The Garage

Music to my ears.  It's my home, sanctuary and church, all rolled into one. I leave all the days’ worries and stresses in The Garage.  After the 9-5 job (more like 7-? for me) and the 45-minute bumper to bumper commute (I love that drive), it all disappears the moment I enter The Garage.

I'm a garage lifter. I'm not on the platform. I'm not on stage. I'm not banging out kipping pull-ups in the So-Cal Regionals (that's what those are called, right?). I'm just a garage lifter.

It used to be the back porch. Then the back porch under a cheap pop-up. Then finally The Garage. Now I have my own little piece of Heaven.

You're probably wondering what's in the garage by now — great question: the finest Craigslist, homemade, backyard strength training equipment money  can buy, that's what.

Nothing fancy. See, the thing is, that's all you need.

Let's go back about five years to 31-year-old me. Short, fat and depressed me. 5' 2" and 200 pounds — as wide as I was tall.

Home sweet Home!

I'm still a statuesque 5'2" and I don't think I can change that (if you know how, call me please) but I'm in the best physical and mental shape of my life. This is how I did it.

Is your situation similar to what I described? Keep reading. The path I chose to accomplish my goal was by no means perfect, but nothing ever is. I just kept pushing through and you have to do the same.  This is non-negotiable.

My first step: decide to make a change. I was tired of being fat, plain and simple. I was coming out of a depressive episode, down about seven or eight pounds. I wanted to lose a few more so I started walking. That was the first step — just walking. This may not seem like much, but I credit walking and strength training for a big change in my life. I made small changes to my eating habits as well. Started watching the portions and cutting out some crap (not all, just some).  All small steps.

Related How to Kick Ass in a One-Car Garage

Walking became walking with some jogging, to just jogging, to long runs. I'll spare you the details of the running since this is elitefts and cardio SUCKS. Running did help, though. It got me moving and the weight was just melting off. After about 6-8 months of running, I took another big step and bought a crappy used bench press from a kid on Craigslist. I mean junk. Bars with no knurling, wobbly, rust bucket backyard special. This purchase is the best money I'd ever spent.

Enter the Iron

This is where I got serious.  Before, I just wanted to "lose weight."  This was happening but I was skinny fat and had no muscle. Once I bought the weight equipment,  I wanted to get in shape. I wanted to build muscle.

So I started lifting:  Benching with atrocious form, deadlifting and squatting with rounded back, overhead pressing and curls of course (pumping the guns!), no sense of form or safety. You should have seen me. It looked like a full body dry heave. But I kept at it. I just kept lifting and running for about five months. I had no direction but I just kept going and progress was certainly being made. I had made it to about 125 with a bit of muscle and felt great.

I thought that nothing could get in my way.

Things do get in the way, though. Such is life. I had to stay at a cousin's for a couple of months. I missed my wife. I missed my kids.  I was depressed, sleeping on my little cousins’ floor, not eating well and not lifting, but still running when I could. Two months later, I was back to 115 pounds of skin and bones. The muscle was gone. I looked sick. My 15 year old step-son didn't recognize me when I picked him up from school.

Wendler Approved!

Back Home and Back to the Iron

YouTube.  I give a lot of credit to The Hodge Twins, Clint Darden, Elliott Hulse and Jason English of Big J's Extreme Fitness for some idea of strength training. Watching videos of Arnold in his prime.  Marveling at the sheer size of Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates.  Listening to Steve Pulcinella rant and rave. My favorite was Franco Colombo. Why? He's short, that's why! We shorties have to stick together (where's Brian Schwab?).

So I bought a power rack (Craigslist again, baby) and just kept at it. Five to six days a week, lifting. All on my back porch. Low reps, high reps, low weight, heavy weight. Didn't matter. Raining?  Put up the pop-up. Too hot? Train at night. Too Busy? Bullshit! Watching the kiddies? They're outside while I'm lifting. The kids are watching., they might as well pick up some good habits instead of watching TV or on an Xbox.

Enter elitefts.

I don't remember how I found this site, but I'm glad I did. The articles, along with others sources, started to give me some understanding on the actual concepts of strength training. I realized there was more to it than picking things up and putting them down; I learned that there was a way of training to transform myself into what I wanted. I started reading every article I could by Dave Tate, John Meadows, and Jim Wendler, just to name a few.  All the authors here gave me something to take away and use. I started learning about form, time under tension, explosiveness, and so much more — the meat and potatoes of training. I started getting my nutrition nailed down and really making progress.

I bought the original 5/3/1 and started to follow the Boring But Big template. This really put some direction in my training that was sorely missing. I switched from my five-day bro split to training four days a week, hammering in my form and running hills (these SUCK, but work). I programmed big lifts to get the most bang for my buck, cut out the crap, and made every session count. This is the first real program I ever followed. I still follow it to this day and have tailored it to my preferences.

This brings us to where I am today and these words you're reading.

In the garage, the equipment is still the same. There is now a better power bar, an elitefts belt and blast straps. They work the same even after being chewed on (damn dog!). Same rusty power rack, same mismatched weights.

My mentality has changed. My lifts aren't great but I am in better place.  It all started with a crappy bench from Craigslist.


You see training, like life, is a marathon not a sprint. It didn't happen overnight, but it happened. It didn't even start with a goal, but it started. It started and it keeps going forward. Even when we take steps back, we still have start to move forward again. That's the beauty of training; you don't need anything except a will to change.  I can't think of anything else in life, barring extenuating circumstances, which you have complete control over.

Outside forces can dictate marriage, career, family and relationships but you control whether you get up off the couch or not, whether you pick up a barbell or not. You have the power to change yourself into the best version of yourself once you make that decision.

You don't have to have a clear view of the end but you do have to begin. That view may be hazy, but it eventually clears up.  You eventually see the path that you want to take. The goal becomes clear, even if there wasn't one to begin with. The first step has to be taken before anything else.

My first step was walking, just to get around the block without feeling like I was going to die. That first step is the MOST important step. And it's going to be the hardest.

Take That Step

Don't worry about the small details. They'll work themselves out.

I'm currently a hoooge (!!!!) 137 pounds, still short (really, lord? 5'2"?) and fairly lean. I've been leaner, but it sucked to stay that lean. I've done no impressive lifting, but I am damn proud of these lifts because I worked for them, no matter how big or small they are. They're something that I produced by myself.

Through depressive episodes, marriage problems, bad days, good days, kids acting up, my hiatus from home, I kept going. I earned every pound I added to my lifts. I'm weaning off my anti-depressants and haven't had an episode for a few years now.  My marriage has never been better and my kids look at me like I'm friggin' Superman!  (A short Superman, but Superman none the less).

This all happened because of the iron and that first step.


Your life will never be the same.

Me? You know where to find me. I'll be in The Garage.

I'm a garage lifter, and you know what?  It's a pretty good thing.

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