Saturday, December 1, 2012

Favorite Strongman #2 - Gerrit Badenhorst

Back in the Mid 90's I remember watching an ESPN World's Strongest Man contest, and one of the lady co-hosts wanted to give the audience an idea of just how difficult it could be for these hulking me to buy clothes that fit. So she picked Gerrit Badenhorst to accompany here to one of the local men's clothing stores in the Bahamas.  The shopkeeper went and got a size 60 sport jacket, which is really big... For frame of reference I wear a 52-54 and I'm as wide as a door and weight 300lbs... But anyway, the smiling and courteous Gerrit put the jacket on, barely, and to the surprise of everyone the jacket barely contained his large bowling ball shoulders and the sleeves fit skin tight over his enormous upper arm. And if he had just pushed his arms together the back would have ripped in half.  I remember thinking two things, 1) That is amazing, 2) I want to be like that.  (if you go to the 1:13:25 mark on this video you can see what I so clearly remember from my younger days, it is also a good interview)

Gerrit, much like current strongman competitor Terry Hollands, began his athletic career playing rugby. Then later moved to powerlifting and won 3 World Championships in the WPC totaling an all time best of over 2400lbs. 

In 1992 his strongman career began, and competed from 1992 all the way up to 2000. His best finish was a second place showing at the 1995 World's Strongest Man in The Bahamas (you can watch the finals of that contest by clicking here).

carrying the "Africa Stone" in at the 2000 WSM
Why I like him:
  • He had a very long career and proved himself to be a ironman in a variety of disciplines.
  • I remember reading an interview with him several years ago.  At the end the person doing the interview said "is their anything you want to add?" and he said "Yes, I want everyone to know that I am a Christian". That always stuck with me, and impressed me about him. He seemed to blend a life that is God honoring with his passion for strength. Inspiring.
  • He was a fantastic deadlifter, a lift that I enjoy and work to improve.
  • He reminded me of the old fashioned sportsmen from prior years, with his good natured but competitive attitude. 

Gerrit's album cover 
In 2005, God Bless him, he tried his hand at singing... It was, well, it could have been worse. However, if he was as good at singing/songwriting as he was strongman he would have rivaled Luciano Pavarotti, but unfortunately that wasn't the case...  I will admit, it seemed like a huge hit with the Scandinavian crowd. 

If you want a little taste of a Strongman turned singer...  You asked for it...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Over the Threshold

I don't know that I have anything left to be say that I haven't already said before about my little girl. But today, for us, is very special.  I took a day off work just to watch it and live it and try my best to savor it because it will only happen once. It is a quiet victory, but a milestone in the life of our family and most especially the little girl for whom we labored to bring home.

My daughter was born August 23, 2007 in Astrakhan, Russia. For the 957 days following her life was filled with neglect, pain and uncertainty...  957 days...

On April 6th, 2010 My wife and I walked out of a dusty Russian orphanage with that little girl, never to return.  Her life is now filled with family, love, happiness, and the ever present Gospel of The God who Saves... And that, friends, was 958 days ago...

Today for the very first time in Rebekah's life, the days she has been found outnumber the days where she was lost. The days where she has been known and loved, celebrated, hugged, kissed and held and made much of and poured into are more than those spent in the most broken of circumstances in the lonely of a fallen world.

So we celebrate.The scales have been tipped. The old life is even more distant and the new is ever more plentiful.
Daddy and daughter's first meal together April 6th, 2010

My wife, Rebekah and I sat at the table of our hotel room 958 days ago for our first meal together. The distance we have covered from that day to this I find simply remarkable. To God be the Glory. In just a few days we will once again sit at the table of plenty at our family thanksgiving and she will be no one's guest, she will simply belong. She has a family, a legacy, and a future and a place reserved for her.

But there are still so many more that need a chair at the table of plenty. They need mother's to rock them, father's to protect them, grandparents to spoil them, and siblings and cousins to play with them. There are so many more who are lost, who don't know how it could be or how it should have been...

So, I implore you to consider adoption or, at the very least, consider helping and supporting those who are in the process of it. You could play a role in the rescue and redemption of a child. You could bring them over the threshold and ensure their hearts and stomachs are made full at the family table. I beg you, consider the orphan.

