If you happened to be working out in our Short Pump location this past weekend you may have heard quite a ruckus coming from our First Annual AFF Strong Games held in our Fusion studio upstairs. There was a lot of banging and clanging, shouting, grunting, and cheering and the energy was amazing.
What are the Strong Games, and how did they come about?
Put simply it is an unsanctioned introduction to Strongman (and woman!) event, hosted by American Family Fitness but open to all, where anyone interested in the sport of Strongman can come together for a friendly competition.
Let’s start by talking a little bit about what Strongman is.
Strongman is a sport, and type of training, in which the goal is to become as strong as possible and to excel in lifting odd, unconventional, implements like stones, logs, kegs, etc. Basically, if it involves lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing, throwing, or dragging big, heavy, unusual items, it’s probably a Strongman event.
What I love about Strongman training is that it is incredibly functional, because the heavy things we need to lift in real life rarely have comfy handles and ergonomic designs.
In January of this year, I hosted a month-long competition amongst the training department at American Family Fitness Short Pump testing multiple aspects of fitness with a series of challenges, and the effect that it had on the team was astounding. It fostered a sense of camaraderie, it pushed us outside of our comfort zones, it exposed our weaknesses and introduced us to styles of training we were unfamiliar with.
When the challenge was over I was itching to do something like it again, though on a larger scale and involving members and clients in addition to our trainers. I brainstormed for a long time as to how to make that happen and it all came to fruition over the summer.
Most of the people who signed up for our Strong Games had never done anything like it before, and some of them had never done ANY sort of athletic event before. It was great to see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and backgrounds signing up.
What did our participants get out of this event?
Support. No matter whose turn it was to compete, the entire room cheered until they were hoarse. Athletes, in direct competition with each other, would get right in their competitor’s faces and shout for them to keep going, to dig deep, to finish strong. There was a lot of hugging, high-fiving, back-slapping, and overall goodwill among the athletes. The outpouring of support and encouragement was humbling and is the main reason that I have come to love Strongman.
Strength. Looking around the room at the men and women who showed up to compete one probably wouldn’t have guessed that they were in the presence of some serious strength athletes. With a few exceptions, everyone who came to the event looked like average individuals. There weren’t a ton of rippling muscles or perfectly chiseled abs, but the ladies and gents who came to throw down were serious and when the weights started flying it became incredibly obvious that these athletes were dang strong! Another reason I love Strongman is that it emphasizes function over form and it teaches people to love their bodies for what it can do rather than just how it looks.
Daring. As I said before there were only a handful of competitors who had ever done a Strongman competition. For most of the participants, it was their first time doing something like this. There were bodybuilders, powerlifters, and Crossfitters there. There were Group exercise instructors, swimmers, and couch potatoes competing. For nearly everyone present, the event represented a great adventure and was a brave new experience. It was amazing to see so many people empowered as they realized just what they were capable of.
Overall the event was, in my humble opinion, an enormous success. It was so much fun and such a positive, uplifting environment. Since the event I have heard so many stories of athletes coming together to calm each other’s nerves, to inspire each other, to push each other to new heights. I have seen new friendships and connections formed, and old ones strengthened. I have seen people bitten by the Strongman bug itching for the next competition, and I have seen so many people so very proud of themselves and their peers, and it makes all of the work that went into putting it together worth it thousand times over.
If you were in the club on Saturday I apologize if the noise disrupted your workout but we left the doors wide open because we wanted you to come and join us! If you weren’t able to make it this time around don’t worry! We don’t have any intention of letting this be the last Strong Games, and hopefully, we will see you at the next one!
A.S in Exercise Science
B.S Kinesiology, Virginia Commonwealth University
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Functional Movement Systems Certified
Certified TRX coach
Damon has been a personal trainer with American Family Fitness since 2014 and has trained a wide variety of clients: youth, seniors, athletes, general population, special populations, etc. He specializes in functional, movement based, training with the goal of restoring and/or improving movement patterns and the ability to carry out activities of daily life. He’s trained clients with adhesive capsulitis, diabetes mellitus, joint injuries, neck and spinal injuries, P.O.T.S., M.S., M.I, stroke, depression, anxiety, and more, with great results.
When not training, Damon is spending time with his wife and two boys ages 3 and 1. On his bucket list: thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, tour Scotland and lift the legendary stones of strength, write a book.