Just when she thought her life couldn’t get any better playing soccer overseas on a US women’s team, Brooklyn Hillenbrand was unexpectedly pulled back from the life she had known when she tore her knee at a match. Overcoming severe injuries and feelings of self-doubt and undergoing reconstructive surgery, Brooklyn eventually bounced back and took her talents from the soccer field to building something incredible with her body. Now, she is a fitness influencer, a nationally qualified bikini competitor, a fitness coach, and bodybuilding.com athlete from Washington, DC. Learn how Brooklyn turned her life around and took life’s blessings in disguise, overcoming the challenges with recovery and transitioning to body-building.
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The Painful Truth of Competing & Overcoming A Hopeless Mentality with Brooklyn Hillenbrand
From Hopeless To Success
We have someone extremely unique. Her name is Brooklyn Hillenbrand. The purpose of this show is to create you, to bring your vision to life and take Brooklyn to a place she’s never been or take your mind to a place that you’ve never been and that’s through getting uncomfortable. Going through past experiences, but also talking about strategies or structures for you to implement into your life or into your career you can take the next step in your life and the people around you can also experience the same transformation. Thank you for joining us on this episode, Brooklyn. How are you?
I’m wonderful. How are you?
I’m amazing. Your eyes are literally piercing my soul right now. You have these very beautiful eyes and there’s a lot of passion. There is a lot that people might not even know about. You’re with BodyBuilding.com. You’re starting your own business. You have a lot of awesome things going for you, but it wasn’t always like that.
My life has changed incredibly.
She tore her knee three different times from playing soccer. Soccer is at the center of Brooklyn. She’s being carried by her teammates. There’s one that she’s literally after surgery in a big brace. There’s also one where she does not look too happy to be honest. You have a broken finger too. The interesting part about Brooklyn is she had complete reconstructive surgery on that knee and you played soccer your whole life. You were slapped in the face out of nowhere. You were punched in the gut and you dropped. You kept on getting back up, but then the third one was the charm. It says, “The third time is a charm hopefully.” Little did Brooklyn know that she would then take her talents from the soccer field to building something incredible with your body. Something strength filled, something that did take a lot of courage. You’re thriving and you’re overcoming so much and helping many ladies, hundreds of thousands around the world. Tell me about that transition.
I had my third knee reconstruction. I was a junior in high school, at the end of my high school career. I went overseas to play soccer on a US women’s team. It was the peak of my career. I was getting ready to commit to a school for college that I always hoped to go for. We played weeklong in a tournament and the last second of my last game, I tore everything. It was a split second. I was on the ground, the whole knee blown up. I tore every single thing. I had to fly back to the United States the next day from Switzerland. It was the worst pain I’ve ever been in. I got home. When I was born, I had heart surgery so I can’t get MRIs. I had to sit on that knee surgery and before that for three weeks. I got surgery. It was supposed to take an hour. It took five hours for the knee surgery.
It caught you off guard. I can relate to that. I don’t know if many people know that I had a concussion, my second to the last game in high school for football and I had an opportunity to most likely go to Vanderbilt. I was in talks about to sign with them. I’m super excited to do SEC team. It’s a massive Division I school. I suffered a severe concussion and after that was one of the most brutal years of my life. I had brain fog every single day, post-concussion syndrome. I know what it’s like to have everything you’ve worked for your entire life and lose it in a second. The most beautiful thing about that is that made you who you are. You wouldn’t have hundreds of thousands of people following you and you wouldn’t be able to inspire many women and men all around the world if it weren’t for that.
At the time, I never would have ever thought about being a fitness influencer and doing what I do now. If it wasn’t for that one moment going overseas and having the best experience of my life and at the time thinking, “I lost everything in that split second.” That one split second changed my entire life.
It was a blessing in disguise. I know your story well. You were fatigued with your life in general. You felt weak, you felt alone and you felt insecure and all these different things. When you saw that your leg was atrophied to half the size of the other one. Tell us about that because you went from that point to bodybuilding. What was that bridge? Where did that bridge form? When was it?
