Squats and Deads are my Spiritual Pillar

(Words 695)

Sometimes plans and intentions are meaningless in the face of life. I’d workout on a regular basis. The iron was there and so was I. Then life started throwing me curve balls. As things spiraled downward, my ‘fitness’ comprised of little more than once a week gym visits where I would squat or deadlift then leave.

We always hear squats and deadlifts are the kings of fitness. Well, here’s my spin: They’re the kings of the soul exercises. When just ‘working out’ wasn’t enough, when it wasn’t possible, I needed to find the exercise that wasn’t just the best bang for my buck fitness wise. I needed something that would also fire up my engines enough to drive me to do another rep. Something that would nourish my soul.

3 km is a long walk in a blizzard.

Escalating abuse at my job, pain from old injuries, financial duress and loss of contact with friends and family. None of these were unsolvable problems. Yet together they created a quagmire I couldn’t get out of. Life got dark as I dropped off the face of the map for nearly a year. I’d trudge the 3km through usually shit weather to work a job I despised for which I wasn’t getting paid enough to cover my bills. After surviving 8 hrs of berating from customers and supervisors, I’d feel drained of the will to live. I lost the will to hit the gym most days and when I did go my mind wasn’t in the game.  



And yet, once or twice a week, the dying ember of life I was huddling over, would give me just enough flame to crawl back from that Gulag of a workplace, or even just crawl out of bed and do a workout. I tried a plethora of routines and different exercises. Machines, curls, presses, you name it. No exercise could talk my body or mind into getting up or showing up let alone getting past the first rep.

And then there was.

Squatting and deadlifting rose as the clear victors. No other exercise can quite dig into your core and ignite the fire like a squat or a dead. They made me feel alive and in control in ways life had been depriving me of. Arm workouts are fun, but they can’t rustle your jimmies the way squats or deads can.

At first, I’d grab onto or strap into my now ancient Elitefts bands and ‘lift’ at home or when I could afford the $10/mo membership, the gym. If I had strength for it, I’d deadlift heavy to vent frustration. When I lacked focus I’d dump weight and do a few sets of ‘As Many Reps As Possible’. When I hurt from old injuries I’d do light front squats for mobility or ‘breathing’ deads for my core. The full body exertion of effort on those lifts was enough to remind me I was alive and leave me with a small sense of accomplishment. Plus, in the dead of winter, when the furnace was only on high enough to keep the pipes from freezing and bursting (again), doing a few sets of squats can warm you up enough to crawl back under the blankets and stay toasty until morning.

Squats and deads kept being the solution to my problems. This was something I discovered deep in my bones. The barbaric simplicity of the movement and the brutal honesty of the barbell helped me start climbing my way up. Instead of growing muscle I was growing a thirst for life. I respected squats and deadlifts and the Gods of fitness smiled upon me, when they returned the light to my world, I was still mentally and physically capable of walking toward that light.

Imagine doing a balls out set of squats, the kind of set that feels like getting water boarded or drowning. Once you rack the weight, you too can experience a newfound love for things as simple as breathing. Rip a five-wheel deadlift off the floor and listen to your worries get crushed beneath the thunder of the iron.

I think anyone who squats and deadlifts in a time of need will taste some of that same enlightenment.

And heres my name to say so.

D.A. Mills