Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Gym of My Own

Well, with no place to rack my weights now that Swat has closed, I've taken matters into my own hands. I, along with my training partners have secured a mini warehouse that will serve as our new training facility. So this afternoon, after church, I borrowed a friends truck and loaded up as much as I could haul of my carport gym and headed over to an undisclosed location in Lee County, Alabama, to our new private training facility. We combined all our equipment and have got a very good setup.

After a few trips from my house and a storage unit we finally got most of the stuff put in the gym. I have never sweated so much as I did today.

By clicking on any of the above pictures you can view my complete album on facebook. I'll be adding more pictures as we get things like we like 'em at the new gym and wrap it all up with a video tour. If you are living in the Auburn/Opelika, Alabama area and are interested in training or being a member of our "key club" gym please contact me at

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swat Gym Closes

Swat Gym is where I've trained for the last 4 years. And today I walked out of there for the last time. I won't make this a sorry lament, I'm ready to move on.

It has been subject to poor management in the best of times (the gym hasn't belonged to Bill Kazmaier in years). As a business it never advertised or sought to improve it's building or equipment. Every vinyl covered bench had rips and holes in it. The machines were old and useless. The dumbbells stayed perpetually in the floor. The five and ten pound plates were always skillfully stacked under a mountain of 45's and 25's. I would commonly find a bar loaded to 500+ pounds lying in the floor from someone who was strong enough to deadlift it but they were too weak to unload it (it was usually the trap bar, so you knew they were fruity). I would complete a 4 exercise training session in the time it took most people to bench press (usually, they took 5 phone calls between sets).
The music sucked. In the mornings I squatted, pressed, and deadlifted to a steady diet of Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, and Miley Cyrus.

Bars were bent, light bulbs out, water bottles and cups strewn about. For the most part it was really a reflection of human depravity. I have a few good memories.

I remember talking to Bill Kazmaier as he happened to be in there shortly after Phil Pfister staged (in my opinion) the greatest comeback in all of Strongman history to win the 2006 World's Strongest Man competition. He won four or five straight events, including beating Mariusz on the stones by a hair as the rain came down in Sanya, China. It still gives me chills to think about it. Bill was there, he talked about what a jerk Puzianowski was, how Phil told him this was it, how he really felt like it was his time and then he rattled off a few stories from the competition. I was captivated, and began training for my first contest shortly after that.

I remember some good lifts, I remember plenty of bad ones, failed ones, and ugly ones.

If one more person came up to me and asked me what the bands were for, I guess I was going to strangle them with a pair of mini's.

I remember meeting my dears friends Zack and Kandis. I will always be thankful to Swat for introducing them to Allison and I.

I remember the day the power went out and we all trained in complete silence and darkness, all you heard was clanging plates. They sounded like angelic cymbals. Everyone should train in complete silence every now and then, it clears the head.

I remember laughing alot.

SWAT Gym wasn't so bad I guess... But where I'm going to start training next is a little bit of a surprise...

As we were finishing up today Zack and Tim and I noticed that someone had loaded the two top, vertical pins on the warped old leg press machine slam full of 45's and didn't remove them. I've stripped every bar I've ever used for the last 4 years, and even reorganized plates and dumbbells as I trained. I had had enough. So, leaned up on either side of that leg press were two 100 pound plates. I got one and Tim got the other, we hoisted them up to about eye level and slapped them right on top, face down.

It's been fun SWAT Gym, good luck with the big move tomorrow, before you unload that leg press you might need to grab a crowbar.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Resolution #5

Resolution #5 - I am resolved to never drink a soft drink from the can, at room temperature, or without ice ever again.

There are few things more refreshing to me than to take a nice big Auburn Tigers Stadium cup (college fine china) and press it to my refrigerator door until it is 3/4ths full of ice and then pour as much diet coke, or cherry coke zero, or coca-cola classic, or mountain dew, or just about any carbonated beverage you can think of, over it until it is just about at the brim. That is the pinnacle of refreshment. [Grapico... I forgot Grapico...]

Conversely, if you were to take that same carbonated beverage and leave it unrefrigerated, and pull it straight from the pantry, pop the top, and then drink it, you would have a liquid burning down your throat with all the appeal and satisfaction of having drank a perfectly mixed 2-cycle gasoline... It's too harsh and hard. At least that's my opinion.

Ice has the uncanny ability to add a certain refinement and luxury to the lowly canned drink. If a soft drink is to be enjoyed properly certain prerequisites must be met. A proper vessel is a must(i.e. one of the hundred or so stadium cups in your cabinet), and Ice is a close second.

Of all the things I missed while in Russia, none of them are quite as small and simple as the ice cube. It gives a soft-drink the taste and temperature of freedom. I love freedom. I love it like I love a cold drink after cutting the grass in summer time.

So, while adding ice to your cup may not let you get the full 0,5 Liters of beverage you paid your hard earned Ruble for in Russia, who cares! It's good. And it makes me thankful that in America, some things are still free... Two of those things are people and refills.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Georgia (still) On My Mind

Saturday was a good day. I got to spend some time with some good friends and participate in the sport I love, but am genuinely bad at (for now).

My second outing at Georgia's Strongest Man ended in the same result as the first. Dead last in the Super Heavyweight division. But, frankly, I'm just thankful to have been a part of it.

I only trained twice from March 14th to April 25th, and those two times were in a little gym in southeast Russia while my wife and I were away trying to pry our daughter out of the steel trap of the Russian government. I also, lost 23lbs. in that time frame due to the stress and terrible food. When I finally got back to training in late April I could barely squat 325lbs. for a set of three. At that point GSM was six weeks away.

So, I just began there. Chopping wood and gaining weight back and thinking about June 5th. I wanted to compete, even though I knew I would likely finish where I did, despite my best efforts. Slowly the strength came back, and every time I went to the gym I felt like my old self. And every time I thought about the contest I wondered what in the world I was doing.

Then last Saturday, it was finally here. I left out early that morning and made the scenic drive to Douglasville, GA with my father-in-law (he came to drive my mangled body back home if need be).  He asked me if I was nervous about the competition, I wasn't.  When you've stood in a Russian courtroom and contended for the custody of your daughter against a rude and belligerent judge wondering if the child you so desperately want as yours will be given to you, nervous takes on a whole new meaning. I was glad to test myself, I wasn't there to win, I knew going in there would be no chance of that.  I was there so that the Hell Russia had drug us through didn't win.  And that it didn't stop or influence my life any longer and hold me back from who I am.  It was time to live, and make memories, and spend time with friends, and make new ones.

I came close to a couple of PR's on the Axle Press and the Deadlift but fell short, beat a couple of folks on the truck pull, stunk it up on the 750lb. yoke (but I didn't scratch), and got close on the stone #3 on the stone load.  It was certainly not a memorable performance, unless you are me.  I'm proud of the effort, I honestly couldn't have done any better.

Every pound I moved I wholly and fully dedicate to my beautiful wife and precious baby girl.  Being a Strongman will always be a distant third after Husband, and Father.  And the first two are far more rewarding.

Special thanks to Brad Stanford who threatened to slap me if I did not attempt the third stone.  The thought of your meaty bear claw coming at my face produced my best run at stone #3 yet.  Also, the thought of you yelling "War Eagle!" is the only way I was able to even break that 605lb. deadlift off the ground. I knew I should have brought my Snuggie.

Special thanks to Jim Whisman for letting me stand in his enormous shadow while the hot summer sun tried to fry us all.  I'm going to start calling you Jim "The Tennessee Oak" Whisman.

Finally, special thanks to the 75% of you that voted "yes".  I needed that.