elitefts™ Sunday Edition
This may sound like a funny question to be asked, but on more than a few occasions, I have been asked if it's cool (awesome, fun, or whatever) to be so big and strong. My first answer is always, "hell yeah it is." Truthfully, it is pretty damn fun being bigger and stronger then 99 percent of the population. Every now and again, when I am in a public place and am bored out of my mind, I ask myself, “I wonder if I am the strongest person in this building?” Then I reply with a big grin, “hell yeah I am!” In reality though, it's not that big of a deal to me. I am big and strong because I love to train and lift, but it's not all I do, and it's not how I define myself. There is a lot more to me than just some big strong muscle head, and I have found through my experiences that there are many strength athletes who are way more than just big strong muscle heads.

If you spend all day looking at strength forums, you may end up thinking that there are a lot of egos and assholes into it. BUT when you take the time to actually meet people in the sport, there are some really, really great people.  I could write for weeks about the egos and assholes, but I wanted to write more about the positive side of strength sports. I wanted to write about the people that are real strength athletes, and the people I consider champions. "Champion" is a pretty exclusive word for me because it means way more then just putting up big numbers, setting world records, or winning “world championships.” A true champion is a person that puts up those impressive numbers, sets the records, and wins the world championships... while still being a good person. They give back to the sport and its athletes that gave to them. They appreciate the people that cheer them on and root for them in return. A champion is a competitor/athlete while being a great person.

While many people can never reach the level of an actually champion, it does not mean they are not great people. You could say that they are champions of  life and society- people that don't feed into the bullshit of society by becoming completely self-centered. They actually take time to invite or welcome others into there world and are willing to help them out. I still remember my first meet and how everyone was so cool to me. I didn't know shit about powerlifting. I knew it was a squat, a bench, and a deadlift. I knew there were rules, but I had no idea what they actually where. I was a nobody in the world of powerlifting, and it was a world I knew little about. I was a guy that loved to lift weights and loved being in a gym, but that was it. Keep in mind too that I am generally, or so I am told, an angry, scary-looking person, and I am not the most talkative around people I don't know. Still, other lifters were offering to hand off for me, asking what weights I needed for my warm ups, and just coming up to introduce themselves. It was very cool to meet so many people with the same love I had, and they weren't a bunch of jerks. As I started learning and competing more, I ended up meeting more people. Yeah, there where a few jerks... but even when there where jerks, someone would usually warn you about them, and there was always way more great people. Early on, I would go to meets by myself and be worried about finding someone to help with gear or for good hand offs. However, I learned not to worry too much about that because there always seemed to be some great people that would offer to help. One of the best groups that helped me a ton was Diablo Barbell. The first time I met those guys we got along great, and they were awesome. I owe them a lot for all the help they gave me at competitions. They always seemed to bring a few handlers and would always seem to be able to fit me into there already busy day. For anyone who has never handled a lifter, or worse yet multiple lifters, it is a ton of hard work. Every time I handle someone, I always end up thinking its so much easier to just compete! As I kept training and improving, I would need more help or other equipment to train with. I remember when I didn't have a monolift and the guys at Diablo offered me to come train at their gym at anytime. So I made trips over there to train and to get used to the monolift. No one gets to the top alone, and I certainly have all kinds of people to thank for their help.

I have had the pleasure of seeing a lot of people come into the sport, and it's always awesome to see how well they get welcomed in. My experience is not exclusive. Everyone I have seen that has come into the sport with a good attitude and willing to work was received in a great way. I have seen guys come to a meet and bench less then 200 pounds, but once people see it's their first meet, they are excited for them. I have seen people hit numbers nowhere near world class, but when other lifters find out it's a PR, everyone is congratulating them. You go into the warm-up rooms and guys are sharing training advice or helping with technique. Powerlifting, for sure, is an amazing sport in that way. In reality, most meets don't even make much money. They are put on by people that love the sport. The judges and spotters are, more often then not, paid in food. I don't want this to sound like a fairytale, because you do see some shit stuff and there are some people in the sport I don't care for, but overall I have met some really amazing people that have given a lot of themselves to fellow lifters.

