page contents Google


build a yoke

image via

If you’re called yoked it’s not a joke, and it’s not about woodworking.
It’s a compliment. Someone noticed your gains. They think you’re strong.
You look strong, feel strong, and it’s because you lift weights.
Whether a fitness lifestyle or just trying it out, lifting changes your body.
Strong as an ox? Not a bad goal.
But you’re not an ox, just a dedicated lifter.
Spend six months regularly lifting makes it happen.


Young people need to wait to build a yoke.


If they go too early they get hurt or burn out.
This future lifter waited and yoked up.
Now he’s strong and fit and a tremendous man like his yoked brother.
They didn’t get there riding a stationary bike. That never happen.
Instead, they get their stuff on and go.
If you don’t find inspiration from millennials, you’re not paying attention.
Find a reason to get in shape, to make a change. Clear the path and get on it.
I almost built a yoke in my late fifties, the same way I almost joined the three hundred pound bench press club.


Missed it by that much.

Wife and I at the beach goofing around, trying to find the right angle.
A few years later I lost my yoke. It evaporated.
I got laid low, real low, chemoradiation low, which ruins every yoke ever built.
Depressing? Disappointing? More than I imagined.
Stage four cancer is one thing, but getting de-yoked? Didn’t think of it until it happened, and it happened fast.
Cancer treatment goes after fast replicating cells, cancer and otherwise. Lifting is a cell ripping and re-building process.
All I got once I started was decline. Oh. My. F-ing. Goodness.
Medical people try and prepare you for the changes, but who listens?
As shocking as the results were after I finished treatment successfully, as in cured with help from Dr. Yee at the Knight Cancer Institute and Providence Radiation Oncology with Dr. Hansen. My appearance was as horrible as I felt.
This is no time to check your profile. With some of the harshest chemicals you’d never want running around my body, along with getting zapped to hell in some space-aged looking room, I was like a downer cow on the truck floor.
Downer cows get the cattle prod to make them stand. Once they’re more uncomfortable laying down, they get up.
Sometimes you need to turn the cattle prod on yourself. If it works, you’re up. If not, at least your tried. The people around you deserve your best effort.
You’ve heard about loving the skin you’re in? You’d better. Lose sixty pounds in three months and you’ll have a lot more of it.
Back in the gym rebuilding my yoke, my skin puddled on the equipment.


I had what I called Sharpei Syndrome.


image via

One of the warnings about chemo therapy, the doctors say it will age you ten years.
It’s been all of that, and it might be permanent. But again, who pays attention?
If a cancer patients quit on themselves, if they feel too weak, too tired, after treatment, things continue to slide.
That’s all normal. But if you come out the other end intact, you need to kick it in and get to the gym.
Instead of yoked, or semi-yoked, I’ve got the build of a sixty year old French librarian.
Skinny neck, narrow shoulders, sagging all over the place.
For cover, I re-entered the gym culture in long sleeves and sweat pants.
I was a ghost, at least that’s what I heard. I had a yellow tinge.
Might have gone back to early, but since treatment was over and my infection threat was lower, I hit it.
Weak as a lamb, drag-assed, but lifting. Unrecognizable to some.

No yoke, no arms, no legs, just sticks.

Have you ever felt like your bones are barely hanging together, that your arms could fall off any moment?
Lose your yoke, or in my case what passes for a yoke, and your bones start sticking out.
On one hand it’s an interesting take on anatomy, like a young med student meeting their first cadaver.
On the other, you’re the cadaver. Walking dead is no way to live.
Will the yoke return? Man, I hope so. But if not, the range of motion exercises and support from others is inspirational.
The side benefit? Hearing the medical history of so many I thought were pictures of health.
It turns out chronically ill people know other chronically ill people. Call it the Pre-existing condition club, and the gym is their clubhouse.
Membership is based on experience, not fees. And you don’t get a cool badge to wear on the club blazer.
The sad part? Hearing medical skeptics opinion on what they feel is a better treatment than what I endured.
I asked my wife about it. She’s a naturopathic doctor specializing in dermoscopy.
“Honey, is there a better treatment than what I did?”
“Maybe. I’ve heard of people trying other means, but it’s like Grandma.”
“Like Grandma?”
Grandma had stomach cancer surgery. When it returned she decided to ride it out on a diet of lemon meringue pie.
Toward the end she changed her mind about the second surgery, but she was deemed too frail to survive.
Game over.
Turns out the people my wife knew treated cancer with alternative means. When they decided to go mainstream it was too late.
Like Grandma.
For a better life, build that yoke. Do it now.
How many times can you face yourself in the mirror and wonder, “What if…?”
Once is enough. Now get your stuff on and build your yoke.
About David Gillaspie


  1. […] What can younger people learn from them?¬†How can they absorb life lessons in a way that lets them feel like they knew all along? […]

%d bloggers like this: