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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Young Cumbrian powerlifter eyeing world championships glory

The life of a record-breaking powerlifter is not all glamour. The bulk that’s so effective at lifting heavy metal causes complications in the outside world.

Richard Goddard photo
Richard Goddard

“When I go on a plane I’m wider than the seat,” says Richard Goddard. “My fianceé Lisa has to lift up her arm rest and let me use half her seat.

“I’ve got to think about what I’m sitting on, if it’s going to take my weight. I had an office chair. I went to lean back and it just snapped. I managed to recover though. I came out of it rolling.”

This news is swiftly followed by a smile. It seems as if not much upsets Richard – thankfully.

The 23-year-old computer technician has a measured, polite manner. He lives at Lowry Hill, Carlisle, with his 19-year-old sister Sarah and their parents. Dad Paul is an accountant. Mum Kath owns Kath’s Curtains in Denton Holme. Her trade serves her son well.

“I’ve generally got to buy 50-inch waist trousers, just to get my legs in,” says Richard. “She then takes the waist in by about 10 inches.”

Richard is average height – 5ft 10ins – and average width, if you’re a rhinoceros.

At the age of 16 he weighed 13 stone. Seven years later he is 22 stone.

He has a 54-inch chest; 18-inch arms; 31-inch thighs.

The top half is housed in a polo shirt: size XXL. He has some at home with an extra X.

“It’s hard to get stylish stuff. There’s not many folk make it in that size. I do a lot of clothes shopping on the internet.”

So the column for “bad things about being a record-breaking powerlifter” includes seats that are too small and too fragile, trousers that need taking in by a curtain-maker and shirts that could house a small circus.

Fortunately, the plus column is as big as one of his biceps.

Richard has just returned from Glasgow where he won two junior (under 24) categories at the British Powerlifting Championships.

He broke European junior records in the squat and the deadlift. His 245kg in the squat smashed the previous best by 15kg.

“A lot of people were shocked to see it,” he recalls. “I broke the squat record with my opening lift. When I said the weight I wanted to open with, the guy said ‘Are you sure?’ I don’t know if he thought I was going to fall over.

“The enjoyment is when you break your personal best. When you set your goals and meet them. Getting a record to your name, seeing it on the internet. It’s really good.”

Especially for someone who took up powerlifting just two-and-a-half years ago.

Richard had played rugby for St Aidan’s School and thrown the shot put for Cumbria schools.

He began lifting weights to improve his fitness and soon realised that he was naturally strong. Strong enough to leave more experienced lifters gawping.

His talent made the journey to the top shorter. But there’s no dodging the discomfort.

“It’s hard. Very hard. Training for squats takes it out of you because the legs are such a big muscle.

“If I train my legs hard I’ll struggle to go upstairs for the next day or two. Once or twice it’s been like that” – he mimes shuffling upstairs on his backside.

“A lot of it is mental. When you start struggling it’s easy to just give up. It’s hard just to push through it. Quite a lot of the time, it’s just close my eyes and push and push and push ’til I’ve got nothing left or it does move.”

Some powerlifters provide a shouting, swearing commentary of their progress. Not Richard.

“To be honest I just find that off-putting. Even lifting, I’m quite calm. Lisa always says I’m so laid-back I’m lying down.”

He and Lisa Smith, a waitress at Premier Inn, Kingstown, have been together for seven years. She hopes to become a PE teacher and travels with Richard to competitions. They are due to marry at Borrowdale in May 2014.

By then Richard could be a word champion. His success in Glasgow has earned him a place in the junior section of the World Powerlifting Championships in Boston, USA, in October.

Richard’s employer – Brampton-based piping firm JDP – is paying for him to attend. Their sponsorship of more than £2,000 will cover his transport and accommodation.

All Richard needs now is someone to subsidise his butcher’s bill. He eats between four and six meals a day, mainly protein and carbohydrates: porridge for breakfast, then barrow loads of potatoes, chicken and steak.

Protein shakes between meals contribute to his 4,000 calories a day. He usually eats sensibly, “But if I want a chocolate bar, I’ll have a chocolate bar.”

Richard sounds determined at this point. If you see him putting a chocolate bar in his trolley, do not try to stop him.

The calories are obliterated between three and five times a week at Brickhouse Gym, on Chapel Street, in Carlisle city centre. His coach is the gym’s owner, David Crossland.

Occasionally Richard struggles to find the motivation to train. At times like this he goes back to his childhood and the seeds that were sewn while watching TV on rainy bank holidays.

“I think about how close I am to certain records. And I might watch a couple of episodes of World’s Strongest Man. It normally gets me going a bit. I always thought I’d like to be as strong as them.”

Images of Scandinavians pulling trucks and lifting logs are part of Richard’s past. And strongman competitions may also figure in his future.

He took part in one in Gloucester two years ago and did well against more experienced rivals.

Richard aims to be competing in England’s Strongest Man within four years and UK’s Strongest Man within six years.

Powerlifting and strongman contests are both a long way from his desk-bound day job. “At least I don’t use up much energy at work. And it’s an advantage if you’re going to move servers. They weigh 40 or 50 kilos. I can get one in each hand.”

This life is not all about strength. Richard goes walking to maintain cardiovascular fitness. Running is ruled out for the strain it would put on his joints (not to mention the Tarmac).

He thinks the changes of the past few years are almost all on the outside. No, he doesn’t have a vastly different mentality. He’s still the same, just with bigger clothes: “I suppose being a bit bigger does give you slightly more confidence. I was little and I was thin. But I was never really small and weak.”

That’s easy to believe. At Brickhouse Gym Richard demonstrates his squat technique: hoisting the bar over his head and onto his shoulders, squatting down and standing up.

Then he conjures up an image of how far his genes and his training have removed him from ordinary people.

“When I’m training, I’ve had people stand and watch me. It’s a bit strange because I’m not really a glory hunter. Sometimes people around me will try to lift more. That’s probably not a good idea.”

If you can help with sponsorship for Richard, contact richg123@gmail.com

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