuff unless I’m at a really good place, I won’t eat that shit. I used to be into chrome cakes and shit by the plate.
I don’t touch any of that stuff. I can’t even tell you the last time I drunk soda. When I see people by Coca Cola or Pepsi or smoke a cigarette, I’m like, is it 1992, what the fuck is going on in your life?
Angelo: It’s like thug life, how can you crack that can open right now?
Kenny: Yeah, it’s like, what are you doing? You are so weird.
Angelo: It’s so funny to say that. Not to talk negatively about people but like, you have to know, if you live in America today you have to know.
Kenny: Buddy, I heard the craziest statistic. You know who Chad Waterbury is?
Angelo: I’ve heard the name, yes
Kenny: Really smart dude, great dude big into the fitness space forever. He started writing blogs and doing the whole YouTube thing stuff back in the early 2000s. My buddy Jay is friends with him. He stopped by the gym yesterday. He told me this crazy new statistic how there is only 15% or 16% of the population in the United States has a gym membership. Think about how many gyms are out there. There is a gym on every corner here in New York. Only 15% or 16% of the population have memberships. That’s crazy.
You think about it, right? When I worked at Equinox and stuff we had 6000, 7000 members there, you’d get the same 400, 500 at most per day. It’s the same people all the time. The fact that that model still exists where you could have two bench areas, two squat laps, and one set of dumb bells at every five and nobody complains and nobody is leaving this space, there is something flawed with the market, there is something wrong.
Angelo: That’s such an interesting number. When you think about it too a lot of times I’m sure you see with running the gym, people are always concerned about there is competition in their competition. If 85% of the people aren’t even buying anything you really don’t have any competition.
Kenny: Really, it’s so crazy. We are all fighting for the same three people. I had a couple of members leave the gym, I’m like good, fuck them, if we couldn’t make them happy, if I did everything I could, because on a daily basis my job is to make the membership experience second to none. If you are a bargain-based shopper and you want to go somewhere cheaper then go and do that, but there are so many more people I need to talk to, so many more people that need my help. I’m not worried about the two or three who are looking for a McDonalds when there is an awesome steakhouse right next door.
Angelo: Agreed, absolutely. You get through high school- at what age did you get on MTV?
Kenny: I went for an audition at 21 and by 22 I was on TV.
Angelo: Okay. How long did that last for you?
Kenny: I started in 20004, 2005 I believe, and then I did—I was hosting shows up until like 2012, 2013. There was kind of a catalyst of things and a cluster of things that had happened all around that time that kind of drew me to just get a real agency. When you are a reality TV star, it was like all the fame, I’m like there is a huge difference between a legitimate actor or performer and a reality TV star. Everybody gets on reality TV and thinks they are going to be famous, I was there it’s not the case. There are very few people who parlay into something else.
I was in the transition period of parlaying into something else. I started to do a lot more hosting. I started to do a lot more commercial work, and signed with a big agency here in New York.
Obviously some other shit happened because of the show that kept me from getting a couple of big jobs that I could have gotten. That’s a bullshit story in itself. I got some other opportunities to do other stuff; I’ve done a bunch of commercial work, I’ve done a bunch of hosting work.
I kind of gravitated out of that, because I always saw the reality TV world as a stepping stone into the entertainment world, and it taught me a lot about being on television, just the simple things, just the whole backend, like the production happens, and you have a more thorough understanding of how that all works.
Angelo: Okay, that’s awesome. It’s so great that you have that perspective, because you see a lot of different literature in things about people that are on reality TV, and they usually don’t end up great after it.
Kenny: Yeah, there is a lot of people who let it affect them so negatively. There are people who were expecting to be something more than what they were. I’ll tell you what, and I think this is what a lot of celebrities—and I tell people this, I never think I’m a real celebrity, I’m not fucking Brad Pitt or something, but I’m just saying, you go from this extreme highs and lows. It’s the same thing the musicians go through, like they are on stage and there is 80,000 people screaming their name and they are loving life and everything, as good as it can be, and then you go home to yourself or to your wife or your kids and you are like searching for that high again.
