Interview with Pro Strongman Clint Darden

TAGS: pro strongman, spotlight, clint darden

Q: How'd you get involved in Strongman?

 

A: In 2001 I was training in my garage gym and had been getting a little bored with training in general. Actually I made a goal to weigh over 300 pounds and on December 26 of that year, I weighed 306. I was so fat and out-of-shape that I got out of breath just walking from the couch to the bathroom, so I found a Strongman contest out of a magazine and it was only 40 minutes away. With no implements to train with, I found a tire to flip and decided to get into better shape. I believe in eight weeks I dropped to about 265 pounds and then gained up to about 275 pounds before the contest. I took dead last in the heavy weight division, but still earned a spot at NASS Nationals that year, taking second in my weight class and shocking quite a few people. The rest is all an addiction! I turned Pro in February of 2003 and took the rest of the year off to graduate. The next February I was FORCED to compete by the powers that be, at the heaviest contest of the year...with a badly torn hamstring. I competed once more as a Pro in the USA before I moved to Cyprus and since then I've competed a few times here in Europe representing both the USA and Cyprus on TV.

 

Q: What everyone wants to know: your numbers? Lifting and Strongman.

 

A: My numbers aren't that impressive and because of my low lifting numbers I was very surprised that I became part of the EliteFTS Team! Honestly, I only became focused on my lifting numbers in August of 2009. Before that, I hardly ever squatted more than 315 pounds and some bands and mostly just did some light speed deadlifts and good mornings. In the last year I've made some great gains!

 

Box Squat, belt and size 60 Ace Pro Squatter:  870 x 1

Box Squat, belt only:  800 x 2

Deadlift (totally raw, no belt, nothing) 750 x 1

Deadlift:  belt only:  771 x 1

Deadlift:  Metal Ace Pro Deadlift suit (big suit) 810.5 x 1

Log Press:  342 x 1

 

If you’ve known me for a few years, you know about my battle with Ulcerative Colitis. It has been and is a long road. A couple of years ago I was force feeding myself, yet stopped getting on the scale once I dipped below 240 pounds. I couldn’t clean the 220 pound log and I couldn’t even budge the 160 pound atlas stone from the ground. My Doctors even told me that I needed to pick a new direction for my life as I'd never compete again, never be big or strong again in my life…ever. So even as weak as my numbers are, and as bad as I feel some days, I feel so blessed to be in the gym training with a smile on my face.



Q: Favorite thing to compete in Strongman?

 

A: My favorite events in Strongman has to be anything involving leg, back, or grip strength. I'm a horrible presser! One of the worst, if not THE worst, presser out of all of the USA Pros. At a very young age I injured both shoulders pretty badly and I've never been a good presser since. Not that I was a good presser before. Ha!

 

The BEST part of competing in Strongman is that heart really comes into play. Sometimes it really has little to do with strength and so much more about who wants it the most. It really adds that competitive and sport aspect into everything. Sometimes you realize that if you can push your body JUST a little more, then you can win. And when you realize that you can push that much farther and not die - it’s a huge rush.

 

And the other athletes...what to say? So many places that I fly to train and compete, I may be the only person there that speaks English. One of my last vacations was in Slovakia and I was the only English-speaking person in the gym and we communicated by writing the weights of the implements we were lifting in the dust on the floor. When these guys see me pushing myself so hard that my eyes are about to pop out of my skull and they are yelling at me in Hungarian-Slovak...it is just an amazing feeling of friendship and respect.

 

 

Q: Where do you live? Why did you move to an island in the middle of nowhere? Didn't you used to live in KY?

 

A: Yeah, I'm originally from Murray, Kentucky, USA. I met my wife at Murray State University, as we were both finishing school. To be honest, I was finishing my eighth year of my four-year degree and she was finishing her second Masters Degree (after her degree in Economics/Accounting, one in Physical Education, and Special Education) when we met at a party and we have been like glue ever since. Strange thing is...I never imagined myself with a short foreigner and she could NEVER imagine herself with a tall, big, American!

 

In 2004 I moved from Murray to the city of Limassol on the island of Cyprus to be with my wife.


Q: How do you train living there? And what’s the biggest challenge of living there?

 

A: I've trained out of a garage gym for about as long as I can remember, so when I moved from the USA to Cyprus I made plans to ship everything over. Funny story, when we were planning to ship my things, the shipper thought that he could set up payments for the shipment over several months - but a few days before the scheduled shipment we found out that I'd have to pre-pay. We didn't have the money at the time, so my wife suggested that I leave all of my equipment in the USA and we would "ship it when we could.” I told her that I wasn't getting on a plane unless my entire gym was already on a boat to the same destination I was. So, we worked it out.