I obviously had the surgery and that’s a full knee reconstruction metal on my knee, but I also had total muscle atrophy on my right leg. With that, I was in that leg brace for a few months. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t do anything. Before that injury, I felt strong and I’m at my highest point and then all of a sudden I felt weak and alone. I felt sorry for myself and I was sitting in my bed saying, “Why me? Why is this happening to me again?” From there I decided, I was like, “What’s me sitting in bed thinking about this? If I could change that one split second, what is that going to do for my outcome?” A seventeen-year-old me, crutch down to my home gym and I started lifting weights, upper body for a couple of hours. I had nothing else to do and I started feeling strong again. I started feeling good about myself again. From there, I spent all summer in my basement, every single day lifting with my big leg brace on and I started seeing progress. It was the best feeling ever to see those physical changes from putting in the work and feeling strong again. Going for PRs on a shoulder press and from there I was hooked. That’s how I got into bodybuilding from that knee surgery.
What’s interesting about this is that when you talk about bodybuilding, building size, strength and everything, usually females are like, “I want nothing to do with that. I’m going to get big and bulky.” You’re proving that you can work out the way you want. You can work out in the gym and lift heavyweight sometimes. Even not lift heavy weights but do bodybuilding exercises, movements and look good. Sculpt your body the way you want.
I was a victim of it too. I thought bodybuilding when I was in high school, “That’s bulky.” Even when that happened, I started getting into bodybuilding before my senior year and I had a lot of girls talk behind my back saying, “She’s going to look like a man. What is she doing?” For females in general in lifting, that’s a big misconception is with bodybuilding. You hear the word bodybuilding and instantly you think of something totally different than what it is, big juiced-up girls.
What you and I have been talking about is important, not to give in to peer pressure, not to give in to what everyone else is saying, not to give in to the bad vibes, the noise. A lot of people talk about this on social media all the time, but who truly listens to themselves saying that like, “Don’t give in.” We all give in. What’s one way that you gave in during the journey? You know you did in some way, shape or form and one instance. When you were going through that transformation, where did you give in a little bit to the noise and what people were saying?
I got into doing competitions and I got super competitive about it. At first, it had nothing to do with social media. I didn’t even have a social media account, but then I did a show and I felt that pressure. There’s that pressure on social media of I want to win. I was determined to get a pro card and I drove my body into the ground for it. I look back and it wasn’t even that long ago. I finished a few months ago and I look back, I’m like, “Why did I do that? I wasn’t even enjoying myself.”
Why did you do it?
I did it because I felt pressure from social media to continue, to win and I wanted to win so badly.
Why did you want to win so badly?
The status of it.
At that point, what did you feel it would give you?
It would give me the feeling of accomplishing a said task that I said I was going to do, but at the end of the day, when I look back I’m like, “If I get this title, IFBB Pro, what is it going to do for me?”
It doesn’t make you any more talented. It doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. It doesn’t make you a professional or an expert. I do want to touch on this because this is something that we want to dive into. A lot of people struggle from this. It’s that, “I want that IFBB Pro card or I want this. I want to be seen as accomplishing this.” Where else in your life did you feel like you fell short and you’d didn’t achieve what you set out to achieve fully in anything in your life?
It happened a lot in my life, playing soccer especially. I’m playing with the same girls. I have fallen short of making certain teams that I was determined to make. It’s hard to work hard and see someone else get it and then you go after it and not get it. At the end of the day you look back and with the soccer thing and the knee surgery, something happens to you. It’s not what you want, but it’s a blessing in disguise. It happened a lot.
That’s something to target on right there is everything does happen for a reason. We don’t know why. We can’t explain it. It’s like we’re in a big forest and we’re going through and all of a sudden you see some light. You get outside of the forest and it’s everything you could ever imagine. It’s maybe the car, maybe it’s the relationship and maybe it’s the IFBB Pro card for all you know. You can work and work and fail and fail, then you can either quit because you feel that it’s not coming to you. You could have a shift and realize that maybe that’s not the journey for you and the success is right around the corner, you just don’t see it yet, but you try to keep on going with it in a different way. Maybe in a more humble way, maybe it’s giving back a little bit more or maybe it’s sitting and taking a different approach to your life. We all go through things and we all need to counteract in some way, shape or form. Your turning point was going to bodybuilding. What is that feeling when you walk into a gym? What is it with you that makes you want to progress more and more because you are well-known for your workouts on social media? You can build a nice upper body especially. What does that give to you?
