"The Bar Is Loaded"

by

Fred Ashford

Introduction by Rich Peters-

I’m introducing a new opinion column with a historical perspective by masters lifter Fred Ashford.

I met Fred Ashford through a letter he wrote to me in 1985.  Fred had just returned to New Mexico from a two year mining project in Illinois where he was introduced to Powerlifting.  He inquired about the closest meet.  I decided it was high time to venture west.   I scheduled a meet in Fred’s backyard.   Although the stories differ depending on who’s talking, the bottom line is Fred bombed in the squat!  But, Mr. Ashford soon got his lifting in line and competed in over 22 meets and supported over 47 meets from 1985 to 1991.  Fred won State, National and World titles and posted his best lifts as a 242 pounder – 749 lb. squat, 451 lb. bench, and 633 lb. deadlift.  Fred was the USPF State chairman, the USPF National Athlete’s representative of 1988; the 1st NASA records chairman; and a NASA meet director, judge and spotter (sometimes simultaneously).   Fred returned to the sport in 1994 to win the sub-masters division at worlds.   Since then the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated and after 15 years away he has returned to the sport he loves.   You will soon see him on the Power Sport platform. 

Fred is a trusted friend and great supporter of all of you in NASA.  He has valuable insight into the history and changes the sport has experienced and I have asked him to share.  Of course these are only opinions and viewpoints. 

I bring you the monthly installments of:  "The Bar Is Loaded"

 

#28- Injuries

            Live your life not celebrating victories, but overcoming defeats.

-          Che Guevara

Injuries.   The scourge of any powerlifter, weightlifter, and bodybuilder.  This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.   In 29 years of lifting I’ve only experienced three injuries – but they were doozies – torn pec in 2009, rupture & full avulsion of my left quadriceps tendon in 2011 and a detached distal bicep tendon in November of 2013.   I came roaring back from the first two injuries to set PRs in my 50s last November.   Today, twenty-one weeks post op from the bicep tendon, I’m back at around 80% of previous strength level.   I don’t say this because I possess some sort of recovery superpower – far from the truth.   What I have done is read thousands of pages and consulted with hundreds of lifters, trainers, and physical therapists.   The lessons learned have helped tremendously in preventing and bouncing back from injury.   Let’s look at these separately.

Preventing Injuries

First and foremost, the number one tool in the ol’ ‘don’t get hurt’ toolbox is form.  Lifting with proper form, on every lift, every rep, every session is paramount to remaining healthy.   I’m not going to go into a description of the big three and proper form.   It would be easier to learn to ride a bike by reading a book than to master the squat, bench or deadlift through a column.   The very best method for learning good form is finding a highly qualified coach and working with him/her.    This is easier said than done.  It’s extremely difficult finding a qualified powerlifting coach.   Flip through youtube and you’ll find a litany of lifters – from the ridiculous to the sublime – extoling their powerlifting virtues on the net for all to see.  And…and… (I said ‘and’ twice because this is really important) – just because someone can lift an ass-load of weight doesn’t make them an effective coach.  Compounding the coach search even more, there isn’t a powerlifting coach school that the gurus go to and earn their credentials.   So how does one find a good form coach?   Ask.   But don’t just ask “who is a good coach”?   Ask – “who has impeccable form”?   Lifters know.   Don’t ask - who’s the strongest, best, most resilient….simply find out who has great form.  Lifters know.   Then find those lifters and ask who coached them.   

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the worst method to master powerlifting form:   posting your videos on a powerlifting forum and asking complete strangers to critique your form.  I can’t even provide any funny analogies to underscore just how ridiculous this is. 

The next area of focus in preventing injuries is programming.   Establishing a solid program can sometimes be more art than science.   Yes, there is a lot of “bro” science out there establishing ‘the very best’ lifting program on the net……pause for sarcastic effect….. again, a butt load of folks out there telling you how to lift.   In this case though, I would go to the best lifters.  Well, let me preface that, the best lifters who have staying power.   These gents have survived the test of time and continue to improve.   They are doing something right.   Search and find the drug free champion lifters who most emulate your frame and age.   Discover their programming.   There are several solid programs out there:  cube, 5/3/1, 10/20/Life, NASA seminar dvds,…..   Read up, call them, ask questions, develop a workout plan, and start out.   Every program is just a starting point.   Listen to your body and adjust as you grow with the program.  The most significant program change you can make that will help prevent injuries is lengthening recovery time between workouts. 

Now that your form is dialed in and you have an effective program, ensure you are resting well, giving yourself ample time for recovery, eating to fuel your body, and spending time relaxing and having fun away from the barbell.  

Bouncing Back

In the unfortunate event you experience an injury, your lifting career is far from over.  There are several steps you can take to get back in the gym and back on track to competition. 

1.       Know the difference between ‘injured’ and ‘hurt’.  Those lifters that come from an athletic background understand that pain is associated with intensity.   Pain isn’t necessarily a precursor to injury.  Being hurt or sore will simply require more recuperation (time away from lifting).  However, if the pain is something that surely won’t subside within two or three weeks, or, in a few cases (including my injuries) where the mechanical chain is interrupted, severed, ruptured, or detached…then you’re injured.   Duh.

2.       Once you’ve determined that you are injured, seek medical advice.  Don’t ask your gym buddies what they think, don’t ask the spouse, brother-in-law, or the self-proclaimed internet gurus.  Go to the doctor.   This is why they went to school for umpteen years and subjected themselves to internship.  

3.       Understand the diagnosis and research it prior to any medical intervention (if it isn’t an emergency procedure).  Listen, surgeons want to operate.  That’s what they do.   Not every injury, even those that interrupt mechanical function, require surgery to return to lifting.  Two of the world’s strongest men experienced the same injury – a detached bicep tendon.  One opted for surgical repair (Brian Shaw), the second opted for rehabilitation without repair (Terry Hollands).  Both are top five competitors today. 

4.       Follow doctor’s orders – to a point.   If you opt for medical intervention, follow the rehab protocol until the injury is completely healed.   This may take some time.  Healing time at 43 is far different than it was at 17.  Make sure your medical specialist has ensured your injury is indeed healed.   However, most physicians today will advise you to stop lifting.   If it injured you before, it can happen again.  My last surgeon wrote in my summary that he strongly discourages me from lifting heavy.   I strongly encouraged him to save his paper and go fix a softball player, or golfer, or someone else looking for an excuse to quit.

5.       Find those who have successfully rehabilitated the same injury.  You’ll be surprised the amount of support on the internet.   There’s a board for quad tendon ruptures (on a ski site of all places); a distal tendon repair site; a meniscus site; a rotator cuff site, and so on.    Do a deep dive on research and develop the rehab protocol you feel most comfortable with.   And don’t shy away from physical therapy….at least in the beginning.   Find that PT specialist who understands the sport and your injury.

6.       After successful rehabilitation, build a base.  Don’t rush the weights.  Set long term goals and ensure you are not over-compensating on other lifts.    Progress slowly.   Be smart.  Focus on getting strong head to toe.  The best way to do this is develop this program early in recovery.  It will serve as a reminder to go slow.

Injuries are not inevitable, however, when they do occur it’s not the end of the world.  Approach your recovery with some forethought and you’ll be back in the rack in no time.

 

# 27- "There’s the Platform"

                                  Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it. -  Albert Camus

Here it is …. Christmas.    A time of year that bring out the very best…and the very worst…of people.   I find myself this holiday season in a dynamic tension brace due to surgery following a distal bicep tendon rupture at the Masters.   I’m not telling y’all this for sympathy or to bring attention to myself.  It is actually key to this column.   But, I am recuperating quite well – thank you for those that have asked – and I will be lifting at next year’s Masters.    I am mentioning the injury and brace because it encapsulates a conversation I have at least once a day.  

My job puts me in front of several different businesses daily.    And, when I am in front of different businesses – I’m in front of different people.    On average each day I run into that one guy who believes everything of wonder should be asked aloud.   “Hey…what happened to your arm?”.   I ruptured my distal bicep tendon.    “Oh, ouch.  Musta hurt”.   Silence on my part.    “How did you do that?”   Deadlifting.     “At 24 Hour?”.   N0.   “Where?”  Dallas.   “Dallas, what where you doing in Dallas?” 