958 Days later.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Manhood, Strength, and Barbell Therapy

My wife paid me a totally unexpected compliment yesterday. She thanked me for being capable. Capable of taking care of our daughter (even when she was little) and not being intimidated by young children in general. She is thankful to have someone who can share the load and give her a little relief from the strains of mommy-hood. I took notes, "Be a competent dad, this is good." The compliment was a little out of the blue, I graciously accepted it, and it was confirmation, again, that I married the finest woman on this planet. This morning I woke up still humbled and feeling like I could conquer the world. It is amazing what a compliment from a man's wife can do for his sense of duty and service to his family (take note ladies). I got to thinking about why I feel capable of doing or handling... well... just about anything fatherhood and life can throw my way, and I think the answer lies, spiritual aspects aside, in a thing I've always referred to as barbell therapy.

At least 3 days a week I find myself in a steel storage building in the middle of an amalgamation of rusty iron plates, sharp knurled barbells, and a delightful assortment of strongman implements. And for those three days I press, lift, push, pull and squat myself to a special kind of exhaustion that rids me of most nervous compulsions and gives me a clarity that would gain the envy of a Buhddist monk. In the southern summer heat I sweat gallons, soaking through t-shirts, drinking water by the quart, in humidity so hot and thick it feels like you're breathing the air rising from a boiling pot of stew. It is a self flagellation that makes pain a welcome companion and deep muscle soreness seem normal. I love it. And one of the more benificial by products of such torture is the accumulation of useful skelatal muscle, and the curious notion that maybe being a father, husband, provider, and protector is not the anxiety riddled task men of weaker substance can portray it to be.  When you push yourself to your limits, and exceed them, it can give you strength to meet the demands of daily life with vigor, and have enough gas left in the tank to serve your family and neighbors the way God intended.

I've often said that if the monotonous daily grind (ie. wake up, go to work, come home, deal with kids, watch TV, go to bed) is the most strenuous challenge you face during any given week, you will find yourself neither physically or emotionally capable of handling life when one of it's severe stresses comes knocking at your door, or when you need to change a flat, move a piano, cut down a tree, or prove yourself physically competent in the chores of fatherhood.

Perhaps it is my heavy sense of nostalgia, or maybe I was just born 30 years too late, but, for men in the digital age, physical culture is a lost art. Becomming technically proficient in regard to strength has been replaced with searching for shortcuts to look good in an Under Armour t-shirt. Basic nutritional principles in regard to muscle growth have been substituted with scouring the shelves of GNC for the magic elixir that will replace the hard work and caloric intake needed to develop muscularity. The old time sportsmen are going away, they are drowning in an ocean of faux-hawks, tribal tattoos and flat billed caps... All show, no go...

So, fathers and husbands, buy your clothes at Tractor Supply, tear off a callous gripping a heavy barbell, gain 20lbs., eat a steak and be the kind of father that your daughters are afraid to introduce potential suitors too. Don't flee from life's discomforts or, especially, it's responsibilities, but engage in some form of basic training and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. Explore the fundamental physical activity of strength training, pick up something heavy, and get some stuff out of the basement.  It will clear your head, strengthen your hands, and make what is required of you feel like a lighter load to bear.

Be good men, be strong men, the world needs you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Christmas In Dixie

My childhood home on Christmas Eve, and my the Buck my dad shot in 1999 (8 point, 230lbs.)
I, like most mature adult males, didn't really care what I got for Christmas, or even if I got anything. I've grown up hearing my dad say "If I want something, I'll just go out and buy it" while he steadily worked in enormously generous ways to ensure we all had the gifts we hoped for, and I guess I've adopted the same attitude (thanks Dad). Honestly, I really just wanted to sit with my family, drink a little coffee, and let the chaos unwrap around me, while I sat smiling  pleasantly on the couch and enjoyed the moment.
This is how my dad has looked every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember
When I was a kid I always wondered why my parents never seemed share us kid's enthusiasm for waking up at 4 AM on Christmas morning in anticipation of opening a mountain of presents. And now that I'm officially old, and have a youngin' of my own, I truly realize that Christmas is fun as a child and becomes progressively more sentimental as you get older.  Until, finally, you reach the epiphany that watching your wife, child and family open gifts and be an active participant in the Joys of Christmas is far more rewarding than being an active participant yourself...  And then you work in generous ways to make it happen. When you reach that point, gentlemen, you are required to firmly declare every year at Christmas time "don't get me anything, if there's anything I wanted I would just go out and buy it"... It's a sign of manhood, a right of passage, and a mark of maturity.