In 2018, I was focused on the aesthetic of getting onstage, but now I have this feeling of, I go into the gym and I love feeling strong. My gym workouts have been amazing and being able to share workouts and having other people, both male and female, reach out to me and say, “I tried your workout. It destroyed me in the best way possible and thank you so much for sharing this.” Helping someone, even if it’s one person a day, makes my heart happy. When I started my journey and it’s crazy now that I’m a BodyBuilding.com athlete. I was fourteen, I Googled bodybuilding for women and there was not that much stuff that there is now. The amount of information and content you can find and having someone say, “You changed my life,” is the best feeling ever.
It’s funny because when you were looking online, you were looking for inspiration. You were looking for someone to be like, “I did it. You can too.” What did you show to the world? What was missing in your life at that point that you’ve provided to other women around the world and even guys? That’s the cool thing because we never should limit ourselves because of our race, our gender, our views on religion or political views. We’re all the same.
I hate when people tell me, “Can I do this workout? I’m a guy.” I’m like, “What’s the difference between me going into the gym and you going into the gym? We’re both there. We’re both trying to work for a common goal. There’s no difference. Go in with intensity.” In the industry, there are so much with females and targeting female workouts and workout supplements and stuff. I’m like, “There’s no difference.” I hate that stigma. It bothers me.
This brings up a huge point. You have your degree. What is it in?
You’ve interned with?
I’m interning with Sport & Spine Rehab, a chiro, PT office, but I was a sports performance trainer for a while.We should never limit ourselves by our race, gender, or views on religion or politics. We're all the same. Click To Tweet
That right there is coming down to science. The way you train can be for anybody and everyone that wants to build their body and truly wants to build each muscle group. A woman saying, “We’re going to focus on shoulder or delts chests and maybe a little bit of back.” How is that going to be any different? Science is science. We talked about strength, power, hypertrophy, muscular endurance, rest ranges, frequency and all this stuff. Is it the same Brooklyn or is it different for women?
It’s exactly the same.
I thought that you go to school for exercise physiology for males. It’s interesting green juice for men.
Protein powder for men and women and I’m like, “What’s the difference?” It bothers me so much. It’s always more expensive for women if you haven’t notice that.
That’s because women are buyers. That’s one part of your story and that’s all incredible. You’re here and now you’re a bodybuilder. Outside of bodybuilding, because everyone needs a life, what are some things you do that nobody knows about or are you focused on training and are you focused on makeup because you’re also big into makeup? What else do you do?
To be honest, it is hectic with school and interning. My day is waking up, going to the gym, going straight to school, going straight to my internship, coming home and doing all my research.
You are structured and you do research?
All my studies are research.
You put time and effort into crafting your skill.
I’m doing a presentation at my university. I got it submitted for that but I do a lot of research.
A lot of people feel they have it all already and they don’t need to research anymore or, “I’ve already learned. My experience is strong enough.” The truth is you always have room to grow. Like you’re coaching people and you have everything that’s launching in the business, you also have a coach. That’s Nick who’s also on the show. It’s important because Nick probably works with other coaches. Don’t think that you ever have enough.
There’s always room to grow, to learn and to be more. Something my mom said to me, “You should never be the smartest person in the room. You should always surround yourself with people who bring you value in your life in a different way.”
That is also shown through the people that follow you. That’s also shown through your little brother, your little sister, your cousin, that person at the grocery store. Everyone brings you value in every room. You don’t know it yet. That’s the most important thing is to get up and find out for yourself, and that’s what you’ve done with bodybuilding and taking it to the next step. When we talk about a nice old dinner table, we’re at a dinner table and you have three people that you can have dinner with. They’re all at the same table. Who would they be? I’ll give you four for myself.
I would like to tap into the mind of Gary Vee. I feel that him and I have an interesting perspective on life and people around us and we’re also both high energy. I would also love Tony Robbins. I also would love Donald Trump. I want to tap into his mind and understand who he is, what he truly enjoys and what he’s truly passionate about. All of this stuff is a facade of who he truly is. I think he’s a good dude. Everybody’s a good dude or a good girl. Finally, I would like Logan Paul. I don’t care about followers. It’s not something I truly care about, but the controversy around him, his high energy, his athleticism and how much confidence he has in himself, but also the other side. I know he’s got a soft side. I know he has a lot of things that hold him back in his life. I like tapping into that. How about your three people?
