Everyone with any experience in strongman/strongwoman knows it takes a great deal of dedication and determination to succeed. Something that only experienced athletes will tell you is survival may be the most important variable. It has taken me 7 competitive seasons and countless serious injuries to finally learn this. Honestly, I can’t believe it took me this long! Some of my injuries were just freak accidents/bad luck but some were brought on by bad habits and even worse decisions. Even without any serious injuries there were long periods of time where I made very little progress in spite of my efforts. Yes I was working hard but not smart and I was playing the short game not the long game like I should have. I was not only doing this in the gym, I applied it to other variables in life and in the end I nearly self destructed. Not just physically but mentally as well. Luckily I had some very helpful friends and family to lean on when things got really bad (my wife Tracey will confirm I was not easy to deal with for the last 18ish months).
To help you understand what I mean by really bad I will tell you about the last 18 months of my journey. It all started with an injury and tearing my pec in November of 2015 which was awful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nice-clean-off-the-bone tear… let me tell you, it fucking exploded! This was a major setback but through surgery and rehab I was able to recover. What was much worse was in August of 2016 after turning a corner on my pec recovery I was admitted into the hospital with acute pancreatitis (a result of an ongoing stomach acid problem and 2 cortisone shots the same day). To make matters even worse, at the same time while in the hospital they told me I was going through heart failure. 5 days in the hospital and I went from 303lbs to 262lbs. Luckily, the pancreatitis cleared up within those 5 days and I was released but with my heart function sitting at only 50% of what it should be. The only explanation my doctors would give was that I had a bad heart and it was probably a genetic condition. I can tell you it puts incredible mental strain on you to go through something like this. At the time, my daughter was 4 years old (she is turning 5 this summer) and I am one of those people who really loves my wife so needless to say being sent home from the hospital with the impression that I had a bad heart did not sit well with me! The thought of possibly leaving my family behind without me due to this was absolutely terrifying! After 4 months of worry (hell) and being on medication including beta blockers, I demanded an appointment with my cardiologist as I was going crazy! I didn’t feel like I had a bad heart and the beta blockers made me feel terrible. I wanted to go off the drugs as soon as I could. Initially, during the doctors visit I was instructed that not only should I stay on the drugs but they wanted to double the dose. My reply was “FUCK THAT – send me for more tests”. A very long story short: they sent me for more tests and low and behold, thankfully, I showed normal heart function. The explanation I was given was that I was not going through heart failure and that actually I had contracted a viral heart infection at the time I was admitted originally or shortly before. Probably the result of a chest/throat infection I previously went through. This was upsetting but an incredible relief. This nightmare was over and I was not going to die.
After all of that am I mentally strong? Yes, I must say I am. I didn’t start out that way, I went through hell to be where I am right now. Now after this ordeal is all over, this mental strength gain bleeds into my strongman training and competition work. It helped me solidify my values. My family comes first and then comes strongman and I can say with 100% certainty I am in it for the long game now. Not for one moment when I was in the hospital or during my recovery did I give up on my dream of being a successful strongman. Having recovered now, I will put my health first, do what I can to prevent injuries and put more work into being a better athlete than ever before by doing things right this time. Now more than ever I feel I am on the right course and am certain there is nowhere but up from here. I will continue to improve as a strongman because after so many ups and downs I am finally mentally strong and for me that means not self destructing. I will survive this season and the seasons to come and eventually I will reach the level I know I can. Like I said before, my family is awesome. Tracey always has my back and everyone who knows her knows that my daughter Jordyn is the coolest kid on planet earth. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be doing what I love and getting so many great new opportunities in strongman. They held me together when I could barely do it myself. My friends also played a big part in helping me back on my feet and you know who you are so instead of being too mushy and naming you I will just say thank you. One last mention is not pertaining to my life getting back together but just to my strongman training. Well I guess getting back to competition form helped me put many pieces of my life back together, so I want to give special mention to my coach for helping me do that. I will never forget melting down at the gym after months of struggling with mediocre weights, locking myself in the office and asking him over video messenger to help lift me back up. Getting back to where I am now did not come easily and I can say with 100% honesty that some aspects are still not quite where they should be but without his help I don’t think I would have pieced it back together the way I have.
We give a lot in our sport and nobody loves it more than me. You want to see a grown man cry? Catch a strongman at their lowest. I can honestly say it feels so much better to get emotional over triumph and happiness than it does over setbacks. The last year and a half had some dark times for me and I am just so happy with where I’ve ended up. I was lucky enough to step out of the amateur ranks by placing decently at my first show back (since before the pec injury) and earning my pro card. Shortly after that I had the opportunity to compete out in Quebec on the Canadian big stage (Quebec’s Strongest Man) where I had a lot of fun and had the opportunity to grow as an athlete. I have 3 more shows planned over the next 2 months and I will love every minute of it. All I ever wanted was the opportunity to compete on a bigger stage and after the hardest time in my life I have achieved that.
Steve got his start in the industry training team sport athletes. After a short time he branched off into training people of all backgrounds including health and fitness, weight loss, recovery after stroke, injury recovery and most importantly strength sports. During his strength career he has been an IPF powerlifting national champion but now competes solely in Strongman. Steven is one of the top strongmen in Western Canada and has competed in more than 35 competitions in the last 7 years Follow him on Instagram and Facebook