Brothers in Iron is a mini-series I shall be doing that shares people or groups of people I have met through the world of fitness and whom I have looked up to at times for inspiration. They are people that I believe some of you, the readers, can look up to for motivation with regards to both activities inside and outside the gym.
I tend to workout at varying times during the day, depending on when I’m free, have enough energy and am mentally focused. Lately that tends to be sometime around mid day, where the gym’s quietest and there isn’t a half hour queue just to use the squat rack! Sticking to this routine has introduced me to a couple of likeminded individuals, most surprising of which is Erik. Everyday at 1.30pm, like clockwork, a slight figure can be seen walking around the gym in an England shirt, khaki shorts and black weightlifting belt.
I first met Erik 2 months ago when using the bench he wanted. The funniest part about the encounter was how he immediately stopped whatever it was he was doing and ran to try aid me grind out the last rep of my final set benching. Whether or not he helped is another matter but the thought and effort is definitely commendable! In an environment where testosterone rages and egos are at its highest, Erik quietly trundles around and goes about his getting his dose of “iron therapy”. But you couldn’t be more mistaken if you were to think of him as being weak. I asked him about his age once. Never again. “Why does it matter?” was the stern reply. I had already explained that it was for a feature in this blog but he was adamant that at no point should his age be mentioned. “But age is nothing but a number. It isn’t about how old you are on the outside, but more how old you are on the inside”. He certainly lives by those words, out training a lot of people around the same age as me!
Erik started working out as a student in 1956. “Way before you’re time”, he chuckled. Originally from Tajikistan, Erik moved to the UK in the 50’s in order to get his education. At the time, there was both class and race discrimination in Tajikistan with both Christians and black people alike being poorly treated. As a “lower class” individual he did not have any second thoughts about settling into the UK.
Since the 50’s, Erik has continued working out, describing it as a “drug”. He was never interested in alcohol or recreational drugs but fell in love the moment he stepped into the gym. He may not be the might he once was, but he still continues to perform major lifts (Squats, T-bar rows, etc.) to the best of his ability. At times he pushes himself too far, but refuses to accept help, which I can only assume it’s so he doesn’t get reminded about his weaknesses.
He may not have the best physique or form, but it’s his work ethic and his beliefs are what make him stand out. I asked him what keeps him motivated to work out to this day; “Too many people lose a purpose once they retire. They die mentally before they do physically. This is my purpose. This is what I enjoy,” he recited. I couldn’t agree with those words more myself. So many people in their 20’s “die mentally”, lacking any clear ambitions. An even smaller percentage actively work to try and achieve those ambitions. If Erik can, why can’t we?
On that day, I did not have my best workout and did not feel as mentally strong as I normally do. But after the interview, I was truly inspired. “We don’t beat the Grim Reaper by living longer, we beat the Reaper by living well and living fully, for the Reaper will come for all of us. The question is what do we do between the time we are born and the time he shows up. It’s too late to do all the things that you’re gonna kinda get around to.”, Randy Pausch, 2008. Take some time to find out what you want in life and put in the effort required to achieve those results.
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