Can I not take any of yours? Gary Vee and Donald Trump are two that would be interesting. This is a little bit girly for me, but I would love James Charles, the makeup artist. Have you heard of him? He’s huge on Instagram and YouTube.
I would love to sit down and have dinner with the Kardashians.
I want to tap into this because you said a couple of different people. Why?
I listen to Gary Vee every morning driving to school for my hour commute. I love his podcast. I love everything he preaches. Donald Trump, he’s an interesting and good businessman. There are many questions. I don’t know where I would start, but he is fascinating to me. James Charles, he turned twenty and this guy has fourteen million on YouTube. He started and fourteen million on Instagram too. He’s incredible. He’s talented with everything he does, makeup, piano. He could sing. He does everything and a great businessman as well. The stigma between a male and the makeup industry is something I would love to learn a little bit more about, things he struggled with and how he’s overcome things. He’s young. Him and then Kylie Jenner, the same things, being young. I know she was more born into a family who was well-known, but she took that power she had and made it into something incredible. I would love to sit down and talk to her as well.
I say this every episode whenever I ask that question, “You can find out who a person is from whom you would like at your dinner table.” If I said, “I love the local guy from McDonald’s. I would like the maid at my dinner table. I would also like Spec Mike, the guy with the video camera.” That also explains a lot about a person. It’s interesting because each person has a story that we don’t truly know about, the Jenner family, we have no clue. Our judgment doesn’t serve what we’re creating or what we’re developing. When we’re looking at people that are sitting at our table, the foods that we’re going to provide to them and what we’re going to be talking about, we can start learning more about ourselves and watch those people. Keep on being inspired, but ask yourself, “Why am I watching these people? Why do I want Tony Robbins? Why do I want Donald Trump? Why do I want Logan Paul?” Sit with that and embrace it. Let me ask you. Who would you want at your dinner table? If you have a little kiddie dinner table, that’s okay. I wouldn’t fit in a little kiddie chair, but you can. I want to have a little bit of fun and not talk about politics or religion. Where do you want to go into the world?
If I had to pick one place, Egypt is definitely one.
We need to tap into why you don’t know. You can’t have everything you want. Let me ask you, Brooklyn, because a lot of the times when I asked you a question, you have to think about it.
Do you know where I want to go? I’m a history person, that’s why I would like Egypt. I would love to go to Europe and go to Amsterdam.
It’s because of the concentration camps.
I was thinking of something completely different. I’m glad you brought that up.Our judgment doesn't serve what we're creating or what we're developing. Click To Tweet
I love that type of history. It fascinates me so much. I live in DC. We have the Holocaust Museum and I love going to museums in general, but that museum speaks to me and learning it in school many times. I would love to go and look at that history and going through that, because the whole scenario of how everything went down blows my mind. I love Europe in general, but I would love to go specifically to Amsterdam, Poland, the Anne Frank House would be one place I want to go.
Anne Frank, I read that book. I’m a professional reader. I’m a speed reader. Did you know that I’m Polish?
I am too, 15%.
How do you know the exact percentage?
I got my DNA tested.
Me too, 23andMe. Did you know that I’m Ashkenazi Jew?
I have 0.1%.
I’m 28%. I’m definitely a part of the team. I thought I was so much Puerto Rican and Italian. I’m Puerto Rican-Italian but I’m like, “My name is Brendan. I’m Ashkenazi Jewish.” I’m not even sure. I’m about 8% Puerto Rican and 15% Italian.
You thought you were all Puerto Rican and Italian?
I told myself that for the longest time. I’m also Czechoslovakian. Are you Italian?
I’m not Italian but I am Spanish-Portuguese.
Spanish and Portuguese, do you speak?
I don’t. I didn’t even know I was, but my grandma found out she was, which was a whole other thing. She has heritage from Spain. I found out I was too.
I want to tap into that personality of yours and why you’re calm all the time. How do you stay calm? Why not flip and be like, “Back up because I’m about to go wild on you?”
Why are you hyper?
Do you think it’s hyper or do you think it’s high energy? What’s your perspective on me?
I like high energy. You are hyper or high energy.