I would spend weeks or months on the road doing stuff and then I come home and I’m like sitting in bed by myself and you are like, what the fuck I’m I doing? You start to go crazy over it. You can’t let that eat you up. I always had a regular job. I worked at a shipping yard out in Jersey from the time I was 18 to the time I was like 25, 26. That’s when I got into training. I always had a normal job and eating a huge slice of humble pie coming off television and then cleaning up waste and shit like in Equinox and working as a front desk guy at a gym just to get your reps in, just to be seen. Now it’s like anybody who’s anybody go, “yo, I’m a business fucking pro”. It’s like, really? You’ve been doing this three weeks.
Angelo: When did you know that you wanted to start training and coaching people?
Kenny: I’ll tell you what man, since I was a kid I wanted to. One of the first gyms I joined I was 17, 18 years old. I was up at a gym, it’s called Platinum Fitness, it was in [inaudible 00:17:52] New Jersey where me and my family moved up to after we moved out in Newark. Me and my brother joined this gym and we kind of hit it the way it was allowed. All the trainers were like douchebags and shit. Even before that—my brother got me the encyclopedia of body building for my 15th birthday. We would go there and literally just do everything that Arnold said to do on the sport. We did muscle development and muscle fitness, and at the time they were like heavy, I think muscle development is still very influenced by steroids type of magazines and things like that.
Angelo: It’s like that Thick Magazine.
Kenny: It’s like these workouts where if you try to do them it’s going to take you 2½ hours and you can never finish them. I started that when I was in high school. Me and my brother would always joke around, we were like, man wouldn’t it be fucking cool to own a gym? It would be so cool to own a gym. Very early on in my high school career I guess I always just wanted to be a trainer but it was always looked down upon. It was always looked at as like a bullshit job, a trainer.
So when I took the plunge in my mid 20s and I was like, I’m just going to do this, because all through college I took a couple of classes like a kinesiology class, health Ed class and stuff like that just to introduce myself to some of the prerequisites to being an exercise specialist, exercise science specialist. I would have had to stay in school a little bit longer. Looking back some days I wish I did, other days I’m glad I didn’t because I would have never finished it because I got on TV right after college.
I think early on had it not been presented to me as like such a negative thing I probably would have done it way sooner. If there was somebody in my corner, I was a kid today in college and exercise science and fitness is looked at as it is now I probably would have gotten into it a little bit sooner.
But I did it around 25, 26, got my mad zone, fell in love with CrossFit at the time. So I was working out with a couple of guys, we were doing it and one thing led to another and I was like, this is what I want to do because I enjoyed it. I actually liked looking forward to going to work, and I remember having dinner with my dad one night and he’s like, “is this what you are going to do? What are you going to do for money? What’s your plan?” and I said, “dad, I love going to work, I really do love going to work”. He’s like, “yeah, but what are you going to do when you are old?” I go, “what the fuck are you doing and you are old? Do you have a plan?”
Angelo: It’s so true though. I don’t know why, I would say a good decade ago, even when I opened my gym people are like, “what are you doing in some warehouse with this CrossFit thing?” like it was very not serious.
Kenny: I have members at my gym who pay to be here, over $300 a month, who are like, “yeah, but you are a trainer” and I’m like, “yeah, but you pay to be here, I don’t pay to go to your fucking job”.
Angelo: That’s right. It’s so crazy. So you started training people and then—I know you once owned a gym, when did open up your affiliate?
Kenny: I opened up my affiliate in 2012, 2013 in Jersey, in Paramus, New Jersey. It was called CrossFit GSP. I opened it up with two shitheads, they were a married couple.
Angelo: I hope they don’t listen to this.
