Training and My Deployment

by Andrew Carroll

Earlier this year I made up my mind to get serious about lifting. I was tired of weighing in at a whopping 260 pounds of sloppy fat gelatinous goo. I hated the way I looked and how I felt about myself. It seemed like the right time to make a change, as I was getting ready to be deployed with the Air Force. I told myself that by the time I came home in six months, I would have completed my transformation from a slob into a sexual tyrannosaurus.

My deployed situation was, in a sense, a vacation from my old habits, and the perfect opportunity for me to undertake this transformation. I will now take this moment to plug my branch of the service. Have you ever wanted to see the Middle East from the comfort of a 5 star hotel, make $120 a day of extra money and hostile fire pay, and know you are going to go home at the end of your six months? Well, you need to join the United States Air Force, my son. That’s how we get down.

Anyway, I wanted to do this right, so I knew I’d have to study. I started by picking up some books. I read everything I could get three times, once with a highlighter. I learned about frequency, volume, and the stages of training that are recognized by most people in the business of Iron. When I had made my way through the books, I turned to the internet. I even found a forum that seemed to be filled with like-minded people who wanted the same thing I wanted: to get Bull Strong.

The first problem I ran into on my journey was a lack of proper training equipment. I had access to a “fitness spa” in the hotel that had a 5-foot plastic straight bar, six plastic/rubber 20kg plates, and a couple of 10kg, 5kg, 2.5kg, and 1.25kg plates. They had a plethora of machines including that infamous punching-bag of barbell purists, the Smith machine. The dumbbell selection was okay, starting at 1kg and going in 2kg increments to 22kg, then making jumps to 30kg, 40kg, and 50kg. Once a week, though, I was able to make my way to the annex gym on the airport where I worked and make use of a bench press and two real Olympic bars. This was my special treat each week and I looked forward to it immensely, but only having proper equipment once a week seemed to put me at a big disadvantage.

My Hotel Gym

Meanwhile, back on the internet forums, I read for countless hours a day about the enormous gains experienced by other members, gains that I wanted for myself. I implored these wise men to tell me how to effectively train in a gym that has no squat rack, no Olympic bars. How am I going to increase my strength and become a man among men without this equipment?

The “Real” Gym at the Annex

A thunderous chorus arose from the internet and fell upon my ears. The message was, “You cannot! You must find another gym! This is impossible! Give UP!” Luckily for me, rising above this cacophony, a few voices of encouragement came through. “If you can’t squat, front squat.” said one. “Do chins,” and “make the most of what you have,” said a few. These are the words that filtered through the bullshit that was assailing me. I came seeking knowledge. I am motivated and prepared to do what it takes to get stronger and change my body composition.

With a drastic diet change, eating cleaner than I ever had, I set forth to destroy my lifts. My program consisted of the front squat, overhead press, deadlift, weighted chinup, and curl on Monday and Friday. Wednesday had the front squat, bench press, deadlift, close grip bench, shrug, and curl. I worked my ass off on every lift, every day that was a lift day. On days I didn’t lift I was spending 40 minutes at a 15% incline on the treadmill keeping my heart rate at 130 BPM.

I ate a lot and got as much protein as I could and drank milk like water but never got near the famous gallon-a-day. I ate tuna, chicken, vegetables, and the occasional double bacon cheeseburger and fries. A guy has to live, right? I was a lot stricter on my food intake in the first three months. I lost about 40 pounds in those first months while simultaneously increasing my strength. While I had dicked around with bodybuilding splits before, this was the first time I’d ever followed a “proper” strength program. Here’s an excerpt from my training log to show where my strength, if you can call it that, was at this time.

June 26th, 2010:

Front Squat: 88 lbs x 5 x 3

OHP: 88 lbs x5

Deadlift: 88 lbs x 5 x 3

Chins: 8, 6, 5, 4

Now check this out, from November 10th, 2010:

Squat: 245lbs x 5 x 3

Press: 115 lbs x 5 x 2

Bench: 215 lbs x 5 x 3

Deadlift: 375 lbs x 5

Weighted chins: 25lbs x 5 x 4 + 2

I think this story demonstrates that even when you don’t think you have what it takes, what matters most when it comes to building strength, a better body, or better conditioning, is the will to get it done. When I sought advice on my situation, I received a lot of discouraging feedback, with many people telling me that what I was trying to achieve couldn’t be done. However, I got some valuable advice and encouragement as well, especially from many of the fine folks who are here at StrengthVillain today. I learned that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the perfect equipment or the perfect environment. What matters is how badly you want to succeed.

