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Squats and Deads are my Spiritual Pillar (Words 677)

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 either squat or dead. Then leave. We always hear about ‘the single best exercise if you couldn’t do anything else’. You’ve also heard that one before eh? I actually went there.

Well, heres my spin: They’re the king of the soul exercises. I’ve read and heard ad nauseum that squats and deadlifts are the best for fitness. No arguments there. But 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. 

Escalating abuse at a call center job, pain 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. Things got real dark. I dropped off the face of the map for nearly a year. The friends and family I reconnected with after I found my way out, could all attest to that. I’d trudge my way through the 3km of 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 alike, I’d feel drained of the will to live. I lost the will to hit the gym most days and even when I did 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 an employer, or even just out of bed. I tried quite a few little routines and a slew of different exercises. Machines, curls, presses, you name it. There just wasn’t an exercise that could talk my body or mind into being willing to get up, show up or even go 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 make me feel alive and in control in ways that life had deprived me of. Arm workouts are fun, but they cant 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 the strength for it, I’d deadlift heavy. Vent frustration. When I lacked focus I’d dump weight and do a few sets of AMRAP. 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 warm for a few more hours.

This was something I discovered deep down in my bones. More of a “I aint got a plan or a future” version of living life. Then when the light returned to my life I was still mentally and physically capable of walking toward that light. Without that, I figure I would have mentally and physically devolved into some sort of mushy sea slug.

Now here I am. 10/10 a viable member of society again. Exercising for enjoyment again, rather than doing the bare minimum necessary to preserve my sanity.

And heres my name to say so.

D.A. Mills


  1. Liam

    I think you have a really strong story, and you present it well. The descriptive detail to the darkness you were experiencing is very strong and it sounds very authentic. The paragraph starting with ‘This was something I discovered deep down…’ could use a bit of clarification, the link between the second and third sentence isn’t super clear to me, though I may be misinterpreting your meaning.

    Throughout the writing you have a lot of short sentences with a strong statement to make a point, and while i think this helps get the feeling of ‘one thing after another’and give extra impact to the statements, it also feels a bit stop/start/stop/start at times, I feel some of the sentences with less intended impact or weight could probably be combined to improve flow and make the times you do use these shorter statements even more impactful.
    While this is fairly close to the general community and is applicable to most people in any sort of situation you would likely benefit from a short sentence or even smaller references to how it might apply to others.

    Overall it was a good read and i think itll be a very good final product

  2. Sean

    The narrative flow and authentic voice were on point in this piece, and although the whole thing was a personal story it felt meaningful to the end, really had me rooting for you to find that one great work out. I suppose the one thing I would change would be that I’m very convinced the deads and squats helped you through a very tough time, but not as convinced that they are the best work out for me. Clearly you are writing from a very personal experience but try not to lose sight of the goal of making the thing you believe in meaningful to the audience as well.

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