Lifting.   “In a meet”.  Yes.    Then here it comes.    “I could powerlift.   I bench, squat and deadlift.   I’ve seen those videos.  I watched that one movie… power something or another.    Doesn’t look that hard.  I could so powerlift”.   

For those that know me well are wondering did I respond with my usual retort.   The answer is no.   Why?  Because this are paying clients in my business and my usual retort would not be pleasant.  

I can’t stand…literally…these people who utter such ignorant crap.    My disdain is not because these folks don’t powerlift.   It’s not for everyone.   Powerlifting requires years of repetition to perfect form and technique…to find that mystical ‘groove’ if you will.    You are starred at with contempt as chalk flies in the commercial gym.   If you lift equipped, there’s a whole other world of form and technique and contempt.   If you’re in it long enough you have your own garage gym or you just start a club out of a storage room.   If you reach year nine or ten you begin to understand limitations and try to push through them.  Push too hard and something strains, pulls, twists, snaps, breaks or ruptures.   And as you age and continue to powerlift…you rage, rage, rage against that good night.   Never wanting to yield a kilo to father time.   Screw him.   It’s a very tough and unforgiving sport with little to no fan fair, no money, no Olympics, no recognition outside our eclectic community….just us.   Again, not for everyone.  

I have a lot of respect for bodybuilders, for gym rats, and for those who lift in a commercial gym for fitness and fun.   Hell, I even have respect for crossfitters ….no just kidding…I hate those guys.  

The aforementioned guys lift for their own reasons…same as us.   Powerlifting is not the end all – be all.   It is, in its simplest definition, a sport that requires you to move weight from point A to point B in three different disciplines.   AND IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!

It takes a ton of courage to strap on a singlet or squat suit, listen for your name two deep, begin wrapping up, chalk up and walk onto the platform in front of strangers.  If this is your first meet you may be alone…belonging to none of the ever-present clicks at the meet, wondering just what you are doing there, approaching the bar, reminding yourself to wait for the command, lifting the weight from the uprights, realizing these weights feel heavier than you anticipated, step out, set up, wait, wait, wait for the command, hear the words “squat”, descend, dang…I’m going slower than in the gym, fight for depth, drive up…almost too fast, fight your balance at the top of the lift, hear the words “rack it”, stubble into the rack, look at the lights….two whites.   You fight the grin off your face.    You hear the local know-it-all in the warm-up…”ask about your red light”.  You don’t.  At this moment you don’t care for nothing.  You’re a powerlifter.    You hear them call you to the scoring table.  You’re late with your second attempt.  You give it and away you go….participating in a powerlifting meet. 

That’s what it takes.   And if you’re reading this…you know that.   But it is not for everyone.   So the next time someone says they can powerlift, I’m going to hand them a ‘coming events’ schedule and tell them I will look for them on the platform.   My guess is they don’t have the courage.

Merry Christmas. 

# 26- Something bigger this way comes...The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.    -    Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve been in this game of ours – powerlifting – for quite a while now.   28 years and 4 months….give or take a few weeks.   I’ve seen a lot; loaded & spotted a lot; judged a lot; and lifted some.   To some folks I know it is ironic to them that I am doing my best lifting today – at the age of 52.   To others, those who know me best, it is of no surprise.   I’ve made my share of big time mistakes in life…why wouldn’t powerlifting be any different.  

One big mistake I made early in my powerlifting endeavors was to place too much importance on powerlifting.   I’ve written about this ad nauseam in previous columns.  Just for a reference point I’ll remind the readers…both of you….that this niche sport of ours doesn’t matter in the long run.   Hell, it doesn’t matter tomorrow.   The only people who remember our lifts are us.   Period.  

The second mistake I made….and it was a biggie….was to alienate those around me by erroneously believing that my crap did not stink.   I was under the impression that I was somewhat better than a fellow lifter because I lifted more.    As I look back on that time…circa 1989….I wish someone would have put me out of my misery.    Because, as we have learned in NASA, nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of you reading this currently or have competed at one time or another.   For some of us…who played football, basketball, wrestled, etc. on some sort of level, walking on to the platform was natural….an extension of the athlete in us.   But a vast majority of powerlifters took up the sport without benefit of a competitive background.   They join a gym, realize they have a propensity for the powerlifts, go watch a meet or two, and then jump into the water.   It’s hard for me to imagine the feeling of an adult who did not compete previously stepping up and lifting….in front of people mind you…..for the first time.   Real courage in my book. 

And then the madness starts.   We begin posting numbers in our heads.   Weights that we want to lift some day.   We read, we digest, we listen, we fail, we learn, we come close, and we continue the never-ending quest for the numbers.   We, in a definition of sorts, powerlift.   And to do so makes you part of something bigger than yourself – whether you like it or not.  

We all warm up in the same room.   Our names are all announced in the order of lifting progression…no matter how strong we are (or not).   We all have the opportunity at three attempts per discipline.  And we are all judged by the same standard re-freaking-gardless of the amount of weight on the bar.   And in the deep recesses of our heart of hearts – we know our lifts truly do not matter to anyone except ourselves no matter how hard we try.   Our pics can be on powerliftingwatch and our videos on youtube, but alas …..only we  give two cents.   Knowing this begs the question – why do some lifters still believe they are better somehow?    Rhetorical…no answer required.

Know this…as a lifter you are part of a much bigger community – a family if you will.  This community consists of lifters, administrators, judges, loaders, spotters, announcers and scorers.    Most of these are volunteer.   And a few of these eke out a tough living putting meets on throughout the country.   I would also be remiss if I failed to mention a vital part of our community – those poor souls who brave the day and come to watch us lift.   All this community we like to define as the NASA ‘family’.  

If you’ve ever seen me lift – you know I love to engage the audience.   I derive a lot of energy from them.  It helps me every single time.   It is who I am.    I’ve had a few…very few….lifters who have asked critically…”why do you do that with the audience?”   My answer is always the same….not for you.   I do it because it is simply an extension of who I am.   It starts early.   I’ll talk with half the audience and most of the lifters.   I like to help any lifter who asks.   I’m not ‘that guy’ going around spewing unsolicited advice…but because I help at check in the night before, novice lifters think I travel with Rich & Tad.   I don’t correct them.  I simply help.   It’s part of my social core.    I feel that I’m part of something bigger.   

This isn’t for everyone though.   But…. I very much encourage you to find your groove at a meet.   If you like singing before maximum effort….belt one out!   I guarantee if it’s from the heart, folks will love it.   If you like to river dance…river dance.   If you like to yell – yell.    This is NASA.   We are family.   Open up and be yourself.    You might find out….being part of something bigger…..helps you get a few more kilos closer to those elusive numbers in your head.

 

#25- "I am the Walrus"

I consider myself a half-decent lifter….at best.   I’m better in my 50s than I was in my 30s; my deadlift has improved considerably since my quad tendon rupture prevented me from squatting heavy; and my bench moved north when I applied patience.    And..surprisingly…I lift much better raw than equipped (relatively speaking of course).   I’ve been around the sport since 1984.   I witnessed a teenage mutant named Eddie Coan lift in Niles, Illinois.   I watched Dr. Squat walk out, set up and fall straight back with 900+ pounds.   I’ve seen Ted Arcidi and Ken Lain battle it out on the bench.   And I starred at awe of the mass and thickness of O.D. Wilson and Anthony Clark.    I humbling believe I possess a load of knowledge around this sport of ours.   But….. I suck – big time- as a trainer.  

Don’t get me wrong:   after judging for the last 29 years I am capable of analyzing a lifter’s form and providing effective feedback.   I’m not as good as Rich.   I need to see the lifter in person.   Rich can analyze a video and pinpoint the discrepancy almost immediately.   When I’m having “issues”, that’s who I use.   Case in point:   just last month I decided I better start deadlifting some real weight prior to the Masters.   I need to get going being that I have to compete against a missing link from Kansas.    Anywho, my deadlift just didn’t have the pop I thought it should.   I sent a few multi-view frames to Rich and within an hour he corrected a form deficiency that I hadn’t realized I developed.   Much appreciated (by me…not by that mutant Sasquatch).    My point is (or was) – I’m not too shabby at form analysis. 

