Senior Ryan Strohman didn’t let the pandemic lessen his passion for lifting when he was forced to take a few months off this past spring.
Before COVID-19 put a hold on his lifting, Ryan believed that he could have set a record in his age group for the deadlift at a Virginia state lifting competition. He was scheduled to compete in April, but because of the pandemic-related gym closures, the event was cancelled. Although disappointed by the missed opportunity, Ryan returned to the sport when gyms began to reopen in June.
Ryan started lifting weights the summer before his freshman year at Freeman. “Because of Online PE […] I was obligated to [lift weights],” said Ryan. During this time, he never had a formal instructor, and his mother, Patricia Strohman, “consider[s] him as an autodidact,” or someone who is self-taught.
Over the course of his high school career, Ryan’s interest in lifting continued to grow, as well as the number of people with whom he attended the gym. Ryan first began lifting with fellow senior Jerry Lin, but it was only a matter of time “until there were around ten of us who went consistently,” said Ryan.
Senior Travis Montgomery, who met Ryan through the Leadership Center, has been lifting with Ryan since the beginning of their junior year. “He’s pretty fun to lift with,” said Travis, “he would give me an AirPod and we would always mess with […] each other’s music.”
The gym proved to be a hangout spot for the boys, while also providing a place for exercise.
“Ryan’s main thing […] is he likes the socialization with the gym,” said Travis, “so we would always go to the gym, and then he convinced us to go get dinner and then […] to go see a movie.”
Once Ryan realized that lifting was something he could be good at, he began to take the practice more seriously. “About a year after I started […] I could check around records and see that I was competitive in some of the aspects,” said Ryan.
Ryan first found out about competitive lifting competitions via YouTube and was scheduled to compete in his first USA Powerlifting meet this past April. “The way you have to structure when you’re [preparing for a meet] is … you set your peak week, which is the week […] you’re at your maximum strength,” said Ryan. As such, the cancellation of the meet really upended Ryan’s training regiment. He was hoping to have a shot at setting a Virginia record for deadlifting in the 16-18 age division.
For Ryan, the gym shutdown was difficult because he did not have any equipment at home to continue his lifting. After a few months off, Ryan said that he “was extremely willing to get back into [lifting].”
“I thought it was going to be tougher than it was [to return to lifting],” said Ryan, “but definitely the fact that I had gained like 20 pounds over quarantine was a decent motivator.” Mrs. Strohman recognized her son’s commitment to the sport and said that he is “very determined and dedicated.”
The time off from lifting allowed Ryan to restructure his workout upon returning to the gym. “I recently started a strongman program based on […] Bill Kazmaier,” said Ryan. Bill Kazmaier is a three-time “World’s Strongest Man” title holder and has put his workouts online for others to follow.
Ryan’s typical workout week is four days of lifting, with each day being a heavy lift of one exercise and a light lift of another. He also intersperses conditioning throughout the week. Timewise, Ryan said, “I’m [at the gym] for around three to four hours when I [lift].”
Travis said that “lifting is 100 percent correlated to the work you put in [… if] you put in work, you get results. If you don’t put in work, you don’t get results.”
Ryan’s success in lifting is also a result of a high protein diet and his mental attitude. For Ryan, listening to music and having self-confidence helps him to do his best.
“You can certainly psych yourself out on certain things and psych yourself up,” said Ryan. He added that, “if you’re going for a really heavy set or something … you have to get it straight in your mind; otherwise you’re just not going to get it.”
Ryan sees lifting as “a lifelong thing that I’d like to keep with,” and would enjoy an opportunity to compete on a powerlifting team in college. Even with three to four hours a day spent lifting, Ryan still manages to participate in The Headless Saxmen, a jazz band comprised of a few Freeman students, and is a student in five AP classes.
Mrs. Strohman said, “As parents, we are very proud of what Ryan has accomplished so far, not just [in] sports but music and academics as well.”