I had originally decided not to write this article, but I thought it would be good to write off some frustrations and thoughts...and then go back and see how it would actually turn out. Clearly, since you are reading it, I decided to go through with it.

For the most part, many of us are connected with our families, and we know that they hold a special place in our hearts. I, for one, am no exception. My family has supported me and has helped me get to where I am today, and I honestly couldn't thank them enough. The one person who I couldn't live without, though, is my father, Jim (or Jimbo). We argue, fight, and have pointless debates, but I know that he only has my well-being in mind. He lost his father when he was 16 years old, and then he was drafted into the Vietnam War at 18, where he received a Purple Heart. I believe this is why he cares so much about me…even at 25 years old. He doesn't want me to go through what he had to. And I, in turn, commend him for being a terrific father (and soldier).

Recently, however, my father was diagnosed with spinal stenosis of the cervical spine. For those of you with minimal medical backgrounds, this is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. My family began to notice issues with my dad’s walking and hand grip, especially on the right side of his body. At first we suspected the worst—a stroke, but thankfully this was cleared through the VA. However, this is when they asked to take a look at his spine. What they found were bone spurs, and these spurs were applying pressure to his spinal cord and causing numbness, tingling, and weakness.

The doctors at the VA in Indianapolis referred him to a specialist back home in order to get an MRI and greater detail on the situation. After the consultation, the specialist notified my dad that he needed surgery as soon as possible. My dad immediately freaked out and was in complete shock. Now, you must know that my dad is not a fan of medical professionals and surgery, so he was hoping for a quick fix in the form of medication. Still, the doctor booked my dad for surgery immediately because any traumatic movement to the cervical region, the doctor told us, could have potentially paralyzed him from the neck down—the fact  that he had gone so long with no major issues was amazing.

Following his surgery, my dad was medicated...well, he was medicated out the ass. I remember him telling me to go outside and get him the paper...from the mailbox. He also said that it was time for me to go to class on a day that I didn't even have any classes. My dad is a funny guy, but this was priceless for the moment. The terrible part, however, was seeing how much pain he was really in once the meds began to wear off. There would be days when he would scream, yell, and cry while trying to do simple tasks. I commend my dad for his strength to persevere through the pain and be a strong guy, and I admire him even more for admitting that he needed inpatient therapy (so he could move better) after being home for only a few days.

Currently, he is out of inpatient physical therapy and is walking around with a cane. He attends physical therapy three times per week and is making tremendous progress with the right side of his body.

The reason behind this story is twofold:

Movement is a blessing

I didn't begin to realize how much I was taking my athletic capabilities and talents for granted until this occurred. Here was my dad—struggling to use the bathroom, while I was squatting 400-plus pounds on the regular. After seeing my dad fight to come back, I've personally made an oath to myself—an oath to never reach a state of inactivity and dependency upon others. I love pushing my body to its full potential; however, in my quest to get strong(er), I've lost sight of simple movement and how some could only dream of doing the basics again. In turn, I have been doing all that I can to help my dad become strong(er). For instance, I have been giving him some exercises that he can do at home with my bands in order to build up his hips, upper back, and his hand strength. And his progress has significantly increased!

Strength is not always measured in pounds or kilos

As strength athletes, we’re always measuring each other by how much weight was lifted, who has what world record, or who uses what gear. Yet, we often forget about those who are fighting to stay in this world, and we do not see the struggle they endure. Some of the most inspirational people in my life are not those who are popping up on my Facebook newsfeed with world records or phenomenal lifts. Instead, they’re the people who are working their asses off despite going through a nasty divorce. They're those people who are battling cancer, coping with unforeseen tragic accidents, or pursuing their dreams despite being broke as shit. These people are putting in more work than either you or I can even dream, and they're doing it just to survive. To hell with lifting and doing what you love—they’re doing this shit to prevent drowning in this world.

From watching my father suffer and regain abilities to do simple tasks, I've become very thankful for my ability to go out and compete and challenge myself. I believe that’s what powerlifting is all about. Sure, hitting PRs and bettering yourself are great rewards from the sport, but deep down I've come to realize that the ability to do these tasks is a blessing, and I’m beginning to see my training from a completely different perspective. I am even thankful for the days when training isn't optimal and I have to back off. Why? Because somewhere there is someone who is just wanting to be able to perform tasks by themselves. I’m thankful for the realization that I am able to help others improve their lives through strength training. This is why I love training—helping others improve their bodies, their quality of life, and to re-establish empowerment.

So, before you go lift during your next training session, go out and do something for someone who is not as fortunate. You could make someone’s day, week, month, year, or even life. Re-evaluate yourself (as I have), and see where you truly fall in the grand scheme of things.