Also, I can pick attempts.   This isn’t much of an art as it is a simple math formula.   And it’s not much of a math formula either.    You just take the ego out of the equation.    Here’s what I mean:  as most of us know… most lifters believe we can lift more than our last workout.   If your last workout is within 9 days of the meet and/or your singled or doubled in that workout – your chances of doing that are slim.    If the last workout was triple or quadruple with 10 to 14 days rest… then you have something to work with.   Conservatively, pick an opener under that last triple and observe.   If that lifter blows it up without much of a strain and believes they can max another 30 kilos….then jump 17.5 kilos.   The third attempt is where the argument always ensues.    A third attempt should be a lift the athlete knows he can hit.    But this is usually how the argument goes.   “Man, I smoked that attempt.   What was that?”………… “It was 280 kilos”……..…. “Great.   I think I can get 661.   Let’s go 300 kilos”…….…..”Um, I’d advise against that”……….... “Why!?!   I have a good shot.  I feel I can get it”…………… “Yeah, I know.   You should go 295.”……….… “But I know I’ll get 650”………..…. “Exactly.    Why sacrifice 33 pounds on your total for a shot at 11 pounds, this makes no sense.   Now go out there and smoke 650!”.     This conversation requires some knowledge of the lifter and open communication.   But that’s about it.    You don’t have to know much – just a little info about the last training day and full realization that every lifter has an ego.    So I can analyze form and pick attempts.   And that’s just about it.   Training a lifter though – that is a whole new set of tools that I don’t have.   And, quite frankly, very few do possess.

Training other lifting athletes requires a depth of understanding of the individual – their body type, their history of injuries, their diet, their rest regimen, their ability to recover fully, their… well, the list goes on and on.    There are numerous powerlifting trainers in gyms across the country who get their trainer’s certification, post their lifting accomplishments and show off a few team trophies.  The trainer purchases (or steals) a powerlifting ‘method’ or two….and….whammo… instant expert.     Listen, I’m not writing this to make disparaging comments about your trainer – if you have one.   I want to point out a few mistakes folks make along the way and hopefully save you from an injury or two.   Because rule number one in training:   don’t get hurt.   You cannot grow or get stronger injured.   You just can’t.   And it is simply insane to stay with a trainer that continually injures his clients or himself.    So, if a trainer or two gets a little miffed at this column – then there’s your answer.    So without further ado, let’s challenge a few assumptions.  

1.         I’m a certified trainer.    That takes about $395 and six sessions on the internet.   This is the biggest scam in the fitness industry perpetuated by insurance underwriters.   I’m not joking here.  

2.       I was/am a world record holder in three divisions and currently in the top 20 on Powerliftingwatch.   Nice.   Congratulations.   You are strong.   This doesn’t make you a great or even a good trainer.   If that were that case we would all just follow Jaime McDougal’s and Tyson Meyer’s training programs.    I don’t know what kind of trainers these two individuals are:   I just know that following their programs don’t make you as strong as them.   They are just strong.  And obviously their programs work for them.  Period. 

3.       I’ve coached eight championship powerlifting teams.   This statement is absurd.   How many times have you been approached at weigh-in or the rules meeting by someone putting a team together?  “Hey, you want to be on team?   We have a winner.   I need to fill my tenth spot”.   I religiously answer this with a condescending “no”.   Why?   Well, my first reason is I’m a cantankerous S.O.B. that can’t stand being recruited on teams I know nothing of.   Secondly, I very much enjoy being a part of a powerlifting meet.   I love watching earlier flights; I enjoy the warm up; and thoroughly enjoying being in the moment during a lift.   I don’t need a coach of a team that ‘needed a tenth’ trying to convince me to raise my openers.   Uggh.  

4.       I’m utilizing the Shrek system of powerlifting developed in middle earth in the eighties which has produced 14 world champions.    Maybe.   But isn’t it interesting that the champions are converged upon one training center.   Also, many of these ‘systems’ do not account for longevity.   So if a short powerlifting career that renders you cripple (or limping) is what you are after – you may have found your trainer.

These are a few indicators that your perspective trainer may not be the best choice.   There are others.   I kinda feel like Jeff Foxworthy – you know, the “you might be a redneck guy (my apologies to Larry Marker)…. 

                     You might have a bad trainer if his career ended with a debilitating powerlifting injury.

                     You might have a bad trainer if his last client is now in crossfit.

                     You might have a bad trainer if this is his fourth powerlifting organization he’s been kicked

                     out part of.

                     You might have a bad trainer if you use octagon plates because he trains out of 24 Hour.

Of course I’m having a little fun with this but all isn’t lost.   There are very effective trainers out there.   Here are a few indicators:

·         They ask you about your history and take notes;

·         They ask you about your goals and provide realistic feedback;

·         They provide hands on training with one or two clients at a time;

·         Their history includes lifters who are still enjoying a healthy lifting lifestyle;

·         They tailor your program to your needs and tweak the program as time goes on;

·         Form and function are more important than numbers;

·         They always ask you how you feel – specifically, such as:  how do your pecs feel?   How are your delts feeling?   Are you quads tight?   Are you healthy today?

The best trainers are those who work hand in hand with you and have your best interests at heart.   And as your lifting and knowledge progresses you may just wake up one morning, go to wash your face, look up and see the best trainer you could ever have looking back at you. 

 

 

#24- “The Epitaph of a Powerlifter

                                                    I'm not a very good eugoogoolizer myself. Or did you think I was

                                                   too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was

-       Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander

 I very much enjoyed the USA’s in Laughlin, Nevada.  Great lifting and a cool venue (cool in… “man, this place is ‘cool’”….not cool in temperature for damned sure).   Meyer’s dominated the unequipped platform; and, all the 181s demonstrated they are the most competitive weight class in NASA.   IMHO, the most impressive single lift of the meet was Anna McCloskey’s 474 lb deadlift.  What I enjoyed most at this meet as a non-participant was the lively discussions I had with other NASA members.   I had a debatable discussion around raw vs. equipped lifting – can you guess what side of the isle I was on in that one?    I listened to Herman Lewis discuss the development of his deadlift.  I talked with Eddie Koon about the competition in our weight class and his training environment back home along with his football coaching.   And Matt Schmuecker and I had a very interesting and lengthy discussion concerning the importance – or lack thereof – of powerlifting in a man’s life.  

There is a lot to debate in powerlifting:  drug free vs. users; raw vs. equipped; walkout vs. monolift; sport vs. hobby.   But my favorite debate is without a doubt that of legacy.   How will a powerlifter be remembered?    

 I think of those lifters who inspired me in my youth:  Doug Young, Jon Cole, Pat Casey, Paul Anderson, Jim Williams, and Doug Hepburn.  I’ve been inspired by many others…but I wanted to emphasize those that have since past through this world of ours. I never had the pleasure of meeting one of these individuals.  I cannot attest to their character.   I don’t know what they did for a living or what kind of upbringing they experienced.   There are written anecdotical references to some of their upbringings and character…but if the internet has taught us one thing it is:  never believe everything that is written.   My sole point is this – I only know these men as lifters.   That’s it.   I can tell you that Pat Casey was the original minimalist:  he benched, closed-gripped benched, dumbbell inclined and performed weighted dips.   All this led to the first 600 lb bench press in 1967.   A press that he un-racked himself, descended, paused for seconds and then evenly pressed to arms length – in a t-shirt of course.   I could continue to detail his workouts and feats of strength… but that’s it.   I can’t speak of his life because I didn’t know the man he was.   And nor should I have.   Pat Casey lived and trained within an hour of where I live today.   However, we never met.   He wasn’t family.  Pat was too old to be a friend.   And I’m guessing we were in different fields of employment when he was still working (not many mines in SoCal).    I only knew of something he did – not who he was.    So let’s explore this thing we do – powerlifting.    How does it fit in our lives?   Does it define who we are?   Does it underscore our lives and those around us?  

We spend an exorbitant amount of time training, eating, reading, talking and thinking about powerlifting.   For those of us who compete, it is a big portion of our lives.   It does affect those around us.   Especially those who want time with us….friends, family, work.    In its truest sense – powerlifting IS what we do.  But, it isn’t who we ARE.   Bare with me.  I’m going off track a little. 