My Mama's sausage pinwheels, one of the many breakfast treats on Christmas morning
Christmas Eve, after an enjoyable visit with my In-Laws over in Hoover, we made the trek on the interstate through Tuscaloosa and eventually found ourselves on the two lane highway that leads to my home town over in Lamar County, Alabama. There is no better comfort, I suppose, than walking in the front door of the house you grew up in, having a fire in the fireplace, and supper on the stove, and the noise of your daughter, niece and nephews stampeding through the house. It's like walking into a John Denver song. It's a brand of heartwarming chaos that I'm only able to appreciate now that I realize such moments are precious gifts. As my grandaddy Cleland would say "It's not going to always be like this"...

I do take the opportunity at Christmas time to buy a few small things that I wouldn't normally buy throughout the year and let Allison (my lovely Bride) wrap them up for me.  It's hard to explain to a woman what the various trinkets of the strength world are, even more difficult for them to buy the exact one you wanted.  So I ordered the goods, and played by the rules and didn't open my new toys until Christmas morning...

I got a few surprises and a couple of things that weren't on my list.  But aside from my cup of piping hot coffee and my excellent viewing angle from the couch of watching the chaos unfold amongst all the youngins and family in the house, I have to say my three favorite gifts were a Hanes zip up hoodie sweatshirt from Target, Mark Rippetoe's 'Strong Enough' and a #3 Captain of Crush gripper.

The Hoodie sweatshirt I wear almost everyday, it's big, just enough warmth, but not too much, for $12 you can't beat it. I've finished Rip's book, there are more good quotes in that thing than I could possibly underline, but if you haven't read it, you should.  He is completely Texan, and his writing style entertains me to no end.

I was not ready for how tough the #3 CoC gripper was going to be. It is a well made tool that could in some arenas of strength sport be considered art...  Or at the very least suitable for wearing as jewelry if hanging from your neck by a sterling chain.  I'm still playing around with it, I can get it to within about 3/4 of an inch with my right hand, and not even close on my left. But still, if I close it I get my name on a list. And that's really all everybody wants is to have their name on a list for having accomplished something...

My 2nd oldest sister, Natalie, got me the gift that keeps on giving,  she knows me.
Christmas is always my favorite time of year. It's still hard to believe I'm old enough to have a family of my own when I go back home.  It always makes me feel young to drive through that little town, sleep in my childhood home, and remember all the steps I took that got to where I'm at now.  I am more grateful than I can really express to my parents for creating such a good place thrive and grow. I wouldn't trade my life, memories, and family for all the treasure the world has to offer.   Compared to what I have now, all that worldly wealth wouldn't even fill my empty coffee cup on Christmas morning.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunday Shoes

Well, I'm a cheapskate.  I have been putting off and putting off buying any weightlifting shoes, but I've been wanting to try doing some pressing in a shoe that had a solid heel.  So, after much thought I stumbled across my old Dexter's that I've had for probably twelve or more years. After a quick examination of the heel I said "that'll do" and threw them in my gym bag to give it a try. I figured "what the heck", I'm on the comeback trail, and today was going to be relatively light and so if it was catastrophic mistake I would likely be none the worse for the wear.  

I wore some good thick black socks and began working my way up through warmups in the log press. It really was a different feeling, I could tell that the squish I get from my Asics sneakers was completely gone and I cold actually feel my heels transferring force into the ground.  I also felt super preppy.

Overall it wasn't bad, I wouldn't do any olympic movements with them but to clean and press or push press they worked well.

I think it's good to be a little old fashioned every now and then. I think about the shoes lifters wore back in the day sixty or seventy years ago.  Leather uppers, hard rubber or leather heel. No foam, or nylon, or toe pockets.  Nothing fancy, just what they had. In a way I think a throwback is a nice tribute. I should have played with the axle and pretended to be John Davis for an hour or so.   Don't know who John Henry Davis is? Well, I'll have to tell you about him sometime.

