Get Fit challenger reclaims youthful prowess

Ten professionals and 10 teams are competing in the 2014 Get Fit Challenge, a spinoff of IB’s popular Fittest Executive Challenge. Who will earn the healthiest marks? Follow along on Facebook and then find out at the In Business Expo & Conference on Oct. 22. This week, IB checks in with Sally Greenwood, a data architect with TDS Telecom who is competing in the individual challenge.

When I started the Get Fit Challenge, I had a secret goal. I wanted to be able to bench-press the same weight I did in college, back in the late 1970s. After five months of working out with trainer Grant Brooks at Hybrid Fitness, I achieved that goal!

As a junior at UW-Madison, I needed some physical education credits. I decided I wanted to take a free-weights class. The only one available was in the Men’s Professional P.E. Department, so I signed up. The instructor’s first name was Bud, and he was a legend in the department — a tall, massively fit athlete in his mid-50s sporting a gray buzz cut. He was a tyrant when it came to form and safety in the weight room.

The university’s policy was to group members of each sports team in the same weightlifting class so each class could be tailored to what the athletes needed. My class consisted of me and the men’s hockey team! I think they were as surprised as I was.

Bud’s first challenge was to deal with the hockey players who wanted to impress the cute coed (that would be me). They would strap on their manly leather weight belts, load the bar for a heavy dead lift, and then look around the room to be sure I was paying attention before executing the lift with an impressive grunt that I suspect was partly for my benefit. Bud would roll his eyes, sigh heavily, and then say, “Yes, Mr. Johnson, she is watching you. Could you please finish the lift before the semester is over?”

The hockey players burst out laughing when I attempted my first bench press. I gave it everything I had, but all I could manage was the empty bar.



The guys also thought it a great joke to leave every bar loaded with at least 300 pounds. I spent precious minutes every class struggling to get the heavy iron plates off the bars so I could reload my 40 or 50 pounds.

Bud had a unique motivational style. “Mr. Samuels, I should not have to construct a sentence that includes your name and the word ‘wimp.’ Get busy.”

I showed up for class every day, and I steadily improved. I’d never have the upper body strength of my burly classmates, but I was able to match some of the smaller players on lower body power. At the end of the semester, I could bench-press 75 pounds. To get credit, you had to be able to execute a set of 10 lifts with good form and full control.

I earned an A in the class. It was a great life lesson.

Now, almost 40 years later, I again bench-pressed 75 pounds. It was every bit as thrilling as the first time.

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