I lived in redneck country from 1982 through 1994, except for one year in 1985.   For those of you reading (except for Larry Marker who knows exactly what I’m talking about) redneck country is southeast New Mexico.   And in the eighties in southeast New Mexico there existed a religion called slow-pitch softball.   It was what we did.    Everybody and I mean everybody, played this game.   And those who excelled played on a traveling tournament team.   They would practice two hours a night – three or four nights a week – and travel monthly to tournaments in such cities as Phoenix, Albuquerque, Lubbock, Oklahoma City, Dallas…sound familiar?   Dudes…yes ‘dudes’.. would spend their hard-earned money traveling and playing slow-pitch softball.  Some guys played with such intensity you would’ve thought a scout for the Dodgers was watching and grading their efforts.   When we weren’t playing, we would discuss our stats.   How many homeruns we hit in a season… what the homerun record was in league, in tournament, in state.  

The inevitable happened and softball finally got in the way of powerlifting.   Truth be known – powerlifting simply became more important to do (for me).   So I walked away.   No big whoop.  No one remembers the number of homers I hit in 1987.   Not my family, friends or fellow teammates.   Why – because no one cared.  It was something I did.   And even though my teammates shared in the game – they didn’t care what I did.   You know who did care:  Dallas, Dalton & Desiree – my three children.

You ever heard the phrase ‘those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it’?   Well, it happened to me.   By 1994 powerlifting had consumed my time.   My work and children suffered.   I walked away.   I was gone for fifteen years.    And let me tell you – except for one or two friends who were deeply involved in powerlifting, nobody missed me.   That’s reality.   That’s life.  

 There’s a huge difference in what we do and who we are.   Powerlifting is what a lot of us do – however – we ARE fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, husbands, wives, executives, laborers, miners, business owners and entrepreneurs.   Why is this important to remember?   Primarily it is because – as exciting as powerlifting is to do – it is boring as all get out to watch for an entire day.   Those that come to watch us do so because of who we are – not what we do.    There are wonderful people in NASA who are great to the core.   Not for what they do – but for who they are.    

At the end of the day – nobody will remember our best squat, bench, deadlift and yes, this is NASA, so please include our best curl in the equation.   But they will remember the man or woman we were to the most important people in our lives.   For those who have this in their hearts, it’s easy to have fun on the platform.   And truly I’m not being self-righteous.  I need the reminder as much as anyone.  

#23- “Adapt or die.”

                                                                              Brad Pitt as Billy Beam in Moneyball

Man, I’ve been in this game twenty-eight years now.    I surely haven’t seen it all – but I have been on the front lines and watched some amazing lifters in this sport.  

I’ve had the great fortune to spot, load and judge for Coan, Karwolski, Hatfield, Crain, Clark, Wilson (O.D.), Manno, Kahle, Myers, Gonzales and a few lifters I won’t mention ‘cause I don’t like ‘em.

I’ve watched the form and listened intently to said lifters as they discussed their workouts after the meet or in the warm-up area.    I absorbed form instruction and meet strategy from Rich.  Through trial and error I developed my own unique training protocol that seems to be working at some level.   And, I’ve modified my diet / food intake no-less-than ninety distinct times!   I’ve done all this in an attempt to lift more in a confined environment:   that of the powerlifting platform.   Yet, at the young age of 51 I am learning a lesson in adapting to the greater environment outside of powerlifting – life.  

I need to step back to the eighties.  You know, that great decade that brought us members-only jackets, mullets, hair bands and those stylish parachute pants.     It was my first decade of training just to powerlift – and train I did.   Whether it was in Pool’s Gym in Springfield, Illinois, Mandrell’s Gym in Santa Fe, New Mexico or the Total Fitness Center in Carlsbad, New Mexico – five days a week you could find me training the squat & bench twice a week on dedicated days and the deadlift once - and, working 55 plus hours a week in the mines.   I would workout sore, tired, injured and hungry (not hungry for improvement – just plain ol’ hungry).  Unbelievably, I made gains.   Well, the synthetic supplements had more to do with that than my training regimen.  Suffice to say – my life revolved around powerlifting.  

By 1987 I was lifting clean and working out only  three days a week.    This proved somewhat beneficial and productive.... but by ’94 I was done.  Burnt.  Fried.   I continued with lifting but stopped training.    I just couldn’t make room.  I just couldn’t adapt.   So I became a gym rat.... and left powerlifting. 

I returned in 2009 to unbelievable changes in the sport (which was the original motivation for this column).   And, I adapted my training to adjust to the undeniable affects of age.    As a masters lifter, I adjusted my training to once a week.    All lifts in one day.   This maximized my recuperation and last year resulted in the best raw bench and dead that I’ve ever lifted.   But this edition is not about my accomplishment (or lack thereof), It’s about adapting powerlifting into life.   

Today, I face some significant challenges to powerlifting training.    A new job with additional responsibility & span has dramatically impacted my time.   I’ve become a coastal traveller.    And let me tell ya’, 300 lbs. Is a lot to get comfortable in a five hour flight.   I’m also dealing with personal challenges that I’ve never faced before.  

This last paragraph could easily describe over half of the NASA faithful today, tomorrow or yesterday.    So what’s a 51 year old to do?     Adapt.  

Listen, there are several methods and approaches to powerlifting training out there.   Some more effective with gear, some specifically for raw lifters.    I’m not venturing an opinion on any one of these programs.   If it works and continues to work for you....stick with it.     However, if time constraints, injuries, work pressures, and life issues curtail your training.... its time to adapt.   

All my adaptations have been focused on less.   Train less.   Lift less.  Lighten the overall load.   Now.... I’m shifting to full minimalist mode.  I’ve decided to lift each discipline once every other week.   I lift once a week but rotate workouts.   It makes sense to me.    I take a good 12 to 14 days off before a meet and come in fresh and strong.    Now, I’ve endeavoured on an eight month journey of lifting each discipline every two weeks.   It fits with my life challenges and allows me to make gains and stay excited and energized.    How effective is it?   We’ll see in November..... we will definitely see.  

I’m not proposing a method of training each lift every other week.    I’m just stating how I’m adapting.   That’s the funny thing about adaptation – it’s different for just about everyone.    But it’s necessary.     It reminds me of the old definition of insanity:   doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results.     The most appropriate quote I can find comes from one of the greatest innovators in his field – Bruce Lee:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

 

#22

I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

-      John Donne

 

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted a column.  In fairness, I just won’t write to write… I need some form of inspiration.    At the Masters Nationals in Mesa, Arizona last weekend, I found that inspiration.

A good friend of mine approached me and asked me how my lifting continues to progress after my injury (quad rupture / full avulsion – March, 2011).   After a conversation on training and the joy my body feels from not squatting – his follow up question was the root of my new inspiration:   when do you know its time to quit powerlifting?  

Great question.   An intelligent answer can only be debated after examining why an individual powerlifts.   

My experiences in powerlifting (1984 – present) have allowed me to cross paths with thousands of lifters.    Through this “path”, I have discovered folks are motivated to lift for a multitude of reasons.   Many began powerlifting as a outcrop of their concluded sport endeavors in high school / college.    They lifted as part of football, wrestling, shot put, hockey, basketball (ok…only joking about basketball) and they found that competitive spirit in powerlifting.   I believe Jon Cole from Arizona and Thornbecke’s gym is a classic example.    

Some folks lift because they are naturally strong and always have been.   These genetically-gifted found an arena of competition in powerlifting and can demonstrate their strength on a platform.  The great Ed Coan was simply one of the strongest powerlifters by the time he was seventeen.

Others love the competition and the thrill of victory.    They lift to win.  They’re training and strategy focuses on one thing - winning.    They must win.   Fred Hatfield was a lot like that.

Another group of lifters simply lift in meets because their training partner lifts in meets.   They find it fun and interesting and “go with the flow”.

The final group of lifters – and maybe the most disturbed – are those who lift because they are compelled to lift.   I do not compare myself at any level to the greats mentioned above but I can relate to those who fall into this category.   

Just before the Masters I had a co-worker interested in the competition and asked me why I did it….he asked if it was the thrill of lifting heavy weight.   I actually laughed out loud and then quickly answered “no”.    I lift much like I ride a harley – for those who understand no explanation is needed.  For those who don’t – none is possible.   I told him it was a compulsion.   I lift because --- I lift.   At this point in time – I cannot ‘not’ lift.  I always wanted to lift.   From the time I opened my first bodybuilding magazine and seen Larry Scott, Dave Draper, Arnold & Sergio Oliva I was hooked on lifting.  It wasn’t until I bought a copy of Terry Todd’s Inside Powerlifting in 1977 (still have the original book) that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.   One look at Doug Young and I had my role model.

So, for risk of stereotyping, I will sum up the five motivators as:

the Athlete, the Strong, the Competitor, the Follower, and the Compelled.   It really doesn’t matter why someone powerlifts.   There are world champions in all the categories.    For the sake of this installment, it matters in the context of when a lifter decides to call it quits. 

The easiest stereotyped powerlifter to answer the original question – when is it time to quit? – is the Follower.   He quits when his friend quits.   Or, when the friendship ends.  Or when he moves away.   Once the reason to follow someone to a powerlifting meet is gone – so is he.   

The Competitor quits when he can no longer win on a consistent basis.   It is somewhat deeper than that though.  It is the Competitor himself who defines what “win” means.   Some quit once the World Championships are no longer in grasp.   Others may quit once their region or state titles have been taken.   However the Competitor defines “winning” dictates when to quit.

The Athlete & the Strong tend to quit powerlifting when their athletic skills or strength begin to diminish – usually because of powerlifting.   Injuries, whether they are acute or chronic, tend to be the culprit.   The Athlete realizes that his outlet is eroding his abilities.    The Strong face the inevitable – diminished strength.   It makes sense – if your reason for powerlifting is an outlet for your athletic abilities / strength and these attributes leave you – you quit lifting. 

We are now left with the Compelled.   Again, those poor, disturbed & troubled individuals who almost have to lift.   It’s a calling.   And it isn’t necessarily a calling to world championships and mastery of the sport.  It is simply a calling one must answer – lift.    The compulsion is really just to “get better”.   But herein lies the rub – “better” is defined by the Compelled.  It could be better than the last meet, the last training day, last year or, better since the last injury.   Nothing deters them.   They are by the truest definition compelled to lift.   So when do they quit?    You guessed it – they don’t.   The Compelled may take some time off.   They may be off the platform due to a multitude of reasons.   But rest assured, they will return.   And “better” if only in their eyes.  

At times I don’t much like being compelled to lift.  It is a form of OCD at best and a sickness at worst.   But quit?….. and with apologies to Charlton Hesston….when the pry the bar from my cold, dead hands.  

All this stereotyping and discussion of when a lifter quits is all in good fun.   The reality is this:   it doesn’t matter to anyone except the lifter.   It is much like the lifter’s performance itself.   Ask your spouse / girlfriend / boyfriend / significant other to recount your performance in your last meet.   She / he can’t.   Why?  Because they don’t care to that detail.    That’s the same sentiment about quiting….it should only matter to you.   Because the hard reality on whether I choose to continue powerlifting is a decision that – in the short and long run – only matters to me.   

 

#21    “Why not just live in the moment, especially if it has a good beat?”

                                                                                  -          Goldie Hawn 

I started training for powerlifting in 1984.   That makes me, well, a Masters 2 lifter.   I, like many of you, have experienced triumph, defeat, mistakes and injuries.  I have scars and all to prove it.   I have lifted drug free and I have lifted “not”.   I’ve competed in the equipped division (albeit back when we called in a “blast” shirt) and I now lift raw.   I’ve seen lifters and organizations come and go.  Some good.  Some not so good.   But I can always set my calendar every four years to an ongoing controversy / conversation:   why isn’t powerlifting in the Olympics?   

Every time the Summer Olympics roll around the inevitable argument rears its ugly head.   It could be at a meet, on the phone or the forums on the internet. The argument is similar every four years depending on which decade you’re in.   “Well, if trampolining is an Olympic sport then why isn’t powerlifting?”  “If ping-pong is in the games then surely our sport should be”.    “If synchronized swimming is contested then why shouldn’t powerlifting?”  Did you know that Tug-O-War and Rope Climbing were once Olympic sports?   I’m not kidding.   So the argument pursues.   And there are many opinions as to why: disenfranchised organizations, drug usage, gear, length of meets, number of competitors and subjectivity. I happen to favor three: the bench press, member nations and money.

I believe if powerlifting is to ever have an opportunity to be an Olympic event we would have to drop the bench press from competition.  Why you might ask? - because it is difficult to observe.   You can’t effectively watch someone bench unless you are on the platform or your vantage point is overhead. You can film someone benching from overhead and project unto a screen but the viewer is distracted from the lift itself.   This just isn’t conducive for an Olympic viewing audience.  I think a Squat/Deadlift combination is a much better package for the Olympics. 

Secondly, I don’t believe enough member nations give a rat’s ass about inclusion in the Olympics. It doesn’t just take the United States – it takes the collective effort of all member nations. I highly doubt, and this is just an educated guess, that there aren’t more than 8 or 10 represented member nations in powerlifting willing to spend the money to secure Olympic recognition in the summer games.  

Which brings me to my third reason:  money. Powerlifting as a collective international body, in this case the IPF, would need a stream of money from its member nations to support the campaign. Money for travel, advertising, dinners, junkets, and ‘greasing the skids’ as it were. Think about it – we are the most prosperous nation on earth (sure doesn’t feel like it at the moment) and how much extra cash do you think the IPF member organization has earmarked for the Olympic push?   

Listen, it just isn’t going to happen. We are not going to drop the bench from powerlifting and seventy-seven member nations will not raise a wad of cash necessary to sway the powers of the International Olympic Committee.   

So why give a crap? I don’t think we should. We lift in an organization that travels to 17 states 44 times a year. Most of us can drive to a meet at least twice a year. We have consistent judging, great awards and a camaraderie that you just don’t witness in Olympic sports. We have a great drug-free family atmosphere and we enjoy every minute of it. And, if there’s something we really don’t like – we can talk to the president of the organization.  

I think its human nature….too often we look at what we don’t have versus what we currently enjoy.   

I think of Goldie Hawn’s quote and it reminds me of the old American Bandstand.

NASA – it has a good beat and I can dance to it. 

I’m planning on dancing at the Master’s and Unequipped Nationals the remainder of this year. How about you? Where are you dancing next?

 

#20 - 2012

La Envidia es Delgada porque Muerde pero no Come

          (envy is thin because it bites but never eats)

I spend a lot of time cruising other PL sites and reading blogs.   I read posts in non-tested federations, multi-ply and strongman sites.  I subscribe to Milo and Power.  I read the blogs of some of the top lifters in the world whether they are tested or non-tested.  And, as a powersports lifter, I will watch with curiosity as the multi-ply lifters train and compete.   I do this for perspective.... It's like watching FOX news.   I can't find much to debate or disagree with... my perspective becomes skewed.   So I flip on CNN.   It gives me a sense of how the ‘other half’ thinks (I’ve always thought liberalism was a social disease --- now I’m convinced). 

I also consider any powerlifter or strongman a brother in iron.   I know some of you disagree due to the drug usage and multi-ply argument.   But… their making a choice – just as we have.   I don’t post on the other sites.   It’s their sandbox and I’m just strolling by.   I truly have nothing of value to add to those discussions….so I don’t.   While I disagree with many of their positions (steroids, gear, judging, special treatment for elite lifters, etc.) I keep my mouth – and my keyboard – shut.    It would serve no purpose than to stir the pot just for the sake of controversy.    Not my bag.  

I also steer away from the occasional controversy that will flow through the powerlifting world.   My opinion is powerlifting is a hobby/sport enjoyed to augment someone’s existence – not to define it.    So when trials and tribulations befall a lifter or past lifter, I cringe every time I see a reference online.    I don’t much care if you are a ‘dear friend’ for years….if a lifter’s plight has hardened – leave it be.   Posting it on a board doesn’t help….especially ‘your friend’.      The bottom line for me:   judge not – unless I’m asked to on the platform of course!   

However……. I feel compelled to put in my two cents on the ‘Evolution’ division.    This is a new division for the masters’ lifter which [implements the use of the Top Squat by Dave Draper for squats in competition. This division is for Masters lifters only and all lifters in this division will use the Top Squat device for all 3 squat attempts. No exception will be made. The purpose of using the Top Squat is to allow Masters Competitors that can no longer hold the squat bar on their back due to shoulder injuries compete again on a level playing field with other Masters lifters. No supportive suits will be allowed on the squat. Supportive shirts and suits will however be allowed on the bench press and deadlift] definition…NASA-sports.com. 

