The Greatest Workout Partner

I’ve pretty much known my favorite workout partner since I was three-years old. You see, my biological father was around for one night in the beginning, but then after my birth I rarely saw him. Ben, however was there from when I was three and he’s never really left my side since. It wasn’t easy growing up with a lumberjack for a step-father, especially a very large, red-bearded, and long red haired (usually in a braided ponytail) lumberjack who rode a motorcycle for fun. Just think of the Viking logo with red hair and a chainsaw in his hands and there you have Big Ben. So, in honor of Father’s Day, I thought that I would say a few words about the man who raised me.

The Lumberjack and me

Now, for all of his physical roughness, he was quite gentle (if memory serves me right, his name in the motorcycle club he ran with was, Gentle Ben). This man was never ashamed of giving me an extremely large bear-hug with a kiss on the cheek…nor is he today, the only thing is now I’m a bit too big for him to lift off the ground! Even back in high school when it was uncool to be seen hugging your parents (especially your father), I never minded his affection – it was good to know that I was loved. Now, this isn’t going to be some fuzzy blog about how I was loved and appreciated and cotton candy and unicorns. This was also the same man that said to me, ‘If I ever hear you hit a woman, I’m gonna kill you.’ This after he popped off a few rounds while we were sighting in our rifles for deer hunting; I suppose this was a form of “love.”

Besides the lovey-dovey picture you get of Ben from the above paragraph – he also had other qualities and virtues that he tried to instill in me growing up. I would say that he was paramount in forming me into a human being who respects myself and others around me, a person that knows when to say please and thank you, someone who strives to be honest, and a man who is in love with God. Now don’t get carried away thinking that I was raised by a man with no faults. I know that if you asked, Ben would be the first one to tell you of all the things he did wrong being a father, and that’s why I respect him even more! It takes a big man to step up and say that he did wrong and ask for forgiveness and Ben has done that.

Many important lessons that I learned from Ben were taught in the weightroom. Around the time that I was impatient with growing up and out of my little boy boobs (see first blog), Ben started taking me to TNT Fitness – a small basement gym that housed many different styles of fitness enthusiasts and played some of the best lifting music ever in the heart of Ladysmith, Wisconsin. After many hours of being in the woods fighting the hot sun or snowy wind, carrying around a chainsaw, trekking over uneven terrain, and knocking over trees – Ben would come home and pick me up so we could drive 30 minutes (one way) to pump some iron. Four days a week for an hour to an hour and a half of we would fall short of nothing but blood, sweat, tears, fatherhood, and sonship; this was some serious quality time! Afterwards was the treat: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we would go to the Subway down the road and I would always enjoy two-feet of subs at one sitting (some would say Subway helped Jared lose weight – I’d say Subway helped me put on muscle). I still remember one foot was meatball and the other was chicken breast…of course, during Lent it was a foot of tuna and a foot of seafood and crab on Fridays!

Ben, Mom, & Me May 1997
Ben, Mom, & Me: May 1997

This tradition continued for years; the only time I don’t remember him with me was when he nearly broke his neck in a job-related accident and had to have his cervical verterbrae fused (pretty descent excuse). But during the interim, mom stepped up to the plate and got into fitness like she never had before. However, this is for Father’s Day…sorry Mom! It didn’t take long before I had my favorite partner back, however, Ben got right back under the bar pushing and pulling the pounds. I credit his quick recovery to prayer, proper therapy, and from the accumulation of exercise. That got the ol’ wheels turning back then about how strength training not only helped to create a more well-rounded physique, but how it also helped in getting the body back to full recovery after an injury! So many lessons learned under the bar – and not only lessons about proper form – but lifelong lessons that have stayed with me to this day!

I know that Ben never knew what this time would mean to me today and I know that he never thought of using this time to enforce his morals and pass along his fatherly advice. Maybe there is something to be said about the greatest lessons learned in life aren’t the ones that are spoken, but the ones that are done. I am able to clearly see this man with his gray sweatpants, thick leather weight belt, cut-off shirt, lifting gloves, bandana wrapped around his forehead, and I can still smell and hear the environment set up in the basement of TNT Fitness. These moments rank as some of the best times I had growing up and even though many things have changed in my own workouts (no more chest and triceps on Mondays), I will always remember and miss working out with Dad. Through reflecting and writing, I now realize that the greatest workout partner in my life is also the greatest man I know! Happy father’s day, Ben.