Kenny: I hope they do. We went through a long lawsuit, like a yeah and a half long lawsuit because I caught them taking money. I actually run into a member from my old gym not too long ago. I got my money back and stuff, not all of it obviously but a nice chunk of it. They were like, “man we wish you were there, they are running it like shit”, blah blah blah, all the stuff, and I’m like, that’s the way it happens. It was at the time when CrossFit was still on that incline, and no one saw really an end to it, and they weren’t really fitness people, they just saw like, “oh my god, we open up a CrossFit gym with this guy who’s on TV and who’s a trainer we are going to make a shit ton of money”.
So I coached all the classes, I worked there, I owned it, I did everything for that place. Then I noticed money disappearing, so I’m like [inaudible 00:22:45], it’s not like you come up to me, Angelo comes up to me on the subway, robs me and then I go tell the police like, “hey, that guy’s got my wallet”, it’s now I have to prove in a court of law why they are taking money out the bank and why it’s not okay. It’s just a nightmare of a situation. It’s like going through divorce. Luckily one of my best friends growing up his dad was a huge lawyer in Jersey helped me out, so I can’t thank those guys enough. Still to this day a very Italian thing I send a fruit basket on every holiday and birthdays and shit. That’s how that happened, and then when I came back to the city looking for work—you know Chuckie Welch Q?
Kenny: I was working at this bar, a buddy of mine opened up a bar and he’s like, dude, just come work for me, and I was like—because I was weary we are opening up a gym because I was still going through the lawsuit and stuff, and working in another gym she’s like, “come work with me over at CrossFit 212 downtown”. She kind of got me back into the New York City fitness scene, because I was working here before and then went to Jersey opened up, and then came back to New York. When I came back here I started working over there and then the guys from Solace reached out to me like, “hey, would you want to come work here?” One thing led to another and I turned some things around here, created a hip program here, developed a lot of the community here and here I am.
Angelo: So now you are at Solace, so now when you started working there did you go right in as the general manager, or how did that role…?
Kenny: No. I started out just as a CrossFit coach. I’ll tell you the truth; the first three months I worked here I told them “you don’t pay me”. I was like, “I don’t want you to pay me, I want to show you what I could do”. Because I loved it, I don’t mind working. I got here at 5 this morning- I’ll be here until 8, 9 o’clock at night. I enjoy doing this, I enjoy knowing the members, I’m sure there’s plenty of members who hate my guts, but I don’t worry about them, I worry about the people who do give a shit. I started working here and teaching class, just CrossFit, and then I was like, listen, I think you guys are underutilizing parts of the space and you are missing some points here and there.
I was like, I think we should take Cross Fitness like—a little over three years ago now, I was like, I think we should pull CrossFit out of the name, make it a little bit more user friendly. It’s not just a CrossFit gym; we are a boutique fitness studio that offers CrossFit. We are not just a CrossFit gym. I was heavily influential in pushing those concepts and ideas here. One thing led to another, I was kind of behind a lot of it, some of the stuff that happened here that worked out. The right people took notice of it and gave me a promotion.
Angelo: That’s awesome. On a day to day basis I think I heard you say—weekly basis there is 200 classes a week there?
Kenny: Yeah. We have 200.
Angelo: How do you go about managing a staff of that size?
Kenny: Full time employees.
Kenny: So I have mostly full time employees where everybody’s got to do about 20 hours a week at least. Some of us do more every now and then, but we do it in blocks. We are like, who’s got a morning block, who’s got an afternoon block, who’s got a night block? Everybody gets paid pretty well, so everybody wants to keep their job and they are doing something they enjoy. The goal is to not just have one, one of the things that Aaron says that I loved, that I always believed in is just like having a diet like that to reinforce some of the ideas that I love, having him in my corner a lot and being able to pick his brain.
He’s always played the long game. So I never hire anybody despite what jerkoffs think out there, because they fuck up they think it’s your fault. I never hire somebody with the idea that I’m planning to get rid of them, I want to hire them for the long haul. I want them to be a part of the team for the long haul, so it’s like we are going to grow together. So the better the business staff the better you are going to do. I don’t want to just hire you for a month- I want to hire you for the next 50 years if we can to keep this ball going, yeah.
Angelo: That’s awesome. What is the biggest challenge that you have right now with Solace, for you to run such a big gym?
Kenny: Just all the personalities. You have wealthy people here who do well, who nothing is ever good enough. I hear about gyms out in the middle of nowhere their members are content with nothing whereas for our CrossFit gym we have a full time cleaning crew here. I have literally the best of everything regarding the fitness world. We have a full pro shop, we have new shirts in all the time, we print on [inaudible 00:28:00] Reebok, we are doing bars, we have drinks, we sell online products. We have like every brand, we stock Stance socks. Everything I tried to curate it to the—done my I’s, crossed my T’s, keep everything as if I was a member here, that’s what I would want it to be.
I always treat it like, if I was paying $300 a month to come here what would I want here? What would I want done? Constantly having events, we constantly have education here, everything and anything I could do to make the membership experience second to none. Everybody is, “why can’t we have more room? Why can’t we have this?” It’s like, everything costs money, I can’t expand the walls, I can’t start digging up fucking holes and make the ceiling higher. You do what you can with what you got and you push even further than that. It’s like a workout, you hit that wall and you keep pushing throughout.
Kenny: Another thing is- I kind of wrestle with this a lot with myself. I get very frustrated with the state of fitness and the state of fitness environment in New York where there is so much shit out there, everybody is a fitness professional. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve been doing this for so long and then you see somebody who just started who was an accountant last week, or a cheerleader, and now they are like New York’s best fitness pro, and it’s like, you just credit everything everyone else has done up to this point. I can never see someone being really good at something who just started. Even artists, artists come on the scene but they’ve been doing it for quite some time. No one just picks up a paintbrush and then it’s Picasso, no one just picks up a microphone and is like, I’m great. No, they are working countless hours to become that person, for that pinnacle moment where they blow up.
Then you are like, “oh, you are new”. Not really, they are new because you just found out about them, but they’ve been curating the skill. There is, “oh, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall was great”, yeah, but he’s been singing since he was five. “Oh, Justin Bieber…”, because he’s been singing since he was seven. These guys didn’t just fucking pick up a microphone and go, “I’m great”. No, they worked at it for years.
So for you to be credible in my eyes you have to be doing this for a long time, and not just working out, teaching other people how to become better, understanding what goes into it, because you could be a great athlete, but a great athlete doesn’t translate into a great coach.
Angelo: Right, that’s a great point. I agree man, very, very cool. For you now, what do you think your genius is that you are able to pull this off and step into this role? What do you think is your real superpower?
Kenny: I think it’s a perfect storm of, kind of life experience and my ability and network, some of the connections I have. Everything is a God-given ability. As much as I’m not a bible thumper and my parents get pissed off [inaudible 00:31:28] so a fucking baby walking on the water and all that bullshit—I was raised Catholic, I just kind of lost faith a little bit. I always think I should have some sort of faith in something, be a little bit more spiritual, but I always say it’s a God-given ability for someone to do whatever they are really good at.
When I was a kid no one ever told me to draw. I went to art school, so I went to school for art and that’s when I was going to make the transition to totally different ends of the spectrum. I was either going to be an exercise science major or an artist. I went to school for art and education because I loved to draw. It was just something that came natural to me. My mother has said from when I was 3, 4 years old that I just liked to draw. I would do it while I was supposed to be listening in school, I would do it on the weekends, I would stay up at night drawing. I loved it, no one told me to do that.
No one tells me to be here at 5:00am and stay here until 8 o’clock at night. In fact, they tell me to leave because I’m always tired in the middle of the day. I have this crazy need to be here all the time. I have this crazy need to research workouts and programs, and get more education, spend every dollar I have on flying across the country and meeting different people and understanding all the stuff. I have this God-given ability to soak up all these stuff and want to be involved as much as I possibly can. Whereas some people do it just because it’s cool.
I wish I had that God-given ability to pick up a guitar and fucking play with the guitar. I bought three guitars in my life, I can’t play a goddamn song on it, but I wish I had the ability to just sit down and do that. There are people who could sit down and just study, there are people who could sit down and read all material, there are people who could sit in the gym—I’m not the best athlete, I’m not the type of person like [inaudible 00:33:33] who would go into the gym in the morning and work out for three hours and go have lunch, and then go back to the gym work out again. I don’t have that ability. I like working out, I like understanding, I like being able to teach these other people. There are different degrees of what abilities you have in a certain space. What’s your mutant power?
Angelo: For sure. That’s awesome. That’s a great way to put it too. That’s awesome that you drew, I don’t think anybody even knew that. It’s awesome.
Kenny: No, no.
Angelo: What about for you as far as Kenny Santucci? I have seen—was it last year you run the New York Marathon? You do a lot of stuff that you are getting out in the community and stuff like that, what do you have for the Kenny Santucci brand?
Kenny: I’m going to run the New York City Marathon this year for the third time.
Kenny: I’ve done an Iron member for, back in 2013. It was just something I liked doing. I found myself—when I wrestled al through high school and college I never beat anybody. I was a good wrestler, I’m not going to dampen the fact that I was dishing—again, it was like something I fell in love with and became obsessed with. I would win most of the time just on endurance. I just liked to go. Even yesterday we had a workout and my coaches know now I’m not that strong, not naturally.
When it comes to heavier workouts or in a CrossFit, anything long—we did rhythm yesterday, it was like the box jump, kettlebell swings, and [inaudible 00:35:08], anything like that where you are going to go for 15, 20 minutes, it’s going to be good for you.
Anything we are rolling and running, like, oh, it’s going to be good for you. They tend to be the workouts that I gravitate towards. When it came to running and stuff like that and everyone is, “oh, you are not going to win it”, it’s like, I’m not running a fucking marathon to win it. I don’t do everything to win it. When I crossed the finish line at my first marathon I was 19, 20 years old. I’m like, holy fuck, this is awesome.
Then I crossed the finish line at the Iron net and I’m like, holly fuck, this is awesome. I could do anything. If I could do this physically, if I cannot turn my body off for 15 fucking hours and cross the finish line, and swim, and run, and bike, I could do anything. Around that same time, after I went through the lawsuit, my gym lost a ton of money, when I first started working here for free I was sleeping in my car because I wanted to be here the first thing in the morning. If I went back to Jersey that night and came back and it’s like there is no point I would have been sitting in traffic most of the time.
No one told me I had to do that. I’d sleep on friend’s couches, I’d sleep with [inaudible 00:36:26], I would go back home every once in a while but I’m like, this is part of the process, this is part of the suffering. You could either take it on four fucking knees or you could be like, yeah, it’s just one of the fucking hurdles. It’s not going to be the best sleep but I’m sleeping. I got a car, I’m good enough. I’m not on the street. There’s a couple of times I’m like, I’d really like to sprawl out, maybe I’ll just lay on the street tonight.
Angelo: That’s incredible. You are doing the marathon this year, anything else you have going on this year for you?
Kenny: For the past three years, maybe even four years now, I’ve been putting together this project. One other thing I love to do is go to conventions. I haven’t missed the Comic-Con in 11 years. I love comic books and shit so I always go to Comic-Con. I went to the Arnold Classic, I’ve been through Olympia, I’ve been to the Idea Conference, I’ve been to the Fit Expo and all these events. I’m like, we don’t have anything like that here in New York, so four years ago I’m driving out to Columbus, Ohio to go see the Arnold Classic, and I’m like, I should do something like that in New York.
