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The old Norse loved Thor for what he symbolised- great strength – as well as for the good luck he brought them on seafaring voyages and in battle.  Physical strength is perhaps the most revered trait as a percentage of human history; historical peoples honored the strongest among them, leaders conquered based on strength, and warriors were given specialized treatment above non-warriors.

In more recent centuries, as the need for brute strength has diminished either in conquest or daily life, strength sometimes gets a bad rap- but the fault of that is in the eye of the beholder seeing strength as a one-dimensional trait.

To quote Henry Rollins from his piece “The Iron”, “I’ve never met a truly strong person who doesn’t have self-respect.”  Therein lies the greatest value of physical strength in today’s world.  The world IS easier to live in these days than ever before, especially for everyday tasks, so gaining strength is more of a self-motivated quest than ever before.  Almost no one NEEDS to be strong anymore so becoming stronger is about commitment, effort, determination, and the willingness to accept acute discomfort and self-imposed discipline for an improved version of your physical self, which almost always also leads to improved versions of your non-physical self.  Having overcome challenge, tackled hard work, and embraced self-discipline, you have more self-respect.

The greatest version of these positive effects of strength training are seen in those who succeed in pursuing strength despite overwhelming obstacles which many will never encounter- disabilities.  There is a growing trend among disabled persons to embrace strength training, and pursue it-vigorously!  The Special Olympics and Paralympics have done a fantastic job with this, bringing opportunity for a variety of disabilities whether it be wheelchairs, mental disabilities, amputees- the list grows, and watching it grow is awesome.

These opportunities arise on a local level as well- here in Morgantown, WV, we have Stepping Stones.  Stepping Stones is a recreation center based on the idea of giving persons with disabilities a place to have fun, train, or compete, a right everyone should have.  From a strength coach’s perspective, it’s an undescribably fantastic feeling watching someone who has struggled with physical strength or coordination for years (maybe their entire life) begin to get stronger or be able to move better…or simply just experience the joy of a new activity, something they may not have thought they would really get to do.  Helping disabled persons by creating opportunities for them is a simple, easy way to improve the quality of life of great people who just have a different set of obstacles.

In April, friend/strongman/beard aficionado Chris Vachio will be hosting North America’s Strongest Disabled Man, a strongman championship for disabled strength athletes, which is going to be terrific, and the amount of excitement building is already high!  This is going to be a huge step, and should be a great forward impetus for the evolution of strength sports for the disabled.  Here is a preview of that event: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152876610979648&set=vb.578829647&type=2&theater

More immediately, this Saturday, December 13th, Viking Performance Training is hosting a USPA powerlifting meet as a fundraiser for Stepping Stones.  It’s our way of helping our immediate community, and giving more opportunity for everyone to enjoy the benefits, and natural satisfaction, from physical activity.  It will begin at 9:30 am and last through most of the afternoon, so stop by and cheer the lifters who have fundraised for the worthy cause, and make a donation yourself!

Strength matters, and strength builds character!  Share your strength, support others’.

With NAS Nationals less than a week in the past, it’s been a great time of reflecting on what was seen and experienced in Reno, Nevada.

NAS Nationals is the premier stop for all top-tier amateur strongmen (and women!) looking to compete and prove themselves against the best qualified competitors from all over.  This year’s contest, which didn’t even include Master’s Competitors or Women’s Heavyweights, was the LARGEST strongman competition in history with over 200 competitors!  The quality of the competition definitely didn’t disappoint either, with numerous competitors being at Nationals several times before being challenged by many of the strongmen and strongwomen new to the national scene.  Also, as was expected, the events were simply HEAVY!!

The competition was indeed for everyone.  The lightweight 120lb women competed just as fiercely as the super-heavyweight men, and everyone there loved it.  The strongman community is one based on blasting perceptions, shattering personal bests, and being around others who enjoy the same thing- and enjoy being there and helping you achieve these things through encouragement even as they wait their turn to compete.

Team VPT Valkyrie Meg Ayers did a truly fantastic job, and it was great to see her get to compete at a national competition and truly show that she’s one of the best strongwomen in the country.  Just recently training in a gym with a full strongman arsenal, it will be fantastic to see what she can achieve with a full year of training and this new experience to draw from.  There will be more national and big-time competitions in the future!

