Rugby, Barbells & Business: with Garrett Brewer of the Sacramento Express

If you don’t know who Garrett Brewer is, we’d say you haven’t been following rugby over the past five or so years. Brewer is a professional rugby player with the Sacramento Express. He’s also a professional trainer, a small business owner, and a collegiate National Champion with his Alma Mater Saint Mary’s College.  Oh hell, just in case you don’t know who Garrett Brewer is, or forgot, let us share his long list of accolades from the beginning.

Brewer was a NorCal U19 All Star in 2008 and 2009. SoCal U19 All Star 2010. Pacific Coach Rugby Football Union Collegiate All Star (Grizzlies) 2011. 7s National Championship All Tournament Team 2012. Collegiate D1-A National Champion Runners up 2013 (SMC), 15s Collegiate All American 2013, 7s Collegiate All American 2013. 7s National Champion Runner Up 2013, 7s National Championship All Tournament Team 2013, 15s Collegiate D1-A National Champion 2014. 15s and 7s Collegiate All American in 2014.  He was also named by The Goff Rugby Report as the 2014 Collegiate Play of the year.

Garrett Brewer of the Sacramento Express. (Photo PRO Rugby 2016)

Garrett Brewer of the Sacramento Express. (Photo PRO Rugby 2016)

Brewer has played with Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) during their Super League days (right out of high school) before he went on to play at Saint Mary’s College where he racked up a ton of awards and accolades. He’s also played for the USA U-20s and now professionally with the Sacramento Express. Brewer is a 24 year old 6’4” 215lb back with a great future!

We mentioned that Brewer is also a small business owner. In fact in addition to being a professional rugby player Brewer is a certified personal trainer and owner of his own gym the IronWill Performance Training Center in sunny Costa Mesa, California. 

We recently caught up with Brewer and spoke with him about his experience with PRO Rugby so far, but also how he got into running his own gym and some tips he can share with us.

Below is our conversation with the Sacramento Express’ Garrett Brewer.

The Rugby Republic (RR): So Garrett how did you getting to into being a personal trainer and a gym owner on top of that since that wasn’t your focus in college?

Click on image for more info. 

Click on image for more info. 

Garrett Brewer (GB): I was always into fitness and wanted to do something with fitness. I figured if you are a trainer you can train anybody almost anywhere in the world and it was something I really enjoyed so I got my certification to be trainer. I then started working at various gyms, but learned really early on I did not like the way big or corporate gyms ran things or how they treated people and knew that wasn’t the fit for me. I learned a great deal from the trainers I work with and for, but the corporate part just didn’t work. So I decided what I needed to do was to open my own gym so I could work but do things in a way I felt was best.

RR: What is your area of focus as a trainer if you have one? Are you a Strength and Conditioning guy, CrossFit, fitness, power lifting, etc.?

GB: I have more of an interest in the Strength and Conditioning, mostly because of rugby,  that is what you need. For rugby you need real life type of work and the S&C works best for that. You need to be big, strong, and be able to run.  As a trainer however you need to be more well rounded so that I can really help my clients reach their goals. Each person is different so I try to train people to what they need versus to push one approach.

RR: Do you work with rugby players out of your gym? If people know you do they come to you for that?

GB:  I get some. I have a broad spectrum of clients at my gym that I train. I do have some guys who were high level athletes in college but have stopped playing and have career/full-time jobs but still train. I have some college standouts in their sports who are still actively playing and then I’ve got people who are just looking for a healthy lifestyle.  And I actually like the variety. When I train guys who can get after it that’s fun, but I also like working with my older clients who can talk and share with me things about life, careers how they’ve become successful. For a younger guy like me that is a good thing.

RR: You also coached youth rugby, being that you have this training background do you apply that to the sessions?

GB: Coaching is fun and as a coach I try to have them work on their skills but also the fitness aspect. I try and mix it in so they are just running lines all day until they vomit. What I find with coaching younger players is they don’t have really exposure to mobility. They lack that, so I try and address that with warm-ups, and the mobility work which not only helps with their ability to practice more effectively but also helps reduce injuries.   In the end however you do have to be able to measure some fitness and for that I try and make it more of a competition vs just running lines.

RR: So how did you end up in Sacramento? You were living in Southern California (Costa Mesa) and had played in the bay area (at SMC)?

GB: Sacramento is my hometown, its where most my family and family support is located. I think for the initial year PRO Rugby wanted to make sure to keep players closer to “home” where they could have that family/friends  support. It also helps with the marketing  having local guys on the teams, and us being able to have family/friends come out to games, etc.