 

The father of my wife's God Son told us that his Grandmother once lived in an old "house" in a village not too far from us and that we could clean it up and I could put all of my gym equipment in there…and I've been there ever since. The roof has holes in it (I call them sun roofs), no electricity, no water, but I do have a view of the Sea and lots of room to train outside. After being here five years, my neighbors ran an extension cord from their house through the roof to mine so that I could run a fan and my radio when I train and some other neighbors just built a semi-detached toilet to their house for me to use. I've had a lot of people show up to train over the last six years and very few come more than once after they see the place. Yet the people that are SERIOUS about training (and a little bit psycho) have stuck around.

 

I really hate to even think about the challenges. For a while when I first came, I focused on the challenges and it doesn't help anything. If you decide to move here, you need to live here. Read LIVE. I’ve known a lot of Americans that have moved here and they either can't take it and move back home, or they just sit in their houses, go have coffee with their other American friends, and complain about Cyprus all the time. So rather than focus on all the difficulties of living on this island (racism, differing cultures, language barriers, etc...) I'll just say that the most difficult part about living here is the heat! You can't compare the heat here to anyplace I've ever been. I love leaving here for America in the summer and hearing everyone complaining about how hot it is outside and I think it’s totally great! In the sun, (we don't have much shade here) it stays in the 140F range every day. The weatherman says that it’s 90 or so outside, but according to every thermometer I've had and read...it’s 90 INSIDE or in the shade, and 130-155 outside in the summer. And Summer lasts nine months of the year. In fact, today is October 2nd and we actually had clouds today! First time in six months we’ve had clouds!


Q: Ok, here’s a question made famous by our international customers - how do you feel about our international shipping?

A: Ahhh, the International shipping policy of EliteFTS - where to start? My parents send me two to four boxes of presents a month from the USA to Cyprus and several other friends have sent me things here and there.

I also have my own private sports supplement shop here (Elite Power Nutrition) and I import all of my products from the USA to Cyprus so I'm aware of shipping and all of it's issues getting to this tiny little island. I understand it is the policy of EliteFTS to ship ONLY UPS but it does cost a lot! Earlier this year I ordered a METAL KING SQUAT SUIT and the ACE Pro Briefs and I paid $165 shipping and $75 in taxes once it arrived. I think that EliteFTS should look for a sub-distributor here in Europe, hint hint. Did I mention that my family here owns the building that the post office is in? And it is literally 15 feet from my bedroom door?

 

Anyway, back to my thought, I've had probably 100 packages or more shipped USPS over the last six years and not a single one has been lost. But no matter what the guy at the Post Office tells you, once it leaves the USA, they will NOT be responsible for your package at all. No insurance, nothing. If it gets lost or damaged, then so be it.

 

UPS gets here to my country in three days and then it takes another 3-4 days to go from the airport to my city (40 minute drive away), which is much faster than the 14 day minimum that the Post Office takes. And UPS will deliver and the post office will not. There is no perfect answer!


Q: How did you find EFS?

 

A: Many years ago a buddy of mine sent me a bunch of VHS tapes of the WSBB Methods. I watched every single video probably 50 times. Memorized them. Anyone remember the part where he beat his belly with that rod over and over?

 

I just stuck with "the training" for many years and a couple years ago, I decided that I was tired of not making any more progress, so I got back into reading the site again. I bought every e-book that I could find on the site, and studied them as much as possible. My wife actually printed every e-book out for me and bound them so I could read them and write all over them. It has changed my lifting - to say the least. I used to have a saying when I trained in Martial Arts that once you started teaching, you stopped learning. Basically, if you make a decision to be A TEACHER ONLY, you will never keep that mind-set to LEARN. So many people decide that if they’re going to teach, then they have to be seen as the expert with all of the answers and that just isn't true. I remember all of the old "Black Belts" that trained and taught and had their own little schools and the only way that they could keep their clients involved and paying them was if they believed that THEY were the toughest guy on the planet and were close personal friends with Chuck Norris! My students thought that I was amazing, but they also saw me travel to go and train at other places...and they also saw me get beaten as well. Hopefully they learned that it was much more important to always keep learning. When you stop learning you stop progressing.

 

And my training had stopped progressing! After a while, you sit down and realize that your goals this year are the same as they were last year, and the year before, and the year before...and you aren't getting any younger so you better get smarter! The only way to get smarter is to learn! I live on a tiny island with nobody to really talk to and learn from, so the next best thing (and by far the cheapest) is to buy every e-book I can find! Dave's "Under The Bar" is probably the best book I've ever read in my life and my wife had to make her own copy of "Fitness Riches."

Q: Tell us a little about your personal life?

