After seven years competing as an amateur bodybuilder in strongman events across the country, Grandview Heights High School alumnus Joe Stanton is headed to the Arnold Classic.
The competition is part of the Arnold Sports Festival, held March 1-4 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
While the sport has put Stanton’s physical endurance to the ultimate test, it has also left a mark on him mentally.
Stanton was 26 when he was introduced to strongman competitions.
“I was a wild seed,” he admits of his youth. He credits strongman for giving him a focus.
“It kind of saved my life in a way,” he says.
Though Stanton competes at three to four events per year across the U.S., the Arnold Classic will be the biggest contest he has ever done. In March, he will compete against 40-50 other contestants for a pro-card and the chance to compete against professionals at the Arnold World Championship in 2014.
“I’m going to train like I’ve never trained before,” Stanton says.
The 33-year-old’s current training regime is spread out across four days. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Stanton hits the gym after work for two and a half hours. On Saturdays he rises at 5 a.m., arriving at training by 6:30 a.m., working there until 11.
A father to two boys, ages 2 and 4, Stanton must juggle his intense training regimen with family duties and a career in information technology recruiting. Though some people tell the family to slow down, Stanton says, he makes his busy schedule work.
“If you want it all, you have to do it all,” he says.
Strongman has been a huge part of the family’s life for the past seven or eight years, says Stanton’s wife, Brandi Stanton. The Stantons, who have been together 12 years and married for six, often work as well-oiled machine.
“He calls me ‘Coach,’” Brandi says.
In addition to being a “work-at-home mom,” as she defines it, Brandi is also responsible for her husband’s diet. She typically spends two to six hours preparing a meal plan for just three days, cooking rice and different types of meat. Stanton eats three large meals and three smaller meals per day. Still, Brandi isn’t complaining about the time spent in the kitchen. She says she likes to cook.
Her husband plans his training around his children’s activities. Sometimes the boys will go to the gym with their parents. Family life for the four of them includes a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
Growing up, Stanton always led a physically active life, excelling at any sport he tried. At Westerville South High School, he played football, track and men’s volleyball. After moving to Grandview, he participated in track his sophomore year and ski club his senior year.
But it’s Stanton’s current sport that has taken a toll on his body.
“This sport’s brutal,” Stanton says of strongman, which has left him with a couple of herniated discs and back problems.
Strongman competitors “very rarely” compete at 100 percent health, Stanton’s coach, Rick Freitag, says; they usually compete with some amount of injury.
“There’s a lot of pain in the sport,” Freitag says.
Part of Freitag’s instruction involved teaching Stanton how to recognize when he could push his body to its limits and when he needed to take a rest. After about five or six years of working with Stanton, Freitag says he notices Stanton has improved the most in his mental discipline.
“When he tries at something, he gives it his all. He gives 110 percent every time,” Freitag says.
Sarah Sole is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.