On Being a Father

TAGS: Thomas Deebel, Father's Day, the executive meathead, Shane Church, Jeff Guller, dave kirschen, harry selkow, clint darden, Chase Karnes, Alexander Cortes, Skip Hill, Mark Watts, JL Holdsworth


When Alexander Cortes asked for feedback for his "Being a Dad, Being a Lifter" article, the members of Team elitefts™ had a lot to say. After all, building a big deadlift has some carryover to molding a happy, functional child, doesn't it? We wanted to include their replies, in their entirety, to guide fathers and fathers-to-be on how to best handle the responsibilities and challenges of Daditude.

Enjoy!

 

Father_JLH
Being a father for me has pushed me harder to come back from my injury and compete. 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 earns you things in life. I also want to be big enough to scare any boy who comes near my daughter in ten years so I have started to look at longevity much more.

I used to lift 110% all the time and had no mind if I injured myself. Since my daughter has come along it has changed my perspective because I know I need to be able to pound some guy into the dirt ten years from now. I can't do this if I'm injured. For both of them, I want them to see their father on the platform, competing, doing what I love. I don't want to have to tell them stories about how great I was, I want them to see how great it is to be doing what you love, and win or lose, you have to throw your hat in the ring. I hear so many people talk about "I could do this or that if I wanted to" bullshit, I want my kids to know that their dad isn't about talking about doing great things, but is busy doing them.

 

Father_HS

Did becoming a father change my perspective on why I train?

I bet you're looking for something heart grabbing. I train, therefore I AM! Hunter has been apart of that training since his birth. Some people have daily rituals. They wake, they poop, they wash their face, brush their teeth and go to work or school. We Selkow's train our asses off THEN do the other stuff. It is what we do, because it is who we are. 2. How are you a different man now, compared to then?

The ONLY difference and I'm being serious here, I'm bigger, faster, a LOT stronger, and so much smarter. As for parenting differences??? None. They don't come with a "user guide" so I'm IT! Hunter is a great kid, becoming independent and not relying on anyone for too many things. He is being brought up in the way he should go!

Father_EM

“I’ve got you.”

“I’ve got you, bud.”

“Michael, I’ve got you.”

I cannot count how many times during the course of my life that I heard my father say: “I’ve got you.” Whether I was stuck in a tree and needed him to catch me in order to get down…or if he was helping me off the football field after my fourth knee injury…this phrase was spoken.

It was never a question, it was a statement.

As I reflect on it now, I cannot even begin to express the comfort and security those three words could bring to me during uncertain and painful times. “I’ve got you” meant “I will be strong for you.” He always said it with such certainty and confidence that relief would come instantly and you knew that everything would be okay.

As a child, 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!

I worked…I trained…and by the time I was fifteen, my physical strength matched and then surpassed my father’s. I became a college athlete and grew to be a 320-pound offensive lineman; however, along the way, I started to realize that true strength wasn’t simply tied to muscle and how much you could lift…while this was indeed a component, true strength encompassed far more than that. How you deal with adversity, how you run your business, how you love and provide for your wife and your children…all of these things went into being strong. My father was an exceptional role model and support system for these things as well and there were several “I’ve got you’s” during those years when I was starting my career and my family. He was always there…he always had time…and he was always strong when I was weak.

Five years ago, my father was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer and it was a hard privilege to have watched him go through the countless hours of chemotherapy and radiation, surgeries, PET scans and specialist after specialist. Through it all, he was strong and steady…doing marshmallow roasts with his grandsons, going on trips with my mother and going out for Sunday afternoon beer and nachos with me (a tradition!). His strength made it easy, at times, to forget that he was so incredibly sick. His strength reduced our anxiety and worry. His strength made it possible for him to transcend his initial prognosis by three or four years and give my five boys memories of their “Papa Daddy” that will last their lifetimes. During this time, he became even more my hero than he had been when I was little…such strength and extraordinary resolve.

One week before my father passed away, my mother and I made the decision to move him to an inpatient hospice facility…the only problem was that he had become so weak that in order to get him there, we had to either call an ambulance to transfer him or find a way to get him into my mother’s car. By the look my father gave to me, the ambulance idea was not something he really wanted to do…so I got very close to his ear and said: “I’ve got you, Dad.” I then, very carefully, picked my father up and carried him to my mother’s car. Despite the years of cancer, my father still was not a small man and the hospice nurse who was with us later commented that she had never seen someone do that before. Of all the meets and gym PRs that I have had during my two decades in the weight room, this was and will always be my greatest lift. I was able to be strong for the man who was strong for me countless times throughout every phase of my life.

It has been less than two months since my father’s fight against cancer ended and it brings me comfort knowing that our relationship had absolutely no regrets…everything that needed to be said had been said. A great friend of mine told me recently that the most complicated part of a parent passing away is that you love them more when they are gone than you did when they were here and that a day doesn’t go by without thinking of them. I have to heartily agree…I miss my father, my mentor and my hero; however, he gave me a clear example of who I need to be for my boys. Regardless what they are going through or where life takes them, they always need to know that “Daddy’s got you.”

Father_MW
Becoming a father changes just about everything on how you look at the world, others, and especially yourself. You have another role to judges yourself by and how you compartmentalize those roles is really what is important.

I had these thoughts of turning into the quintessential dad who drives a mini-van, get's excited about going to Lowes, and wears socks with sandals and a fanny pack. Thing is, 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. Changing who you are for anyone can result in regret and resentment when looking at your life retrospectively. Being a father should reinforce your values and give you more opportunity to live with meaning,

In terms of training, the biggest factors that have changed have been volume, frequency, and scheduling. Those are three big factors, I know. Part of me wishes I could be the guys that says nothing is more important than my training, but I guess I am not that hard core. Spending time with kids > exercising.

There are those times when a deadlift session is started in the basement at 9pm with a baby monitor on instead of music. Or when I have to change outfits for a Barbie doll in between sets. Regardless, training is important and time needs to be set aside for it. Those times just may not be as often, as long, or at the optimal time of day. I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

FatherDK
Becoming a father did not change my reason for training. Not one bit.

Training has meant different things to me at different points of my career, but throughout my entire lifting career my training has been the one constant in my lift when the rest of it seems to be in complete and constant upheaval. No matter how overwhelmed I’ve felt, or how little control I’ve seemed to have at different points in my life, my training always made sense. I may not have known why some girlfriend walked out on me, or why a loved one passed away too early, but I DID know that If I was weak out of the bottom of the bench press, I needed to increase my upper back work.

If anything, becoming a father has only solidified the role training plays in my life. 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.

I know much more about myself now than I did before. I don’t think fatherhood really changes you as much as it exposes your strengths and weaknesses as a man. Aspects of fatherhood that I thought I would struggle with have seemed to come naturally, while elements I didn’t even consider beforehand have proven to be terrifying. For those who’ve not taken the plunge yet, think of fatherhood as the ultimate SWOT analysis.

Father_SH

“All he could think about was I'm too young for this.
Got my whole life ahead, hell I'm just a kid myself.
How'm I gonna raise one.”

- Kenny Chesney

Let alone four of them. It is embarrassing to admit but this young, stupid kid’s first thought when I heard that we were expecting was “there go my bodybuilding dreams”. I was one of “those guys” that I destroy in rants these days and deservedly so. I look back with embarrassment on how I sometimes acted and felt and how self-centered I was. It was all about me and raising a child was not something that was going to help me win bodybuilding shows.

The irony is that I had no idea how not good at bodybuilding I was until that point in my life. I had no real structure or plan and was basically just rolling along in life not doing much outside of the gym. The gym was not a part of who I was, it was WHO I was – my entire identity.

I am not a religious person but if ever I was truly blessed it was to have met my wife over 22 years ago. She wanted kids and I think all of the time about how different my life would be had I gotten my way and never had any. The house would be less messy and the DVR wouldn’t have stupid Disney shows that I have to sift through to get to that day’s baseball game. I also wouldn’t be where I am today with my business and my position in the bodybuilding industry, either. Why? Because it was having a family that pushed me to be more responsible and transformed me into a more motivated person outside of the gym.

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. With four kids and living in Colorado, away from our family, we had no choice but to be resourceful and highly-structured with our time between my wife and I both working in those early days and balancing sports for the kids, our training time, etc.. I firmly believe that it was the mastery of structuring our time that eventually led me to be so much more efficient and productive with my time whether it was getting my own training done and competing or running my business. Without my kids, that likely never would have happened - or at least it had never happened to that point in my life.

I see people in the sport of bodybuilding that don’t have kids and say they never want them and I can’t help but think they are missing out. Clearly, having kids is an individual decision but I know in my case, my life would not be anywhere near as full and nowhere near as fun without my kids. To this day when I look out from behind the curtain before going on stage to compete, I choke on my tongue the second one of my kids sees me, waves and smiles. No trophy can compare.

