It has been an integral part of Advanced Training since 2009.
The timid shy away from it.
The competitive live for it.
And it is both the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to this program.
|Not sure what this picture has to do with anything ...|
For those of you that don't know, "The Challenge" is where one member of Advanced Training challenges another member to some form of competition.
It can be a test of strength, endurance, speed, or (starting this year) intelligence.
The winner of "The Challenge" gets "The Belt".
That person holds onto the belt until someone else beats him in another Challenge or he forfeits it due to Softness.
An example of what a Challenge looks like can be seen here.
To shame those would not participate in "The Challenge", I decided to award points to both the winner and the loser of each match.
The winner would get 3 points.
The loser would get 1 point.
For those of you out there who are not the World's Greatest Detective, 0 points would be awarded to those who did not participate.
|Batman doesn't need that last explanation ...|
An example of how the points are tracked can be seen in the table below.
|Actual 2014 Challenge Results|
They are given "The Belt" and are placed in our Challenge Hall of Fame.
The name "Challenge" originated shortly after I watched Gangs of New York for the 30th time.
It was this scene and a few others that inspired me to give it this name.
The Gift and The Curse
Winning the belt is both a gift and a curse.
I often liken it to THE ONE RING in Lord of the Rings.
As soon as you get it, you feel awesome.
Within seconds, everyone around you is sizing you up ... trying to figure out how to take it from you.
Not only are the other athletes trying to take what you have, so am I.
While I am not actually competing in the events, I am constantly looking for ways to rob you of your throne.
You come late to the gym, I take the belt back.
You go on vacation, I take the belt back.
You deny too many challenges, I take the belt back.
And when I take the belt back, I essentially throw it back out to "the masses" to compete for it.
The scene looks something like this ...
Even with all of that, our guys battle every single day to be "The Champ".
This year, we had 50 challenges (the highest total ever).
We had the belt change hands 23 times.
We even had a guy dress up like Hollywood Hogan to compete in an "I Quit" match.
That is the beauty of being around competitors.
They want to compete every day ...
Despite what most people may think, winning "The Challenge" is not just about being the toughest guy in the gym. It is also about who is the smartest.
To keep things interesting, I allow the person with the belt to deny three challenges before they are forced to give it up.
While some would think this is soft, I believe it is brilliant.
It forces "The Challenger" to be very careful about what challenges they throw out there.
(Imagine how careful a pitcher would be if he could only throw over to first base 3 times per game. Games would also be quicker and fun to watch ... but I digress ...)
Because we allow the denial of challenges, "The Challenger must come up with something that "The Champ" thinks he can beat him in.
If he can't come up with something, we can always go to the Wheel O' Spin ...
The Wheel O' Spin is something I created that is similar to the Wheel of Fortune, only it has Challenges in the slots as opposed to money.
My favorite challenge on the Wheel O' Spin is "Random Weight Load".
In this challenge, you are given a random weight to load onto a barbell. The person who does it the fastest, wins.
This may sound like a ridiculous challenge, but it is quite entertaining, especially when most of our guys think a plate and 2 ten's make 185lbs on the barbell.
(As a side note, I know some of you are still thinking "The Challenge" should just be about strength and not about strategy. For you naysayers, I encourage you to watch Pumping Iron and then let me know if Arnold won Mr. Olympia with his muscles or with his mind.)
This year's "Champ" was none other than James Uske, the smallest guy in the program. (5' 7", 150lbs)
Not only was James our smallest competitor, he was also coming off one of the worst performances in Challenge history. In all 5 of the events James competed in last year, he lost every single one of them.
For those of you who struggle with word problems, that means he went a miserable 0-5.
His losing streak continued into this year, as he lost his first two challenges.
(After the first one, he threatened to boycott all future events because he thought I was being unfair to him. I actually was, but that is another story for another time.)
Nevertheless, James turned things around by collecting 15 wins over the next 5 months. Those wins helped him compile the highest Challenge Point Total in Advanced Training history ...49. (He had a 15-4 record overall.)
(The previous best was 34 points in 2009, earned by the legend Ted Clohessy.)
Nevertheless, the journey was not an easy one.
James had the belt stripped from him 3 times along the way...
... Once for having to miss multiple lifts for work and 2 times for being soft.
He also was forced into a challenge he couldn't win because he had already denied 2 other challenges.
The moral of this story, kids, is to never give up.
The man who is willing to keep "chopping wood" is the man who will be successful.
This wraps up the longest article I ever wrote.
It also wraps up "The Challenge" for 2015.
I hope you were entertained nearly as much as I was watching these guys compete and talk trash all year. There really is nothing like it.