From what I saw in the heavyweight and super-heavyweight class, I also can’t wait to see what Team VPT Berserker Jamie Blake can do in the field, because I’m confident he could have been right there with them (Jamie was unfortunately sidelined for 6 weeks from a misdiagnosed injury, but is 100% healthy and focused on the coming year).

The other competitors from West Virginia, Dan Caraway, Ben Woods, and Dusty Davis, all prepared well and gained valuable experience as well.

The future of strongman looks great, and especially in the state of West Virginia- can’t wait to see what these athletes do, and Viking Performance Training is going to help them make their ancestors proud!

Happy Frigg’s Day everyone!

Yesterday, on Thors’ Day evening, I yet again got to notice an awesome thing about female strength training- the quest for strength has truly grown into all assorted disciplines with focus, commitment, and even a ferocity that not too long ago had been wrongfully confined and isolated under the belief that physical strength was a man’s pursuit.

Everyone who knows me, or has even followed me for a little while, knows that I have long been a fervent supporter of the value- extrinsic but most importantly and of unlimited worth, intrinsic- of the pursuit of strength by women.  Strong women, simply put, kick ass.  Have you ever seen a physically strong woman with a weak self-worth, or a weak mind?  How about a woman that maybe isn’t the strongest, but is pursuing strength or excellence in another way with a weak self-worth?  Yeah, me neither.  As iron philosopher Henry Rollins puts in his legendary prose, “The Iron” (posted early in this blog’s history): “I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect.”

So what prompted this particular thought yesterday?  At that time in Viking Performance Training, over half of those working out were women.  One was going through one of her 5-days a week Olympic lifting workouts.  Right beside her, moderate-heavy sets of 5 with 215 were being deadlifted by a newer shieldmaiden, for multiple sets.  Across the weight room, the Ice Queen and Mouser Strength Dynamics member Hannah was doing some extra post-lift work practicing bending bolts with her 130-lb frame, while Valerie Walker was loading atlas stones from the ground onto a 4-foot platform.  And then to top it off, a newcomer to the gym (but part of the family already) Carrie Blake was getting her first practice in walking under a yoke while her 340-lb husband (and Team VPT Berserker) Jamie sat and held their 5-month old daughter, who was beyond excited watching Mom carry heavy things (gyms = great places for kids to grow up, by the way).

And those were all just at that one specific moment in time!

Whether through strongman or powerlifting, olympic weightlifting or bending steel, Crossfit, or pushing themselves at a Globo gym…the renaissance of women’s strength is here, and it’s awesome.  The spirit of the women doing half the farm work, fending off invaders, building settlements, while still raising families is here to stay this time- and it’s awesome.

 

I now present to you one of history’s shieldmaidens, Agustina de Aragon- the Spanish Joan of Arc (all credit goes to http://www.kreweofagustina.org).

Agustina, a young maiden living in the town of Saragossa located in the providence of Aragon, Spain, became an unlikely heroine when Napoleon’s army besieged the city in 1808. The city, unprepared for warfare and with no established army, set about protecting its walls with a band of civilians. At the Portillo gate, more than fifty of the defenders had been killed or wounded.

The few remaining gunners, supported by sharpshooters in the nearby building, were working frantically to reload and fire a giant twenty-four pound cannon when, thru the smoke, they saw a line of French infantry with fixed bayonets quickly moving forward. As the French began to break into a run, a band of civilians who had come to reinforce the battery turned and rushed back to the town square. Meanwhile, the last gunners remaining on their feet had decided that their position was hopeless and also fled.

The Maid of Saragossa

It seemed that nothing could prevent the French from capturing the now-silent battery and advancing over its scattered sandbags and corpses into the city. Suddenly, to their amazement, they saw a dark-haired girl emerge through the haze of smoke and dust and run towards the battery. As she reached one of the twenty-four-pounders, she snatched the still-smoldering linstock from the hand of a dying gunner, fired the cannon and stood on its carriage shouting encouragement to the civilian volunteers who were hurrying back to position. The cannon was reloaded and shot at almost point-blank range. The effect on the closely bunched French column was devastating. A moment later, the defenders had rallied and poured a volley of musketry fire into the French, who wavered then retreated. The girl, Agustina Zaragoza, had saved the gate from certain capture.