I feel that’s something a doctor would say like, “You’re hyperactive and we needed to get that taken care of with some medicine.” I’m passionate about everything I do, everything I touch, everything I eat. I love food, I’m passionate about it. Why are you so calm?
I’m passionate about what I do too.
Do you want everybody to win around you?
Yeah, I’m a team player. I love cheering people on. I was also a cheerleader in high school. I was a varsity cheer captain.
Why did you like cheerleading?
I like the energy of it.
It’s similar to me? The energy I have?
I liked it. I love the environment of football too, but I was a competitive cheerleader. We did all of that tumbling, the stunting, but it was fun. It was different than soccer. When you’re doing competitive cheerleading, more of an adrenaline rush thing. I liked it.
You’re into sports. You have all this story. You built an incredibly strong body. You’re smart. You’re calm. What’s your favorite movie?
A Star is Born.
Are you into music?
I’m really into music.
Do you like to twerk?You need to find out who you are before you feed off of someone else to make you feel whole. Click To Tweet
I’m not a twerker. I would love to learn. I tried to watch a YouTube video one time on how to do it. I love all kinds of music. I grew up on music.
Do you like country music?
For anyone that’s reading, I flirt a lot. I’m a flirtatious person. I build off of energy. I love everyone around me, but we’re also close friends. What do you think about a man who plays an acoustic guitar?
It’s a man playing the guitar, singing or a piano too.
When you go on a date with a man, what is the best first date? The most respectful first date that a man could give you?
I don’t go on many dates. An ideal first date, I don’t know if I would say going out to dinner, which would be a standard first date. I like to do something. Maybe go out somewhere.
Roll down a hill with a bag over your head?
I don’t know about rolling because my hair would get messed up. I don’t know about that, but maybe going and doing something. It could be anything like hiking.
Do you like a competitive man?
Yes, I do because I’m competitive too.
This is for all men and women out there, would you say that you could be in a relationship or date someone completely opposite to you?
Opposite in what way?
Energy or passion-wise, what their goal is.
Is that the same thing for every woman? As a male myself that dates and other guys that are all around the world that are looking for someone to come into their life, they’re searching. Where do you put that confidence with a woman if they’re a little bit different? Should they not even pursue? Should we not even pursue that relationship or that possibility? What’s your perspective on it? If someone’s opposite of you, are you going to tell the guy or do we need to find it out for ourselves and like you?
It doesn’t hurt to find out, but at the same time you don’t want to waste your time with someone. It’s a feeler thing.
What if we don’t trust our gut?
That’s the problem. That’s how people waste time in relationships. They stay with someone and they settle with someone because they give them that instant gratification and they don’t feel alone. They get stuck in a relationship and they settle.
If you were digging for gold, you found it and it’s a golden nugget. How do we tell? Do we need to ask the questions? Do we need to set an intention? If we’re at dinner and we’re into the other girl, do we ask something? When is too early?
It’s who you are as a person. If you’re comfortable with asking certain questions and seeing how the conversation’s going. If the person seems standoffish and closed off, I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
I’m a very straight forward person. If I’m at dinner with someone, maybe it’s not the first one or you don’t want to set yourself up to lose. One thing I do is I set the intention and I say, “I’m attracted to you. I love hanging out with you. I would love to see where this goes more than a friendship.” I was afraid for a second because if that was a failing strategy, I would have to rewrite a twenty-year script.
Being upfront with someone and not leading them on is a good idea in general. I would appreciate that in general and I would say the same thing to someone else. If I wasn’t interested, I would say I’m not interested.
A girl won’t say that. We need to ask the question or set the intention.
You need to ask.
Are you interested in me and not over text message?
Not over a text message.
Did I FaceTime you the first time I ever talked to you? I almost feel like I did. I’m a FaceTimer. I’m like, “Let me get your number and then I’ll FaceTime you.”
Text can be interpreted in many different ways. You don’t know how the person’s tone is or anything, it’s confusing.
Don’t you think everything in life is about relationships?Put yourself out there. You have one life. Why do the same thing over and over again if it's not working? Click To Tweet
It is, yes. Everything, friendships and how you get along with people. Who you surround yourself with is a relationship.
