Why Lifting is so Important to Me

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

I am typically not one that likes to share personal stuff, but since the internet trolls like to share my personal stuff for me I figured I would give everything some context.  It is easy to Google someone and think that you know them from one incident that took place over 16 years ago.  Before I was legally allowed to consume alcohol.

 

This story starts even further back than that with the earliest memory I have of my father.  I was roughly 9 years old at this time.  I got into a little spat with another kid in the neighborhood.  For some reason this pissed my father off so much that he hit me across the chest.

 

He hit me so hard it left a handprint.  My parents decided to keep me out of school for a couple days until it healed.  This was probably where my “lack of showing emotion” started.  I was forced to suppress this situation and try to understand what was happening on my own at 9 years old.

 

Lucky for me I had sports.  I was playing soccer at this time as well as baseball and basketball.  Basically staying active as 9 year old boys did back then.  I definitely took to soccer more than the other two.

 

I think the reason for this was that those soccer lines were a barrier between myself and my father.  He would coach my baseball and basketball teams at times.  There was one incident in the 6th grade where he decided to whip a basketball into my face in front of the entire team.  Again, no one did anything except talk behind my back about it.  He had thrown baseballs at me in practice before as well, but nothing that was quite as bad as the basketball incident because I was new to the town and school system at the time.

 

My father was very verbally abusive and physically at times when I was growing up.  This would only get worse when my mother couldn’t take it anymore and divorced him.  My father began drinking way more and just got more and more bitter as time went on.

 

There was an incident where he threw me into the kitchen counter hard enough to put a bad bruise along my lower back.  When I was on the floor writhing in pain, he stood over me and called me a “pussy.”  There were other times when he got pissed that he would grab my genitals really hard and scream in my face enough that he would be spitting all over me.  I tried to stand there like a statue to show that I was in no pain.  That he couldn’t hurt me or break me.  For no other reason than fuck him.

 

He convinced us kids that my mother was the devil, straining my relationship with her for a period of time.   I slept on the floor of a one bedroom apartment with my brother, and on weekends, my sister.  Eventually we moved to a 2 bedroom, but beds would come later on.

 

I continued to play sports through this time.  I realized the better I was at soccer, the more teams that I would get asked to play on.  I felt powerful and in control of my life playing soccer.  Eventually I joined a club team that traveled all over on weekends.  The schedule of games and practices really limited the time I would have to spend at home.

 

If it was not for sports at this time, I would imagine that I could have fallen victim to drugs, or other poor behavior.  I was still an angry kid.  I would get into my share of fights at this time, but it was nothing like it would have been if I did not have that outlet playing sports.  Sports probably preserved my mental health as well.

 

I was being recruited by colleges all over the country to play soccer.  Some were Division 1 schools, but they were far away from home.  My father wanted me to stay closer to “help out.”  I wanted to actually get playing time anyways, so I chose a smaller school in Maine.

 

This seemed like a compromise, far enough away from the bullshit, but close enough to keep him happy so he would make the payments.  He would get a DUI and made me come back every weekend to drive him around.  Usually while he was drinking Coors Light in the passenger seat.

 

I would go to my high school field every day and just kick a ball around by myself.  I ended up getting really good at free kicks and I attribute it to this.  I would work on my ball skills as well at this time.  I went from being an outside defender in high school to an underclassman starting at center mid at the college level.  I had learned how to take something negative and turn it into something positive.

 

One day I went to register for my classes for the next semester and I was unable to.  I went to the registrar’s office as I thought it was a mistake.  Apparently, my father stopped paying the bills.  This was the second time that this has happened.

 

The school was very helpful and told me they would allow me to register and just roll the past due payments into the monthly bills.  My father was adamant he was paying them, but clearly that was a lie.  I knew my next semester would be my last because there was no way those payments were doable.

 

I was able to squeeze one last soccer season out of it.  It was pretty surreal when it was over.  Now what?  I am kicked out of school to go back to where I was before, but this time without the benefit of having sport as an outlet.

 

What was I going to do for my future?  I had no college degree, no job, and I come from a poor family.  Half the time we didn’t even have a car because it was being repossessed.  This would lead to a string of violent behavior by me.

 

It started at a cookout over one of my father’s friends’ houses.  He was getting belligerent and started calling me a “cunt” in front of everyone.  I literally couldn’t take it anymore.  This time I fought back and felt more powerful than I ever had in my life.

 

This led to me solving a lot of problems with violence.  I would get arrested for assault, felony assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property.  I would binge drink heavy on weekends at this time too.  Not a good path to be on as alcoholism is rampant in my family.

 

My outlet became violence.  I would spend 6 of the next 10 years on probation and even under house arrest for a period of time.  My drug of choice was my anger and my aggression.  I got a girl pregnant and realized I needed to change this path I was on.

 

I found a way to put myself back into school.  That “online” degree that I get made fun of by internet trolls is something I am most proud of.  I found a way to overcome everything I had been through and rounded up the money myself to do it.  I then did the same thing for grad school.

 

I realized I needed an outlet.  Soccer was always there for me, but it was not an option anymore.  A 6 week men’s league just wasn’t going to cut it.  I walked into a local mma gym instead and I would spend a few days a week in there for the next, almost 10 years.

 

I stopped getting into trouble.  Part of this was just growing up, but another part was me learning how to self-manage my anger and my aggression.  I needed distractions as well for my mind.  I started reading textbooks.  Textbooks require me to fully pay attention to the details on the page.  I can’t let my mind wander, or I will not be able to understand what I am reading.

 

 

My friends that I would train with were moving away and having families.  I really didn’t want to do typical mma classes at this point, but knew I needed to continue an outlet for myself.  I was working at a powerlifting gym at the time and decided to give that sport a try.  I even signed up for a meet.

 

I hadn’t touched a straight bar for more than a very rare front squat in a very long time, but I didn’t care.  It was fun lifting with everyone at the gym.  I was 32 years old at the time.  I am 5’11” and I weighed 170lbs.  Not the greatest build for the sport.  I had also torn muscles from bone, broken bones, and even had my ear almost ripped off.  My body had been through a lot over the years.

 

That “1200lbs” total that the trolls make fun of me for.  It is about 300lbs more than when I started.  More importantly, it gave me the outlet I needed.  I don’t give a fuck about my total.  This is my 3rd sport.  One I am not built for and started from the worst possible position at 32 years old after a string of injuries.  I am still here though and still getting better.

 

Now, with the threat of a pandemic, the gym has been taken away from me.  My job, my hobby, my social life, and also this important outlet.  I am being forced to sit in isolation being surrounded by negativity and the uncertainty of my future.  This will most likely be a significant hit to my business.

 

It is not like I am going to go out and start beating people up again so don’t worry internet trolls, you are safe in your mom’s basement.  However, my irritability increases quite a bit and that can strain relationships.  I also tend to drink more as alcohol will calm me down.

 

I can do my best to battle these demons, but it is much easier said than done.  Going for a run or meditating do not do the same thing for me as something that allows me to get my aggression out.  Being caged in uncertainty is by no means a good place for that aggression.

 

I am not alone.  Many people use the gym to help manage their emotions.  It is not “just lifting” to us.  I do not give a fuck about maintaining strength over a couple of weeks.  Fuck, we used to taper this long and do fine at meets.

 

I don’t even care as much about the physical benefits of lifting.  For me it is a way to help handle my demons and I get to do that with my friends.  Staying 6 feet away, washing my hands, wiping things down, and staying in if I feel sick seems like a good compromise to those of us battling other demons besides a virus.