Dad, Ted Czekaj, and Deadlifts

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Some can't understand why a grown man, or anyone for that matter, would voluntarily do something like dead lifts. Most people have never considered pulling dead weight from the ground as a way to test and strengthen their being. 
With anxiety high, spine ratcheted oak stiff, hand calluses ripping, and the tune of multiple weight plates clanging off the floor, dead lifts are more than a total body exercise. They literally raise the body from walking dead; ascending from the can'ts and use'tas and leaky toilets and work schedule and Roth IRA and six varieties of cream cheese and a zillion other things that may be important but mean little in the moment.

As if you don't have time. As if jogging miles on end is somehow so much better for you. I know many legitimate "as ifs." This is for anyone interested in how I came to the truth about dead lifts.

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It's in my blood.

My father was a beast. Lightening fast 220 pounders were exceptionally rare among high school athletes in the late 60's. He passed up offers from DI college football programs (most notably PSU) in order to sign as the 1970 first round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins.

Numerous times, men in dad's age bracket would come up to me as an adolescent telling tales of glory days. The exchange typically went something like this:

"Hey, you're Bobby Gorinski's boy," sizing me up, clearly unimpressed with my 6'1", 160 lb frame.

Small head nod, "uh, yeah."

After the awkward pause often came a personal testimony about the one that dad hit off the scoreboard at Forbes or over the trees behind left field at Shaft. Middle aged men have actually stiff-armed me in the chest as they recounted being pancaked while trying to make an open field tackle on Oldbobbygorinski.

I gave more head nods and smiles. How else do you respond? "Yep, you really got flattened" never seemed appropriate.

I bit on sports before I could talk, and have been involved with athletics for all of my life. I've always done fine, but nothing near the level of dad. Nobody posted a wikipedia entry about my athletic career.

Despite all the stories I've heard and what I've read on-line and in old newspaper clippings, I've never actually seen dad in action. I've been inspired by him, for sure, but not in the way of modeling.

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Enter Ted Czekaj (pronounced check-eye). He was a different kind of stand-out. When I was an impressionable freshman hooper, he was a cool senior and starting point guard. Ted was somewhere around 5' 10" with a very average build. He could handle the ball and shoot pretty well. But let me tell you that


Ted was intensity.

You could tell that the world disappeared when he stepped on the court. He outplayed guys with twice his strength or "natural" talent because he reserved nothing.  That scene also stands out in my mind; Ted gasping for air, eyes bulging, face like a mercury thermometer about to explode, making a steal here, diving after the ball there, fighting through screens, and setting up a teammates all over the court.

Here's an important thing: Ted didn't scurry out of control like a drama king for personal attention. He always operated with a cool head. On and off the court he was disciplined, respectful, and kind, even to freshman nerds. While underachieving peers mocked Ted, I watched him, identified with him.

Ted taught my first lessons in doing something wholeheartedly. Doesn't every success comes attached to a long line of "begets?"

That feeling of all-out commitment and Terminator-like oblivion to care and pain - I saw that it was good. I did carry the ethic and attitude of Ted through high school hoops, to the tune of about 900 career points. From there I took it to the classroom, finishing first in the Slippery Rock classes of 1998 (undergraduate) and 2001 (PT school).

Dad was proud of me.

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But there's something about the sweat. Anything wholehearted without sweat is at least a step removed from intensity. You simply don't sweat the same in classrooms and PT clinics. Well, not usually. That's why a day or two per week this middle aged man needs to go Czekaj mad on the basketball court. Or preferably, when recovery allows, I work things out with the iron in my basement.

I have no idea who this is, but she's awesome.
I need to strain against something.

Life is still a mystery far beyond my control. And sports have far too many variables to recon with. But I'm given a say in resistance, sets, reps, and resolve. For a little while, anyway. I swear that if I couldn't strain against weights I would carry buckets of water or lift growing farm animals or work the earth by foot. Which is basically what dad does for his physical and mental health.

Ted? I haven't seen him for almost 20 years. I have no idea where he is or what he's done with his life. But I'm sure, certain even, that if he's still around, he's doing quite well.

And here I sit, forever inspired by Ted and others who remind me of him; here still with dad's blood but not his size or talent, obsessed with physical performance, quite possibly because I never achieved what he did. This is the path that's led me to the sweet spot between plates of heavy iron, to a rite and ritual that has also shaped me in ways that matter.

Wide(ish) shoulders, functional strength, and favorable blood counts are but side effects. How many days will I be given to do dead lifts? I often can't understand how anyone lives without them

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