By Shane Williams
a candid conversation with HPG’s favorite s.o.b. about tearing muscles, puking in the alley, finding inspiration and purpose, losing 100 pounds, and being sexy
So Luke, How long have you been a member of Hyde Park Gym now?
I’ve started coming to Hyde Park Gym in 2007. I was a Sophomore at UT and I was tired of the UT gyms and I was driving by one day, saw the arm and thought, “This looks like my kind of spot. I’ve got to check this out!”
What’d you study at UT?
I was a History Major and I minored in Classical Archeology. I wanted to be Indiana Jones.
How’s that working out?
It’s not! Unfortunately there’s no money in that.
What do you do now?
Well I graduated UT in 2010 and am now a Mortgage Underwriter. Not a lot of adventure and no Temples of Doom but it allows me to pay the rent and keep the motorcycle so I’m happy.
By the time I got to high school I was a big lineman
Are you from Austin Originally?
No, I’m actually from Lubbock, Texas. I came here for school in 2006.
And are you enjoying Austin?
Yeah man, I love it!
Any chance you’re leaving anytime soon?
Actually yeah, I’m applying to graduate schools right now back in Lubbock at Texas Tech and if I get in I’ll probably move back in mid-May and do one full year to get my Master’s. Then I’ll go where the world takes me. I’m applying for a Master’s of Science in finance and I’m looking to get into commercial real estate.
So you’ve been at Hyde Park Gym for 7 years now…Were you powerlifting and doing strongman at UT before you came in the door here?
Growing up in Lubbock it was very Texas high school football mentality. I started playing ball when I was in Elementary school. I started training weights when I was 13. And that’s just Texas ball for you, they start grooming you when you’re a kid getting you ready for high school. By the time I got to high school I was a big lineman and I had some strength. In a game Sophomore year I blew my knee out for the second time and I walked away from football and started focusing purely on powerlifting and I really developed a love for that sport. I was just done with the team mentality and I wanted to focus on my own success and my own growth. To be honest, I wasn’t really good at it but I had a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun competing and a lot of fun dieting trying to make weight. So when I came to UT I still had the powerlifting mentality even though I never competed at UT or joined the powerlifting team. I still trained the same way doing the Big 3 – Squats, Deadlifts and Bench.
Then Freshman year, you know the “Freshman 15?” Well I had the “Freshman 70 or 80.” I blew up and my mentality was, I don’t really care what I look like as long as I’m strong. When I started coming to Hyde Park Gym in 2007, I saw the Atlas stone and the farmer’s handles. There was a guy here named Joe Bosnick and he was a student at UT and we ended up becoming good friends and we’re still good friends to this day. Well I found out all that equipment was his and he came in to the gym one day and he asked if I was interested in Strongman. I was like, “Yeah, I’ve seen it on ESPN. It looks fun.” So he told me to be at the gym at 3 o’clock on Sunday so he could “see what you’re made of.” That bastard hazed the hell out of me! He had me doing 185lb farmer’s carries per hand for three blocks there and back in 110 degree heat. He was doing it with me and we’d switch every 100 feet or so. By the time we got back we were suffering from heat exhaustion, we’re dehydrated and puking our guts out. So he looks at me and says “So you gonna come back next week?” and I say “Yeah!!” So we started doing Strongman Sundays and eventually had about 7 people with us most weeks.
Every Sunday we’d be out in the alley hauling out a thousand pounds of equipment and having fun. That’s when we got to know the Vino Vino guys, the cooks and all that. They’d be outside smoking and drinking wine cheering us on. By the way, the best investment you can make is getting to know those guys. That way anytime you want to take a girl on a date you go there and they’ve got you covered.
So while you’re doing all this work with Joe do you still have that mentality of ‘Bigger is Better?”
Yeah I still had that mentality of “Be big, be big, be big.”
My form broke down and I ended up popping my left bicep right off the bone
Did you ever compete in Strongman?
Yeah, the first Strongman contest I did was Texas Strongest Man in 2008 I competed as an amateur and at that contest I ended up cracking my sternum doing an axle clean and that was the first event of the contest and I still managed to finish the contest and didn’t come in dead last which I was pretty happy about. As soon as Joe and I got in the car after the event he took me right to the hospital.