I’ve constantly pitched this idea. In the last two years at the fitness festival I pitched it to one guy right here in New York who’s got a ton of cash and a bunch of equipment [inaudible 00:37:57] and he gives my idea, I sent him my deck that I built out, and he sent it to these women—I have a friend who knows these people, and they are like—they literally stole my idea and asked me to be the MC of it. I’m like whatever; they are never going to do it the way I do it, because it’s a shitty version of what I wanted to do. Because it’s like I’ve developed the idea further, it’s my concept, I’m going to be able to develop it better than they ever will.
Last year it was around this time, last August and I’m bullshitting with my buddies who work, basically my reps at Reebok. I’ve been with Reebok for like five years now. The guys I deal with at Reebok Bret and Andrew go like, “let’s do something in New York, we got to do something, let’s put together an event”. I’m like, perfect, here’s my deck, let’s do this. They are like, “let’s scale it down, we don’t have this much money to do all these”. But my concept was to put fitness and wellness, and nutrition, and everything that embodies the New York City fitness industry, and what it would take to move everybody forward health wise, let’s put it all under one roof.
Actually around the same time I was at the Coffee Festival, the New York City Coffee Festival. If they could get 10,000 people to show up just to drink fucking coffee, I could get fucking 10,000 people to show up for fitness. There is a lot of animosity, because in the coffee space Starbucks and Joe’s, and Gregorys, and La Colombe, and all these coffee companies come and exhibit their coffee and let people try it, and they sell their brand. Whereas in the fitness space everybody is basically doing the same shit, nobody is coming up with a new way to move the human body. No one wants to be in the same space, no one wants to be housed in the same space.
So you have all these brands who are too good to do anything in the same space as somebody else is doing the same thing. I see it as like, bring everybody together share the idea because we are a very small percentage of people who are working out, a very small percentage of the people here in New York. There is 9 million people here in the city, there is maybe 10% of us who actually work out. It’s the same 10% who are going to all these gyms and shit. So I was like, why don’t we reach out, pull more people in and do one big fitness festival day event, cycling and rowing, and boxing and whatever fuck you want to do, bar classes, dance, whatever you want to do. Put it all under one roof, get everybody together and celebrate the idea of how we can move forward. Get big speakers in there and do this thing.
On December 1st I’m putting together a team of people that I have. [Inaudible 00:41:02] has obviously been a sponsor. I’m getting a group of great speakers together. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the New York Summer Strong?
Kenny: It’s similar to Summer Strong, only we do a lot more working out and stuff like we’ll have classes throughout the day, and I’ll bring in brands, different brands here in New York, choose press, and different companies will come in and exhibit all their stuff. We will give everybody who signs up a goody bag, and I take all the money, every month I raise more and more. Like one month we raise 8,000, maximum we raise 12,000, and I take all the money and I give it to a charity of that month. Last October we did breast cancer, I donated $8,000 to Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In November we donated to a November foundation, I gave $12,000 to a November foundation.
I never got into fitness because I’m going to be a millionaire. Would it be nice if it happened? Sure. Is that my goal? Not really. If we could all get a little bit better, and I could make a living off of it, that’s all I give a shit about.
Angelo: Sure. So it’s December 1st and it’s Strong New York, is that what it’s called?
Angelo: Okay. Where could people find info on that?
Kenny: We are building up a Strong New York website, but it will be on the Solace New York website. Solace New York website will have a link to it, how you could sign up, who’s going to be there. Me and Jen [inaudible 00:42:31] are the hosts. Jen will be there, she always has a great following, a great audience. We’ve had everyone from [inaudible 00:42:42], Joe DeFranco’s been there, Dave Durante, [inaudible 00:42:49] we’ve had a ton of great speakers and presenters and people that like teaching classes and stuff. It’s really cool. This year I’m trying to blow it up even more. I have some good people I’m reaching out to, everybody and anybody.
