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  • Brandon Lamphier-Shaffer

Saturday Stories: Facing Insecurity, Fear and Helplessness, Malik Matthews-Gordon's Story

Much like the phenomenal stories shared before me, I started my life off with sports. My father is a very athletic man, even now at fifty and having battled cancer. He was a golden gloves boxer, a football player, and still someone I have never come close to besting in the weight room; when I squatted 500 pounds during my college football days, I thought I had him. I soon learned I was wrong after a trip to the weight room with him. I love to brag about my hero [my dad], but that is not what this is about. The critical takeaway from introducing him is that he is why I was introduced to weightlifting.

I was a running back, safety, and javelin thrower. It was rare that I was not the shortest person in my position, and in the javelin, I do not recall EVER being taller than someone. This was important because force = mass x acceleration. Well, height plays a significant factor in one’s mass.

In my first year of high school, I was barely 5’0” tall and 160 pounds; when I met the coaches and told them what positions I played, they made sure to remind me of my physical stature and its shortcomings. I was the shortest of my friends, and the guys on varsity: Aaron Smith, Daniel Cones, Jeremiah Thompson, Julian Pena, and of course, Brandon all looked like giants in my eyes. I went home feeling insecure, scared, and helpless (these three feelings will come up again later).

My dad quickly recognized the opportunity to transfer knowledge to me and introduce me to something [weightlifting] that has quite literally saved my life several times now. He explained the mathematical facts of life [force = mass x acceleration] and how I could use weightlifting to be my force multiplier. I remember him going to his bag and pulling out what he referred to as the secret formula. It was a little black notepad with every workout he had done for at least the past decade. He told me, “This is for you and you only. Never share this with anyone. If you follow this program, your height will never limit you.” He introduced weightlifting as this magical answer to my helpless feeling, insecurity, and fear. That is extremely powerful for a hormonal lost teenager searching for his way in the world.

The next day he got me a membership at Defined Fitness, and we would go at 04:00 before school every day, in addition to my routine workouts with my school’s athletic teams. I put 20 pounds on my freshman year and grew to 5’8” (I never grew again). More significantly, I earned confidence through the discipline of working out every day. I no longer felt scared to play with the other guys on the team; I even got pulled up to varsity at the end of the year (it was only to practice with them, but I felt on top of the world). Lastly, I squatted two plates (225 pounds); not much to some people, but for me, it let me know I was no longer helpless against a previously impossible task.

I maintained this regimen throughout my high school years. When I graduated, I had put 20 pounds on every year; my official weight at graduation was 219 pounds. I ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, inclined benched 325 pounds, squatted 455 pounds, and had a measured vertical of 42- inches. This resulted in a scholarship to play college football. More importantly, though, I seldom felt insecure, scared, or helpless in situations. This was 100% because I weight lifted and experienced the overcoming of difficulty, injuries, fears, and ego checks involved with weightlifting. I also enjoyed the accomplishments and fulfillment it [weightlifting] provided me. In college, I continued this same work and enjoyed the same benefits, even after switching from a Division 2 Football team to a Division 1 Track & Field team. Then I joined the New Mexico State Police (NMSP), where the academy was not demanding because of the benefits weightlifting granted me.

Once I was with NMSP, my ego got the better of me when it came to weightlifting. I believed I had done enough and “deserved” not to spend my time lifting. I stopped working out. The physical downfall wasn’t immediate; I was still stronger than most people who decided to resist me on duty. I was in shape enough to chase anyone who ran from me. I was strong enough to carry people, lift them out of vehicles, and in other situations where strength or athletic ability was required. However, I eventually did decline physically. What did decline swiftly was my mental state. No longer was I experiencing the fulfillment, accomplishment, energy boost, mental escape, and challenge of weightlifting. I was tired, sluggish, had put weight on, lost strength, and lacked a lot of confidence. Those feelings from earlier began to creep back in.


- What if my shift partners don’t trust me because I’m not as strong as before?

- What if my wife doesn’t find me attractive anymore?

- I would stare at myself in the mirror and grab areas of my body that used to have muscle, which was now only flab.


- What if someone stronger than me overpowers me and I don’t go home?

- What if someone needs to be pulled from a vehicle to save their life, and I’m not strong enough?

- What if I have to carry an injured shift partner and their too heavy for me?


- My shift partner, a weightlifter, carried a seizing woman over 200 yards to our

patrol units when I couldn’t.

- A man tried to fight me after I attempted to arrest him, and I struggled to overcome his strength.

Then during an incident, I exited my patrol unit and immediately realized I was being shot at. I won’t get into the details of the event. But I will tell you this: my helplessness, insecurity, and fear peaked. I remained on edge, jumpy, and feeling helpless for months, even after receiving a psychological exam with a department psychologist (mandatory after you discharge a firearm in the line of duty) and being cleared to return to duty. I felt in constant fear and constantly like I was helpless to defend myself and others. Then I was reminded by friends, family, and my personal therapist (please never feel like you are too strong or too good or too broken to employ a therapist) that I should return to weightlifting. Weightlifting is beautiful. Not only do loaded bars mend broken hearts, but weightlifting is controllable. It is just you, the weights, and time. The weights are not prejudice, they don’t care how you feel, they will not lie to you, and they do not want to hurt you (they are literally inanimate objects, for me my mind needed to remind itself of this).

When I started to workout again, at first things got worse. I kept thinking of where I used to be, in comparison to now. But everyone encouraged me to stay the course, and thank God they did. After a week, I already was looking forward to working out. I started to feel that sense of accomplishment again. After a month, I started to feel strong again. Strength helped the sense of helplessness fade away. Then I worked out for 30 days straight twice a day; I was hooked again. Why? Because I started to see results. I was stronger, my fat faded away, muscles appeared again, I had energy, when someone needed help I could offer it, and my insecurity was gone.

I don’t if my story connects with anyone, or if it even makes sense (I am just a police officer by the way not a writer). But I do know, weightlifting has saved my life mentally, by providing the confidence and clarity to act. It has saved my life physically; during life-threatening situations I was strong enough, fast enough, and had enough endurance to stay in the fight. And lastly, emotionally, without weightlifting I am prone to slip into dark emotional states.

I know is Brandon’s going to save someone, inspire someone, and change someone’s life. Whether they are reading a post, speaking with him, working with him, or simply reading a shirt. What this brand represents is important and I support it 100%. Brandon, thank you for the inspiration, for sharing your story, allowing other’s to share their story, and making the world a better place!


Malik Matthews-Gordon

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