Then about a year later I did another contest in Dallas and that was the first time I went to Marc (Heard) who I’ve been to two times now. At that time I was about 280lbs and I realized that I wasn’t an amateur anymore and that I was going to have to compete in an open weight class. Strongman only has two weight classes: lightweight and heavyweight. The cut off is 231lbs so if you’re over that you’re a heavyweight. I was 6’2” about 280 and I knew I’d be going against heavyweights who were 6’5”, 6’6” 350lbs. You know guys that were just monsters and I couldn’t compete against them. Well this competition in Dallas was unique because it actually had a third weightclass, a middleweight class. So if you were between 231-260lbs you were a middleweight. So two months out from the competition I went to Marc and said “I want to be a middleweight because I can’t compete with the big boys but I can compete at middleweight.” So he wrote me a crash diet and I lost about 30lbs in the course of a month and a half, made weight, did the contest and ended up coming in dead last. Either I lost too much weight too fast or didn’t have the mentality or maybe it was just one of those days.
From there I dropped to about 240lbs and then plateaued before gaining it all back. So when I graduated college I was back to 280lbs where I stayed for about a year. Then in 2011, I did my last Strongman contest. I didn’t have time to diet as I only had about two weeks to prepare and I went into it between 270-280lbs and I kicked some butt. I was the smallest guy in the heavyweight class and by the end of the second event I was in second place. I definitely did not see that coming. The third event was a 900lb tractor tire flip for reps something I’d never done. The big tire here at the gym is about 650lbs at most. So I went into it thinking just get one rep to put something on the board and most of the guys were getting one or two reps. I got one rep and I got cocky and went for another one. My form broke down and I ended up popping my left bicep right off the bone. Man my life was turned upside down. I was back to square one. I couldn’t even put my pants on because my arm was slinged up, I was in a financial hole because of the surgery, the girl I was seeing left me, I was just in a horrible, horrible place.
Wow man, sounds like everything hit at once. How do you bounce back from all that?
Thankfully I was able to fall back on the community here at this gym. I came in and I knew that Kirby (Sams) and Dave (Goodin) had both had the same kind of injuries. I sat down with Kirby and I can’t begin to describe what that man did for my life. He put me back on track, he trained me and gave me some great sessions and tips on how to rehab the injury and literally within a month I was back to lifting. The orthopedist was STUNNED. The ortho had given me a goal of being able to extend my elbow fully by the end of one month. I went back to him and said, “Hey Doc, I’m deadlifting, I’m curling and I’m feeling great!” And he says “You’re an idiot but that is amazing! I’ve never seen anyone rehab that quick!” I really can say that is because of Kirby. He did a lot for me. He made me realize there was light at the end of the tunnel and he pulled me out of that dark spot. I have so much respect for Kirby because of that.
So what changed for you after your comeback from surgery that got you on the path you are now?
Honestly the strongest point of my life was post-surgery. I deadlifted 610 at 280lbs that summer which is absolutely the heaviest ever. But I realized something, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked and I didn’t have any real confidence. That mentality of “I don’t really care what I look like as long as I’m big and strong” was tiring and it was very stressful. I went to Marc in August 2012 and I remember specifically that I was 270lbs that week. I was in the gym one day and I was BS-ing with the boys and Marc was strutting by in his very Marc way and I said “Hey Marc, do you think I could do the Shredder?’ and he said in typical Marc fashion, “Baby you can do whatever you set your mind to. You’ve just got to lose some weight!” We got together and he wrote me another diet. He had me get on the Schwinn Airdyne bike out there 30 minutes a day every day and if I couldn’t he said, “Go for a walk with purpose. You don’t have to run or anything but walk with purpose.” So I was coming in 4-5 days a week to lift and do the bike initially. Over the next 18 months I began to make adjustments to the schedule and diet as I needed but I followed the most important thing Marc told me and that was to “Stick with it.”
