Beast Reality: A Powerlifter in a White-Collar “World”

TAGS: working, flying, A Powerlifter in a White-Collar “World”, texas power bar, Beast Reality, erik eggers, Spud Straps, powerlifting

“Why don’t you just wear gloves?” Bruce asks.

He pulls his eyes away from the road to peer at my hands. The previous evening, a viciously knurled Texas Power Bar had liberated several calluses in a bloody upheaval.

“I can’t,” I respond, peering from the passenger seat at a beautiful sunrise.

“What do you mean, you can’t?” He looks confused as we speed over the Tappan Zee Bridge. “You can’t,” he repeats, scoffing and shaking his head. We’re weaving a bit, zipping through traffic in order to reduce a horrific commute to a palatable hour and fifteen minutes.

“I can’t. I need to feel the bar. I can’t explain it well, but I can’t wear gloves. I can’t.” I poke at the raw meat of my angry red palms with my thick thumb.

“You’re out of your mind. How did you do that?”

“Deadlifting.”

“What’s deadlifting again?”

“It’s that test I told you about. It helps to determine whether or not you’re a man.”

Flying

“Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me. Excuse me.”

Pardon my ass.

For a 290-pound individual, squeezing into a plane is an ordeal. I can’t fathom how the SHWs do it. At best, it’s challenging. At worst, it’s a sweat-drenched stress fest—and getting the middle seat is brutal. It’s a lesson in cramped legs and shoulders. I try not to battle for the arm rests anymore because I feel empathy for the man or woman sentenced to sit next to me. It’s only a four hour stretch, but it’s hard time. I frequently observe the disappointed looks on their respective faces when they realize they are sharing the row with me. Sometimes there is an audible sigh—that this is going to be a long flight sigh.

I know. I know. I’m sorry. What can I do? They jammed me with the middle seat. I don’t want to be here either. I’d much prefer the aisle with the shoulder room, so the stewards can slam into me with their medieval torture cart.

During a recent trip from Connecticut to Texas, I was traveling with Spud Straps in my carry-on bag (the heavy yellow spotting straps/chains typically used with a monolift)—strange traveling companion, I know. Before heading over to the security line, I decided to be proactive and check with the TSA agent to ensure it was okay to fly with them.

"I want to show you some items to verify that it’s okay to fly with them in my carry-on." I pull the massive straps and chain out of my bag to overtly display that I’m not trying to hide anything.

"Sure you can fly with them,” the male TSA agent says. He’s looking at me as though I’m crazy for even asking.

“I know what those are,” the female TSA agent says. “Aren’t those for bodyweight training?”

“Not exactly,” I say. She’s thinking they are TRX/Blast Straps.

“Those aren’t dangerous,” the male TSA agent says.

Aren't dangerous? You won't let me fly with a Swiss Army tool that houses a one-inch penknife, but you'll let me fly with what amounts to a modern-day mace that I could wield around the craft like a wild man at 2,000 feet?!

If you were Rick Grimes (for you Walking Dead fans), which would you rather use to try and cleave a rotting zombie's head off? Heavy chains on the end of a super-thick strap that you could wield with a crazy amount of torque, or a one-inch penknife that could barely bludgeon butter? Which is more dangerous?

The Neck

In a weird way, I am, at times, jealous of those who can buy "off the rack." (The department store rack, not the power rack). It’s gotta be nice to be able to grab a shirt and wear it that same day without a crazy custom-fitting ordeal.

“How can we help you today, sir?” Keith asks.

“I have an important work function next week and my neck has outgrown all of my dress shirts. I can’t button the top buttons on any of my collars, and I’m required to wear a suit and tie at dinner—the mandate is dress to impress. I need to come up with a quick solution.”

“I am sure we can come up with something,” Keith says. “What size is your neck?”

“Twenty inches.”

Keith looks doubtful at first but ultimately measures and concurs. Fortunately, we’re at Rochester Clothing: Big & Tall.

“I usually get my shirts made in Hong Kong and shipped to the states, but I don’t have access to my guy right now.” It’s a painful process that requires months of wait time.

I emerge from the dressing room with the new white shirt. The shirt needs to be taken-in on the sides because I am so "svelte." (I assume most guys with twenty-inch necks have fifty-inch waists, or else clothing manufacturers haven’t got a clue).

Keith is measuring to mark the shirt for tailoring. When a powerlifter buys off the rack, even in a big and tall store, there is always tailoring involved, (By the way, if any of you have a more workable solution, please share).

“I always have trouble with the collar stays,” I say.

For those of you fortunate enough not to know what I am talking about, the stays, also known as collar sticks or stiffeners, are these little rigid plastic strips that slip into specially made pockets on the underside of a shirt collar to stabilize the collar’s points.

“What type of trouble?” Keith pinches in the sides of the shirt, measuring the excess material.

“They are always breaking on me. They always snap in half.”

“Do you leave the stays in the shirt when you send the shirt to the drycleaners? That’s what can cause them to break.”

“No. I’m talking about when I just turn my head.”

Keith looks bemused.

“Sometimes they snap when I am just turning my head.”

Keith offers a subtle smile...then silence.

The Reversible Belt

In general, I don’t envy my clothes. They’ve got a challenging job to perform. Trying to enclose my raw physicality can be as futile as attempting to contain several Rottweilers in a duffel bag.

I also don’t recommend powerlifters use reversible belts when they have the occasion to dress-up (especially if there is a lot of you for the belt to attempt to constrain). I’m referring to those belts that are black on one side and brown on the other. The belt buckle pivots to enable you to display either side, depending on the fashion statement you’re attempting to make.

What I’m about to tell you happened several years ago, but it’s still a story worth sharing.

I was working in the finance industry in lower Manhattan, close to Battery Park. The company had a formal code of dress, which meant we had to wear a full suit and tie on a daily basis. My commute was atrocious.

I was coming from Trumbull, Connecticut, so it was about 66 miles door-to-door: drive to the train station in Bridgeport, Metro North to Grand Central Station, Subway (I think it was the 5, 6 Green Line from Grand Central to Bowling Green), and then a short dash from the Bowling Green Station to my office (with possibly a quick Starbucks run in between). The suffering encompassed two hours door-to-door, and that’s only one way.

It was a long, sweaty jaunt to say the least, and in the height of summer (while wearing a full suit), it was brutal. It was very hard physically and mentally to handle that commute (especially after training legs the previous evening). It was very hard on the clothes too—lots of wear on the suits and lots of wear on expensive dress shoes.

One day, I was hustling through the office to get back from one of the many meetings we held with a religious frequency. I was wearing the aforementioned reversible belt. While passing by the women at the front desk, there was a small explosion around my waist. BOOM! The belt exploded. The buckle snapped completely off its pivot, finally tapping-out due to the relentless pressure of my sizeable "six-pack."

Fortunately, the incident went largely undiscovered. I was able to snare both the buckle and the pants, sprint head-down past the women at the desk, and head straight for the men’s room to assess the situation. It was going to be a long day of hiking up trousers until I had to endure the 66-mile return trip back to Connecticut.

Sears Delivery

While putting the finishing touches on this article, I received a delivery from Sears—a new washer and dryer. (Happy early Mother’s Day, Mrs. Eggers).

I answered the door in my normal weekend garb: shorts and a T-shirt.

“Man, you must be crushing the weights,” the grinning Sears delivery man said.

“Thanks, man.”

That’s when I am subtly reminded...It’s worth the struggle.

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