Five Years On: Why I’m Still a Member at Starting Strength Dallas

Five Years On: Why I’m Still a Member at Starting Strength Dallas

by Tom Brunell | June 04, 2024

Five years ago, on the advice of a close friend I bought the blue
book, because at 51 years old I found myself straining to accomplish
some everyday tasks. Getting up off the floor required far more time
and effort than it should have. Walking up one or two flights of
stairs would have me wheezing. I was weak and I needed to do
something about it. After reading the book and finding the Starting
Strength website, I decided to try online coaching. This didn’t
truly appeal to me because I knew I would have to find and join a
barbell gym and film myself struggling to do the core exercises.
Serendipitously, when I opened the SS website, the banner ad at the
top of the page announced that a new SS gym would be opening soon in
Dallas, only ten miles from my home. Within minutes, I signed up as
one of the first members of Starting Strength Dallas.

A week before the gym
was to open in July 2019, my intro session was scheduled with the
head coach Brent Carter. This session allows the coach to determine
what the weight should be for a novice lifter’s work sets in each
of the four exercises. Not surprisingly, mine were low.

  • Press 65 lb x 5 x 3
  • Bench 115 lb x 5 x 3
  • Squat 22 lb with
    rubber strap across the rack to assist standing back up, 5 x 3
  • Deadlift 135 lb x 5

The next week when the
gym officially opened, my squat was with a 10 kg bar with straps
across the squat rack to assist me in getting out of the bottom of
the squat. In other words, I couldn’t correctly squat to depth and
stand back up without assistance. I was embarrassed. None of my
fellow lifters in the class were this weak, but I knew I couldn’t
afford to be embarrassed, and if I just did the program soon I
wouldn’t need the straps. So I swallowed my pride and went to the
gym three times a week. It only took a couple of weeks to get strong
enough to ditch the straps.

As a novice I assumed
that after a couple of months I would have the movement of the four
lifts down pat, and at that point I wouldn’t need to pay $315 a
month anymore – that I could just continue lifting on my own. At
one point, between work sets, I asked Brent about the business model
for the gym. “So do the clients become proficient after a couple of
months and then lift elsewhere, and you constantly need to be
replacing these lifters in order to be profitable?” Coach Carter
told me that while I would become better at lifting on my own, I
would continue to need coaching and programming from an SSC
indefinitely. I was suspicious of his answer, but I couldn’t rule
it out as I was still a novice and I didn’t know much about
strength training.  

brent carter coaches a lifter on the bench press at starting strength dallas

So, five years later, why do I still pay Starting Strength Dallas several hundred dollars each month? There are several reasons. I do indeed still need coaching – Jordan Burnett has been my coach for over three years now and he still watches all my work sets and gives me cues and corrections often. Sometimes I still don’t bend over fast enough on the squat. I still need to be told to get my shoulders under the bar on the press. He switches my programming when I get stuck – over the years he has had me do rack pulls, halting deadlifts, pin presses, pause squats, box squats, among others. My current schedule has changed from three lifts a day to just two. I do a heavy single, with back offs, for each of the four main lifts once every two weeks. I would never have made the progress I have made at SSD on my own.

Second, I still go to the gym, often with a smile on my face, though other times with a bad attitude, because I pay a significant amount of money each month. This is a commitment device on its own. If it were free, I would naturally value it less. But this is an expensive product relative to other gyms that don’t supervise every set of your workout – like Planet Fitness whose business model is to charge you just a few dollars a month and count on the fact that you won’t actually show up to the gym very often, if at all, and that you’ll never cancel the bank draft. When people stop coming to a Staring Strength Gym, they quickly stop paying the monthly fee.

Next, I still go to the gym because Jordan and my fellow lifters expect me to come. Similarly, I expect them all to come as well. If a “regular” misses a class inevitably someone will ask the Coach “where is so-and-so today?” These folks are all my training partners, and it is well known that having workout partners keeps you accountable. There is a camaraderie that develops in each class over a relatively short period of time.

If you are new to strength training, one of the most important aspects of it that may not be obvious to you is how much resting goes on between work sets. Often it is five minutes or more. So most of the time during the class you are resting, and naturally the lifters and the coaches talk to one another. We have covered all the subjects that polite society would expect us to, and quite a few subjects that would make the average person blush.

I have made several very good friends at the gym – many of whom I spend time with outside of the gym. We might meet for drinks or dinner. I play pickleball with several of my fellow lifters. One of my classmates was cast for a part in a local production of Little Women, and about a dozen people from the gym got together for dinner before the play and then went to see our pal restart his acting career. The gym also does group activities. We went axe throwing together; we met at a local brewery for food and beer; we had a Field Day on the ranch of one of the lifters where we competed in strength related activities before eating some of Brent Carter’s famous smoked brisket. A Starting Strength Gym is unlike any other gym on the planet.

Finally, I still go to the gym because being strong makes life so much better than being weak. I am 56 years old, 6 feet tall, and I weigh 280 pounds. My build is more Offensive Lineman than Linebacker. Even at this bodyweight I can play pickleball for two hours or go on long hikes with relative ease. Had I not been training for the past five years, there’s no doubt I would struggle with those activities. In short, being fat and strong is far better than being fat and weak. Since I told you my work set weights when I started, I will also tell you where I am at today (these are all 1 rep PRs):

  • Press: 200 lb
  • Bench: 300 lb
  • Squat: 345 lb
  • Deadlift: 440 lb

My plan is to retire in the next few years and move back to Southern California, where I was born and where my family still lives. I know it’s fashionable to hate on California, and in fact there are too many people there and I want them all to continue to move to Texas. Clear the place out – more space for me.

I know that I need to go to a SS gym for the rest of my life. I will not carry on training on my own – I know myself too well. If a gym doesn’t open near my house, my current plan is to open one myself. Maybe even get trained up as an SSC and do a bit of coaching as well. We shall see. 

Credit : Source Post

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Shopping cart