This caliber of people seems to carry all the way to the top, too. I can honestly say that there are very few top athletes in this sport that I don't like. Most of them are awesome people who are every bit as impressive in real life as they are on the platform. I feel like I got welcomed to the top level in just as great of a way as I did in my first meet. You sit in a warm-up room with 20 or 30 of the biggest and strongest guys in the world, and there are no arguments or fights. There are no huge egos or bullshit. Don't get me wrong, they are all confident people, but that's probably why there is none of the bullshit. So many of them are just good guys and willing to help out or answer questions. There are so many guys I could tell stories about. How from the first time we met, they treated me with nothing but respect. There are two stories that always really stick out in my mind, so I will tell just those two for now. The first story is about one of the greatest 308's, Paul Childress. The second is about the great Ed Coan.

I went down to Vegas for the AAPF nationals with the plan of breaking the drug free squat world record and also going over a thousand pounds drug free. I was traveling alone with no handler, which was on my mind but like I wrote earlier, I knew some of the Diablo guys would be there. It ended up that my good friend Jesse was there with the Diablo crew. He offered to handle me that day, which I was very grateful for. I took my opening squat and got it, but I was there to break a thousand. So I took it on my second attempt, and I got a little too excited. I tried to squat down really fast, hoping it would help me explode back up-I was still learning technique at the time, ha ha. It turned out Paul Childress was there and was also friends with Jesse. (Paul is on of the greatest 308's of all time, and a guy I really looked up to. He was also Jesse's strength coach when he played ball in college). So, Paul comes up to me and starts talking. I can't remember the exact words, but basically he said that I am pretty strong guy, and I can squat that weight but I need to stay tight and control it on the way down. Then explode back up. At that point, I was actually pretty damn stoked that Paul Childress was giving me advice, and I was damn sure that was going to listen to him. So I did what he said, and I got the lift. I went over a grand drug free, and I was pretty pumped about it. I was pumped for a little while any way... before I started thinking about what I wanted to do next.  Afterwards, Jesse told me that Paul came up to him and told him to relay that advice to me- since Paul didn't even know me. However, Jesse told him to go ahead and tell me. To this day, I am so appreciative that he did come up and give that advice. Appreciative that he went out of his way to give advice to a total stranger. In my book that's a pretty f'ing cool thing, and that's why Paul Childress is a true Champion in my eyes. I also have ended up talking to Paul a lot over the years, and he really is a good guy.

A couple of years later, I think it was the 2006 or 2007 Arnold, as I was working a sponsors booth at the expo...  A little off the story, but I have to say if you guys ever get the chance to work a booth with a bunch of fitness models, do it. It's a blast! 🙂  Anyway, I was hanging out and spotted Ed Coan out of the corner of my eye. I basically just thought, "holy crap that's Ed Coan, damn he is thick!" It seemed like he was walking straight towards me. Well, he was. He came up to me and said, “Hey, you're Chad Aichs. It's nice to meet you.” My mind was going a mile a minute thinking, “Mother F'ing Ed Coan knows my name!” It puffs your chest up a little bit, and I couldn't wait to tell my handler that Ed Coan knew my name. We shook hands and with a huge grin I said, “and your Ed Coan.” We talked for a little bit, and he was just a down to earth great guy. We talked about whether I was lifting and how I felt, and we also just talked about lifting in general. It was very cool. He wasn't arrogant or cocky, and he had all kinds of respect for lifters, no matter what gear or style they use. The whole thing is really a great memory for me because I really considered him one of the best lifters of all time, and after that I knew he was one of the greatest champions of all time. Like with Paul, I have also had the opportunity to speak with him on many different occasions, and I enjoy it every time.

There are so many different experiences like these, but for some reason these are the first two that really stick out for me. There are just so many champions in this sport, and someday I will be able to write about more of them. Hopefully none of them mind me using their names. If they do, I apologize. I only want to write about them to give them credit for being the amazing people they are (which they  probably don't care about), and in my own way, thank them for the help they have given me. I didn't achieve what I did alone, and there are tons of people to thank.

I hope that people read this article and are motivated to strive to be champions in a sport, or at the very least, champions in life. You can be a great person and an amazing athlete at the same time, you don't have to be a jerk.