This is a great innovation and a great lifting concept.   And it is being ridiculed and criticized by lifters outside our sandbox.    Most of the cynics are saying that if your shoulders aren’t strong enough or durable enough to hold a bar during the squat – then don’t squat.    Spoken like a 27 year old multi-ply lifter on steroids!   

Man, the hypocrisy.  I don’t even know where to begin….. oh yeah… I do.   1983. 

In 1983, a college student / elite powerlifter, John Inzer, designed, developed and distributed the first bench shirt.   He did this to help those benchers whose shoulders could not stand the constant bombardment and training necessary to bench to the new standards of benching being set by the likes of Ted Arcidi and Ken Lain.   This ‘innovation’ allowed some lifters to come out of retirement and continue to achieve in the sport.   

Today – as we all know – that bench shirt has evolved into a technological garment allowing up to 40% carryover in the lift.    I don’t believe our 27 year old bencher realizes that the shirt he uses today – the shirt that allows him to bench 800 lbs – was originally designed to assist those with shoulder issues. 

Rich continues to be an innovator in this sport or ours.  He is always looking for ways for lifters to enjoy the sport while maintaining integrity and lifting within the rules.  Many forget that Rich Peters was the first meet promoter to use a monolift in competition.  Yet, as soon as an innovation has NASA attached to it:  the haters come out in droves to ignorantly bash it for the sake of bashing.     I honestly do not believe everyone is entitled to an opinion.   I think everyone is entitled to an informed opinion.   So before some multi-ply bencher starts bitching about an innovation to help those with shoulder issues lift within the rules of powerlifting – do a little research.  Google “bench shirt” and “John Inzer”.    Just go back to your sandbox and drink your hater-aide and I’ll stay in mine.  

 

#19 - 2012

The Natural Nationals (NNs) are behind us now.   We witnessed the outstanding lifting of several lifters… not the least of which was Tyson Myers and Aaron Gonzales.   Wow.  

And, we witnessed courageous lifting – immediately Brady Tanner comes to mind.   It was two days, two platforms, and two hundred lifters in a great orchestration of mass, muscle and fellowship.   The banquet was ‘standing room only’ and culminated with the crowning (or ‘coating’ if you will) of a new NASA            Athlete of the Year – the very deserving, reserved and always humble Robin Hedrick.  This was some meet.  And if you missed it… do yourself a favor and circle late January on your calendar for next year.  

I love the Natural Nationals for so many reasons.  

1. It is the strictest, most consistent judging you will see at any meet – anywhere. 

2. The best-of-the-best come out to lift, judge, score, announce, load & spot (I even  

    witnessed Rich oil up his joints and load during the last session of squats.   The old  

    man kicked some rear!). 

3. The banquet recognizes and rewards year-long and career-long accomplishments.

4. And, most of all, the fellowship and friendships shared in the NASA family. 

 

Yes… this meet is a labor of love for me.   But I’ve never lifted in the Natural Nationals and I never will.    Why?   Well, I am going to dabble in the past… just a little… and just for the sake of the great influx of new lifters we’ve enjoyed this year. 

The Natural Nationals is the signature drug free national event in the U.S.   Rich started the meet in the early nineties with the vision of what it actually has become:   a family reunion.     Prior to the Natural Nationals and prior to NASA, Rich had effectively grown the United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) to record membership.   He began a pilot program where drug free athletes could lift on a level playing field.   As this movement grew, Rich recognized the need for an organization with quality judging and drug free lifting but without the arrogance and elitist feel of the USPF.    Rich proposed an umbrella organization that would support everyone’s needs; however, pride, ego and arrogance ruled the day and the USPF rejected his proposal with bias.   Hmmmm… how’d that work out for them?    Through this effort Rich launched NASA and created a signature event – the Natural Nationals.    I made a commitment then and I keep it today – my contribution to the Natural Nationals would be to load, spot, announce, judge or run errands – anything but lift.   This was my way of honoring a man who brought powerlifting to me; who created an organization that I could be myself in; who removed the righteousness of the self-appointed powerlifting executives; and built a family of drug free lifters and supporters.    

Now, for a quick “look forward”.    The Natural Nationals also serve as a springboard to a new year.    The slate is clean, injuries are healed and the meet calendar has been published.    Hope springs eternal.    This is such a great time to plan your training around the meets you want to attend….and, a great time to plan on giving back.   Find at least one meet you can attend just to support the organization –  supporting the lifters if you will.      

My calendar:   the Western Nationals (the ‘Manno’) in Mesa, Arizona;   the Bench Press & Powersports Nationals in Denver, Colorado;  the Masters Nationals back in Mesa; and the Unequipped Nationals in Dallas, Texas.   I plan on attending both days at the Masters and the Unequipped Nationals.   That will allow me to support day 1 lifters.   And, of course, I will be in full support mode at the Natural Nationals next January.   

In essence, that’s what NASA is – at our core we are an organization of disciplined lifters who support each other with our words, deeds and efforts.   These meets don’t happen by accident.   The whole ‘grand design’ Rich created requires us to participate at all levels.  The NASA Nation is full of great examples of lifters who ‘give back’ – Lee Elliff, Chris Spirrison, Boxcar, Walt Sword, Terry & Robbin, Mike Ewoldson, the Big Cat, Job & Wendy, Sharla & Mike, John McKay, JT Hall, Marty Einstein and so many others.   Your dedication is inspirational.   

So…where will you be in 2012?   Which meets will you lift at and where will you lift?  And… where will you lend a hand and help run an effective meet?    Someone, Boxcar, Robbin, Job, Sharla… someone start a thread and tell me… where will you be this year?

 

 

#18 - A Funny Happened On The Way To the Forum…….. 

Hey NASA – I hope everyone had a great summer!     It’s been a little while since I posted a column and time to catch up.   I’ve been focused on recovery from the quadriceps tendon rupture.   All is good.   I’m fully recovered functionally and at about 65% strength.   I’m on track to be at 100% in May.    

And, I suffered an even more traumatic experience in early September:  Boxcar came for a visit.   I may never recover from that!  Of course I’m only joking.   Jim Moody is a brother and always will be.

Just before Boxcar’s visit I spent 8 days on the Harley.   This was a trip I originally planned for July with a riding buddy.    I wasn’t recuperated enough to make the trip and he couldn’t reschedule so….. off I went all by my lonesome.  

Riding 2,200 miles through four states alone is therapy in and of itself.   I found that my interactions with people I met on the road were different than with a riding partner:   purer if you will.   I left San Diego, spent a few nights and a full day in Vegas, traveled through Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Tuba City, Winslow, Holbrook, Payson, Camp Verde, North Phoenix, Superior, Winkelman, Oracle, Tucson, Benson, Sierra Vista, Tombstone, Nogales, the back road to Ajo, a great stop in Yuma (all Arizona towns) and back home to San Diego.   Any time I would stop for the night I would ask about the local ‘dive’.    I very much enjoy walking into a local establishment at 9:30 pm.    All the local folk turn and give you that ‘over the shoulder’ glance.   At that moment you know you are either going to have a really good time or a really bad time.  Either way:  you are going to have a ‘time’.    I also like to partake of the local flavor.   Eat at the best local restaurants.    I followed this protocol throughout.  

During what is close to the mid-point of my trip I pulled into Holbrook.    This is a small Arizona town right off of I-40 about 20 miles east of Winslow.    My bank had placed a hold on my credit card due to activities every hundred miles and Holbrook does have a Wells Fargo.  After I cleared up the card issue I had a nice mexican lunch at a local dive.   Mmmm good.   I had to fill up prior to hitting 377 south to the striving metropolis of Heber, Arizona.   

I pulled into a small gas station with one island and a small store.   There was room for vehicles between the inner pumps and the store.   The outer pumps (in the same single island) had ample room for maneuverability.   When you are riding on a harley and moving into a space with vehicles coming and going – you are acutely aware of your surroundings and notice small details that would otherwise go unnoticed in a car.    This moment was no exception.     

I noticed a white F-150 work truck in the forward pump.   The driver was on the cell phone and the pump had clicked off.   He was obviously topped off.   Behind him was a gentleman in a Ryder 16ft. box truck pulling a vehicle behind him.    The driver was somewhat two-blocked with his rig and was forced to wait on the white F-150.    I proceeded to pump my gas, down a liter of water and apply some sunscreen.   A good 15 minutes had transpired.   /The driver of the Ryder truck – a short man in his mid forties – out of shape – from Chicago (the accent and the hat gave it away) – and road weary – wanted to just move forward and pump his gas.   He asked me “what would you do”?   I suggested he politely interrupt the guy in the F-150 and ask him to pull forward.  

