Stories of blood, sweat and inspiration

Online bodybuilding discussion communities are nothing new to cyber space – at times, it seems new Web sites pop up each day, while others are buried forever. Muscular Development, a leading publication for hardcore bodybuilders worldwide, resolved to build their own online community in the fall of 2006. The editors knew it had been tried many times before, so they set out to learn from the mistakes of others while staying focused on providing unprecedented content. Two years later, the member registration list grew to over 50,000 professional, amateur and recreational bodybuilders, powerlifters and all-around fitness freaks. Soon after the Web site’s inception, John Romano, Muscular Development magazine senior editor, began offering a 500-word space in his monthly column, Romano Factor. He made two requirements to be placed in his popular newsstand bodybuilding magazine: first, write about anything bodybuilding; second, earn the position by pleasing a mob of voters in the MuscularDevelopment.com forums. Each month, public polls provide the final winner over a 12-day race to rack up votes.

Throughout 2008, stories of lifetime accomplishments, personal feats of strength, nuggets of knowledge and casual observations about bodybuilding lifestyles were published in Muscular Development. The following are the MD 500-word story winners for 2008:

January

Female Bodybuilding: Travesty Or Genius?
By West

In the following, I’m going to outline the mental journey, and subsequent destination, I have been on with regard to the controversial spectacle that is professional women’s bodybuilding.

The First Impression.
Okay, I admit it. Like many men presented for the first time with images of extremely muscular women sporting wicked veins, masculine features, and insanely low body fat, I was repulsed. After all, who were these women to challenge my ideas of what a woman should be, look like, and use to enhance themselves? Testosterone is my hormone, the hormone of the supreme, strong, bread winning male… right?

The more reactions to women’s bodybuilding I encountered, the more I realized my response was the predictable and lame male one. Out of sheer disgust at being like another one of the sheep, my first impressions were faltering. I began to analyse my pitiful response.

Stereotypes, Gender Roles Challenged
I have always hated the idea of social regulations. Yet here I was, helping to perpetuate one of the most egregious of them—that a section of society should conform to some sort of ideal and be unquestioningly happy with their lot. This was not me! The more I thought about it, the more I began to challenge my previous conclusions. To think, women, pushing the boundaries of what their bodies could do, the social constrictions of what a woman should look like, the very essence of what makes them women. In short, not accepting the status quo.

First Impressions Become Second Impressions
I would contend that, on an unconscious level at least, men objectify any woman they see, and view with sexual attractiveness in mind. This, in no small way, accounts for the normal male rhetoric we hear with regard to female bodybuilding; these women don’t conform to the normal ideals of desirability. I don’t pretend to be above this. I have yet to see a heavily androgenized woman that I was especially attracted to.

However, to judge someone’s merit on one criterion is a cruel injustice, and I now view these women with admiration. I admire their courage, persistence, and willingness to pursue a very unpopular goal. Most of all, I admire their pioneering spirit that seeks to push and rebel against social norms. Whether cognizant of the fact or not, these women are crusaders against stale old social standards. For this they should be applauded.

To The Women
One aphorism that I hold dear is this: variety is the spice of life. Female bodybuilders—thank you for providing some variety. Keep doing what you’re doing and strive to let no insecure male negativity get to you. Yours is a tough path; within the fringe world of bodybuilding, you are a fringe.

To The Men
Fellow bodybuilders, let’s battle the myopia of looking at these women through the narrow lens of what society tells us feminine kind should be. Let’s expedite their journey, and let’s embrace female bodybuilding for the iconoclastic genius that it really is.

February

This Life Of Aches And Pains
By davidbb

The alarm sounds, time to rise and shine. I partially open my eyes and attempt to stretch out the nights stiffness, joints crack, shooting pains sear through my ribcage and I momentarily contemplate curling up and going back to sleep, unfortunately there is work to be done, so up I rise and off to the bathroom I go.

Two minutes later and still with a fuzzy head and crusty eyes I leave the bathroom a descend the stairs, I start to feel yesterday’s leg workout. With each step I feel like I’m about to collapse, Every muscle of my lower body hurts. Eventually I arrive at the bottom of the stairs and head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and plan my day ahead.

Thirty minutes pass and I put on the crumpled pair of jeans from the floor where I left them last night, I pull on my hooded top and clip my excited dog to his lead and head out the door for 45 minutes of cardio. It’s a bitterly cold English winter’s morning, frosty dew and cobwebs adorn the grassy field. The freezing fog not only limits my vision, it also stings my lungs, every breath is a struggle. I curse as my head aches, how stupid was it to forget my hat? I’ve been awake little more than an hour and today is already going awry.

After arriving home,I eat my breakfast and cook a couple more meals, then until mid afternoon it’s time take care of the daily grind of normal life.

Finally I arrive at the gym ready to hit shoulders and arms. Warm-ups go great as do the first couple of exercises, then during a set of cable laterals I hear, Click,click, crunch, click, crunch. Intense pain is shooting through my right shoulder at the same time, the battered beaten shoulder has had enough so it’s time to move onto arms. With an angry shoulder it’s also time to deviate from the plan, supersets and drop sets seem appropriate, keeping the weights lighter but still beating the shit out of my lagging arms, biceps are a breeze, however the ugly face of tendonitis rears it’s head in my left elbow, no more skull crushers again I vow. Another 45 minutes of torture on the treadmill brings the workout to an end, finally I can relax.

As the sun goes down I sit in front of the TV, my elbow resting on frozen peas, my shoulder kept as still as possible. Now ready for bed I take a protein shake with a couple of painkillers and lay down reflecting on the day, 12 years of lifting weights, 8 years of playing sports before that, at 30 years old I have beaten my body for two thirds of my life. Maybe I should call it a day, but I can’t quit my addiction, I choose to love this life, this life of aches and pains.

March

Muscular Development Franchise
By Ukrainianguy

I Got fed-up with my gym and the yuppies that visit it regularly. I just wanna find a gym that welcomes me, that jokes with me and makes me feel at home. As I walk out of this hated gym I eagerly rush home to see what new threads are on the MD website. Sure enough lots of threads to post in, gonna be a fun night. Time flies by as it usually does, its late and I have to hit the sack.

Then it comes to me, why can’t a gym be like this website? Everyone helps each other, and lots of pictures from contests to view, tons of information to read, and who can forget the 18 and over section!

MD has increased its’ sponsoring of bodybuilding events, and getting noticed more and more. Where to next? I mean sure there’s the MD movie and the MD album featuring Grand Master Flash. But after that – then what?

Franchising a gym appears to be the next logical step. Full of Hardcore bodybuilders, new or used equipment no one really cares do they? People will go to this gym because of the name, and that name has grown synominus with NO BULL. As in, NO BULLSHIT. Dropping weights, screaming on the 10th rep, parking lot lunges, roof top workouts, drill industructers swearing like the Angry Bull.

Forum members will go because they wanna go to a gym that helps them get results. A place they can visit any time of day. They rather go to a gym that they already feel apart of, a second home if you will. A place where others help each other out and the staff aren’t trying to kiss your ass but care how your progress is going. Even though there is a MD CYBER store in every gym they don’t sales pitch ya.

A place where people can meet and hang out in like MD Forum members do in GirlyMuscle’s overnight 3rd shift thread. Whether eating a midnight snack in the 24hr MD Health Food Diner, discussing the MD TV playing on the plasma’s, or the No Bull Radio playing on the in house radio station, it would be a mecca of bodybuilders feeling welcome, free to be themselves… home.

Quarterly appearances by MD athletes, drawing crowds to each gym. Creating a buzz about MD, just like MD has done the last 2 years at the Arnold Classic. Then you can add a whole new section to the website, “MD GYM FORUMS”. The possibilities are endless.

Starting out in the major markets makes sense to me, and I for one can’t wait till it reaches my hometown in Canada. Revolutionizing the gym industry, setting the benchmark for all gyms, trend setting and hardcore.

I know this is a great dream, but this is a gym I wanna workout in someday. Reminiscence of World’s or Gold’s gym perhaps, but this will be one gym that will never change its spots.

April

Bodybuilding passion isn’t found in a pill
By Warrior

There are obvious differences between members in commercial gyms. Some folks simply pay financial dues and expect to eventually transform their physique – others pay a greater tribute to command it. The strength of each individual’s internal force is what defines them. A trainee’s capacity to learn and apply ways to continuously push past previous fitness thresholds will determine their right to obtain greater musculature for years to come. Cultivated from within successful bodybuilders, passion cannot be bought from a supplement shop or drug store. It is not found in a pill, powder or syringe. It’s simply an exhaustive testament of a trainee’s ability to find inner courage, character and determination.

“I just want to get toned up” is a phrase chanted by one group, as if bragging about sub-maximal performance. They boast an ability to peddle a stationary bike without ever breaking a sweat. They yawn in boredom between weight lifting sets. Preliminary changes in body composition occurred by becoming more active, but faded quickly as the training stimulus stopped serving up greater physical demands. They enter a gym intimidated and popping pills for greater confidence. Their subsequent failures are due to a lack of effort… a passion to perform.

The typical gym rat embodies a group where consistency is their finest attribute. With little physical progression, their persistency is usually attached to some sort of social reward gained by going through the movements at a local health club. Even with their impressive grunts, they exhibit only slight improvements. As a result, they are often on the look out for a magic pill to mystically build muscle and justify their efforts. They keep looking for a supernatural solution to their bodybuilding expectations but fail each time. Their obsession to find an easy way out keeps them from obtaining a grasp on greatness… a passion to improve.

To restore hope, there is an intense faction roaming the trenches of the gym floor. For this family of iron brothers and sisters, succeeding in building a stronger and more muscular body takes an approach that breeds respect in any decent fitness facility. While training, blood flows so near the skin’s surface that their eyes appear to turn red as they complete final repetitions. Their soaked clothes display intense energy expenditure and force production. They often seem introverted while in the gym – but their silence is filled with internal screams of concentration and mental preparation. The only easy day was yesterday. Each time they start a new session and rack a heavier load, they have one thing in mind: a bodybuilder’s passion to succeed!

Passion isn’t found in a pill. It’s a desire to overcome obstacles, ignore destructive influences and persevere through training. It keeps numerous bodybuilders scouring for ways to beat previous numbers – to lift more weight, perform more repetitions or complete the same workout in less time. Passionate bodybuilders persist through years of physical and mental suffering. The mind must be strong for the body to follow. Passion precedes excellence in bodybuilding.

May

Back the fuck up
By Gaoshang Xiongshou

I was in the squat rack today, with my paltry sum of iron on the bar, and as I unrack and step out into empty space, I hear a guy behind me ask me how many more sets I have. I answer, and start my slow drop to the depth, pause, and then power back up. Even for the light amount of weight that it was, it was rough. Much more rough than the guy behind me would have wanted, because I heard him talking to his boys about me. And what did I hear in reference to me?

“He’s on steroids… veins…”

Something told me I should have turned my music up louder before I started. Then I would not have heard that bullshit.

My immediate thought was to turn around and tell them exactly what I thought about it.

However, I let it go. Instead, I found satisfaction in it. And here is why:

It isn’t the first time I have heard it. It won’t be the last time. What it means though is that I’m something that most people aspire to, but do not have it within themselves to reach. They want and want and want, and in the end, have nothing… at least, not what they wanted. But I do. And that does not make me better than them. But what it does make me is driven. Focused. Determined.

While they stood there slack-jawed, waiting for me to clear out, they could have easily worked in with me… gotten a taste of real training, found the way to achieve their goals, and been the next somebody that someone else accused of using gear. Instead, I had to hear one of them talk about the rims he is going to pick up this weekend, and another one talk about getting that “special love” from some girl he knew in high school.

So as my short and sweet set was over, and I racked it… the steroid comment still rang loud and clear in my head. So what if I was doing something that you can’t or won’t do? Accuse me of assistance? It’s crazy enough that people think I’m on because of the breakneck pace I used to keep. Well, you know what? Thank you. I’ll take it and move on to the next exercise. It just means I’m not fucking around, but you are.

So I moved on, and stopped to look back at them. Yes, they had loaded more weight onto the bar than I had. And yes, they were squatting too… if you call not even breaking parallel a squat. I went rock bottom, with less weight, and with longer legs. What was their excuse?

Jealousy. Insecurity. Perceived inadequacy. That shit is a bitch, isn’t it?

At least I can hold my head high, and know why I do what I do…

… Bitch, you don’t know me. I’M A MOTHERFUCKING ANIMAL. This is far more than you will ever be.

Deal with it.

June

Where did you buy that form?…..You need to return it
By Chrisco915

This weekend(both Saturday and Sunday) I spent some time at one of my old gyms catching up with old friends and using some of their more unique, old school equipment. While I was there, one of the school team trainers asked me to spend some time working with some of the college kids on their form and technique. It was nice to have some clean slates to work with because they weren’t your typical “I know what I am doing” attitude types.

While showing them a few variations of certain exercises I couldn’t help but notice a few flaws in both their forms and techniques. I wanted to help them undo bad habits and decided to ask them where/how they learned how to workout……be it coaches, friends, books or videos…etc. It seems a number of the younger folk learn their techniques from watching other members. They were too intimidated to actually talk to them but would watch and try to imitate what they saw. I was legitimately surprised to hear that. Especially since Football, Baseball, Soccer…etc should train differently for their specific sport. A Soccer player does not need to be reping out heavy weight for 8 reps on concentration curls. LOL.

So I asked…..”Can you point out who in this gym you would watch to learn how to you fell you should workout?” To no one’s surprise….it was all the big muscle bound folk. So we sat and watched these people they pointed out. All were definitely well built and had what these kids wanted. Big muscles…………

But my mind went in a different direction….after a few minutes. Watching these weekend warrior BBs I noticed all the bad form and techinique…………….from bad back arch on Military presses(could have been incline bench) to extreme bar swinging on BB arm curls(looked like hip thrusts) to partial squat reps with loaded bars(why load the thing if you can do one full rep). I understand cheat princilples and their values to the BB. But this went beyond the occasional cheat rep…….reps 1 through whatever were horrific and painful to watch. I could not single out just one of these people……..we were surrounded. These kids didn’t stand a chance to get it right.

They did bring up an interesting point after we resumed correcting their issues. “How can they get that way if they aren’t doing it right?”………”If I want to get that big do I have to do it that way?” I understand the impatience of youth…or anyone for that matter. The “follow the big guys workout it works…just look at them” concept. But to me their first and most important question rings true…………..how did they get that big using such sloppy and incorrect form? It is my eternal question. Did I miss my calling to become a Mr O contestant by using disciplined and strict form all these years?

My first thought when I see these people banging out reps, not meliciously mind you, has always been and will always be ….”Where did you buy that form?…..You need to return it.”

July

Why do I do it?
by esplendido

It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning and I’m making the turn on one of the local golf courses when my golf partner asks if I want to stop at the clubhouse for something to eat. It’s 2 weeks from contest, 18 weeks into the diet, and hell yes! I could eat the entire hotdog station at the bar.
“No”, I beg off, noting that I have a whey isolate protein shake handy. My friend knows that I’m a bodybuilder, knows that I’m dieting, and knows that I’m suffering….but he finally asks the question as I guzzle down the shake; “Why do you do it?”
“Do what?” I ask.
“This whole bodybuilding thing”, he replies, in a genuinely sincere tone.
‘That’s a good question’, I think to myself. ‘Why do I do it?’

Nothing is ever simple in my life. I’d be a much better man if things were. Why do I do bodybuilding? My mind floods with anecdotes, images, adjectives, everything summed into one thing…because I have to.

