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Interview With Strongman Competitor Doc Colossus

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You want strong? Look no further? Strongman competitor Doc Colossus doesn’t mess around with light weight, baby. In this interview with the Doc, he talks about his recent injury, and tells us how he got involved with lifting and strongman training.

Muscle and Brawn: Tell me about your injury, how and when did it happen?

Doc Colossus: The injury occurred on August 8th, 2009 at the Massachusetts Strongman National Qualifier. I was performing my first rep on a 600lb-700lb (they weight was SUPPOSED to be 570lb but they said they weren’t sure of the exact and estimated it may have been even 100lb heavier than anticipated). I dug my heels down into the pavement and pulled, just as I had done many times before with even heavier weight, but something went wrong in my spine and that was all she wrote. I locked out rep one, and tried for several more but couldn’t lock them out, then eventually that was the end of my showing at the contest, and I was off to the hospital.

Muscle and Brawn: What did the doctors say? What type of injury was it?

Doc Colossus: I had what was referred to as a Dual Bleeding Lodged Disc Herniation, but that’s just a fancy way of saying I had 2 herniated discs. The discs were low, in the L4 L5 region of the spine. Problem was one of them caused slight bleeding on the spinal cord, which later caused a whole world of nerve damage down my left leg… The doctors at the hospital (on the day of the actual injury) wanted to keep me for pain control and then put me into surgery the upcoming Monday morning. I said no, and searched other alternatives ranging from massage therapy to chiropractic methods of realigning the spine and decreasing the nerve damage…etc. BUT, when all was said and done, I NEEDED the surgery, and in early September 2009 they went to work, landing me in the hospital for 5 days.

They told me my strongman training and competition was all done, and that I would not likely train again, that I could forget about ever going heavy and would not likely make a full recovery.

Muscle and Brawn: What went through your mind when they said that? Did you think to yourself “bullshit”…or did you have true concerns that you wouldn’t lift heavy again?

Doc Colossus: To be honest at first, the moment the first (of many) doctors told me this, I thought they were full of shit, just covering their own asses with insurance and were playing it safe. I had no idea how serious the injury was until about 2 weeks later when I couldn’t go to the bathroom because of the pressure from the nerve, and my left foot started going out on me and I would trip over it and fall, even while using the cane I had…

After the surgery while I was in the wheel chair (at the hospital, I was to use it anytime I got out of bed but occasionally refused it if I had guests, needed to look strong though I wasn’t fooling anybody), and then for the next month while I was in the walker I started to agree with them. I thought that if I couldn’t even walk on my own surely I wouldn’t be able to train or compete again…

Once I was out of the wheel chair I started to regain hope, then lose it, then gain it, then lose it, then gain it and I made it stick once I regained it… Once I was able to get my head back in the game and stay strong I never looked back.

Muscle and Brawn: Tell us about those baby steps. How many months were you away from the weights completely, and what did your first workouts look like?

Doc Colossus: Baby steps. Baby steps included physical therapy AT HOME with a home therapist. She had me do things as simple as crunch my toes, lift one leg at a time 6″ off the bed if I could get them that high on that given day, she had me walk forward heel to toe…etc. All basic things to teach someone with severe nerve damage how to properly walk again. This was mid-September. By September’s end I was at the phys. ther. clinic 2-3x weekly, 45 minutes each session, doing similar things also having a warm compress and electronic stim. done each session for about 20 minutes, that’s what got the nerve sensation back in my opinion.

I stopped weights after I got hurt Aug. 7th, and didn’t touch them again until late October or so, but was only doing almost no weight form strengthening exercises (like benching the bar only…etc). I began lifting heavier by November, and by December I was getting close to normal with strength (but not in stability or endurance). Though my muscles were strengthening, the lig’s and tendons and damaged back were not, and I was forced to take a few steps back and reformat my training.

These last few months have been getting me back on track. I’m still not training with any strongman apparatus yet… YET, but it’s only a matter of time…. I’m stretching more now than ever before (still not enough), trying to eat enough (tough on a fixed income), and making strides in the right direction each and every day.

Muscle and Brawn: So have you seen the doctor since you’ve started to train more “normally”? Just curious if they continue to caution you, or if they are surprised by your progress?

Doc Colossus: The doctors do not support my training, they said that from the start. THEY DO SUPPORT my rehab work (i.e. therapy and light weight work), but won’t endorse my going heavy.

Since the normal training I have seen the doctor once, he asked if I was back on cycle because I gained a lot of lean mass since the injury… so obviously the training is going well, just not what he likes.

I’m basically treating my training as a don’t ask don’t tell sort of arrangement, then everyone wins.

Muscle and Brawn: Let’s take a step back. When did you get involved with lifting, and how long were you training before you took an interest in strongman?

Doc Colossus: I started lifting when I was 18. I graduated basic training and got in great shape from it and didn’t want to lose what those evil bastards made me work so hard to achieve (plus I came out of Ft. Jackson with such a “can do” attitude it only seemed appropriate that I begin challenging my body and training.)

I competed in my first bodybuilding contest when I was 19, and my second when I was 20. I got hurt at 19 and had the first surgery on my right shoulder for biceps tendon issues, and my second shoulder surgery when I was 20, that laid me up for months, made me lose like 40lb… and basically have to start over from scratch.

I trained until I was 27 and became interested in strongman training, and then fell in love with the sport

Muscle and Brawn: Walk us through what a strongman competition is like from your point of view. How mentally and physically taxing is it, and how squared away are some of the smaller, local competitions?

Doc Colossus: Well morning of the show you wake up calm, all of the stressing and worrying about how you can or should train for the days events are over. You have no more chances to train, so Carpe Diem. I have a friend drive me to the shows location, so I can just tune out and relax… talk if I want to…sleep if I need to… just think, no distractions.

Arriving to the event you immediately search and seek out the other competitors, but not for competitive reasons… to me just seeing the others allows me to know that, though strongman is a one man sport during events, there is a team standing behind you, routing you on.

Once the rules and regs are gone through (and once Derek Poundstone is introduced as a special surprise judge for the day and you now feel surreal because of that), you get your head in the game. You know it’s go time, you begin to prepare… Chalk: check. Belt(s): check. Water: check… and the list goes on.

From there you just get out there and do the best you can, knowing the crowd is there to witness feats of strength they themselves cannot perform, knowing the judges all want to see you do your best so they can do their job the best they can, and knowing the other competitors just want to see you succeed, regardless of where they may fall in the rankings because of it. There’s something to be said about a group of individuals who train for months tirelessly and without regard for their own personal health just to arrive day of the show and forget it’s a contest and just support their fellow strongman!!

Local shows are well set up, well organized, and all around a good time. The crowd is always good, the judges fair, the contestants hungry but friendly and your own friends and family just there to support you in your efforts. You have a chance to walk into the crowd and talk to your friends…your supporters, and to me that’s important because when you’re feeling up against a wall and just need comfort, their the ones who give it to you!

Muscle and Brawn: So now that you are back at it, what are your short and long term goals?

Doc Colossus: Short Term goals are to get my back as close to a full recovery as possible! I’d like to be able to jog again, and be able to bend over to tie my shoes without my lower lumbar feeling like their going to pop through the skin and out my back!

Long Term goals are to compete again in strongman, to place top 3 for a state title and compete in Nationals, regardless of placement there; just want to fly out there (wherever they hold them that year) and compete against the best, and know on that day I left nothing on the table, and whatever was to be, was to be.

Muscle and Brawn: Doc, I’m going to send some words your way. Respond to that word anyway you want…First word…Bodybuilders…

Doc Colossus: Bodybuilders: dedicated to a fault, no regard for self health and well being, but achieve their goals none the less. Tireless in their efforts, role models to the masses in terms of training intensity. Their own worst enemies.

Muscle and Brawn: Another for you…Kazmaier…

Doc Colossus: Animal. Straight simple.

Muscle and Brawn: And Kaz is a cheesehead, which is a bonus. Another word…overtraining…

Doc Colossus: Overtraining: far too common, everyone (myself included) is victim to this. It’s easy to focus on the big picture, and strive to achieve that goal, but all too often we train far too long, far too often and far less rested than we should be while training to begin with

Muscle and Brawn: What strongman events do you enjoy the most, and which do you dread?

Doc Colossus: Enjoy the tire flip, dread the farmers walk!!!

Muscle and Brawn: Strongman is growing in popularity. Any advice for young lifters who want to venture into strongman training?

Doc Colossus: My biggest advice for those looking to get into strongman is to stretch, focus on the big three (bench/squat/DL) + their standing overhead barbell development (too many neglect it, and it’s huge in strongman). Also, they need to be patient, wait for the right show to compete in… they may be able to do one event really well, but on event day when there’s 5 events they will need to do well their bodies may not be ready for the blast!

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