Agustina’s action seized the imagination of all Spain, then of all Europe. The popular heroic image of a slender girl, leaping forward to take the place of the dying gunner said to have been her fiancé, then firing the great cannon single-handedly and remaining by it to defy the oncoming French and put heart into her fellow-countrymen was both romantic and inspiring. Agustina symbolized the heroism and determination of every Spaniard who took up arms to face Napoleon’s might, heedless of the odds.

But Saragossa was not to stand against Napoleon’s army forever. 15,000 reinforcements were brought in and bombs and shells came raining down on the private homes, churches, convents and hospital. The residents would not go down without a fight. The entire population seemed to be taking a hand in the fighting. Many women, besides tending the wounded, worked ceaselessly to bring ammunition, food and drink to the defenders in the front line. The famous Agustina now reappeared on the scene. Francois Billon (who fought under General Lefebvre) was one of many French soldiers to be fascinated by her story. In his memoirs, he claimed that he has seen, met, and spoken with Agustina during the fighting. She had joined the resistance, been promoted, was given a gunner’s pay, and wore a shield of honour embroidered on her sleeve. After seeing her first from a distance during a street battle, Billon succumbed to her charms. No words could describe her, he wrote, for “in creating this marvel, heaven has exhausted in her all its resources of beauty, delicacy and vigour”. Billon recalled that he had entered a house on the Coso, which was the scene of a struggle between some Spaniards, including Agustina, and fifteen French grenadiers in search of plunder. Agustina was in the act of ordering the outnumbered French to lay down their weapons or be killed when Billon and a detachment of infantry stormed the house and saved their comrades. A sergeant held the girl by the throat after the rest of the Spaniards had been killed or driven off and, when at last he released her from his grip, she appealed to Billon:

“Pale with anger and surprise, motionless but always proud, Agustina summoned me in a lofty tone, which, however, was tinged with a certain sweetness: ‘Do with me as you will’, she said ‘but – por Dios! – if you have any heart, do not deliver up the heroine of the Portillo, who is under the protection of our Lady of the Pillar, to the brutality of your soldiers. I know that I am beautiful and your eyes tell me the same quite plainly. My honour and life are both in peril: let it be only my life.’ I did my very best to reassure her in the critical situation and then very deeply moved and almost sincere, I added: ‘Will you be my wife? It is the only way to avoid what you fear’. ‘Then’, she cried, ‘I shall no longer be under the protection of Our Lady of the Pillar!…If only peace were made…But enough! You do not believe a word you say. I owe you a great deal – my life certainly, my honour maybe. Although French, you are far from displeasing me – I tell you frankly – but your cunning speech makes me madly desirous to flee from you, with or without your permission and without waiting for the night.’ She stood very close to me. Her serene and smiling face suddenly lit up and she was praying. ‘O Virgin of the Pillar!’ she cried as she flung her arms around my neck and kissed me. ‘Adieu!’ All of a sudden, she jumped nimbly though a window and disappeared into the dusk.”

“Out of respect for my rank, the grenadiers stood aside during the brief colloquy. I rushed out with them in pursuit of the fugitive but it was impossible for us to find any trace of her”.

In a letter written to Napoleon by his Chief-of-Staff, Berthier, he gave the figures of the Spanish losses:

“I have made a count of persons dead in Sargasso since December 21 until February 21, the day of our entry into this city. 54,000 odd persons have died. It is inconceivable. Since our entry a good 3,000 to 10,000 more have died, so that this city is at this moment reduced to about 12,000 to 15,000 inhabitants. It is impossible that Saragossa should ever recover; this city is a horror to behold.”

Agustina herself escaped and was seen in uniform by Byron and others in Seville two years later. She was always greatly honored, lived to a ripe old age and, with other Saragossa heroines, was buried in the Portillo church. There is a statue of Agustina and her cannon outside the church.

In 1812, Byron published his “Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage’, he needed no long explanatory footnote for the stanzas in which he referred to Agustina’s gallant action:

Yet who shall marvel when you hear her tale?
Oh! Had you known her in her softer hour;
Mark’d her black eye that mocks her coal black veil;
Heard her light lively tones in lady’s bower;
Seen her long looks that foiled the painter power;
Her fairy form, with more than female grace;
Scarce would you deem that Saragossa’s tower;
Beheld her smile in danger’s Gorgon face;
Thins the closed ranks, and leads in glory’s fearful chase.