I can’t speak for others, although I think we all have some common traits and motivations. Everyone wants to look good, whatever defines “good” at the moment. Everyone wants to be able to control the things that could harm them, or at least avoid them. Everyone, and I mean everyone, likes attention. All of these motivate me and bodybuilding has become the expression of that motivation.

Why bodybuilding, though? Why not money? Money brings power and attention, and in some ways, protection. Why not any other sport with endorsements and media fame (although I’m limited to anything a man of 6’-4” is capable of)? Or teaching in some higher education venue? Teachers are looked up to and regardless of appearance, seem to attract the opposite sex fairly well (I’m not in need there, but you get my point!)

I realized, after a moment, that the one thing I take with me everywhere I go….is me! I’ve turned my body into a canvas to express who I am for the world to see and appreciate. There is something undeniably beautiful about the fit human body. The same thing can be said about race horses and other work animals. Muscularity in balance with the skeletal frame is gorgeous to look at. It’s compelling. And it’s hard not to stare when it’s in your presence.

I’m an artist. I decided on architecture as a profession because it gave me the outlet I was looking for to express my artistic talent. I throw clay pots as an avocation, taking wet, formless clay, manipulating it into beautiful forms. I draw, I write, I have to create….and the ultimate media is my body. I have to bodybuild!

My friend nodded his head. I guess I was ruminating aloud.
“I can see that”, he said, when an impish grin formed across his narrow, tanned face. “And I’m glad it’s you and not me”.
“Why”, I queried.
“Because I’m getting a hotdog!”

Bastard!

August

Shut the f**k up; YES YOU CAN
By BadChad

I am finally sick of hearing people say “I can’t” and their excuses.

It seems there is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear a skinny guy at the gym say that he can’t gain weight or a fat person say they just can’t loose weight. “Shut the fuck up, YES YOU CAN!”

The skinny guy says he can eat all he wants but he doesn’t gain weight. Maybe he should try eating more than he wants; shut up, put a fork in your mouth and eat.

The fat guy told me he just can’t loose weight. I told him I am doing cardio at 5am tomorrow, if he wants to join me he should arrive with an empty stomach. I guess since he is single and doesn’t have any kids it must have been work related since he didn’t show. Maybe he should start by taking the fork out of his mouth for a minute or drinking some water tonight instead of a six pack of beer.

I was 149 pounds at 6 feet tall when I started working out. My biceps were the same size as my wrists. I loved the way the working out made me feel, the pump, and I wanted muscles and was determined to get them. So guess what, I started to eat and train like a bodybuilder and I started to look like one. I went from 149 pounds to 177 in 8 months. I trained my legs so hard that I couldn’t walk the next day. I had to crawl to the bathroom. People were accusing me of taking steroids yet I didn’t even know what creatine was at the time.

I don’t care if one doesn’t care to be in shape. A perfect physique isn’t the top priority of everyone, and that’s fine. Just don’t make excuses and say you can’t because “YES YOU CAN!!!”

I am not perfect; I have been one of those people with excuses. I didn’t compete because after I had back surgery, due to three herniated disks, I said “I can’t get my legs big because I can’t squat. One day I said “fuck that.” I trained my legs as hard as I could while being smart and they grew. I stepped on stage and took 2nd place in the Light-Heavy weight class in my first competition.

Have you seen that episode on MTV of that guy who gets plastic surgery, calve implants, because he said his calves wouldn’t grow? Like him, I almost accepted my calves would not grow, but instead I did some research and started trying every single calve workout I could find and guess what, my calves are growing.

And those of you who accuse us of taking steroids, you are just jealous, lazy and ignorant. How the hell would you know what is and what isn’t possible naturally since you have never trained and dieted for more than a month in your life.

Shut the fuck up, YES YOU CAN!

September

Motivation
By rhickman

For 19 years of my life I was the fat kid. Or that is who I was constantly told I was by my peers. I spent 19 years of my life pretty much alone. I was known as fatty, chubby, the big guy. Lunch time would come around and everyone would get into their groups of friends and enjoy the break. Not me. I would end up alone eating just waiting for the day to be over with. Guys would just walk by and stare. Girls would just laugh at me. My childhood was not one I care to remember, but it sticks in my memory. And it will forever.

