When I was a bit younger I was into some pretty questionable things I had been experimenting with drugs since the age of 13, when I took my first injection. Then there was cigarettes and pot, which were staples in my recreational use, ADHD medications which were not used as prescribed but traded for other drugs, sold and abused by taking as much as 14 times the recommended dose to achieve hallucinations and euphoria. In my first year of high school I was introduced to LSD and ecstasy, they very quickly became my favourite drugs as they were easier to get than alcohol or cigarettes. That same year I started selling drugs.

I had no interest in physical fitness; in gym class all the guys were dicks to me, we would play football or other sports and I wouldn’t know the rules and I would get bullied by the cocky jocks, so needless to say I skipped lots of my gym classes, and quite a few of my other classes too just for lack of interest and being way too bored. My mentality was “I’d rather go get fucking high” so that is what I did.

Eventually my brother and I were getting into too much trouble at school in the NE area of Calgary, so my parents sent us to live with my grandma in NW Calgary where there were better schools (less poverty which meant less for the most part, troubled kids bringing their problems to school). Well it was a better area, which also meant kids had more money. It was way better for the atmosphere at school, kids were friendlier, there were still douchebag jocks of course. But the real thing that made this place different was the money.

My first front was 10 pills. I sold them, came back with the money and got more until I became so known that it was my main source of income and my phone was ringing day and night, my phone statements in the mail were an average of 35 pages long. Before long, I had dropped out of school, become a full time 24 hour a day dealer, and it got to the point that it was more likely that you would find a field of unicorns than to see me while I was sober. The drug use spiraled out of control, it was my job to be at parties and sell drugs, all day every day. It was a non stop gig and I was involved with various gangs and countless shady people.

Toward the end of my stint with these harsh dealings I had gone on a 46 day long binge where I would use a drug so chronically that it would no longer get me the high I was seeking, so I would rotate drugs and consume dangerous mixtures on weekends and parties when I wanted to get extra messed up, just about anything I could get my hands on that would give me a buzz. On the 46th day of that very heavy drug bender I had some sort of myocardial infraction, or a mild heart attack from a swollen left ventricle because of vasoconstriction and elevated heart rate, it ended with a visit to the hospital that my parents never found out about. The doctor told me if I want to see the age of 20 I will have to change my lifestyle and take better care of my health.

It hadn’t completely sunk in, I took a week off getting high and slowly fell back into the grind of dealing and drug use. I had started to realize after wasting a year that I needed to finish school. I enrolled in a public school a stones throw from my house where I attended class just enough to get by. While I was trying to get that part figured out my girlfriend at the time of 4 years broke up with me (I wonder why right?). A short time after that I had broken both my arms and fractured both my wrists, so I was in double casts for about 6 months. Still selling drugs, that summer I finally got caught with a backpack with a few ounces of pot, just over an ounce of mushrooms and 36 hits of ecstasy and a few fist fulls of crumpled up cash I shoved into my bag after every sale I made since I was still having trouble using my arms.

When I got out of the holding cell I had court appearances for the next year, probation for the next year and a half, community service and trafficking drugs on my record. Needless to say I was very thankful that 1. I was under the age of 18 at the time and 2. in America for that whole clusterfuck because I’m sure if I got caught with that in the states, I’d still be in jail today. God bless America. At any rate, I remember looking at myself in the mirror one day not too long after that, and I was disgusted by what I saw. I was 18, skinny as a rail (6 feet 140 lbs) had no education, my hair was falling out from all the drugs, fingernails were crumbling, teeth were loose, I had a job at that point in construction as a drywaller and that was all I had going for me and I was doing school though correspondence.

That day I came to a crossroad, I thought to myself “I could keep doing the same thing and end up dead soon, or I could go to the gym and build myself up again”. I got a bottle of water and a change of clothes, got my ass on the bus and went to the gym, and was instantly addicted to lifting. At first it was very humble beginnings, I remembering being able to only do 3 push ups at first. I would go on bodybuilding.com and look at exercises and try to write up programs for myself so I could get stronger. I would bus it to work, work a labor job for 8 hours, bus home, shower and eat, pack some sardines and tomato juice with water and a change of clothes, spend 45 more mins on the bus listening to music thinking of what I was going to do at the gym today, go in and smash whatever it was I was going to do, shower up, eat those sardines and drink my tomato juice and get on the 45 min bus ride home and eat all the food in the house because I was hungrier than I ever was before in my life.

My parents were happy I had changed my ways, they never did have any control over me because I just wouldn’t come home or call and when I did, they were just happy I was alive. Now I was studying, working, training, just like a young man should. It gave me a structure in my life that I had so craved but never known, and found a passion that fed me with everything I needed to become better than I was. Soon after I started training, I went form weighing 140 lbs to 175 (I thought that was pretty good at the time) then I quit construction to try working at a local globo gym. It was a waste of time, so back to construction I went, reluctantly, but with a better company where I made $20 an hour, and at my age that was fantastic money. I started driving just before I quit my first construction job and it opened doors for work and training. The only good thing about the globo gym I went to was that they had barbells, where the local community centre gym I previously went to did not. This is where I started to squat and deadlift… horribly.