Your word is your world thing. I talk about that all the time. What you say, what you give, how your energy is, everything is your world, what you surround yourself with. What would you say to someone that is seeking something in their life greatly? They don’t know what it is. They’re trying to find it. It’s almost like a passion, they’re looking and seeking. What would you say to someone that’s feeling stagnant, lost, weak like you were when you had that horrific injury, surgery and situation in your life? This could be searching for a woman. This could be searching for a job. This could be searching for my passion. It could be everything from A to Z. Can you even be in a relationship with a woman or a male until you know about yourself or have a passion for yourself?
Personally, I would say no. Not a successful relationship. I feel like with relationships and something I take is I want to find myself, be established and know what I want before I bring someone else into my world with that. I want the same thing for the male I bring into my life. I want him to know who he is and what he wants in life. When we come together, we both have our own individual goals that feed off of each other. Going back to relationships, I couldn’t be with someone that didn’t have a drive because I’m driven with everything I do. I want this and that and then know clearly what I want. My thing is you need to find out who you are before you almost feed off of someone else to make you feel whole.
Create you before you can create that relationship that you want. It’s true. That’s why I’m asking you about that if someone’s stagnant, lost or weak. What’s something that you can tell them that will get them over the hump?
Put yourself out there. Try new things. You have one life, why do the same thing over and over again if it’s not working? If it’s not working, try something else. You might surprise yourself, love it and find that passion from it. For me, it’s always soccer and all of a sudden I’m into fitness and I’m into beauty. I like to try new things and see what’s out there. Explore the world. If you’re not feeling fulfilled by what you’re doing in life, don’t settle for it.
If you’re using the wrong soap, I suggest you try a new soap. If you have the wrong shampoo, choose a different one. Get a new shampoo. If your chicken is too grilled, try something new. Don’t grill it as much. That’s a good point to close on and bring a cool summary up of what we talked about. In summary, you played soccer and went through a tough situation with your leg. You went through a lot and you found strength in bodybuilding. You found strength in something you were desperate for at that time, but you found it because you trust that it would happen. You trusted the process. You trusted that you would create you eventually and not only that, but you took it and you turn it into a career.
You said, “I’m not going to settle here. I’m not going to settle for getting strong and working out and stuff. What do I want to do? I enjoyed this. Why not try it? Why not go all in?” If you’re reading, you may have all this other stuff pulling you back, but you do know that it’s possible. That whatever you want in your life, whatever passion is there, there is something there and you know it’s there. Keep chugging along and try it. Go out there and be who you want to be every single day. Create you with the intention that you’re going to create you and that’s it. Don’t allow the outside noise to bog you down. Allow the outside noise to give you feedback but use it towards what you want to create as Brooklyn did. Brooklyn, thank you so much for coming on.
Thank you for having me.
We talked about relationships. We talked about all of the research that you’re doing in school and also your degree in health sciences and the possibilities that you have. Thank you so much for sharing and going in-depth with yourself and showing everyone else what’s possible with their selves. You were once that girl who was on the internet looking and searching for someone to inspire you, and now you are the woman on the internet that people are looking up and gaining inspiration from.
I don’t care if you’re a guy or a girl, this isn’t a man’s podcast or female’s podcast, get those seven free products and review the podcast. If you enjoyed this, please leave a review on iTunes. If it’s bad, great. If you don’t like the show, then it is what it is. I’m here to bring visions to life and to sit down with incredible guests, people from Brooklyn, all the way to homeless people. People that work at regular jobs, local businesses, CEOs and Fortune 500 companies. I want everyone and anyone to come on here and share their story and strategize with me. Thank you so much. Thank you for reading another episode of the blog. I’ll see you next time.
- Brooklyn Hillenbrand
- Sport & Spine Rehab
- James Charles on Instagram
- James Charles on YouTube
- Anne Frank
- http://www.CreateUAgency.com/podcast-giveaway – Seven Free Products link
- Seven free products
- CreateU Experience on iTunes
About Brooklyn Hillenbrand
Brooklyn is a nationally qualified bikini competitor, fitness coach, and bodybuilding.com athlete from Washington, D.C.
Her passion for the weight room ignited after suffering from multiple knee surgeries and other injuries as an elite soccer player growing up.
She documents her fitness journey and knowledge alongside finishing up her undergrad degree in Health Sciences & Pre-Physical Therapy.