After 19 years of constant humiliation and loneliness, and needed to change my life. I had to change my life. I had no job, I wasn’t in school. I had nothing. I was just a fat guy living at home with nothing and no one. I was fed up with life. So I turned to fitness. Not alcohol or drugs. I wanted to change my appearance. I was tired of being called the fat guy. I was tired of getting laughed by a girl when I would muster up the shred of confidence I had in me to ask her out. I was determined to change my life.

I had no money so I couldn’t afford a gym membership or a nutritionist. I quit eating fast food, drinking soda, and eating candy. I made up a 1000 calorie a day diet that I religiously followed for the next 8 months of my life. The weight started to come off nicely. I ended up taking 110 pounds off and I was a lean 155 pounds. A mere shadow of what I used to be.

I had been reading bodybuilding magazines the entire time and wanted to be more than lean and in shape. I began my quest with two dumbbells and push ups. With these dumbbells I put on 20 pounds over the next year and wanted more. March 29, 2008 comes around. I am 175 pounds and at 3% body fat. I place third in the open men middleweight division. I did it. I am no longer that fat kid everyone picked on. I am now a bodybuilder. That is what motivates me to be the best. I sit here now in the midst of training for the Washington Ironman show in October. I am in the best shape of my life. I have everything I could want. I have a beautiful fiancée, my family, and bodybuilding. Anyone can do anything. It depends on how bad you want it.

My main motivation when I’m training is the humiliation and anger I have inside of me from my past. But now when I look in the mirror I’m not that fat kid. I have the physique those losers that made fun of me will never have. So who’s doing the laughing now?

October

To Schmoe or not to Schmoe… that is the question
By chrisco915

If you are anything like me, you spent your formative years in the gym learning (amongst other things) that prolonged chit-chatting and meandering socialite groups yucking it up in front of frequently used equipment is blasphemous. Those lessons kept me withdrawn during my workouts and rather unapproachable looking (as I have been recently informed) to those that crossed my path. Perhaps, like me, you have seen the same people day after day……week after week for years and have never even spoken to them. You have checked out the attractive woman in the tight black shorts or the handsome muscle clad man and not said hello out of embarrassment or not wanting to bother them. Many times you have passed one another and looked past each other or made eye contact and quickly looked away or got caught checking each other out in the mirrors(don’t deny it….you have been caught at least once).

But what if you actually said hello? Would you appear creepy and seem like you are hitting on the person? What if you overcame the embarrassing longevity of not expressing the common decency of saying “Hello” during all that time? Would they just scowl and walk away? What if you actually just said, “I apologize, but I feel rather rude for not introducing myself after all the times we have passed each other here….I’m ”. Would they destroy your pre-conceived fantasy of them and ruin it? It was time to find out.

Obviously, I do not recommend this course of action while someone is mid-set or cruising a hellacious cardio session…but between sets or resting one might be able to learn a few things about the people they are surround by that share the same passion for the gym.

So…….I took this mind set to the gym. Instead of pacing instinctually between sets, I remained relatively stationary and said hello to people that acknowledged my presence. To my surprise, quite a few of my pre-determined write-offs had a quite a few interesting tidbits of wisdom about nutrition, training and other fascinating subjects. Yes….a few fantasies were destroyed by self-centeredness, rudeness, social grace, gym etiquette……..and yes, some people just suck. But the positive far outweighed the negative. I am not saying I am evolving into the ever irritating social butterfly of the place; but I must admit that I feel rather liberated by breaking the irrational unspoken bond in today’s societal lack of interest in anything that does not relate directly to them.

I walked away from this with a few things I didn’t start out with. More smiles and hellos entering the gym after a hard days work, a new workout partner and more people that understand my perchance to appear unfriendly(which is far from the truth). For all this…I feel more connected to my gym and its people. It has become a more comfortable “home away from home”. I really do suggest it……even if only for one day.

November

Proud to be Misunderstood
By FitAdina

I remember being scared to walk in my gym the first time. Actually, I felt physically ill just stepping through those doors.

