Cain “Insane” Brunton, Taking on Australia

On the eve of his biggest ever professional fight, Cain “Insane” Brunton couldn’t be more excited. An ANBF Australian title awaits the winner of the feather weight boxing bout between Cain and his opponent Jackson John England on December 14 in Perth.

As his older cousin, I’ve known Cain his whole life, and being 9 years older than him I still remember him as a cheeky toddler running around in nappies. This cheeky boy, now a tenacious athlete is about to step into the ring for what could be 10 gruelling rounds of hand to hand battle. However, Cain hasn’t always followed this path. I’ve witnessed first hand the transformation from stereotypical teenager who chugged down bottles of coke while playing video games to national level elite athlete. How does someone go from being the small kid lacking in confidence and drive to a man with the discipline and focus to compete at the highest level in a fierce sport? And at the same time pursue his mission of helping youth navigate today’s challenges and take a stand against our mental health epidemic?

I caught up with Cain recently to ask him these questions and to find out how he prepares himself mentally and physically for the big stage.

Family Support Means Everything

Many people can think back to pivotal moments in life that fundamentally changed their life course. For Cain it was a series of events largely inspired by his family. First and foremost it was obvious that for Cain family support means everything.

The youngest of four siblings Cain was always looking up to his older brothers Shaun and Adrian and his big sister Crystal, tagging along with them whenever he was allowed. While he dabbled in a mixture of team sports through his high school years, it was the influence Shaun and Adrian who were always competing in something that spurred Cain on to push himself further. Both older brothers were constantly training and pushing themselves, Shaun dedicated to motocross and Adrian an accomplished Muay Thai fighter. They would drag Cain along to training sessions and that’s when he began to find his place in the gym. The environment was accepting, and he just felt like he fit in.

“Dad worked hard and supported us and he instilled that work ethic in me. Shaun had drive and Adrian had talent. I wanted to have all of it, Dad’s work ethic, Shaun’s drive and Adrian’s talent and do something special with it.”

Cain took that desire into the Muay Thai ring and quickly tasted success at a young age. However, as a young inexperienced fighter he soon felt the effects of being burnt out both mentally and physically and stepped away from the sport. This led to perhaps one of the most pivotal times in his life. After a year away from the sport he felt like he was drifting, struggling with his own mental health and having no goals. It was then he realised he needed a focus which he had previously found in a fight sport.

In a turn of events which Cain describes as good luck, he teamed up with now mentor and trainer Tony Salter of Salters Boxing Gym in Moolap, Geelong. Touted as one of the best trainers in Geelong, Tony saw promise in his new student and Cain quickly found his next goal: take on Australia in the boxing ring.

When you decide to pursue professional boxing it takes total commitment as the consequences of not being committed can be severe. With up to four major fights in a year there can be months of preparation before you test yourself on the big stage which creates the perfect scenario for setting short and long term goals. The short term focus is always on the next event while long term Cain has big plans for where he wants to take his boxing career.

The Mental Side

Some people might think you need to be a little mental to take up a sport like boxing, but it’s actually the mental health benefit of the physical training and discipline required that Cain thrives on. He describes Mental wellbeing as:

“A state of mind, where you can function to the best of your ability.”

At the same time Cain recognises that “we’re all a little insane” which flows though in his slogan “it’s OK to be insane.” With mental wellbeing such an important personal value Cain has focused on building the habits needed to support his own mental health. His training now is as much for happiness and contentment as it is for fitness, ensuring that this time around he doesn’t wind up feeling burnt out and depleted.

“If I want to walk, I go for a walk. If I want a day off, I mix it up and do something else.”

While flexibility is important, Cain follows a rigorous training schedule. He moves his body twice a day on most days and while the exact schedule might change week to week due to work commitments a typical week will look like this:

DAY
AM
PM
MONDAY
Walk or run
Boxing skills and pad work
TUESDAY
Yoga
Running
WEDNESDAY
Hot Pilates
Boxing skills and pad work
THURSDAY
Yoga
Running
FRIDAY
Rest
Boxing skills and pad work
SATURDAY
Sparring Session
SUNDAY
Low intensity exercise or rest

When asked how he can stick to such as tight schedule which often involves crawling out of bed at 5am, Cain replied with “I just make it work.” If he misses a session due to shift work, he’ll make it up with an extra session on the weekend. Having trained seriously since the age of 18, Cain has learnt a lot about his body and recovery. When reflecting on those earlier years he knows he didn’t have the same level of commitment that he does now. “Now it’s a completely different mindset.”

Optimising Performance Through Nutrition

Diet plays a huge role in the lead up to a fight which has been another process of learning, trying and refining. Having tried high carb, low carb and keto diets, Cain is constantly learning as much as he can about how he can manipulate his biology through nutrition. Knowing that four weeks out from a fight he can drop up to 8kgs for a weigh-in and still perform at the highest level (which to many people seems absurd) gives him great confidence.

Inspiring Youth

Cain hopes to pass on the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle to the youth that he works with in his role as residential care worker with McKillop family services. A role he approaches with the same sincerity as his own wellbeing. He knows the fragility of the situation with some of the kids he works with having had first hand experience with suicide. He sometimes sees himself as a de facto big brother to the youth he looks after and wants to inspire them to set and pursue goals just like his big brothers inspired him.

Playing the long game

I loved this analogy. Cain likened his career to an old school PlayStation game. Each opponent he meets in the ring is a symbol of him progressing to the next level. The new opponent has different skills and special moves which he needs to study in order to beat them. Then one day he will progress to the “boss” who will have all the abilities and moves. It takes practice, persistence and strategy to work your way up to the boss, the title holder.

Cain, you very well could be the new “boss” in town after Friday night by bringing home the ANBF feather weight Australian title.

 

You inspire me Cain, just like I know you inspire so many of your friends, family, fans and fellow athletes. Whichever way it falls on December 14, I know I can speak on behalf of your family in saying you’ve already made them proud! Go get ’em.