Deadlifting Parents

Dear Mom and Dad, I don’t want to Deadlift you.

-Nicholas Frazier



    About two weeks ago, I was on my way home with plans to attend my gym’s Christmas Party that evening. I was running through a list of things to do when my aunt called to tell me that my grandmother had fallen and was stuck on the floor. My grandmother lives alone in a neighborhood of people similar in age and physical ability. Before I could ask why she didn’t call 911 she said,


    “She said she’d kill me if I call 911, and you’re the only one that can pick her up, can you get over there?” Fortunately I was only about 10 minutes away so I switched directions.


    I arrived to see my sassy grandmother in her 80’s sitting on the kitchen floor holding a bloody washcloth to her forehead. All I kept hearing was “I’m fine! I’m fine! Just help me up!” She asked if I should call someone to help me but I said,


    “Nope, just sit still.” I set my hips, straightened my back, placed my arms under her and with one quick scoop; she was on her feet and in her chair. We sat for a bit waiting for my aunt to arrive and to keep the mood light, I told her that was my personal best on the Grandma Deadlift. She shared that the last time she fell it took four people to pick her up off the ground. For the record, she’s not a big woman so it shouldn’t take a strong person to help her off the ground, never mind four. After a quick trip to the hospital with my aunt, she was cleared and everyone went home.


    Why am I sharing all of this? Because after reflecting about this whole incident, I was pretty frustrated and have a few thoughts I’ve since sorted out and would like to share.


    A few years ago when I was a very novice coach, I was reviewing the movement toes to bar, a movement requiring an individual to hang from a pull up bar and touch their toes to said bar. As a young coach I was having trouble getting out the necessary instructions and ended up with, “Just swing your legs up to touch your toes.” An athlete stopped me and said, “You shouldn’t say ‘just’. For you it is ‘just’, for the rest of us it’s more difficult.” It was a crucial learning experience for me because I noticed how often many coaches including myself say, “Just do this”. Since then, I do my best not to say the word while coaching.  


    But I’m still guilty when it comes to some instruction; let’s say for instance the burpee. When they are programmed in high volume, I tell people, “Just lay down and stand back up.”


    And here is the point, in the years that I’ve been conscientious about saying ‘just’ I thought getting off the ground was easy enough for anyone to do. But I recently discovered for many, this isn’t an easy or doable task. And this hit me in a twofold way. Number one, it isn’t fair for me to think everyone has the ability to stand off the ground or for that matter help a loved one stand up. But more so number two, the complete contradictory view, why doesn’t everyone have this ability? What is stopping them? As a concerned grandson, my priority was getting grandma off the floor. As a coach I wanted to say, “Let’s go! Get your old butt off the ground!” Side note: she will read this and kill me for saying that. But it’s true! I don’t regret saying that I expect my family to be able to get themselves off the ground. As well, I expect some of them to have the strength to pick up their loved ones if necessary. And why do I have these expectations? Because the resources are so readily available to them.


    I have been in different gyms for the last 10 years. Fitness has become a very large part of my life. Not only do I try to practice what I preach, but I also try very hard to introduce as many as I can to the different practices that have had such an impact in my life.


    So in a continued effort, I’m not inviting my family and friends. I’m going to make a one-time request. I’m pleading that you come! Hell, I’ll even beg. Because I believe we as a society need to take more responsibility to maintain a basic level of health and fitness, not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones as well.


    Honestly, I blame myself and all my crazy gym friends for them not wanting to come. We post videos throwing weights around and performing complex movements that defy what is “normal” to society and we hear “Well I could never do what you’re doing.” When the coach inside of us knows, that isn’t at all what they’re going to do.


    We want to teach them how to do an air squat, so they can get on and off the toilet without assistance. We want to teach them how to do box steps so they can get up and down stairs with ease. We want to teach them how to deadlift so they can pick things, or loved ones, up without difficulty. AND we want to teach them how to do a BURPEE so if they fall, they can stand up.


    And to those who say it is too hard or are afraid of injury, I respond with a quote from world renowned Physical Therapist, Kelly Starrett’s new book, Deskbound, “If a beaver chews away at a tree for nine days straight and then a mild breeze knocks the tree over, what causes that tree to fall? ...When it comes to many modern ailments, our sedentary lifestyle is the hard-working beaver that weakens our bodies and primes us for pain.” Sitting on a couch is only doing more harm than good. Maintaining basic levels of fitness will only benefit your physical self in the long term with work, life, and age.


    I had a conversation with a family member recently who was struggling with her weight and she said, “I don’t need to be skinny to be happy.” To which I responded, “I don’t want you to be skinny, I want you to be healthy.” Herein lies the most important message. We as coaches aren’t inviting people to our gyms to train for the Olympics or CrossFit Games or to be supermodels. We want you to be healthy. We want you to live life efficiently. And we want you to be able to pick up your kids and not worry that someday you’ll need them to pick you up.