After years of judging people with visible muscle, I now aspired to be one. But bodybuilders are frequently misunderstood.

I had lost fifty pounds before I got brave enough to head to the gym. I just knew the minute I walked through the doors, I would be judged.

I thought all heads would turn and stare at the short, fat woman entering the room. Because it was their turn to judge me, the way I had judged them for years.

I remember picking up magazines like MD and putting them quickly back down, mumbling, “That is freaky and gross. Who would choose to do that to themselves?”

But in my journey to lose weight, I began weekly trips to the bookstore for inspiration. I started with Shape, slowly progressing through all the publications before graduating to MD.

One Friday night I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. “No one has to work as hard as I do to look the way I want to look.”

Thumbing through MD brought me to a picture of Marcus Ruhl squatting under a weight heavier than I will ever know. Veins bulging. Eyes straining. Sweat pouring.

He was certainly working harder than I was to look the way he wanted to look.

Then came the realization, “Everyone in here is working harder than me. Every single person.”

When I had turned up my nose all those times, I was jealous. Jealous of the hard work and dedication those people possessed. While I was struggling to move from morbidly obese to just obese, they were taking it to a level that only existed in my dreams.

In that instant I knew it. “I must join a gym.”

But after years of judging others, I was afraid of setting foot in a gym. Hadn’t they earned the right to say, “What are YOU doing here?”

Hadn’t I turned up my nose long enough to take what was coming to me?

But that never happened.

Not once did anyone say to me, “What are YOU doing here?”

They all KNEW why I was there! I weighed over 200 pounds. Where else would I be but in a gym working it off?

Time passed. I got the weight off. And sometimes I think those guys were happier for me than I was for myself.

In any good gym there is a community that becomes like a second family. If anyone were to hurt me, fifteen guys from my gym would descend on them in an instant. But they would have done that when I was still overweight. They embraced me right away for working so hard to make goal.

A coworker stopped me not long ago to say, “You’ve worked out too long. Your shoulders are too broad.” She didn’t understand why I smiled.

I am one of the misunderstood, and I am proud of it.

December

405
By Gaoshang Xiongshou

The air is thick with the stench of toil and tangible discord. It may be cold… but I have warmed up. The dismal, washed out color of the walls and ceiling tile give the place a feeling of dank depression. But that means nothing to me. I feel energized… electric… READY.

Why?

I am looking down at 405lbs on the floor, ready to be relocated to the place of my choosing. I know… 405lbs. for a deadlift is not much. But this 405 means a lot to me.

It means that I am in a new place, and it is not the same place that I was at yesterday. It means that I made good on a promise to myself: fight past the pain of the pull; fight through the frustration of missing something along the way in my program that would eventually get me here. It means that I gave everything that I had, except excuses, and worked with the little bit that I was given, to make a reality that once only existed in my deepest slumber.

It means that while everyone else did a set of whatever, and took ten minute rest breaks to talk about stuff that did not matter, I kept it moving, and dead weight on the floor was reborn and alive anew once I wrapped my hands around cold Olympic steel, and drove vertical. It means that the whispers I heard, and the evil looks shot at me as weight pounded the floor again, and again, and again… all of that was wasted energy… THEIR wasted energy, as something greater could have come from it, but they chose otherwise. They have nothing to show for it. I was not going to let anything stop me, and I have the proof of my conviction.

It means that my focus was on point… when it was game time, I took it to the wheels, quarters, nickels, and dimes as if my life depended on it. Forged from a desire… no guts, no glory. I would rather die than not meet my goal. Torn skin, cramped hands, and white lights dancing before my very eyes from overexertion… a small price to pay for the greatness that is progress. You have to want it. You have to feel it. You have to understand it. If not, you have to get out of the way of people like me, before you get run over.

I may have to use a mixed grip… use lifting straps, just in case… take an extra minute or two before the pull, and only get a single. But you know what? I am here… and I am not going anywhere, except up.

495, here I come…

NOTE: See the 2007 winners here.

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