I had a friend who had suggested that I come to a more “underground” gym called Remington’s. This is where I met Luke Remington, and that man changed my life. We went through the motions talking about goals and training and what I do and what he does, we started talking eating. I’ll never forget that conversation. I complained about slowing on gaining weight or “plateauing” if you will, he told me to eat more, I said ignorantly “but I eat LOTS” he glares at me and says “I don’t give a fuck how much you eat, you need to eat MORE because it’s obviously not enough if you have stopped gaining weight”. He was 110% correct, guys will come up with any excuse, “oh I just wanna gain lean mass” or “I don’t want to get fat” or some other bullshit excuse like that, which is why they will never be the way they want to be, because they have every excuse in the book as to why they can’t possibly eat any more. He told me that day to go home and eat 36 hardboiled eggs TONIGHT or not to ever ask him for advice ever again. I went and finished my training, went to superstore and got 3 dozen eggs, hardboiled all of them and ate 32 of them and could not fit one more into my gut or I would lose all of them right back out the way they came. I told Luke the truth and he said that was a good effort, and he would help me.

Every day I showed up from then on the guys there were like family, Luke would answer my rookie questions with sincerity, I would go do whatever he told me to do, exactly as he told me to do it (pretty much every time) and I saw results. He may have come to watch an important set every so often to give pointers on form or technique but I did train alone by the way he taught me pretty much every session. We had a goal for me, to gain 50 lbs in 2 months, and I had to eat like I had never seen food in my life to get there. I walked in weighing 174 lbs with groin and back injuries, 2 months later I weighed in at 220. I was kinda soft, but for fuck sake I gained 46 pounds in 2 months drug free!!! My lifts also started to explode. Instead of doing countless reps and bullshit exercises, I used the Louie Simmons DL protocol utilizing singles over an 8 week period, kind of adapted a similar structure for squats but starting with triples going down to singles closer to week 6, changed my stance on squat from narrow to wide almost as if I was in gear (I’ve always been a raw lifter) and worked the shit out of my bench. I also stopped doing clean and press and opted for the push press only. The strength increase was phenomenal, my squat went from 275 for a horrible single to a great 385 right to depth under control, my deadlift was about 360, it went up to 475, my bench was 225, it went up to 275, my push press was at 195, it went to 225 for 5.

The atmosphere was that of old equipment, hardcore lifters, there was rock music always playing in the back ground, chalk dust on the floor, no frills, no bullshit. It was exactly what I needed, and at this point lifting became my entire life. All my old party friends I never saw any more, I was working steady, got a new truck (used but new to me) and was planning to do my first powerlifting meet, but as we all know, life is what happens when you make other plans. I found out I had in inguinal hernia on my right side, so that fucked my first year. I trained with it regardless and relentlessly, sat in at the first meet and watched the guys lift and fought back tears at one point because I worked so hard and wanted to leave my guts on the floor and lift. I kept training right up until the day before surgery when I hit a raw squat PR of 435 with Luke spotting me. The next day I went in, got cut open and went to recover. I was back in the gym just over a week later catching flack for being back too early, but I did what I could and worked with bands, did nothing to hinder my recovery and kept at it. About a month after surgery I deadlifted 465 with the new belt my dad got me for Christmas, and focused on the next season. I was also interested in strongman as it had been on TV when I was young and was always in awe of the men that exhibited their strength against one another. The May of 2011 I went up and did my best at my first meet. Squatted 505, benched 275 and missed 305 twice for not waiting for commands, and pulled 550. It was an incredible experience, shortly after I did my first strongman competition in Cranbrook where I placed 4th, then did a local competition called the King of Kensington strongman challenge where I took first place in middle weight. Then competed in Saskatoon against some of America’s best strongmen where I got to see what I need to become to be one of the best. I placed 9th in Saskatoon out of 18 guys, not bad for a rookie.

Since then I quit construction, worked the rigs for 9 months to save for school and now am a full time engineering student with SAIT, just finished my second season of strongman and powerlifting, hold 3 GPC records for the 110 kilo raw JR category and finished 4th in Saskatoon and 4th in Alberta’s strongest man. My life has been changed forever. I now weigh about 245 lbs, have a good career in my future and have been clean from street drugs for years now. I made it to 20 doc, in style. The message I’m trying to send with my story is that you have a choice, the situation was fairly bleak when I think back on it. I could be dead right now but instead I decided to get up off my ass, go out in the world and get what was mine for the taking. It won’t be easy, no one ever said it was, but it IS possible to make something form nothing if you want it bad enough and you are passionate about what you do. I need to thank my parents for not giving up on me when I was at my worst, Luke for showing me how to get to where I always wanted to be and to all the new friends I have made along the way. All my love goes out to you all

Current best lifts after 5 years of struggling- 605 squat, 705 deadlift, 385 bench, 310 axle clean and press. Not bad for coming from 3 pushups right?

About The Author

Paul “Biscuits” Binnette (the nickname he earned for his seemingly never ending eating) is a student and up and coming strength athlete who lives in Calgary, AB.