Father_SC
Being a dad had changed my goals a lot. I told myself when I started when I achieved the total and squat numbers that I want to hit, I would retire and try a new sport. Now, 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. I now look much more long term that I did before. I didn’t care about injuries or obstacles. I would blast through, even if I was putting myself at a risk of serious injury. Now, I want to lift competitively into my 50s and 60s, so missing a heavy session to rehab an injury isn’t a big deal to me.

 

Father_TD

I turned fifty last year but unlike many guys my age my inspiration to work out wasn't seeing Arnold on a magazine cover, or the Hulk TV show, nope it was my dad. My father grew up on a farm and worked as a mechanic. He was accustomed to manual labor and he always impressed me with his strength. Tossing hay bales, lifting various heavy objects with ease gave a small in stature guy like me hope that I could get strong if I worked at it. My father did train with weights from time to time, with best lifts of a 240 clean at 125 pounds and a 215 jerk. He was the same height as me, 5'6 “-7” but a bit lighter than my 205 pounds now. His interest in strength inspired me to start training and showed me a path that lead to some great times, interests, and an enhanced set of pride, self-confidence, and the ability to persevere throw tough times. I've had my share of injuries, but I never stopped the quest for a PR, and I doubt I ever will.

Which brings me to my son, Tom Junior. Tom's mother and I were divorcing when he was very small, a year and a half years old. As long as I can remember, I took him to the office to first watch me train and to then help him train. At the age of four Tom did some light dumbbell work with those little rehab weights. Years later, he got to take a trip with me to the Arnold classic in Columbus, Ohio and was tutored in the deadlift by Louis Simmons and Amy Weisberger. This was a huge thrill for a beginning lifter. If I recall correctly he deadlifted 190 or so at 65 pounds.

Tom now is 19 and entering his third year at Lehigh. He's hit some great lifts, a raw squat of 425 at 165 pounds with a 525 deadlift. He's pretty tall, close to 5'11” so he needs a little more filling out yet to hit his true potential as a lifter. But the lessons he has learned from training, stay the course, keep pushing, don't quit are things, I'm proud to have taught him.

My daughter Katie isn't as big with the lifting. She just basically exercises when she feels like it, but she does show some potential. She does appreciate the value of exercise and I'm sure she'll keep doing this forever.

Training has given me some great moments with my kids that I will always cherish. I'll never forget those times.

 

Father_CD
Being honest with this is tough and sort of hurts when I tell the truth. When my son was born it was in a time period of our (my wife and I) life where my wife was working non-stop and my son and I almost never saw her. I had a baby sitter 3 days per week for 2 hours (longer on Sundays) so I actually used that time to get away and do my own thing. It really wasn't about training as much as it was about having some "ME" time.

Seven days a week it was my job to do EVERYTHING for my son. From the point that he woke up in the mornings till the point where he woke up the next morning and non-stop...everything in between was on me. This was not a problem at first as it is somewhat "exciting" to be a new father but after six months, one year, four years...it is not easy. I once explained that having a child is a lot like doing a set of 20 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. I was covered in Jack's Blue Heat instead of diaper cream and handmade baby food, poop, pee, and puke.

I distinctly remember three very important days of being a father that TRAINS.

1) My son had been sick for a few days and was staying home with me the entire week. He was about three years old and we headed out the door with a small gym heater, extra clothes, food, drinks, iPad, and my gym bag. It was Winter time and my gym roof leaks BADLY when it rains so we found him the one dry spot in the gym, sat up his chair and he played on his iPad while I bench pressed. I remember going for a PR and I go through my verbal rants before each set. "Come on, let's go! Strong, Strong, STRONG!!!!" And as I locked out the PR rep I heard "Nope...not strong!".

Two days later it was Squat Day and it called for me to box squat around 700 x 5+ reps. I went into fully Ate Up Crazy mode where I mostly black out before a lift and only know what happened by watching the video. With my son watching I did 7 or 8 reps and collapsed onto the box. My eyes were now swollen and my left arm was in so much pain that I could not close my fingers and he took off out of his chair, running to me (still sitting on the box) to give me a hug). At that point I realized that he understood what EFFORT meant.

2) My son was 5 years old and I was preparing for Cyprus Weightlifting Nationals in hopes of qualifying for The Masters Pan Am Games as well as Masters World Championships. He had gone to the gym with me every day for 8 months and watched me and everyone else in the gym. Every time I looked over at him he had his head buried into some food or his iPad, never giving me attention. One day we were driving to the gym and he asks me "Pappa, Why are you still training? Everyone else is better than you.". He was correct and it took me a few seconds to respond. Every single person in our gym actually was better than me. I am his idol and he is seeing me do poorly every single day. He is seeing me fail...every day. Not many children get to ever see their parents fail, much less every day.