Her lover sinks- she sheds no ill-timed tear;
Her chief is slain – she fills his fatal post;
Her fellows flee – she checks their vase career;
The foe retied – she heads the sallying host;
Who can appease like her a lover’s ghost?
Who can avenge so well a leaders fall?
What maid retrieve when a man’s flushed hope is lost?
Who hang so fiercely on the flying Gaul?
Foil’d by a woman’s hand, before a batter’d wall?

Frigg, wife of Odin and foremost among the goddesses, was the only one other than Odin allowed to see the world from his chair, showing her equality in status. Despite still being a male-dominated culture as many of the old cultures were, the Norse valued bravery and honor regardless of source and encouraged women who chose to be strong in their pursuit. Continue to honor them!

As explained in the first post about Tyr and what we can all learn from his traits, he was the second strongest Norse god next to Thor- but none were as just in action as Tyr.

It is easy to do the right thing when life is easy and any problems that arise are small and easily fixed, and those are the best times to have.  But what about when things become more difficult, and everything falls apart…particularly if there’s a person at fault?  How you react to that person, or what you decide to do about that person, has a direct effect on how you will continue to move forward in life.

Anyone who knows me knows I believe in justice, and the justice of deserved vengeance.  The problem there is many legal systems do not approve of that anymore, and the penalty is usually worse than what an original perpetrator would have received!  So what would be just, but also not ruin the rest of your life?  Solve the problem, confront the problem, let it be known that you have overcome it and have been at the step of retribution, but CHOOSE to carry on with your life instead.

So, let me introduce you to Hugh Glass… (credit for the following excerpts goes to Wikipedia.com )

“Hugh Glass (c. 1780–1833) was an American fur trapper and frontiersman noted for his exploits in the American West during the first third of the 19th century.

He was an explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present day North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Glass was famed, most of all, as a frontier folk hero for his legendary cross-country trek after being mauled by a grizzly bear.

The Wrestle

Near the forks of the Grand River in present-day Perkins County, in August 1823, while scouting ahead of his trading partners for game for the expedition’s larder, Glass surprised a grizzly bear mother with her two cubs. Before he could fire his rifle, the bear charged, picked him up, and threw him to the ground. The bear threw his flesh to its cubs. Glass got up, grappled for his knife, and fought back, stabbing the animal repeatedly as the grizzly raked him time and again with her claws.

Glass managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, Fitzgerald and Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unconscious. Henry (who was also with them) became convinced the man would not survive his injuries.

Henry asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died, and then bury him. Bridger (then 19 years old) and Fitzgerald (then 23 years old) stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave.[citation needed] Later claiming that they were interrupted in the task by an attack by “Arikaree”[citation needed] Indians, the pair grabbed Glass’s rifle, knife, and other equipment, and took flight. Bridger and Fitzgerald incorrectly reported to Henry that Glass had died.

The Odyssey to Fort Kiowa

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness. He did so only to find himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment, suffering from a broken leg, the cuts on his back exposing bare ribs, and all his wounds festering. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa on the Missouri.

In one of the more remarkable treks known to history, Glass set his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let the maggots eat the dead flesh.

Deciding that following the Grand River would be too dangerous because of hostile Indians, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River. It took him six weeks to reach it.

Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf, and feast on the meat. Reaching the Cheyenne, he fashioned a crude raft and floated down the river, navigating using the prominent Thunder Butte landmark. Aided by friendly natives who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds as well as providing him with food and a couple of weapons to defend himself, Glass eventually reached the safety of Fort Kiowa.

After a long recuperation, Glass set out to track down and avenge himself against Bridger and Fitzgerald. When he found Bridger, on the Yellowstone near the mouth of the Bighorn River, Glass spared him, purportedly because of Bridger’s youth. When he found Fitzgerald, he discovered that Fitzgerald had joined the United States Army, Glass purportedly restrained himself because the consequence of killing a U.S. soldier was death. However, he did recover his lost rifle.”

 

Glass not only had the strength, courage, knowledge, and fortitude to survive and save himself, but the wisdom to take his justice all the way to the faces of those who wronged him, letting them know he was there and was back…and then move on, to keep living a life worth living- he continued to write his legend.

