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I’ve been training in a gym setting now for 12 years. Through those years, there were always certain things that stuck with me more than everything else. There is one particular story that I will never forget that I would like to share with everyone. I think that everyone will enjoy the story, but the message behind the story is going to click for a lot of you.

The setting is Retro Fitness in Waterbury, CT. It was a Saturday morning in the summer of 2009. This was not long after I started training strongman and I was relatively new to the old CT Strength group. Our training crew used to meet at 10:00 every Saturday morning to train strongman events on Derek Poundstone’s training equipment. The group consisted of about a dozen people. Derek and Tom McClure, two high level heavyweight pros, a former lightweight pro and a couple of future pros in the making, the group was pretty well rounded and it was really enjoyable training with all of these guys.

This particular training day Derek was training for the Mohegan Sun Giants Live competition. It was a really big show back then and was one of the only ways to guarantee yourself a spot at World’s Strongest Man for the coming year. Derek was much stronger than most everyone there so he was often going way heavier than everybody. The group usually rallied behind him to encourage him to push himself even further. Derek was a bit of a glutton for punishment and didn’t usually need much motivation to take his sets to the max.

Intro Iron Mike. Iron Mike was one of the more unique guys in the training group. He was mid 40’s, pretty wiry guy, tipped the scales at about 205 at 5’10” tall. Mike was known for doing the craziest things with his biceps. I’ve witnessed the guy doing cheat curls with 315+ and hammer curls with 150 pounds per hand. I believe at one point he had the state strict curl record as well, with over 200 pounds. As far as strongman competitions, he didn’t really compete much and he was one of the more novice guys but he could grind out crappy things like no one else. I once watched him flip a fingal finger over the course of about five minutes to get one rep, and another occasion he grinded out a log press that took 20 seconds to go from chest to overhead.

iron mike

Derek was training the Hussafelt stone on this day and the stone was 307. This was back when you rarely saw this event so nobody was very good at it. Derek took it for about 200 feet on his first set. Iron Mike sees how much Derek is enduring the suck of this event and he was drawn to it. So he comes over to try his hand at it. The bastard carries it 250 feet! So Derek, being as competitive as he was and the reigning WSM runner-up at the time, goes for another set. This time he manages to grind out 300 feet before the exhaustion sets in and he has to put it down. Iron Mike waddles on over for his turn, and that son of a bitch carried it over 300 feet.

At this point the entire training group is in disbelief. Iron Mike had just beaten Derek again and Derek was not in the least holding back or stopping early; he was giving it everything he had. So Derek had to do one more set. This set he managed somewhere in the range of 320-330 feet before he finally had to drop it, but he beat Mike and so all was right in the world again.

Fast forward to the contest a couple weeks later and Derek absolutely smashes this event. He was last to go and took an easy stroll far beyond any other competitor’s mark. He was easily the best prepared there and I have to think this story played a large part in that. He was pushed further than any of the other competitors and training and forced himself to rise to the challenge.

When you’re training in your group, who’s your Iron Mike? It’s all great for the ego to be the strongest guy there, but how much are you falling short because you’re not being pushed? The push doesn’t always come from the place you’d most expect it. If you’re reading this nodding along because you know Iron Mike in your group, then good for you. Please shoot him a quick message that says thanks for handing me my ass last week, I’m better today for it.

If not, then why not? Go out and find him, Strongman is cool and people are interested. Take somebody under your wing that wants to work hard and teach them. You never know if they might be the next big pro.