"Because we do not quit. No matter what, when we decide that we are going to do something, we do not quit. I might fail, I might fall, but I will get back up and keep trying. No matter what."

Those words were tough to say because honestly I wanted to quit. I was bad and I was also in serious pain!

3) At Nationals that year he sat up in the stands and heard the crowd erupt with screams every time that they called my name to take the platform. When I went up to the barbell for my clean and jerk attempt that would qualify me for Worlds, the room got quiet. If you have ever been around Weightlifting you will know the true meaning of QUIET! And I hear my son's voice, all alone, saying "Come On Pappa!". It was a moment of my understanding why I was doing all of this...because there are eyes watching me and learning from me. If I quit it will set the standard for how he sees EFFORT for the rest of his life. I made the lift. I qualified for Worlds. My son keeps my trophy in his room next to his bed.

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.

 

Father_JG
My take on this issue is from a very different perspective. My children are as old or older than most of my team mates. My daughter, Melany, was born in 1970 and my son David in 1972. At that time I was a young, aspiring attorney on the fast track to nowhere. I was not a powerlifter at that time. I had lifted extensively in college, before the sport existed. I was not fast enough to be a good olympic lifter, so I worked on strength lifts. When my children were born, I fancied myself a tennis player and worked hard to be very good. A lack of time and lack of talent kept me from my goal. I had adopted my father's work ethic and spent too much time in the office and on the tennis court, to the detriment of my family. I still was able to coach my kids in baseball, soccer and swimming. Working hard had its benefits; I was able to educate the little bastards. They both graduated college and are doing reasonably well.

Fast forward forty-four years. My children are my biggest fans, both of my powerlifting and writing. Competetive tennis and raquetball ended with a hip replacement in 2009. I returned to my first love "iron". I began training seriously three years ago and have never looked back. My son, a lifter, critiques my lifts and my daughter, an English major, critiques my writing. It is not easy having a relationship with grown children. 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 photographs, 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.

Father_CK
Becoming a father recently has really changed my approach to training. It made me realize the importance of cardiovascular health first of all. This revelation made me decide to start doing something physical every day of the week. Before, I’d typically just lift gym lifts twice a week and strongman events once a week. The other days I’d usually just rest. I’ve now decided to do something physical every single day. So while my lifting schedule is still the same I’ve added some low intensity cardio days walking wearing my weight vest and some high intensity cardio days pushing the Prowler. These are habits I want to start now for multiple reasons, but all because of my son. As I mentioned cardiovascular health is one. I also want to set an example for him that physical activity is just something you do and it’s good for you and fun (ok, the Prowler isn’t always fun…). I want to be able to play sports with him as he grows up, take him hunting and fishing and be in good enough shape to keep up with him as he grows into a boy, teenager and young man.

It’s also inspired me to push myself harder, while still being smart about things. It may sound silly, but if I want to stop on a set of heavy squats a rep or two early it’s easier to push through. If I want to skip something in my workout or cut a set out it’s easier to push through. I’m a huge role model and influence on his life. And while my son is only 8 weeks old at the moment and doesn’t have a clue – me knowing mentally that I’m putting in all the work it takes necessary to be successful is satisfying. And it’s a habit I’ll continue to have (and not just in training) to do what it takes even when you may not feel like doing it. I want to be a positive influence on him and show him to be successful you’ve got to work hard and it’s not always fun and games. Sometimes you’ve got to push yourself. You’ve got to get used to being uncomfortable at times. That’s what separates average people from above average.

It’s also given me that much more motivation to reach my goals I have set for myself. Because I do want him to be able to look at what I’ve been able to accomplish through years of discipline, hard work and dedication and make him realize that he too can reach his goals in life (whatever they may be) by doing the same.

And I’m a new father, so I’m sure my views may be different in three years, five years and so on from now. Because being a father, husband and man are three things I’ll always strive to be the best that I can be at.

I’ve always tried to be the best man I could be. While I’m sure I come up short at times, being the best man and husband I could be before the birth of my son was always something I strived to be. And luckily my wife and I were at a time in our lives where we were 100% ready to have a baby. So I spent many years working on being the best man I could be to prepare for having a baby. I will say having a son has made me slow things down a bit and not always be in such a hurry. I’m more organized and prioritize my time much better so that I can have as much time to spend with him as possible. I’ve hardly had the television on in our house when I’m with him because I’m too busy interacting with him. It’s made me think about what’s really important in life and what isn’t. It’s made me realize he will be watching and learning from me his whole life and I am his biggest role model. So more than anything it’s made me strive to be the kind of man that he one day will become.

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