The challenge: 12/12/2018, I will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most weight squatted in 24 hours, by squatting 460,000kg.
So, how did I get here, staring down the barrel of 4 months of hellish training whilst sporting average moustache? To put it simply, I am passionate about lifting and my own experiences with mental health issues make me heavily invested in the cause of the Movember Foundation. In terms of character development, I have gone through quite the arc, but this plays a fundamental part in making me the person I am today.
My background in resistance training ultimately stems from a series of concussions which stopped me from playing rugby in my penultimate year of school. I had developed a real hunger for the game, and committed wholeheartedly to its fitness and S&C element the year beforehand. Therefore, when I could no longer play, I carried on training as If I could.
I quickly learnt that I do not function without a competitive outlet, so turned to weight training as a form of challenge. I found the notion of competing against myself to be really fulfilling, and got so passionately involved with educating myself I completed a personal training qualification whilst still at school. I continued to develop, then met my good friend Andy Smith (owner of LIFT Gym, where my attempt will take place) in 2014, who got me into strength specific training.
I have competed all over the world in powerlifting competitions, from Las Vegas to Lapland, and I have always found competition prep a great way to focus my mind and channel my motivation. Since moving to London, I have had to travel a long way to get to gyms that have suitable equipment for me to keep getting stronger. After my last competition in November I have enjoyed taking a step back to train for the sake of training at my local rec centre in Brixton. However, my competitive nature has gotten the better of me – and here we are.
So, that answers the question of why attempt this record specifically, but, why Movember? Well, as I stopped playing rugby and discovered lifting for lifting’s sake, I became obsessively committed to my schoolwork. I achieved results that secured me a place at a top tier university, where I had high hopes for continued self-development and my prospects for the future.
I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to succeed, and university failed to provide me with the fulfilment I was looking for. The content and teaching was far from stimulating and had next to no practical application – I really struggled with the idea that I was working solely towards a number on a piece of paper rather than actually developing myself for the future.
Moreover, my college placement and lack of a team sport meant that it took me a long time to find like-minded individuals to spend time with. I am a sociable person, and endeavour to make a good impression on everyone that I meet, so a lack of social fulfilment coupled with a lack of educational fulfilment made for a challenging start to my university journey.
To cut a long story short, I fell into depression, and spoke to no one about it. I kept telling myself I had no reason to feel the way I did: I’d had a great upbringing, I was succeeding in powerlifting, my family cared about me, there’s people elsewhere so much worse off than I am – so why should I feel the way I do? I didn’t speak to anyone for almost a year, and felt as if my life had hit a standstill, that I had peaked at school, and no longer felt driven to succeed.
I tried to take my own life in 2016, and thankfully, failed to do so.
To make matters worse, I felt so weak and defeated in having let myself get to that stage, that I compounded my emotional isolation by not speaking to anyone about what had happened until almost a year later.
My solution? A 14 week-old French Bulldog called Odysseus, who made me take responsibility for my own life again, as I was now solely responsible for his. It sounds absurd, but talking to Odie allowed me to say words out loud that I never thought I could, which ultimately helped me get to the stage where I was comfortable enough to talk to my family about what had happened.
Men should not be taking their own lives – luckily, I did not complete my suicide attempt, but I want to do everything that I can to encourage as many men as I can to be comfortable enough to talk.
To be a better man, I had to be a man of more words. To get the help that I needed to feel like I was moving forwards again, I had to be a man of more words. To help my friends deal with their own mental challenges, and allow them to finally open up to someone, I had to be a man of more words.
Last year over 500,000 men tried to take their own life; 7 out of 10 suicides are men; 1 in 8 men in the UK have experienced a mental health problem. There needs to be a collective effort to stop men dying too young. As a start, for all men everywhere, I would encourage 2 simple steps:
1) If you are struggling mentally in any capacity, speak up, reach out, and be a man of more words.
2) Endeavour to be considered someone your friends or family can reach out to if they are ever struggling mentally.
The term ‘real man’ is a contentious one, but to me, to be a ‘real man’ in modern terms is to simply implement these two simple steps. Underpinning all forms of success is the ability to recognise moments to make a difference, however modest they may be. So, in a society driving us all to succeed, be the man that we need you to be, and be a man of more words.
I grew up obsessed with J.R.R Tolkien’s literature, and even did my dissertation on The Lord of the Rings. There is one phrase that has stuck in my mind and will do for the rest of my life, and I believe that it neatly summarises the issue I am hoping to raise awareness of:
‘All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost’
If you feel like you have wandered, remember you are not lost. If you are pretending to be gold, but know you don’t glitter, then speak up, reach out, and be a man of more words.