Being a Dad, Being a Lifter

TAGS: the executive meathead, Shane Church, Jeff Guller, Dr. thomas deebel, david kirschen, clint darden, Chase Karnes, Alexander Cortes, fatherhood, Mark Watts, Josh Bryant, JL Holdsworth

Since I was young, I’ve always wanted to be a dad. I cant quite remember when it was I felt this way, but it was in my teenage years when I realized how common it was for young people to express how much they didn’t want kids.

I never quite related to this, and being a young man now, I still feel as I did then. I always thought becoming a father would be a sort of greater step in being a better man, and the men I always respected and looked up to the most were always dads themselves.

I think ahead a lot, always have, and with Father’s Day happening this month, I felt compelled to talk to members of the team about how being a dad had changed their lives, formed their futures, and adjusted their perspectives on lifting. I respect the hell out of the team, and I felt I could learn something from it, and pass it on as well.


We learn to admire strength by seeing it displayed around us. Many lifters are transfixed the moment they stumble across an old issue of Powerlifting USA or Muscle & Fitness. Others are introduced to the iron while flipping through the channels on TV and catch “Pumping Iron” or an old rerun of a World’s Strongest Man competition. but many of us have learned about true strength from the examples laid forth by our own Dads.

The author of our “Executive Meathead” column shares, “I remember marveling at how physically strong my Father was…especially in my elementary and middle school years. Changing tractor tires by himself, easily hoisting 150-pound hay bales over his head, and carrying several bags of corn seed at once were all things that seemed almost superhuman to a seven-year old who struggled to carry two buckets of water at once. He could always turn the bolt that I couldn’t…he could always work longer and harder than I could. Looking back at it now, I am quite certain that my witness to these things was where my tremendous desire to be strong was born…I really wanted to be as strong as my Father!”

His father also taught him the inner strength to overcome the burdens of life and place the needs of others before his own (a key requirement of fatherhood), which serves as an example he tries to live up to with his own children.



Team elitefts has a number of members that that have had their first children recently, including Shane Church, Josh Bryant, David Kirschen, Ryan Smith and Chase Karnes. “He will be watching and learning from me his whole life and I am his biggest role model,” says Chase. “More than anything, it’s made me strive to be the kind of man that he one day will become.”

The members of Team elitefts™ with children have an even greater balancing act to perform by having to add “lifter” to the requirements of family and career, but does this make life harder or simpler?

For David Kirschen, that answer is simple. “Parenthood is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on, and now more than ever, I rely on my training to overcome, if only momentarily, the feelings of helplessness and uncertainty that come with the territory.”

Elitefts™ Director of Education Mark Watts adds, “Being a father doesn't, or at least shouldn't, change who you are as a person. It merely restructures how you are as a person. Everything else in your life moves down the priority ladder.”

Harry Selkow has not felt that fatherhood has caused any adjustments in his training. “Some people have daily rituals. They wake, they poop, they wash their face, brush their teeth and go to work or school,” says Harry. “We Selkows train our asses off, THEN do the other stuff.”

For Ken “Skip” Hill, fatherhood completely readjusted his world. He tells how being a father was at his wife Melissa’s insistence and his initial response was one of selfishness, because he feared that children would get in the way of him achieving his ultimate bodybuilding success. “My life would not be anywhere near as full and nowhere near as fun without my kids,” he admits in retrospect. “Having a family provided me with the motivation to make their lives (and mine) better and it pushed me to find a way to make a living and be home at the same time.”

While he acknowledges the rewards, Clint Darden also remembers the challenges. “This was not a problem at first as it is somewhat exciting to be a new father but, after six months, one year, four is not easy. I once explained that having a child is a lot like doing a set of twenty-rep squats...every single day, and knowing that you had to do it again tomorrow. So when I got my time off to go to the gym, it was really just about me getting to be me and to do man things.”

For Thomas Deebel, one of our Q&A staff, lifting was not so much something to work in around his fatherhood but a bridge to creating a greater bond with his children Tom, Jr. and Katie. As he was going through a divorce with their mother when his son was very young, going to the gym together eventually became something that allowed them to share common goals. “The lessons he has learned from training, stay the course, keep pushing, and don't quit…are things I'm proud to have taught him.”

Jeff Guller’s experience is different as many of his children are older than his elitefts™ team-mates “They have their own lives, careers and families. Powerlifting, however, has brought me closer to my children. They are protective of my health, but encourage me to do well. My daughter comes to all my meets and takes photos, shoots videos and screams. We spend the long hours between lifts bonding, talking, eating and bitching. It has been a rewarding experience, powerlifting, from a personal perspective and bringing me closer to my children.”



Being a father has made competitive longevity a greater priority for new father Shane Church. “I want to one day share the platform with my son. Help him achieve his goals and see him become a better person and lifter that I am.”

JL Holdsworth elaborates on this subject, “I want my son to know that no matter how many times you get knocked down in life, if you keep getting back up, you will be successful. I used to train for my pride, now I train to show my son and daughter that hard work and dedication are what earn you things in life.”

As his son Steven has gotten older, Clint Darden uses the gym as a place to share life lessons with him. “As a parent it is our job to teach our children and every single thing that we do, even if we think that they are not watching, they will emulate. If we are lazy, they will see it. If we cut corners, they will see it. If we cheat, they will see it. If we fall, fail, and quit...they will see that. If we get back up, they just might follow in our footsteps.”

And isn’t setting a path for our children to follow, and hopefully surpass us, what being a father is all about?


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