When I started I dropped 20lbs like nothing but then I’d start plateauing at points and I’d literally be fighting tooth and nail to lose a pound or two.
Well they say the first 20lbs are easy but the last five pounds are hard.
Exactly! Marc would keep me focused during those times and tell me to focus on improving so if I was doing 30 minutes on the bike he told me next day do 32 minutes. He stressed always improve yourself, always be improving.
He’s been a great resource, he’s very motivational and he’s definitely a guy I look up to and try to emulate.
This past January was the last push. I spent the month of January working to lose the last five pounds to get below my 200lb goal.
Marc would keep me focused
Do you remember the day you broke 200lbs?
I honestly don’t remember the exact day but it was early February.
Well let’s talk about how it felt to finally hit that goal 18 months later?
The night before I could kind of tell I was going to hit it but when I got on the scale the next day and hit that 200lb mark I celebrated, I screamed out, I was going nuts! But I took a moment and focused and I literally said to myself “Ok, get back to work.” I’d been saying that when I hit my goal I’d go nuts and binge and eat all the things I hadn’t eaten in months but I had no desire to do it. When I saw all the results, that my stomach had shrunk and I had all this definition in my muscles I realized that this was a lifestyle change. This wasn’t just about hitting a goal and then going back to the old me. I’m so much happier with the way I am now than how I was then and I had to get back to work. So yeah, I took a day and had a little ice cream but then I got back on the bike the next day and kept my focus.
Do you have a new goal now? What’s next for you now that you have hit this milestone?
My first goal is to maintain where I am now. I’d spent 18 months trying to lose weight and now I had to change my mentality to reflect I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore that I’m just trying to stay where I am. And I’ve done a pretty good job at that. My next goal is to do what one of the things I’d talked to Marc about originally. When we met I said “I want abs, give me abs” and he told me that if I’d lose the weight he’d give me abs so that’s where I am now. I’ll reach out to Marc this week to get ready for the next phase. I want to be ready for summer! This is the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable having my shirt off in public and it feels great man.
I really wanted to be more attractive to women
That’s amazing man! Congratulations! As someone who has not only set a major goal for himself but achieved it, what advice do you have for anyone who has a seemingly impossible goal for themselves?
Honestly, if you have any goals in your life and you want to improve yourself physically, emotionally or whatever you have to let go of anything that is holding you back. Whatever fears or anxieties you may have and you just have to go for it. Life is too beautiful and too short to be spent not being completely happy. It took me a long time to realize that but this is the happiest I’ve ever been man. And yeah the weight loss is one part of it but it’s so much more than that for me.
I couldn’t have done it without the support from the gym. Literally everyday I’d come in and sometimes I’d get stuck on the diet and I’d get down about it and feel like maybe I wasn’t supposed to make it and everyone here would be like “You look great man!” and “What’s your secret?!” It was absolute support and it made a world of difference. So yeah you can do it on your own but having the support of your community, of your friends, I mean I consider you guys here my family, it’s going to be so much harder. So find someone, find a group of like-minded individuals that want to help you push yourself to be the best that you can be.
Finally, focus on your goals and why you really want to achieve them. You have to know why you’re really doing it. There were a lot of reasons I wanted to lose weight but when it came down to it I really wanted to be more attractive to women. So to this day when I’m on the bike and I don’t want to be on that bike, I hate that bike, it hurts but that’s what I think about to push through the pain and the suck to achieve my goals.
Anything you want to leave us with before we wrap up?
Just do it. Chase your dreams, chase your goals, just do it. You’re the only thing standing in the way of achieving your dreams.
Finally, I want to add is the unwavering support that my family has given me over the years. When I tore my bicep, my mother came down to Austin and took care of me post-op (she also cleaned my apartment spotless, as mothers are prone to do). My sister always gives me love and support, no matter what. And my dad always makes me push myself to be better; to be a better man. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything in this life.
Well Luke it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch you through some of this journey and to sit down with you today to get to know more about you and what you’ve achieved. I can say on behalf of the staff at Hyde Park Gym that we’re incredibly proud of you and inspired by you. Thanks for all you bring to the community.
Thank you man, my pleasure!