By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
April 24, 2016
For a short while there, I was really starting to kill everything in the gym. I had turned myself into this monster so to speak, the kind of weight lifting machine I always deemed impossible due to my laziness. When you are sitting and eating your life away while watching Family Guy and King of the Hill reruns that you have seen 50 times over, just about everything seemed impossible to you. Yes, I harbored the idea that fitness was just a switch and turning it on would mean instant health. I mean, I was young enough to make that change and be awesome forever. But over the course of nearly four years, I have learned to be patient and deal with the excess flab that still lingers. It’s a reminder of just how bad things had gotten for me in those days. The lack of hope, the lack of companionship, the lack of love, the lack of friendship and even the lack of physical movement can play a large role in your downfall. So that was the awesome thing about starting with Parsons Training…just about every day was a strange discovery for me. The first time I did a bench press, it was pretty darn pathetic. I don’t even remember the weight I had that day…maybe 115? So many other lifts I had in mind were completely out of my realm, and thus, I had no real way of pinpointing my actual strength. All I knew was I was strong enough to handle 12-foot aluminum ladders and carry my bag up a two story building on a ladder. That was the only real gauge I had. And eve then, that was pretty hard. I mean, my father often times outworked me when it came to ditch digging!
As I moved along and got stronger (and thus, got leaner), this was when I discovered just how strong I could become. I started doing deadlifts on a regular basis, and that really became the gauge of where I needed to be fitness wise. I saw my number go beyond 300, then 350, and ultimately top out at 385. I also got fairly decent at the hang cleans, getting 195 pounds on one clean and even though I wasn’t confident enough to get the front squat part down at the time, I did front squat and clean at 185. And if you can believe it, I actually got to 215 on the bench press, which is pretty good for me considering the bench has always been my nemesis in the weight lifting world. I wonder if anyone really gives a damn about that lift anymore. It’s like doing bicep curls…it’s essentially a cosmetic movement meant to puff your chest out to the other bros at the gym and say “Yeah, I just did that!” I’m sure some will beg to differ, but who cares. That’s what I consider the bench press in my life. Never liked it and probably never will. I do like squats though, and for a time, I had gotten into some pretty good weights with them. I had reached 315 as my one rep max for the back squat and I know I did 205 on the front squat recently. So there you have it, those were the indicators for me. Those were the levels I was at. I mention all of this because of a recent event that some might say “Oh no!” but in reality, I have been kind of relieved it happened.
I lost my job, and it was for a pretty stupid reason on the behalf of the staffing company I worked for. I won’t waste your time with libeling the company, for someone has to be the bigger person in the situation and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be them.
Since I don’t work there any more, I worked in the shipping department at Target.com. They have a pretty gigantic warehouse out in Vail, Arizona, which is a good 20-minute drive from my house, even though I live on the freeway. The place was kind of a hell hole, but then again, what warehouse isn’t? Devoid of color, windows and life. At the time, the job seemed like a good fit for me…they didn’t care about crappy credit problems, and as long as I showed up when they asked me to, all was good. But here was the downside of that job. It started killing me. It didn’t happen all at once of course, but it really started last September when I got stuck on the “A1” shift at work, which is a Saturday through Monday schedule where you log in three 12-hour shifts. It was brutal, for since I was considered a non-essential employee, I had to show up early to make sure I got a spot for the day. So yeah, I was waking up between 3:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. on those days, and usually didn’t get home until 6:30 that evening. You can imagine the toll this would take on you, for the hours alone meant I was losing an insane amount of sleep. Some nights I could get myself into bed at 8:30 p.m., but that was hard to do because my food was still kind of settling in my stomach. Most of the time I went sleep at 9:30. So yeah, the loss of sleep and the loss of recuperation really hurt my fitness. And the worst part….I couldn’t workout on those days. Since the days were so tight, lifting weights was impossible. Running was a no-brainer, merely because my legs were so shot at the end of the day, doing that would seriously cause some injury. Here were the various injuries I suffered at that job; blood blisters, sore ankles, twisted ankles, aggravated achilles, slightly pulled hamstrings and a lot of cramps at the end of the day. That was life for me, so as you can tell, a lot of things went to hell for me. Since I couldn’t get off that shift (management wouldn’t let me), I missed a lot of races I wanted to participate in. I also lost two training days a week, so you can imagine what happened. Everything started dipping. The pride I had received in getting stronger and being more fit kind of dissipated. I lost all my gains, and I mean all of them!
