If you have read my articles here on FactoryTwoFour for any length of time you will obviously be aware of my love for craft beer, fine liquor, and great food. While these loves are among the best passions to explore and enjoy it does come with the caveat that you have to balance them with a healthy lifestyle and diet when you are not writing a weekly review. Over the years I have dabbled in different athletic endeavors to stay in shape, namely bicycling and (gasp!) running. I truly did not enjoy either of these activities; they were merely a means to a more healthy end. As I approached 30 though I noticed I was getting more fat and my activity was not keeping up with my food and drink choices. Now it is important to note that I have never been skinny in my life, but things were getting a bit bad as my eating choices were not being kept in check by my casual exercise. It was not until this past year that I discovered the athletic regimine that would get me in my best shape yet; a real lifting program and training for strongman competitions.
I joined Team Tom Gym in Greeley Colorado last summer and my wife and I instantly fell in love with the gym and it’s incredible atmosphere. People at Team Tom are at every ability level but everyone is united in becoming better, faster, and stronger than they were the week before. There were extreme novices like my wife and I, intermediate to experienced lifters, and even amazing athletes benching 400 lbs and deadlifting over 600 lbs. No matter who you were or how advanced of a lifter there was always someone willing to help you break through to the next level.
This past December after being at the gym for about 6 months the owner Tom approached me and mentioned that he noticed the progress I was making and told me about their first strongman/powerlifting event of the year being held in February and that I could be a good fit for their novice strongman division if I trained hard. I was very skeptical at first but once the events and weights were posted I decided to go for it and try to compete in my first strongman meet that was being held a mere two months later.
Fast forward to February of this year on the morning of my meet. I have never been more nervous in my life as I prepped to do my first ever strongman event: the 150 lbs yolk press. I did not do well at all on the press which disappointing to say the least, but luckily I did much better on the next event. For the 250 lbs timed sled pull I exceeded my expectations by getting a decent time and competing well with the other novice strongmen, giving me much needed confidence for the rest of the meet. The third event was the 300 lbs axle deadlift where I lifted better than I ever had in my life, getting 11 reps in one minute. At this point I was addicted to the competition as my wife, mom, and friends cheered me on during one of the best experiences of my life.
The last two events were ones I have never done, practiced, or trained on. The front weight hold was disappointing but I knew I would do better if I ever had to do it again. The final event was my Everest: 200 lbs Atlas Stone over bar for reps, something I have never done or trained on since I have never had access to stones before. I was extremely excited and nervous leading up to the lifts but the amazing community of strongmen around me gave me great coaching right up until the actual lifts themselves, telling me exactly how to approach the stone and even got me set up with sticky tacky that allowed me to grip the stone better. When I was given the start command I was able to get the stone over the bar multiple times for reps; I have never felt such elation. I had done it, I had completed something I never thought I would have ever been able to do just a year earlier. I did not do exceedingly well at the meet as compared to the other competitors but I feel I accomplished something huge for myself, and now I have a baseline to improve upon meet after meet.
Training and competing in strongman has been unlike any endeavor I have undertaken before. I am surrounded by an amazingly supportive community that never looks down at each other, everyone is just there to improve and become stronger than they were before. After 3 months of training I may not be any skinnier but I am stronger and more athletic than I ever have been in my life. As I continue to train I look toward my next goal: a fully sanctioned event in May where the lifts will be different, harder, and heavier. I look forward to training for this next competition and will write a few more articles like this along the way as I learn new lifts and make more progress. If you ever find yourself in Northern Colorado on a Saturday be sure to stop by Team Tom and say hi to all the Strongmen training during the weekly Strongman Saturday Event, I know I’ll be there.