I am pretty certain that almost all university aged males end up in a gym at some point; to look good on the beach, to get better at sports, social pressure, to meet women, whatever.
I go there to squat, mostly.
If I rewind back to 2010 I was in high school, thinking about joining the army, playing hockey and a bit overfat. I decided to lose some weight to improve my chances at all of the above. By the time I started university in February 2012 I was down about 15 kg, and I decided to start going to the gym because a) I couldn’t find a martial arts club that was both challenging and affordable, and b) one of my mates wanted to go as well. You could describe my first two years with one (made up) word – fuckarounditis. I didn’t know what I was doing, and neither did my mate. I lost a couple more kilos, but I was pretty much just spinning my wheels.
It all changed the day I saw the 2 m giant (okay, he’s actually a few centimetres short, but let me finish the story) squat 200 kg in the corner. “I want to do that, man.” That was the beginning of the end for me. I hopped on an actual program, and made more progress in 3 months than I had in 2 years. I started reading (and never stopped).
I went from never having heard of this sport, to being a national competitor with medals and stuff to prove it in under 2 years. I’m the president of the Auckland University Strength and Powerlifting Association (AUSPA, what a mouthful), am qualified as a referee up to a regional level, and have met some of the best people I know through powerlifting.
On the other hand, I’m always sore, and I’ve hurt joints that I didn’t even think you could hurt. Every waking moment is consumed by numbers, weights, rep schemes, and percentages. I repeat the same tedious movements dozens to hundreds of times per week.
So why am I here?
I love powerlifting. I love the process, the journey and the struggle to improve yourself. There is nothing than can compare to setting yourself a goal, and then growing into the person than can achieve it. I’ve found the community to be consistently positive and encouraging. I’ve seen direct rivals at meets loaning each other equipment and helping one another warm up. I’ve seen complete strangers coaching novice lifters through meets when they need help. Above all, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of lifters doing things they couldn’t do before, and there’s nothing quite like it. I think the world would be a little better off if there were more powerlifters around. I’m here, lifting, refereeing, handling, writing this blog because I want to share this passion I’ve developed with the world.
This was meant to be an introduction to myself and why I’m here, but I guess its ended up getting a little sentimental. Anyway, I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry Rollin’s famous essay, Iron and the Soul.
I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman [his mentor].
Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.