A: My personal life...well, I "work" a few part-time jobs. I own Elite Power Nutrition, a supplement company, which got hit fairly hard with the economic lack of stability over the last couple of years, but we still get by. My overhead is virtually zero, which saves us. I am also the Director of N.C.D. Calloway Continuing Education Ltd here in Cyprus, which run Autism Assessment Support Practice www.cyspecialed.com. Basically we work with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE involved with Autism here in our country.  It isn't a bold statement to say that my wife is the premier Autism specialist in our country and very close to being one of the best in all of Europe. The rest of our team is amazing and extremely talented as well, I can't say enough about them! I also do some personal training and consultation via internet, BUT my specialty and biggest job is being a HOUSE DAD! My son, Steven James, keeps me busy. He just started pre-school which is a big load off of my back since he goes to school every day from 7:30AM-1PM and I only have him from 1PM until bedtime, which is often midnight. Before now, he was mine from whenever he woke up until whatever time he decided to crash! If you are one of my Facebook friends you will see that nearly every picture that I have are of him (the rest are of food) so obviously he is my pride and joy!


 

Q: What do you eat?

A: I eat most anything. I try to eat about 2-3 pounds of some type of meat a day. We don't have much beef here, so I eat a lot of ground pork and tuna. Nothing is exact...I just try to constantly stay full. Most Saturdays I'll try and pick up some tacos or a Triple Whopper with cheese as well. And doughnuts….and Cinnabon…and orange soda…and lemon soda…and Snickers…

 

Q: Give us an example of your day.

 

A: 9:30AM - Wake up (ish...I might hit the snooze button a dozen times or so)

10AM - Search the Internet and set all the TV shows I want to watch to download while I'm gone.

10:15AM - Pack a cooler, eat, and head out the door.

10:30AM -1PM Non-Training Days

Banks, super market, pay bills, etc.

Training Days, Tuesday, Thursday:

Get to the gym and train.

1PM - Pick up my son from school.

2PM - Home and fixing lunch for everyone (I often fix KFC for everyone though).

3PM - Try and convince my son to take a nap while I work on papers for my on-line training clients, Autism Center papers, play on Facebook and e-mail, etc...

4PM - BEG my son to take a nap while watching Wonder Pets, Dora The Explorer, Thomas The Train, Bob The Builder, LiL' Bill, etc.

6PM - Wake my son up

6-9:30PM - Do what most Dad's do...fix train sets, change train batteries, fix food, discuss why Thomas is the BEST train even though Gordon is the fastest and Spencer has some of the newest technology, etc...

9:30PM - Get my son in the bath tub and have a loud "discussion" on why his electric toys can't go in the bath with him.

10PM - Suggest that it is time to get out of the bath and remind him of the water crisis here in Cyprus.

10:30PM or later - Take my son, kicking and screaming, out of the bath tub and into the bedroom. Read books, talk about Thomas The Train, learn about vultures, frogs, snakes, and practice our numbers and letters in both Greek and English.

11:30PM or LATER - Yell at my son to go to sleep...NOW!!!

Later - Shower, laundry, dishes, eat, watch just a little TV, and then off to bed around 2AM.


Q: What do you feel you'll bring to EFS?

A: I think that I'm someone that most readers can relate to. Really, I'm an honest guy, trust me! I don't have a problem answering the "hard" questions and I'm just a "regular Joe." I work a few part-time jobs, I'm a father and a husband, and I've been dealt so many bad cards health-wise that I've been given a new perspective on training and what's really all about.

Are there any Strongman competitors that post on EFS? I think that's where a lot of potential is for EFS, through the Strongman element. I think that a lot of Strongmen competitors are a little discouraged with the direction that the sport is going in the USA, a similar reason why a lot of powerlifters left powerlifting for Strongman. They got involved in the sport because it was "fun" and they could progress and compete. After a few years it seemed like the sport evolved so much more than they felt it should have...so it's either time to quit or change what they are doing.

I got involved in the powerlifts more about a year ago and I've noticed quite a few things:
1) My strongman events didn't suffer, they have actually went up
2) What do you know...this powerlifting gear is FUN and it saves my body from being crippled
3) I didn't grow Devil Horns when I put on a bench shirt or my METAL Squat and Deadlift suits
4) People CAN do both sports at the same time, in fact I suggest it

Although I'm pretty sure Dave brought me on just because I look sexy in my METAL gear, I fill a big European void. I wear flannel shirts while driving a convertible BMW in the winter, I'm addicted to the internet, taking videos, and taking pictures of EVERYTHING that I do. That and I'll have the notion to order enough EFS gear to increase his quarterly sales by at least 10 percent if my wife ever gives me her credit card again.

Q: Tell me whatever else you want the readers to know about you.
A: Hmmm...what else do you want to know about me? Goals? People I admire? What it feels like to have clown feet? How hard it is to train alone in the summer when it's 150F outside?

