Sunday, April 24, 2016
Summer,1989. I had just failed out of college, I was done playing football and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I returned home from North Carolina to Maryland. I really wasn't fond enough of school to stay around with out football. I found college boring and tedious. At that time, I would have rather just gone fishing, which most days I did instead of going to class.
My friend Chris , who I played with in junior college drove down from Maryland and picked me up one day and drove me back in one shot. He was working at a golf course at the time and he got me a job working there, too. It was a job cutting grass on the tractors and weed whacking around sand traps and general maintenance and I really loved that job. Nobody to bother you at all.
Most of the guys who worked there hunted and fished and were generally all around good dudes. Cut the rough yet? Yes? Okay now cut the fairway. Done with that? Good, now weed whack around the clubhouse. Break for lunch grab a sub sandwich and some macaroni salad from the deli down the street, sit outside and eat, back to work, a few more hours on the tractor, off at two o'clock. It was good, pure work ,and at the end of the work day, you felt satisfied, spent .
I needed a place to train, and my buddy Chris was training at Ironworks Gym in Beltsville, Maryland. It was set back in an industrial park and it was a helluva gym. It was run by Neil, a former thrower from the University of Florida. A Hall of fame thrower, actually. A big dude, and a real good guy. I think that I paid 25 dollars a month, and I don't think that I signed anything. The place was big, it was a warehouse basically. Neil made his own equipment and he had everything that you needed to have a great workout. The stuff was virtually bombproof. And Neil had these huge loading dock doors that he would open up to let the air come through and when Chris and I would get done training and the smoke stopped coming out of Chris' ears, we would sit out there just outside past the doors and drink milk. We both loved doing that after training.
Funny thing was that the Maryland Athletic Club (MAC) was about 3 minutes away from Iron Works. In my opinion, Ironworks was the better gym, much bigger and better equipment, but MAC had Kirk Karwoski training there so people flocked there to see him train and to be in that atmosphere. It was a kick ass atmosphere to be honest with you.
Chris was powerlifting at the time and he was strong as hell. I was all small and weak from dieting and was down to 189 pounds from 245 about 6 months earlier. Chris was close gripping 415 for reps, deadlifting in the 6's and squatting high 5's ass to freaking grass. I got back up to 215 just hanging around Chris. And he gave off this intensity when he trained. Every top set was close to a fight for Chris. He would get fired up, focus on some guy in the gym, tell me that the guy was staring at him , making fun of him. It wasn't happening, he was using that as a trick to get fired up. And get this- I wasn't allowed to look at him when I gave him a lift off on the bench press. Seriously, I had to look away when I handed the weight to him. Chris said that me looking at him freaked him out. So I did it, I would hand it to him all the while just hoping that I did it right because I wasn't allowed to look at him. Is that nuts or what? And Neil just looked at us because he got a big kick out of Chris and that crazy, inspiring intensity. Neil would let us drop the dumbells when we did incline db presses(Chris did the 150's for reps), but Chris got carried away and started throwing the dumbells after his set for emphasis and Neil got slightly pissed off and said , "I said you could drop them, not throw them across the gym." But he didn't stay mad, he liked us too much.
Anyway, we were having a great summer but then the boss at the golf course yelled at Chris for weed whacking grass into the sand trap and Chris got pissed off and was like FORGET THIS FREAKING JOB,WE ARE QUITTING! I was like, oh man ,I like this job, but Chris was storming all around and cussing and all fired up and at that point it hit me: I was going back to finish school. It just came to me when I was walking to Chris' orange Nissan. Play time was over and the golf course was gone and I figured I'd volunteer coach and get my foot in the door. I'd find work and coach and get good grades and stop messing around.
My grades improved (some), and I started coaching football and I never regretted leaving Maryland to finish school. And hell, if Chris wouldn't have gotten all pissed off at the boss for the grass in the sand trap debacle, I may have stayed at the golf course for a long time and I don't think that it would have been all that bad, but I am glad that it turned out the way that it did. Iron Works closed and eventually MAC did also. I looked up Neil on the Internet a few days ago and he is a high school teacher in Maryland. I wonder if he knows just how great his gym really was back then, and I wonder if he remembers me and especially if he remembers Chris and his off the wall training intensity.
All About Being a Lifer
What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a year...it's for life. Whether its training or your family or your job...it 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.