I am sharing this experience with you because I want to reinforce what we all know: that if you want something enough, you can make it happen. Mental toughness, goals, drive, motivation; these are the essentials for a strength athlete. In a recent article Phil Stevens said in that “being an athlete is a mindset.” I agree with him 100%. I believe that everyone here at StrengthVillain agrees with that 100% and that is why we are all going to succeed.


11 Responses

  1. Aaron

    Good work on your gains. Your hard work deserves respect.

    Slight disclaimer here- the AF actually deploys. I am not mad at you for spending your time in a 5 star hotel making 120 a day- what you have described is an awesome TDY. And yes, it’s a TDY. Not a deployment.

    Unfortunately, the Air Force has plenty of men and select women in harms way. To boot, several of these warriors did not get to come home from their deployment very recently. While I don’t necessarily have beef with your recruiting angle, I think a little bit of discretion would be good when “plugging your branch of the service”. Keep in mind that there are those that get upset when this sort of stereotype is perpetuated by the very people that should be the most upset by it.

    The AF has enough problems with the perception that this kind of thing is the rule, not the exception. And I take personal exception to that, because that’s not how I “get down”.

    If you would like to further discuss this issue personally, please email me at the address provided. Doesn’t have to be a big deal. I just want to make sure that the wrong stereotype isn’t perpetuated.

    November 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

  2. Drew

    Your email address isn’t provided. But please feel free to PM me any time you would like.

    The AF has done and will continue to do plenty of hard work in a deployed environment. If you don’t understand that this article is for entertainment its no big deal.

    Thanks for making my first go at writing an article seem trite. I really appreciate that.

    November 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

  3. Aaron

    Again, this isn’t a big deal. You wrote well and you deserve credit for finding a way to make solid gains while under less than ideal circumstances.

    November 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

  4. Drew

    I had no idea dude. We know some of the same people and I would like to say that your career path and that of some friends of mine Tanner, Dan-O, Chad, Betty are one I hold in the utmost respect. I responded to you expecting to find someone just fucking with me.

    People, Aaron is what the Air Force is truly about. This man lays his life on the line on a daily basis and worked his ass off for the privilege to do so.


    November 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm

  5. Richie

    Nice article man. Good job making it work with what you had. Impressive.

    I too lived in a plywood box with a tin roof on my deployment. But the flip side is, there was a small gym (nice and dingy and ratty, perfection in other words) not a 2 minute walk from my b-hut. It had all that I needed, a bench press and power rack, plus plenty of extra bars for the pulls.

    November 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

  6. gamedog

    You’re definitely tenacious, and you’ve done a hell of a job where most people would have either given up completely, or relegated their goals to the “I’ll just have to try to do this later” back-burner. You’ve been resourceful and industrious, and you’ve made many positive changes for yourself. And I’m glad you wrote about it, and Johnny P. published it because this can and probably will inspire a lot of others. And fuckin’ a for that!

    November 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm

  7. Paul Sousa

    Awesome article Drew, you made sick progress while being away. Too bad I’m always going to one up you on squats.

    November 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

  8. Kellen

    Awesome article! It’s very motivating, and very pertinent to my situation. Quit making excuses for why I can’t improve, and just do what I can to make myself better through determination and hard work.

    November 25, 2010 at 7:49 am

  9. skinnyfatdude

    Liked this article a lot. Asa frequent business traveler, it drives me crazy when people advise me to just give up when on the road. That is a bullshit attitude. If you want bad.enough, you will figure out a way.

    November 26, 2010 at 5:55 am

  10. Drew

    Thank you guys for all the positive feedback.

    November 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm

  11. Bahadur

    Was interested in hearing your take on the thought that excessive cardio can hamper strength gains. Doing a cardio workout like that every other day seems like a killer; did you feel like it effected your strength gains? It obviously helped with body recomp.

    December 8, 2010 at 5:46 pm

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