A heavy soul and heavier weights

By  |  0 Comments

Ever heard of Henry Rollins, a punk icon and Black Flag vocalist? Well, a few years ago I came across an article he wrote called “The Iron and Soul.” It was during a rough patch in my life.

I had a major back injury that was not getting better. Long story short: I had a dislocated rib and a fractured rib, a compression fracture at the T7 and T9, and an immense lack of mobility.

I was tired of the pain; I spent months in bed avoiding life because getting up was absolute agony. A couple weeks into it you find out that tricks like caffeine and Tylenol only go so far. It was depressing and I hated it. Therapy was limited and basic. It was just enough to get by.  The pain kept lingering like a bad dream you can’t shake. I wanted out; I didn’t want any more pain.

I started looking for answers. As you can probably figure out by now, it wasn’t some esoteric book or a stranger I met on a bus down to the beach. It was this old piece of untouched iron sitting in my garage as well as a few passages out of that article that I came across on Digg. The article states:

“There is no better way to fight weakness than strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it is impossible to turn back.”

It’s true. I was depressed. Then Rollins smacked me across the face with the answer: “The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. “In hindsight, it seems like common sense, but at that moment the gears were starting to turn. Think about it. We’re animals—flesh and blood, process-driven, evolutionarily wired animals and then include conscious thought together. We forget that we can’t expect a change in our mentality without a change of our physiology.

Years ago I had strength, and endurance. At that point, I just wanted to stand up without having to brace myself. It was time to submit. It was time to rebuild myself; It took 11 months. I went from being unable to perform basic stretches to putting 500 lbs. on my back. What on Earth was I thinking? A year ago I couldn’t sit down at the table for more than a few minutes to eat and now I am dropping half a ton on my back, squatting down to ground, and coming back up?  It was crazy, right? It was not just the absence of pain that made me push further it was finding strength. The iron not only showed me what I could do, but the iron had taught me how to live. There was something about the daily grind, the little wins, the discipline and habits, and coming into the gym and plugging away at it. It was trying to squat a little deeper, trying to deadlift a little faster, putting an extra five or ten pounds on the bar to see what would happen. If I got cocky, I would get knocked down. If I was too meek, I would stall. I learned honest progression and built a new man out of sweat, steel, and cast iron plates.

In October of 2011, 11 months after I decided my fate, I squatted 495 lbs., bench pressed 275 lbs., and deadlifted 395 lbs.  I totaled 1,165 lbs. weighing 225 lbs. in the gym. Rollin’s prophetic words hit me again: “I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me.” I also came down at 75 lbs. The day I was injured, I weighed 204 lbs. The day I decided to make a change, I weighed 279 lbs. By the 11th month I weighed 225 lbs. If you do the math, I lost around 75 lbs. of fat, and put on around 20 lbs. of muscle based on body fat percentage readings. Now, the new found strength and weight loss was awesome, but do you know what was better? My pain had gone away.

Yeah, there were days I was so sore that I couldn’t walk, but I would trade a lifetime of pain from weakness for a lifetime of soreness from strength any day. In retrospect, my only real mistake was not competing. I was an athlete for most of my life and it would have been awesome to see this new found strength tested in the real world. I regret it; I could have gotten off to a great start, but it’s never too late.

I remember still being wet behind the ears thinking I just climbed Mount Everest. By totaling up my three lifts, which is the standard measure in powerlifting, I made it into the “prestigious” 1,000 lbs. club. It is one of the major milestones in a powerlifter’s journey and a sign of accomplishment. It is a gauntlet that you pass from boyhood into manhood. Little did I know that there were men out there passing through another gauntlet: from man to beast. Absolute animals picking up 700, and even 800 pounds off the ground while weighing less than I did! Women who were twice as strong as I was relative to their bodyweight and looked great doing it! Kids and I mean kids at 16 and 17 passing me up with ease. It was an amazing journey.


By: Richard Salinas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *