The beginning of my lifting journey by Dan Hentges

For about a year I have been lifting off and on with a fantastic training partner and great friend in Daniel Hentges. Ever since we’ve met he has been a supportive person in my life in ways that describe the meaning of lifelong friend. His dedication to his family, his friends, his lifting, and his stellar character are examples of what it means to be a man in 2016.

Dan is also a lifter for Relentless, constantly surpassing expectations in fund-raising and being a true example of what that mission stands for. He doesn’t take part in it to draw attention to himself, he steps up to the plate and shows what the meaning of service is.

If I could be half the person he is, I would be a lot better.

That is a small example of what Dan is. He isn’t an elite lifter by any means but his story below will resonate with many of you and it bears repeating here.

He sent me this the other day out of the blue because he just wanted to write it down. I am proud to share it.

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“My fat ass step-dad…”  That beginning of a sentence is what directed me to lifting after many years away from taking care of myself.  Sure, I had dabbled in different forms of lifting throughout my younger years, but I never stuck with it or followed any true structured training or diet regimen.  But when hurtful words from one of your kids (before I go any further, I have to be perfectly transparent and say that her saying this was in response to me grounding her) it takes on a whole new meaning.  Let me take a few steps back and lead up to this point in my life.

Like any normal kid, I loved sports and loved the idea of being strong.  What kid didn’t look up to a comic book figure or a professional athlete in amazement?  I remember growing up watching guys like Bo Jackson and Joe Montana dominating the gridiron.  I was infatuated with comics like Batman and Superman.  And, of course, I watched every Arnold movie I could get my hands on.  Being strong was just something I had a yearning for.  I just never really did anything about it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with great genetics for strength.  I was born with a crooked spine that’s always given me fits.  Early on, I didn’t let that stop me.  When I was 14 my dad bought me a weight set at a garage sale.  From that day I was in my basement lifting every single time I had a few free minutes.  After about a year I became discouraged because I wasn’t seeing the results I thought I would get (because who knew nutrition was something I needed to worry about.)  For the next few years the only lifting I did was whatever my football and baseball coaches told me to do.  And again, I just ate whatever my mom made for food for the day or ran to whatever fast food or pizza buffet my friends were going to.  

To say I was an average-at-best athlete in high school would be an understatement.  My physical stats at graduation were a whopping 5’9” and 170 lbs soaking wet.  So it’s safe to say playing sports in college wasn’t going to happen.  So my focus turned to school, eating terribly, and drinking way too much.  No big deal, right?  These are normal bad habits for everyone in the 18-25 age group.  No.  It was bad.

A handful of years later I found myself using food and alcohol to mask the pain of a very nasty divorce.  There wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t pounding a case of beer and eating pizza/cheeseburgers/whatever.  Before I knew it I was up to 250 pounds.  Friends and family dropped hints, tried to get me to be more active, but all I wanted to do was live a life where I didn’t care about my reckless behavior.  Even on weekends that I had my son, I would just substitute the drinking (I wouldn’t allow myself to drink a lot while I had him) for more junk food.  

Luckily I met a woman that helped me really believe that I was worth something.  Sure, things didn’t instantly turn on the gym motivation, but I was able to start taking better care of myself.  Sadly, the damage had been done and I was still massively overweight.

Then, one day in the midst of an argument I overheard my step-daughter refer to me as a fat ass.  I knew at that moment that my kids didn’t view me in the way that I wanted them to.  That was honestly the biggest wake-up call I’ve ever had in my life.  It was also one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced.

So, from there I joined a gym and started regularly lifting and tried to structure a more well-balanced eating plan.  It was hit and miss for a while.  Thankfully I met a guy that is very knowledgeable in nutrition and he helped me get my weight down to around 180 pounds.  I felt great and looked better than I had in years.  During that time I was introduced to a group of guys at a nearby gym that were competitive powerlifters.  After training alongside them a few times, it is very safe to say that I was hooked on getting stronger and wanting to compete.  I had spent the last year trying to improve my image to look “better” for my family, now it was time to have fun with it.

Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure to work with a few coaches to help provide a ton of knowledge and support, and have competed in a few meets.  Progress is still being made and I’m still having just as much fun as I did when I first started.  I can honestly see myself competing for several more years.  There’s something very fulfilling about pushing yourself to new milestones and surprising yourself when smashing old personals bests.

While I may regret that it took me until the age of 35 to start faithfully following a healthier lifestyle and finding the sport of powerlifting, I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason.  Maybe I wasn’t meant to find this hobby until later in life.  After all, it took listening to my evil step daughter (haha…had to) to realize I needed to find something to make me better.  And I’ll never be able to thank her enough.  

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