Angelo: That’s awesome man.
Kenny: I was going to have even Erin come out and speak.
Angelo: She’s amazing.
Kenny: She is great on the mic
Angelo: That’s awesome. Very, very cool, all this good stuff. For you, what do you want the future to bring for you? Are you happy staying in this CrossFit realm? What kind of impact do you really want to make in 10 years?
Kenny: I wrote down in a book, a little notebook I keep at my apartment, and I put in my book bag sometimes, but I wrote down, all I really wanted was to make a living so I could—for instance like what’s going on with my dad right now, I just want to be able to get my mom a place where she doesn’t have to worry about anything. As long as I could secure her and keep her happy for the next 15, 20 years, for me it’s like I’d love to have a little space on the beach. I would like to build a gym on the beach and do that. Also to be just respected by the people I look up to.
That was always my thing, I always wanted to work with people I admire and have them want to work with me. I always felt that was a really cool thing. I love rock &roll music, I love learning about—I was just watching this documentary on Clive Davis. When you hear Bruce Springsteen be like, damn I got to work with Clive Davis, I’m like, holly fuck, you are Bruce Springsteen. Who wouldn’t want to work with you? But at the time he wasn’t Bruce Springsteen. It’s cool to see different people, and then there’s a band called The Gaslight Anthem. They are a New Jersey rock band who’s heavily influenced by Springsteen, and when they got to perform with Springsteen to me that’s cool. I want to be able to do that, I want to be able to work—and I’ve gotten to do that, like Joe DeFranco is one of those guys, I have always admired what he did.
I used to work out with him sometimes and be like, this guy knows so much and he is coaching the coolest guys, he is coaching the giants and the jets, and all the shit. I’m like to work with him and have him come to my gym and do a talking class and he is so cool, to me that’s like a great experience.
Angelo: Yeah, absolutely. I like that man. Thank you for sharing. I ask everybody that comes on the show to define Alpha Hippie and now it’s your turn. So what does the Alpha Hippie mean to you Kenny?
Kenny: I think we all have a little bit of hippie in us, we all want to kind of skip through the flowers and just chill out and listen to music. I think an Alpha Hippie would be anybody who kind of embodies full set like alpha status, and that kind of lax cool environment, all that lax cool feeling. I think it’s the combination, two really positive things that sometimes are looked at as negative.
Angelo: I like it. Perfect. Where could people find you?
Kenny: @kennysantucci on Instagram, Kenny-santucci.com is my website, it kind of has a lot on my backstory and stuff on there, and then Solace New York.
Angelo: Awesome. Last question Kenny, if you had one word to be remembered by what would it be?
Kenny: Buddy. I just want everybody to call me like—when I was a kid one of my teachers asked me, “what would you like to do?” I was like, I love making people smile. I graduated from UCB, I did in [inaudible 00:46:47] for a while. I was thinking about going back because there is nothing cooler than making somebody smile. I’m shit with names, I have a terrible memory, I’m definitely going to have fucking dementia when I’m older. In high school I’d forget people’s names and stuff, so I started calling everybody buddy, buddy. It’d be like, oh buddy what’s up? And be like, I just forgot is fucking name, so I’ll just call him buddy. Everybody started calling me buddy. It’s like the thing just took over itself. Everybody remembers, you forgot, he was my buddy. I’m happy with that.
Angelo: That’s awesome man. Thank you, and thanks for taking time to be on the show man. I really appreciate you.
Kenny: No problem, thank you brother.
You’ve been listening to The Alpha Hippie Podcast.
Angelo: Thanks for listening to The Alpha Hippie Podcast everyone. Again, if you are enjoying the show please subscribe and give us a rating on iTunes. My guest and I really appreciate the feedback. And if you are on Instagram follow us at @thealphahippie to see what’s going on in our world, upcoming shows and all our news. See you next time.
00:48:00 End of Show