Chicago guy did just that.  “….. Excuse me….excuse me sir.   Could you pull forward?”  

The driver – all 5ft 10 inches, 170 pounds of him -  jumped out of his truck and began cussing at the top of his lungs – “What’s your bleeping problem?   I was on the bleeping phone….that was an emergency?”.   Chicago guy – in midwest fashion – was doing his best to simply explain the facts – “I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes.   I can’t go backward and have to go forward.   I have my in-laws and I’m taking them to Chica…”

“I don’t give a bleep!”…. “I ought to kick your ass!”.

Now up to this point I have remained Switzerland through the whole conversation.   But the last three days have been somewhat liberating to me and I will be damned if some redneck with a beef is going to ruin it for me.   So, I stepped over the island, got in between both guys, looked the redneck in the eyes and said – “There will be no fighting today”.   I swear, when I heard it come out of my mouth I almost laughed out loud.  

“What did you say?”.   I proclaimed again – “there will be no fighting today”.   Mr. Redneck then asked – “who are you?”.   I couldn’t help myself – “I’m the guy who’s saying ‘there will be no fighting today’”.   Geesh – who else would I be?    F-150 redneck dude looked at me and Chicago guy – stated emphatically “bleep you both” and squealed off onto I-40.    My new Chicago friend thanked me.   I told him my kids lived in Springfield and I had visited the Chicago area a few times.   I mentioned lifting in Niles ant the Leaning Tower Y.   Then he said two words that made this story relevant to y’all.  He looked me in the eyes and said “Ed Coan”.   

I asked him how he knew that name.   There are powerlifters today that don’t know that name (arguably the greatest powerlifter of all time).   He went on to explain that he worked at Quads gym in the eighties.  Knew the owners well.   Knew Ed well.  He even mimicked an Ed Coan heavy training squat – walk out, set up and all.

I don’t know Ed Coan.  I met him on three different occasions:  1985 Class III Nationals in Niles, IL and spotted him twice and the Senior Nationals.   But I was totally blown away by this interaction with a fellow human in God-forsaken Holbrook, Arizona, with a man from Chicago who skirted a physical altercation only to hold a decent conversation with me on powerlifting and a powerlifting legend.  We didn’t talk organizations, drugs, two-ply, politics or even discuss Mr. Redneck F-150 dude.   We simply talked lifting.  Pure and simple.  It was refreshing.   

I’ve recovered from my injury but it will take another 6 to 8 months to regain my strength.  I struggled with that.   Until I realized our sport, at its very nature, is just about getting stronger than before.    Pure and simple.  I have my new friend to thank for that epiphany.    

# 17 - "Merle Haggard said it Best"

During my recovery I’ve been an avid reader of our forum and other non-defined powerlifting websites.   I have refrained from jumping in under assumed troll names and spewing my unsolicited advice.  Abstaining from this activity is actually speeding up the healing process!  I have read the continuing arguments of rules and the subsequent rules infractions.   I’ve seen trolls run down one organization or another on some boards.  And I’ve read with interest how a few trainers of systems are ‘kings’ and ‘godfathers’ of powerlifting.   I’ve also read the all-too-occasional dabble into politics.   I’ve resisted jumping into these discussions for all too selfish reasons.  But…… I don’t want to spend time this month boring you with my tales of injury recovery so this month’s installment – don’t say I didn’t warn you – is about ideological politics.  

 Let me take a moment and define my political beliefs.   I am – as I stated last year in this column – an objectivist.   And long before anyone seen the first half of Atlas Shrugged in the movie theater or read any of Ayn Rand’s quotes - I’ve been an objectivist.   I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in high school and it literally changed the way I viewed politics and government.    Here’s a quick definition of an objectivist:

 We believe in individual rights.
We believe in self-reliance.
We believe in charity – really! As long as you can afford to and don’t seek a return.
We believe in the ability to keep what you earn.
We believe in being accountable for your own actions.

 Although we do believe in war if required to rationally protect individual rights, we do not believe in asserting violence on another simply because they believe differently from you.  

 I’m not a libertarian, I’m not a moderate, I’m not a republican, I’m not a liberal, and I’m not a democrat.   I am an American who believes that things are what they are.  I believe hope is not a strategy and thinking it is still doesn’t make it so.   I believe if you work smart and hard and make a lot of money – you should keep it - because your business will create jobs for those who don’t work as smart and hard as you do.   And, you should own your actions – always.   

 If you want to label me something else – be my guest.   If you want to argue and disagree – have at it.   I honestly believe my thinking is self-evident.  I don’t mind someone calling me ideological or down right stupid.  I’m comfortable in my beliefs and I am not threatened by opposing views one little bit.

 But, if you want to disagree with me by force – lay hands on me for believing different – hang on.    I will bring every bit of force I can muster to keep you from doing that.   See, no one has a right to exert force onto another human just because they believe differently.   And, please understand, our country is not fighting a war based on beliefs!  We are not.  Our country is simply protecting its individuals and their rights.

 I’ll pause here for a sec and allow those that differ from my beliefs to collect their rebuttals…………………. 

 O.K. – away we go.     A few may argue this isn’t the case.   That we have infiltrated Iraq and Afghanistan based on beliefs.   I’ve heard and read this argument more than several times over the last two months (you watch a lot of T.V. when your leg is in an immobilizer).   All I can say is:  September 11th, 2001.   Sometimes people just have short memories.   Our way of life was changed completely that horrific morning.   And why?   Because we lived a life different than others believed we should.   And because of that, thousands of Americans’ individual rights were trampled on in the worst kind of way.

 The emotional response I receive from those who oppose our country’s actions is:   and this justifies us going into Iraq and Afghanistan?!?”     The simple answer:  yes.    The complicated answer:   yes.       

Remember something if you will – how did we all feel on 9/12?   You know, when we woke up and Brian Williams and Wolf Blitzer and all the talking heads were wondering:  where next?   When will the next bomb go off?   Where will the terrorists target next?   What will become of us?   Will we be another country like Israel under the constant threat of attack?   We all wondered – what next?   How can we fight terrorism?   

 Well, we did.    And quite effectively I might add.  When was the last credible terrorist attack in the U.S.?   There hasn’t been since the day the world stopped turning.    And why?  Because we took the fight to them.   We discovered the safe haven of the terrorists and gave them a battlefield.   Their attention and resources were diverted so much that they couldn’t even muster the energy or focus to launch an attack on U.S. soil.  This was calculated.  This was strategic.   And now we are effectively destroying their leaders.    Don’t let anyone fool you with bleeding-heart propaganda:  you know, the B.S. that says “we just need to modify a few of our lifestyle choices and the extremist will be most accepting” (excuse me, I just threw up a little in my mouth).   Get this, the terrorists simply want to destroy our rights to individual freedom – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - by killing us.   They simply want us dead.   That’s why we have gone to war.  

 And it isn’t enough to just occupy the terrorists.  We, in my humble opinion, should destroy the one country whose prosperity and riches and lunacy allows them to harbor and train most of those terrorists – Iran.   But we don’t.  Political interests outweigh individual rights.    That’s where I draw the line.    A rational, intelligent human being who gives a shit about protecting individual rights in America should damn sure recognize the threat that Iran poses.  If you don’t – then you are completely mis- or uninformed.  

 Of course this is just one man’s opinion.   Your opinion could be the exact polar opposite.   You are entitled because you are in America.   And for that matter, you are also entitled to 4” high squats in the SPF – you are in America.  You’re entitled to join NASA, lift within the prescribed rules of powerlifting and freakin’ curl instead of squat if you prefer.   Why?  Because you are in America.    I love listening to dissenting opinions.  It helps me grow.  I’ve been told I’m a great listener.   And, I don’t even mind individuals who disagree with the behavior of our country’s leaders.   I don’t mind taking offense to decisions our executive branch makes.   I take offense to our current commander and chief daily.    