Let me put this into perspective for you…nothing at my job was built for a tall man such as myself. I worked a station called “Multi-inline,” which were boxes filled with anything from condoms to Marvel action figures (and yes, I did pack condoms and Marvel action figures in the same box once…along with Axe body spray!!). The line I worked on was way too low, so I often times had to bend over most of the day. Same with the station known as “Singles Packing,” where I found myself bending over and working my lower back to the bone. “Bags” wasn’t so bad, but it still put a little pressure on my back because I had to bend ever so slightly. Oddly enough, the only station that was really built for me was the shipping trucks, and trust me, filling giant trucks full of boxes is not good for your body either. Heck, blowing up 3,000 calories on the trucks was pretty much a given, and considering how much you sweated and how often you did it, you could lose some weight in the process. One weekend I logged all 36 hours back there, handling one of the busiest trucks, and lost five pounds! And I was eating like a pig as well! It was not the kind of weight loss program I really desired. Either way, the signs of the job really started affecting me. The repetitive motion of everything I did began to wear out my shoulders. When the work was plentiful, I was getting deep tissue massages and chiropractic adjustments to help keep my body in tune. My friend Carrie always commented how screwed up my shoulders were, for I pretty much hired her just to straighten those bad boys out! And of course, my chiropractor always commented on how messed up my neck and how out of alignment my legs were, specially on the weekends where I worked trucks. My body was a complete mess, and it has really shown the last couple months as the work has slowed down and I have been getting a lot of “mandatory time off” days. Truthfully, I kind of saw this coming. I started applying for work and have been looking around for places to apply to. I was hoping stay until July when my credit report could get fixed up and would allow me to move out of town if necessary, but oh well. Life has other things in store for you. So yeah, I am in a tough spot right now due to the fact I get no severance and I have to convince the unemployment office that my firing was unjustified, but in reality….I just feel so much better right now.
Let me put this into perspective for you. That job just wrecked me. I was on the cusp of deadlifting 400 pounds, and I was doing those heavy weights without doing the alternating grip, which gives you good leverage. I can barely do 335 these days with an alternating grip, and I feel light headed as well! I don’t even know what my bench press is right now, but I do know it is well north of 200 these days. Fortunately, my hang clean hasn’t suffered too much, but my body is wrecked in regards to my squats. With so much overworking and imbalances caused by my job, I have had to go with lower weights in order to retrain my body and get used to the idea of using both halves of my body simultaneously. This past week, I have really started putting the time into fixing that. While 165 doesn’t seem like much on the back squat, it is good enough to make sure I keep my body in tune and relearn the movement properly. Plus it allows me to learn how to keep the bar perfectly balanced. One problem I had been running into was letting the bar tilt one direction, and typically it would tilt to the side where I was deficient. So not only was I overworking one side of my body, the other side was getting a whole lot of weight on top of it. Oddly enough, the only part of my fitness that has changed for the better was my running, for doing all that work and walking on the hardest concrete floor and standing for more than 10 hours a day really strengthened my legs. My times are getting a little faster, but I hope to improve that now that I won’t be so messed up and out of sorts. Pretty soon, I will be able to start working on my distance again.
I am not gonna lie to you, I’m pretty fucking scared right now. If you can believe it, this is the first time I have ever been fired from a job and this is the first time I didn’t really have a back-up plan. But let me tell you, the day after it happened, my body really felt at ease. Even though I went to Jon’s house and spent nearly four hours sanding out his pool, I felt like I was in a good place. Sure, the work I did was fairly easy, but man did it put a real dent in my body. I always resisted the temptation to do some of the things people at work did, like take handfuls of Aleve or some ibuprofen just to get through the work day. I even knew some guys that took amphetamines just to stay awake! I also learned about some of the habits of my co-workers through conversation, many who heavily drank after work or smoked marijuana just to get over the stress and pain of working there. I kind distanced myself from a lot of these people, for I really didn’t want to fall back into some old habits….especially overeating. I will admit, there were days where I would go home and eat massive amounts of food. I would go to the store and buy a bag of Kettle Chips and probably eat the whole thing along with some potatoes or veggies or something. The pain and the residual soreness has caused a real kink in my right elbow and bicep, for I can feel it just from typing this blog post out. So yeah, I’m really worried right now. I won’t be going to San Francisco to hang out with some friends, my Ragnar Ultra Race in November is in jeopardy and my family trip to Denver in July is also in the air due to this setback. But then again, considering all that I had lost and all the confidence that had been shaken due to this job, am I really losing anything? Yeah, I’m losing the money aspect….bills have to be paid. It means I have to accept being single as a semi-permanent condition once again, and it also means a very simplified diet is on the horizon for me again (maybe I will try the old 1-year potato challenge! haha!). We shall see how that all plays out. But it begs the question you always have to ask yourself….is it worth it? Is it worth fucking up your health for a job you kind of dislike? Well, the answer has been “no” for a very long time, and I guess you can say I sort of got caught in a Stockholm Syndrome kind of situation. I depended on it because no one else wanted me. It was like settling for that woman that treated you like garbage because she was the only one that really wanted you. So we shall see what happens to my body starting next week, as I ramp up the effort to find a new job and hope the unemployment office actually takes my side in case things don’t shape up too quickly. Either way, I think my body will thank me for this change.
About Parsons Training
Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
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