Frank Gigante
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As we have hit the one-year mark of this pandemic and the many effects of prolonged quarantine, I have paused to reflect on what a year it has been. I am not sure anyone could have predicted all we as a society would have seen and dealt with over the past year; it has certainly been a year we will never forget.
It has been a year since I left the school where I teach on a Friday, only to find out on Saturday we would be shutting down and not returning to school on Monday. At that time, like most people, I thought this was a two-week interruption at best. I could not have predicted I wouldn’t set foot in my own school building for the rest of the school year, but actually up until just a few weeks ago–almost a full year later. There have been many changes, challenges, and obstacles in all areas of life this past year.
Like most people, we all had our plans before Covid. I for one had recently been invited to compete at the historic and prestigious Mr. America competition later in the year and had also set my sights on several other quality bodybuilding shows. I was coming off a successful 2019 season and was looking to capitalize on that in 2020. Training and nutrition were on track and I had plans in place to see it all through. Suddenly, and somewhat quickly, the world grind to a halt and the lives and routines we knew was now gone and changing almost by the day. I think most people thought this would last a few weeks and we would resume our normal lives in no time. I was one of those people. So, I kept doing what I usually do – moving forward and working around the obstacles. One thing I’ve learned through Covid was there was always going to be an unexpected obstacle and the true test and lesson of oneself were if and how I was going to find a way to overcome it. The two biggest questions that kept me moving forward throughout the past year were, “Now what?” and “How?” With each new change and shut down, it became almost motivating to find ways around it. Competition dates changed or got cancelled often. I had no equipment to train at home, that’s why I belong to a gym. Right from the start, I knew that when this pandemic ended and life resumed (which I thought would only be a matter of weeks or a few months, not a year and still counting) I did not want to use this as an excuse to explain why I didn’t achieve my goals or complete something. Instead, I was determined that I would stand tall in the end and finish what I had set out to do in spite of the obstacles and long list of excuses.
In order to train from home, I had to rely on what I had around me and think not just out of the box, but as if there was no box. Things started simple and progressed out of necessity, I started with book bags filled with sand and brick for bodyweight squats, curls, and walking lunges – which also utilized an empty parking lot. There was an old tire in the lot and I began learning to flip it for some conditioning work.  As it became evident the gyms were going to be closed beyond a few weeks, it was again time to ask, “Now what?” The answer I discovered one day while walking my dog – just down the block the town had cut a bunch of trees in the fall and left the logs. With spring coming it was easy to see them all since the brush and grass hadn’t yet grown in. I started picking and bringing logs back to my garage. This opened up a whole new world of training and exercise options. We could now bench, squat, row, shoulder press, and shrug once we filled a wheelbarrow with dirt and threw some logs on top. The training was unconventional and yet extremely taxing and effective. If the logs became light, I would leave them in the rain to make them heavier. I would drive my car down to pick up heavier logs. We used a large Coleman cooler for a flat bench. Working with logs was completely different than using barbells. The logs are not balanced in any way, nor are they meant to be gripped like a barbell. It definitely took some improvisation and careful planning to use these logs in our training. To help in some exercises, we used tie-down straps and even a tow strap with which we could attach some handles and bars for various exercises.
As the pandemic and shutdown wore on training continued to evolve and become even more creative. If I could think of it, we would try it. Some things worked, others did not either because the movements didn’t feel right or safety was an issue. However, we did start to use heavier logs and even cars for both strength movements and conditioning workouts to further help prepare for my upcoming competitions.
With only 3 weeks before my first competition, gyms were allowed to open with restrictions and I utilized both my unconventional training and the gym to continue training. Training in the gym was a very welcome relief mentally. Being back in a gym, still demanded a calculated plan heading into those next few weeks and not an all-out ego-fest of lifting as much as possible. After 5 months of not doing traditional exercises, while I don’t think I lost much in strength, I wasn’t about to throw caution to the wind for a number on a bar. This phase, just like the rest of the training was about a carefully laid plan to achieve a goal.


In the weeks and months that followed, I competed in 4 competitions and could say I hit my goals. I wanted to train through the uncertainty of this shutdown and arrive on stage as good, and even better than I was the previous season. In each contest I showed up, there was great comradery among all the competitors, who also brought their best, knowing we set similar goals and overcame the obstacles for the opportunity to be on stage. I had earned my first pro victory as well as some top placings against some of the best natural bodybuilders. I don’t control placings. I don’t control who else shows up on stage, what they look like, or what the judges see and are looking for. Those things do not determine my success. I control everything I do or don’t do leading up to the moment I set foot on a stage. My goals are then set and accomplished or not before I walk on stage. I already know if I hit my goals and that is the measure of my own success.
The rallying cry and universal excuse of 2020 became, “Because of Covid”…For me, that is not an excuse but rather a period of self-discovery. Because of Covid, I found that the only excuses are the ones we choose to accept. Because of Covid, I learned that sometimes we are our own biggest obstacle. If it is meaningful to you, then it is worth doing, regardless of what it looks like to others. Your path is not their journey. Because of Covid, I’ve learned that we are each our own “Everyday Warrior”. It is not a question of “Can you?” but rather, “Are you willing?” If you can answer yes, as I did and continue to do, then you will find a way, face and overcome all obstacles, and keep on moving forward.
Frank Gigante
Photographer: Jen M – Photochica

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