Goals:  I think that I stopped having long-term goals quite a while ago. My only long-term goal would be just to be able to train when I'm a senior citizen. I want my wife to still know that when Sunday comes around, I'll be gone for a few hours for Deadlifts and Strongman Events.
As for this year, I'd really like to break the 300 pound weight barrier. Last year I hit 297 pounds a few times, but it would be great to hit 300. I was 293 on Sunday morning, so it's looking pretty good. I'd also like to set at least four squat records this year (reps, chains/bands, 1RM raw, 1RM suit with straps down), four deadlift records (chains or bands, 1RM), and get a 140kg/308 lb strict log press.  When those goals come I'll make a few new assessments and see where I need to be for some new goals over the first three months of 2011.

I can't say that I really admire anyone completely, but there are a lot of traits that certain people have that I admire.
My parents are just amazing people. Anyone that has ever met them would most certainly agree on so many levels. I really can't say enough about them in one interview.

My wife might be one of my heroes. Everything she touches turns to Gold, because of her hard work. I've never met anyone that works as hard as she does. Have you seen that YouTube video of Sacrifice for Success? That video reminds me of my wife. I've never met anyone that lives that, except for my wife. Over the last few years, I've seen her go weeks, months, on maybe 1-2 hours of sleep a night MAYBE. Not for a few days, not weeks, not even months...but years. She has dreams and makes true sacrifices for them. She truly does want to succeed as bad as she wants to breathe. I've had to remind her that she hadn't eaten in days before, she had just forgotten because she was working so hard. And you know what? She LOVES what she does. Add on top of that that she was also the All-European Tae Kwon Do fighting champion two times and a third time she took second place because she went into it with a broken jaw, point guard for the Cyprus national High School Basketball team, played Pro-Soccer in Hungary, and has won Strongman contests in both the USA as well as Cyprus. AND...she puts up with me!

John Bover was a friend of mine from my first days in the gym. He set a lot of local records in track and field when he was in college and had some serious accidents as he got a little older. One leg was several inches longer than the other one, both shoulders were pinned together, and he had more than three feet of steel holding his spine together. He was an Arborist (worked with trees) and had basically no money. A lot of people shunned him in the town where I'm from, but he became a great friend. So many Sundays he would show up to train and all he could do was just stand around and watch. Most people knew him as the guy with the long beard that drove the big yellow truck around town and bragged about how much he used to lift "back in the day." And then he would actually lift with us every once in a while and he would do something insane that would blow us away...like just casually walking under an 800 pound Super Yoke, standing up, and holding it there for a minute! He really taught me a lot about what being a friend can mean to people, to lifters. John died a few years ago - had a heart attack while working.

Recently a good friend has inspired me. To be honest, his past achievements have never really inspired me, although I guess a 2,200 pound total SHOULD. Rob Kolberer of St. Louis, Montana, had been competing and setting state records in powerlifting while not feeling "right." I wish I could say that he used good judgment when learning that his kidneys were failing (hereditary and wasn't using his blood pressure meds) but I really can't. I wish I could say that I wasn't rude with him a time or two on the phone over the couple of years he was going through everything...but I can't. The last year he has seen his body weight go from a SHW to the 185 pounds he left the hospital at not so long ago. Over the entire time, he never mentioned never competing. At one point we actually had an in-depth conversation as to where they could put his dialysis line in and how they could alter his bench shirt FOR the line. Glad to say he is recovering nicely and sounds just as positive as he did at his sickest.

Clown Feet? You know what they say about guys with huge feet right? They can't buy shoes if they live on a tiny island! I wear a size 16 in most shoes and it has always stunk! I hate it when people say "Hey, you wanna go in here and look for shoes?" Or when I go into a shoe store and the guy says "Can I help you?" Long Foot Syndrome is rough, we need a support group. I knew I had a problem when Phil Pfister told me that I needed to be in a circus with feet like mine. And for anyone that has met Phil, they know that if he says you are strange...YOU ARE STRANGE!!

Training in the summer here is NOT fun. Even with the AC on in the bed room and a fan on me, it isn't comfortable. Go to the bathroom, I'm sweating. The kitchen, I'm sweating. Living room, I'm sweating. I soak a shirt walking to my car...and all that is before I get TO the gym. I just got a fan in my gym last year and it saves me! Last summer I was training with a good friend of mine (Charis Louca), who was in from University in England and we saw the glue holding my thermometer melt while we were training. It was topped out at 60C (140F) and beyond. Oddly enough they will say on the news that it is 38C/100F and when I get to the gym it is THAT temperature INSIDE. Seriously, they have the temperature taking process all wrong here...or they can't read the numbers. But, being a meteorologist can't be hard "Hot and sunny today, and the next eight months seem to be the same. See you in November!"

Anyway, I could use some more training partners.  I've had many come and go but there is always a long part of every year where it is just me. Well, me, my video camera, and YouTube!

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