After all, there's no school like the Old School...
John Henry Davis cleans and jerks the original Apollon's Axle (1949)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Overhaul: Part 1

I've been sick. It all started New Year's Eve. Strep throat put me down for about five good days.  I got to feeling better and got a couple of training sessions in and then it hit again, this time worse than the first.  So the next thing you know, a couple of weeks later, I'm running a fever of 102 and throwing up brunswick stew and sweet tea into my favorite porcelain throne. It was after I washed my face and looked in the mirror and discovered that I had burst the capillaries around my eyes that I realized, it's time to go away for a little while.  It's time to give up the notion of training for anything, it's time to sleep, take my (American) antibiotics, and get completely better and then start all over.

So I finish my last tablet of my 10 day course tonight. And tomorrow I'll step into my little training facility for the first time in 4 weeks. I plan on doing a light full body circuit - squats, presses, pulldowns, and some dumbell work.  A little light training to get the body moving again, and give me a hint of soreness, but nothing I can't easily recover from.

I was reading (again) Dan John's Never Let Go just last night.  In one Chapter he poses the simple but probing question: "Do Your Behaviors match your goals?". Why no, no, Dan, they don't.  In fact, the more I got to thinking about it I don't even know what my goals are.  And the more I thought about what my goals are, the more I realized that I don't have any goals. I've been going to the gym and going through the motions with no real rhyme or reason to my training other than to hit some good numbers that day...  If I felt like it...  If I didn't feel like it, I didn't, and that was for some reason OK.

So, I've spent a lot of time thinking about training, goals, behaviors, being healthy again, not throwing up and trying to put it all together into something that looks like a fit, capable, Husband, Father, and Strongman. (In that order...)  And maybe it was the brunswick stew spraying through my nose, or the busted capillaries in my face, or the shivering from the days of fever, that really led to all my self examination, but I truly believe it was all necessary that I arrive at the inevitable conclusion that A) I have no goals and B) Even if I did have a goal, the only goal my behavior truly reflects is that I'm trying to be the french fry eating champion of the Universe.

And there you have it, an honest assessment of where I'm at.

I'm getting a plan together, should take about a week or so to implement.  Until then, this is the goal - light total body barbell training sessions to get back in the swing of things.

 More as things develop, The Overhaul: Part 2 will cover a bit more details and less vomit stories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Favorite Strongman #3 - Hugo Girard

I know, it's been a while, but it's the new year and I'm back on track. #3 on the list is the All-Canadian nice guy Hugo Girard. 6 time World Strongest Man finalist (1998 - 2004) (highest place was 4th in 1999, hands down the strongest man never to podium in WSM), North America's Strongest Man twice, won the World Muscle Power Championship 4 times, Won Strongman Super Series in 2002.  He, of course, also dominated the Canadian strongman scene for a decade. 
Unfortunately his career, particularly later, was marred by injury. The most shocking of which was at the 2006 Mohegan Sun Grand Prix where, after owning the first event, he tears his patellar tendon on the Conan's Wheel. It was a real shame too, Pudzianowski was there and a veteran Girard looked poised to give him all he could handle. Such a shame, another injury at the Canada's Strongest Man contest in 2008 cause him to bid a tearful goodbye to strongman competition. 

Why I like him:

  • Met his wife after she posted an add in the local paper requesting help moving a refrigerator in exchange for a home cooked meal. Brilliant... Ladies if you want to trap yourself a good man, and especially a  big 'ole strongman like Hugo, the way to his heart is through his stomach. 
  • Kept on keeping on despite injury after injury, there is definitely a lot of merit in that.
  • I consider him one of the veterans of the sport, and when I got interested in strongman, he was always  a favorite to watch
  • Excellent overhead presser especially dumbbell and axle
  • He's French-Canadian, what's not to love about a modern day Louis Cyr
  • From the documentary film Strongman, Seems like a nice average Joe with a heart of gold. 
  • Seems to be secure in himself enough to wear pink alot...

Here are a few more resources on Hugo for those interested