Dear Powerlifting,

Thank you. I owe you my life in many ways.

I got started in the sport of powerlifting in a weird way. I got a free gym membership to the local gym. I was fat and had extremely high blood pressure, 168/110 at the worst. I knew that if I didn’t change my ways I would end up fat like my dad and not be physically able to do thing things I wanted to do in life. At that point in my life, those things were playing hockey and getting back into rugby.

I started lifting. I had no idea what I was doing. I asked the owner of the gym if there was anything that I should read to get better. His answer was perfect: "Everything."

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The owners turned out to be Paul Vaillancourt and Sarah Leighton. They are just two of the most decorated strength athletes in Canadian strength sports. No big deal. Paul was the first to tell me of and how they had metric shit-tons of free information, and also that Jim Wendler is someone that you should pattern your life after. I didn’t so much pattern my life after him, but I did start rocking 5/3/1 and getting tattoos. Both were great life choices.

I started with single-ply in the IPF. The meets were well run but not really that fun. Everyone was quiet and no one cheered for anyone. It wasn’t my jam.

I searched around and there was a WPC affiliate that ran meets in Montreal. I went to one of those meets and I was hooked. I dumped all my extra money into buying all new gear—Metal, of course—and started driving to Montreal once a week to train in a monolift. It was about a three-hour drive each direction.

As I tumbled deeper down the rabbit hole of gear, I learned of the strength heaven on earth: Westside Barbell. I carried around an article Louie wrote called "How to bench 500 pounds." That blew my mind and I wanted it really bad. I obsessed over it. I put it before family. Some of that cost me later, but I was going to get my numbers. I was going to squat 1000 pounds and bench 600 pounds.

The plant that I worked in at that time had a summer shutdown. I planned a little vacation to go to Westside and train with those lunatics. I had no idea what I was getting into. I spent five days in a little hotel close to the gym. I ate at Bob Evans every morning with Louie, talking about training and life. I worked out about seven times in those five days and came to two conclusions:

  1. I have no idea what is involved in training at Westside or what it is to be strong.
  2. I needed to move to Columbus to become the lifter that I wanted to become.

The second was where some leaps of faith happened.

I had done some work online on top my factory work. I asked AJ Roberts if I could work for him and stay with him until I found a place to live. He said yes. I found out later that he didn’t think that I would actually show up at his house, but I did. I broke up with my girlfriend, left my family (that is a big deal for me), jumped in my car, and drove to Columbus with everything I owned, hoping to become the best powerlifter I could be.

AJ turned out to be my mentor. His story is pretty crazy as well. Check out my podcast with him here. With the help of Louie, AJ and all the other amazing people at Westside Barbell transformed me. I went from a weak wannabe to a weak wannabe that started to understand. In the end, I had to move back to Canada, as I couldn’t make ends meet and ended up declaring bankruptcy when I got back.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Once I got back on my feet, I started to find my groove in training and started using all the stuff I learned with Westside Barbell to excel. I was at Westside for most of 2010. I hit my all-time PR squat at the Arnold in 2013. I finished second in my weight class with 1036-628-705 for a 2369-pound total. My best total was in 2012 at the CPF nationals, with 2402 pounds

One month after the Arnold, Shannon and I were gifted our amazing son, Odin Benjamin Church. This changed everything. I am a very selfish person by nature. Anyone that has a kid knows that you can’t maintain that personality trait and expect to have a happy wife and child.

Unrelated to Odin, this is when all my nagging injuries started to catch up with me. Over the next couple years, I had a couple knee surgeries, a biceps reattachment, an umbilical hernia repair, and a cyst on my spine removed.

The last knee surgeon spoke with me after. He told me that he had to remove my meniscus and that the condition of my knee has gotten exponentially worse since the last surgery. It now needs to be replaced. Shit.

The main issue is arthritis. It runs deep on both sides of my family and it crippled my grandfather to the point that he couldn’t bend his knees, ankles, fingers, and elbows before he passed in 2002. This was a big eye-opener for me. Odin was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder in 2015. I knew that even more of my focus would have to come from me and onto my family.

That brings us up to now. Recently I found out that my elbow is in as bad of shape as my left knee is. I will be going in soon to have that joint resurfaced. It also helped me make the next decision.

I’m done.

Shane and Odin

I always wanted to compete forever. I wanted to compete on the same platform as Odin. I have bigger goals now. I now want to have Odin attend a regular school. I want him to have friends. I want him to be able to deal with people calling him retard better than I do because I do not take that well. He will face challenges that I can’t comprehend right now. I will be there for him every step of the way.

I love the sport of powerlifting but my love has changed for it. I remember having a conversation with Matt Brass a few years ago; I explained that if I am coaching a person and they do not get PRs at a meet, after doing everything that I coached them to do, I feel terrible. Even if I personally had a great meet, it would not have been a success in my eyes. That was the turning point as well when I saw that I took more satisfaction in coaching people to success than achieving it myself. Shannon and I will continue to coach the team at Barnyard Barbell out of Brenda Banning’s amazing facility, that way we can get the most people to the top of their games!

Powerlifting has given me more than one person could ask for from a hobby. It gave me my relationship with Shannon, which led to our incredible son. It gave me lifelong friends and connections. I got to travel across Europe, the U.S., and Canada. I got to train at Westside Barbell. I got sponsored by the best sponsor ever, elitefts. I can text nudes to Swede and call JL Holdsworth to talk about some of the crazy shit he has done and learned from. I can talk to Joey Smith for hours about life and being a parent. I would not trade these things for anything in the world!

elitefts has been very gracious. When I informed Sheena that I could no longer honuor (that’s how we spell in Canada) my athlete agreement, they asked if I wanted to continue to contribute. That’s why you read this! I will continue writing articles as a columnist.

Here's to the future!