RR: What’s been the biggest transition for you with playing professional rugby? 

GB: The biggest without a doubt is training all day. At SMC we trained and played at a high level, but we trained once a day for a several hours 4-5 times a week. Now its almost 8am-4pm a full day of training and being on your feet most the day. For me one of the adjustments has been meal planning to get my own nutritional/dietary needs. We are provided with a healthy lunch each day, but to get the type of meals I want/need for breakfast and dinner are more challenging because so much of your day is in training. As the league grows I’m sure we’ll get even more support with those types of things. For now I can’t complain.

RR: What was your initial reaction when you found out that PRO Rugby was  going to be a reality?

GB: As most people I was skeptical. I played at the end of Super League, and there has been so many stories of professional leagues starting so I was skeptical. But when they started to announce combines, and cities and naming coaches, then I believed it was real. As a rugby player you would love to be able to play the game professionally, I think we all would so when it did become a reality I knew I had to give it a shot.

RR: Are you focused just on playing PRO Rugby, or are you hoping to get to Eagle’s contention or even playing professionally overseas?

GB: I’d like to do it all;  play here as long as I can, to be able to put on the Eagles jersey, and play in one of the top leagues. I want to be able to really represent this league and see it grow. That’s what is also great about this league. Its giving a lot of us a chance to raise our hands and say we want to be an Eagle! Its giving the coaches a platform and chance to see everyone playing repeatedly.  If the opportunity came to play overseas, and it was in the cards in terms of timing then yeah, I’d love to try that too, but for now I’m focused on this season.

RR: Since you have experience as trainer do you do any work with the team in setting up any gym sessions?

GB: Not really. We have a great strength and conditioning coach who got us set up. We’ve got a great facility at Innovative Strength and Conditioning here in Sac. Now Coach Gross runs our gym sessions with a program he’s gotten from the Eagles’ S&C coaches. So here I just focus on playing. 

Garrett Brewer diving for the try in league opener. (Photo by Pink Shorts Photography 2016). 

Garrett Brewer diving for the try in league opener. (Photo by Pink Shorts Photography 2016). 

RR: As a professional player and a trainer/gym owner can you explain to people your understanding of the difference between fit and rugby fit?

GB:  Rugby fit it is the full unit, its constant, it’s a high heart rate, its exerting your muscles and strength, but you have to also think the whole time. You can’t zone out. If you are just running you can set a place, run in a line and just zone out or to focus on the run, but in rugby you have to constantly  change you pace, change direction, stop/go,, get up and get down, move and try not to get hit at the same time. Not to take away form other fitness things like running a marathon or triathletes but that is you setting a pace and a goal. In rugby it always changing and reacting but its at high rate the whole time.

So in addition to the physical fitness, you also have to have the mental-fitness; to think, to be able to push your body. Tired, bruised, out of breath and in the 78th minute you may have to now sprint down the field to make a game winning tackle or try, you have to have the body ready and the mind to push it.

RR: Were you surprised by the set up  of the Sacramento Express? Training facilities, gym, meeting space, organization?

GB: Yes and no. No in that I expected as a professional team to have fields, training centers, etc. What I am very happy with is the organization. The coaches have our days /week structured we know what we are doing, its all planned out and so it makes it easy to just work.

RR: Last question. What have you learned this season which you are looking to take away with you and used even in your gym?

GB: Coaching. I’ve seen how all three coaches have a different style and different approach. I also have seen how people adopt or related to one particular style, but how the coaches have been able to bridge that gap has been the takeaway.  From that I’ve learned how you prepare what you can to get across so people understand, and how each person learns differently.

Rugby Nutrition by Ruck Science for Ruggers! 

Rugby Nutrition by Ruck Science for Ruggers! 

Garrett Brewer is clearly a stud from his list of accolades, but he’s also a highly committed player and that seems to be one of the most important factors for guys playing professionally here. Its not going to be just having skills or talent, but the will (in this case the Iron Will) to get better.  While Brewer is still in the mist of the inaugural season, he will back in sunny Costa Mesa later this summer running his gym. If you are a rugby player in the area (youth, collegiate or club) you may want to consider training with Brewer.  He's got the skills and now the first hand knowledge what you need to play professionally, and what the training needs of elite level rugby player are today.    

Checkout the IronWill Performance Training on Facebook on Instagram and follow Garrett on twitter @garrett_brewer.  We want to thank Garrett Brewer for taking the time out of this busy day to assist us with the interview. Make sure to watch the PRO Rugby action on line (via their site).