Thursday, July 3, 2014


In 1989, I dropped out of school. College that is. Yes, I went back and finished, started coaching, got my Master's Degree, all that stuff.

But back then? I was done playing football in college in North Carolina and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  So I dropped 50 pounds and lifted and ran everyday. I ate rice, tuna and wheat bread. I guess that one could say that I was depressed. Without football in my life, I really felt as though I had nothing. I had been playing since I was in the third grade and that means that when I finished, I had been playing it for 14 years. It was my life, simple as that.  And what was fall without football? I had no idea, I could never remember one without football. All year, every year, I had lived it. And now? A huge void.

So I went back to Maryland.  I had been away at school for awhile, had been on a full scholarship and now I had dropped out and wasted a semester that was paid for by the school. My parents were not happy. I was not seen as the prodigal son returning. The first thing I did was hook up with my buddy, Chris. Chris had dropped out of his school also. These days he is a big wig at some computer company, but back then? We were two lost souls together. Chris and I were best friends in junior college and had kept in touch. He had been home for awhile and was working at a golf course. He got me a job there and we commenced to riding tractors and cutting the rough and hanging out with guys who were making their living at the place. I actually liked it.  I mean I really liked it.  It was summertime and we would get to the course just as the sun was coming up and  we would start cutting and the dew would still be on the course and I actually saw a pheasant one morning.

I think that we got off at like 2pm everyday. After that, we went right to the gym. I was 21 years old,  I was making a little money and I was outdoors all day. Not too bad. And we had a great gym to go to after busting our ass at work.

What was the name of the gym? Ah yes, Iron Works. It was in an industrial park in Beltsville, Maryand, The owner, Neil, had been a thrower at the University of Florida and was a really great guy. He made his own equipment, had a Rottweiller in the gym, and took no shit whatsoever. The fee was 25 dollars a month. No joining fee or contracts or anything. And no air conditioning. I know it ain't Alabama, but the summers get pretty hot in parts of Maryland, so Neil would roll up the outside door and let the breeze come in. After workouts, Chris and I would sit outside and eat.  Those workouts were great.

I was coming off of my bodybuilding/weight loss foray, but Chris had discovered powerlifting and was going full force. He was weighing 225 and close gripping 415 and squatting  585 deep as hell and pulling over 600. And he had some legendary intensity. He would find a random guy in the gym before he was going to perform a big lift and start getting nuts. So let's say that he was getting ready to bench press 385x3 and he needed some extra motivation. He would already be frothing at the mouth, by the way. Anyway, he would start saying, " JIM! That guy is talking shit about me!" and I would look around, dumbfounded. Nobody was even glancing in our direction. "Who? Who is talking about you?" "That guy at the front desk!" So I looked at the guy at the front desk, talking to Neil. He wasn't looking at us at all, let alone talking about Chris. But Chris was all fired up. "I'm gonna freaking kill him!" And then I would realize what Chris was doing, getting himself fired up,  and then he would say "1,2,3, UP!" and I would give him a lift off and he would crush his set. It was a pretty unique way to get fired up, but for him, it worked. It really worked. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Chris would eat 8 bowls of Raisin Bran for breakfast. Eight bowls. I don't know why he decided on eight bowls, but damn it, he was gonna get those eight bowls in every morning.

As the summer went on, we kept up our schedule. Work, lift, eat. I was getting strong and putting on some good weight.

But one day when Chris and I were weed wacking around a sand trap, the boss came by. The man was an ass, basically. Anyway, we always weed wacked and then cleaned the grass out of the sand trap. We had a system. But the boss man had just pulled up before we had cleaned the sand trap. " I told you! No grass in the sand trap!" Chris tried to explain, but the boss was not listening. "F#%ck this!" Chris yelled, "We are outta here!"  "Alright", I said. I felt a lot of loyalty to Chris. After all he had gotten me the job and was teaching me so much about training. So we left the job, even though I really didn't want to leave.

 But you know what? The best thing about leaving the job at the golf course was that it forced me to face some tough choices. Did I want to go finish school and coach or did I want to work  jobs like the golf course the rest of my life? I actually loved the feeling at the end of the day of really working for a living, but I had wasted so much time and money on school and doing poorly that I decided that the best thing for me to do was to go back.

So I loaded my bag on a bus in DC and took off back to North Carolina. I started coaching then, first as a volunteer and I also finished college. I am glad that I made the choice to go back.

I will however, always look back fondly on the summer of '89.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.