Strength

It’s been awhile since I’ve sorted out the mess of words I have swirling through my mind. I’ve found myself in a new place in my career; new department, new people, new everything. I’ve essentially started over. In a world full of new, I’ve felt an overwhelming need for something old. I can’t really explain it… I needed something familiar to my core while I explored and conquered a new territory.

When I was 8 years old, my dad built an addition on the back of our 2.5 car garage. The addition would become home to his beloved ’96 Fat Boy and an epic garage gym. My dad poured the foundation, set the walls, trusses, and finished it off with siding and shingles. “B&B Powerhouse” was vintage iron… The bench, hack squat, preacher curl, and weight tree were all built by my old man. To this day, I can smell that gym; it was a kaleidoscope of scents made up of cold concrete, the fumes from an old furnace, raw steel, and old bodybuilding magazines. Near the end of its construction in November of ’93, minutes after returning home from a long road trip to Jessup, Iowa for bars, weights, and random accessories, we got a call that my grandfather was fighting for his life on the other side of our small town. I remember flying across town in my Dad’s Ford Ranger with the bed still holding some of the gear from the trip. By the time we arrived, it was too late… Needless to say, the barbell has been tangled into my roots after such a strong emotional connection and introduction at an early age.

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It’s been nearly 8 months since I’ve known what a comfort zone feels like at work. While that’s a good thing since growth is found during these times, it really challenges and humbles you. 11 years of solid performance in one department got me to where I am now; infancy in a new position, a place where I feel I’m learning to crawl again. Early on in this transition, I knew I needed to find strength to pull through the uncertainties I found myself experiencing every day in this new job.

Hmmm…strength?

I had lost confidence at work. I lost what I had accomplished and was feeling like a fish out of water. Physically, I was embarrassingly weak from sporadic, short-lived spurts of motivation that fizzled out after lackluster results; however, this time it was different. I got back into a gym in June. My motivation was different. I don’t really care about having a “magazine body” – my motivation was driven by something deeper than vanity. I was actually happy with my bodyweight of 221lbs. I had lost 50lbs through diet and cardio but I couldn’t bench press my own bodyweight, I could barely deadlift half of my previous 500lb PR, and my squat was too pitiful to mention here. I started to chase strength. I became addicted to adding more weight to the bar every week. I stalled, readjusted, and pushed through it. There have been numerous times in recent months where I was afraid of the weight I had loaded on the bar. The impending doom of what would surely be a failure extended rest times on more than one occasion; however, as the successful lifts started to stack up, my confidence grew not just in the gym but out, too. Failure became more of a test than a reflection of self, a checkpoint instead of an end point.

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I remember watching my dad and the neighborhood badasses throw weight around that gym after their workday was done. 2 plates, 3 plates, 4 plates…it all seemed so big and unreachable to me when I was that young. I remember benching 95lbs for the first time…so close to 100lbs I could taste it. Then, one plate, 135lbs… A few more years down the road, my first week as a freshman in high school, I benched 225lbs, becoming a member of the “2 Plate Club.” I still have and wear the t-shirt I spent the summer earning with that lift. A month before I graduated high school, I benched 315lbs, “3 Plate Club.” I knew being strong felt good…but I had forgotten what it does for my mind.

The “too busy” of early adulthood doesn’t compare to today’s version of it; however, now, at the peak of MY perception of busy, I found building strength is a priority in my life. It teaches me perseverence. It’s given me faith in my ability. Some days I dont want to put in the work but it pays off later on down the road.

When I started my career at Byron, I was told the plant will seem large at first, too large too fathom. The veterans then encouraged me by saying the more I learned, the smaller the plant would seem. It’s similar now except the job duties seem large, not the footprint of the plant. When I felt like my career was suddenly moving backwards because it’s requirements were beyond my abilities, I needed to feel a heavy barbell again. Progression is not linear…in strength and in life. When the weight on the bar is too easy, add more. When it’s too heavy, have a spotter in case you need help. Focus on that fine line between too hard and too easy and do what you can to make your too hard, too easy.

Keep the bar moving.

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