 What I do mind is running down America - when you take shots at the very existence of our country.  I absolutely mind when you disparage the constitution and burn our flag; when you spit on America for being America; and when you protest a fallen warrior’s funeral and mock a hero’s parents as they bury their son simply because you disagree with politics. 

 We enjoy a whole bunch of freedoms in America and one that I particularly enjoy is being able to listen to the music of our choosing.  I’m proud to admit to all that I am an avid country and western fan.  I don’t mean the new-fangled country stylings of Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, or Sugarland.  I’m talkin’ classic country – George Jones, Conway Twitty,  Patsy Cline, Chris Ledoux- to name a few.    It is in classic country music that I grew up listening to a song from Merle Haggard that has me detaching from my objectivist beliefs and simply wanting to pound heads.   

Merle Haggard said it best:  

When you’re runnin’ down this country man, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.  

 

 

#16 - Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga    

4/28/2011                                                   

It’s officially been a month since my surgery.  For those that don’t know – on March 25th at 8:15 p.m. I had just finished a work up set of deads and wanted to get in an unwrapped set of squats.   I went down with 525 but did not come up with it.   I ruptured my left quadriceps tendon and was on the operating table by 11:30 a.m. the next day.    This column today will not be an analysis of the injury and anticipated recovery.  Once I’m back on the platform I look forward to finally writing that book that Gary Clock claims is locked up deep inside my thick, recessed skull.   My prognosis is for 100% recovery.   Although I was told I could one day squat again – I will not.    I will never be able to wrap my mind around what happened at the bottom of my very last squat.      When I return, it will be to the Powersports platform.

Powersports is now my future.   Powersports is now my hope for continued success on the platform.  Powersports is my reality.    And……. I’m way good with that.    Now if you’re thinking ahead – stop.  This is not going to be one of those “Powersports’ kicks Powerlifting’s ass” type columns.   I’m not going to arrogantly proclaim superiority now that I’m part of what Mr. Adelmann so adequately defines as – drum roll please – ‘the no squat club’.  Why?  Because I can’t.   I marvel at the ability of those who defy age and continue to press forward and press on.   Those men and women who fight gravity in the squat week in and week out.   And I tip my hat to those who choose to squat by the rules.   I tip my hat to those who choose to squat in NASA.  

Once recovered and with sufficient training, I to choose to lift in NASA.   But I’m trading in my squat shoes and focusing intently on my curl, bench and deadlift.    And again, why?   Because I can.   Because of the vision of one man I have an outlet.  I have the ability to look forward from this horrid injury and feel the fire of competition and the call of the platform within me.  

In the seventies and eighties there wasn’t a very robust masters program in powerlifting.   The sport really didn’t take off until the 70’s and it wouldn’t be for another decade and a half that competitive lifters grew old enough to populate a sustainable masters program.   As the pool of masters grew larger a sub-set within the pool began to emerge – the no squat club.   By the mid-nineties there existed a group within the masters community that simply pushed and pulled their way through a meet.    But Rich with his vision changed all that.   He created a sport that allowed the ‘no squatters’ to compete in an environment shoulder-to-shoulder with powerlifters.    And Rich did this amidst a ton of controversy.  

Powerlifters in other organizations and trolls on the internet chastised Rich for his vision.   The malcontents laughed at curls being a part of a powerlifting meet.   Some claimed it would be the downfall of NASA.   Hell, a few likened it to the breaking of the seventh seal trumpeting in Armageddon.  When I returned to the sport two years ago I scratched my head and figured I’d give it a go.   It was great to supplement my platform experience while I got my squats tuned back up and I was rewarded with Male Powersports Athlete of the Year last year.   But I wanted more.  I wanted to compete at a high level in unequipped powerlifting.   Well, no good deed goes unpunished and here I am – left without the ability to squat.   Oh the irony.   

So here I am.   I’ve never been the type to look back and I have a lot to look forward to.  I look forward to walking again (probably the 1st of June).   I look forward to deadlifts again (albeit light for a while) – shootin’ for late July.   And I very much look forward to fully capitalizing on Rich’s vision and competing in Powersports.  I’m targeting April / May 2012.   

At this very point in time I empathize with Bill Murray’s character Carl Spackler in Caddyshack: "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

I won’t squat again but I have Powersports to motivate me to be my very best on the platform – which is nice. 

 

#15 - What do you mean funny?   Funny like a Clown, I amuse you?

This sport of ours can be funny sometimes.   And when I mean funny – I mean quirky and hard to grasp.   I’m going to try and take a feeble attempt at defining what I mean by ‘funny’.  

  1. Our sport is only followed by participants and family members.  We do not enjoy a ‘fan base’.   There are pockets – primarily around gym memberships – where excitement has been built for a single meet or an attempt at an ‘all time’ world record.   But for the most part we are our own fan base.   There are fundamental reasons why this is so but that ain’t the intent of this column and I’ll save that for another day.
  2. Powerlifting is judged subjectively and interpretations of what basically is the same rule book differ across some twenty-seven separate and distinctive organizations.   
  3. Equipment has changed the perception – both for insiders and the casual observer -  of the squat and bench press forever.   If you don’t agree with this you are either nuts or delusional. 
  4. Powerlifters are usually shunned in most commercial gyms and we are subsequently relegated to open our own garage gyms.
  5. To compete – you must travel.
  6. Legends have been diminished in the sport and there is literally no correlation to a 903 lb squat completed by a 220 lber today and Ed Coan’s squats in the early 90’s.
  7. Lifters lift for different reasons.    

This is a funny sport and there are several characters in this organization of ours that keep me laughing.    But don’t get me wrong:   I love it.   I love every freakin’ minute of it.   Where can a fifty year old man go and enjoy himself this much?     It is a blast.   

And to point 7 above, I truly do enjoy watching lifters compete.   

This word ‘compete’ has been beatin’ around a bit in our funny little sport.   I still enjoy from time to time reading the powerlifting forums and catching up on the little trolls and their agendas.    ‘Competition’ itself has been a primary topic on one or two forums out there.    A few posters like to call our competitions ‘trophy chasing’.   Ah – to each there own.    But it is unfortunate that everyone is entitled to an uninformed opinion.    You would think they would do their homework.    

Most of us compete against ourselves.   We mark time based on our improvements in the various lifting disciplines.   I can tell you when I broke 420 in the bench and when I expect to break 450.   We think this way.    And trophies –they mark milestones ~ at least for me.    And there are stories around each one of them.    I hear lifters retell these stories on Saturday night’s post-meet dinners.    “Yep, the Grand Nationals in 2010.  I went 9 for 9”.    Or……. “I had 600 to my knees at the Natural Nationals”.    “I had a record squat but was called on depth at the Manno in 2009”.    And….. “I lifted off for Tom on his World record”.

Our trophies mark time for us.    There’s very little discussion around the competition.   Because, my friends, in this funny, quirky, niche sport or ours – you are the competition.   Think about it:   would you be happier beating the field in your weight class and having a crap day or, setting PRs in all your thirds attempts?    I know my answer.   We have seen the competition and they are us.    For the most part.   

But every now and then you have the opportunity to pin back your ears and go mano-y-mano against the best.     For the last few years that chance presented itself in the form or Pro Powersports.     I supported the Pros with my encouragement and my money.   I provided key sponsorship last year and will continue to do so if it returns to NASA.   But, I wouldn’t compete.   Primarily because I wouldn’t win any money but secondly, I don’t like pro sports in powerlifting.   Just one man’s opinion.    I think it’s a grass-roots sport and although the money is small, money tends to screw up good things.    OK, that is just my opinion and I realize I’m well into the minority on this.     I’m cool with that. 

So – at least this year, there is a competition brewing.    The Ultimate Championships.   Three groups divided by weight – light – middle – heavy.   No other weight classes, no age group, no equipment.   Just strap it on and see who’s gonna bring it to Oklahoma on October 15th & 16th and who isn’t.    Count me in.     I do just compete against myself and I do mark time based on my lifts.   I have certain total goals set by specific times in my life and I train to meet those goals.   But for just once I’m throwing my weight belt on the proverbial lifting platform and sayin’ “bring it on”.     And if you’re a heavyweight and you’re coming to beat this old man, bring your ‘A’ game.    Because I can tell you the judging is going to be strict and the lifting hard.    I plan on going 9 for 9.     I give myself a 50 50 chance of placing in this meet.   But I know one thing:   it’s going to be fun.