Strongest of the Norse gods, Thor’s strength was indeed how he solved a lof of the problems he encountered.  Sometimes he was outsmarted, but more often than not when Thor would fall prey to trickery, he used his strength to fix the issue at hand and come out on top.

Our forefathers and ancestors all valued strength.  True, physical strength.  The BEST men that have been remembered beyond generations and through history have almost always been strong and wise, not just one or the other.  Vikings valued this combination, but they are not alone- the greatest civilizations have known the value of strength guided with wisdom.

Samurai were among the most learned, usually mastering at least one skill such as calligraphy along with combat.

Greeks and Romans looked down at those among them that let their body go.

Knights received schooling to go with their physical combat training.

 

So why is it that now, in very recent times, the strong man has become a negative connotation to some?  Answers vary, but I think it’s a threatening of insecurity.  As life becomes easier and more and more people physically inactive, there’s a voice inside that it’s not supposed to be that way.  Technology is great, but if it strips one of man’s most core, primary values away (even going as far to decline testosterone levels in the last 50 years faster than the rest of history combined!), then it’s gone too far.

Go get strong.  It’s what your ancestors did, and it’s added value to humanity since there was a humanity.  Get strong, value the strong, PROTECT THE WEAK, but IGNORE THOSE WHO CHOOSE WEAKNESS.

 

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/08/13/why-every-man-should-be-strong/

By far the most well-known of the Norse gods in today’s modern world, Thor was indeed a legend even among his own.

The strongest of the Aesir gods by nature, and even moreso from his magical girdle, Thor’s strength knew no equal.  Just as important to Thor however was his willpower, his commitment…his unwillingness to quit, regardless of obstacles in his path.

In Norse mythos there is a set end of the world, as in many different cultural belief systems.  What differentiates the Vikings’ belief from others is that in this the gods will die too- and they know this.

But then why fight it?  THAT is where strength lies.  Knowing that the end is one day planned, do you simply accept it, and float along?  The Vikings did not.  The end gave them a chance- by knowing there was an end, this gave them the only reason needed to truly live.  Do you want to simply live and die, or have your life be a story, a legend among those who knew you??

Write your own story, and inspire.  Be a legend.

Mike Powell- Man in Full

Odin Allfather, the Wanderer, had many strengths.  How he was granted or found many of his strengths was through a never-ending thirst for wisdom.  Think about it- the man gave up an eye for wisdom!  (Side note, the wisdom was granted through a drink of mead…I like mead as is, but I really, really want THAT mead!).

People tend to think in terms of absolutes, black and white laws.  That’s the way things are taught, and how laws are enforced.  Many would say that since that is the case and the world runs in black and white terms, they can’t help it.  That’s bullshit.  Everyone has within them the capability to perceive shades…how you control your life and guide yourself is based on that exact notion, perception.  How you perceive yourself, how you perceive your environment, how you perceive obstacles and opportunities decide how you behave, and what you do to achieve your goals.

Want to be a better athlete?  How do you handle your training days when you don’t feel well?  If you train only when you’re recovered, you’ll almost never train.

Want to lose weight?  Perceiving your nutrition as a step towards an ultimate goal is a much stronger, more productive perception.

Change your perception, change yourself, change your life, change your destiny.

50 Life Lessons From Marcus Aurelius

Credit for the above article goes to www.kratosguide.com

 

 

Tyr, for whom Tuesday is named, was the only Norse god said to come close to rival Thor in strength; however his courage and belief in law knew no rival.

Tyr believed in what was right, at all times, at all cost.  In legend he displayed his courage by offering to hold his hand in the giant wolf, Fenrir’s, mouth as they “tested” a chain around him meant to capture him so he would not eat the world.  The last chain worked, and an enraged Fenrir bit off Tyr’s offered hand.  While Tyr did not rejoice, he stood for what he knew needed done.

Do what is right.  By you, by the world, by the line of your ancestors back to the beginning.  They’re why you’re here, so uphold them, and fear not any effort which will propel you and others forward.

It is Better to Walk Alone

Wednesday is Odin’s Day, god of wisdom and badassery- so today I present, one of history’s most classic works of prose.

 

The Iron, by Henry Rollins

 

IRON, from Details Magazine
By Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of life is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.

Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

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.

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.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

 

 

 

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