Athletes at San Quentin are finding alternate ways to get physically fit and maintain their health while doing their time in prison. And guys miss the camaraderie that heavy lifting brings.
Some residents use just about anything they can find that holds some weight to add resistance to their workout routines. They do it to increase their training since prison authority removed real bar bells and iron weights from California prisons in the mid-90s.
“I used to work out with the weights when they had them in prison,” said true workout enthusiast D. Prince. “I remember that in order to be on the weight pile, you had to be lifting a certain amount of weight to be lifting the Olympic weights.”
Now that the incarcerated have no official weights to lift other than themselves and calisthenics, , some of them use water bags, rock bags, even recreational tables to achieve that athleticism and maintain that fitness.
Some guys have received disciplinary write-ups for using alternative ways to get fit. However, some people are trying to gain back that peace of mind and stress relief they once got by lifting heavy weights. And that forces those who do choose to bend the rules a bit, to take those risks sometimes.
“They don’t understand what they did when they took the weights from the incarcerated,” said Prince. He used to be one of those serious heavy lifters who experienced the benefits of working out with the real weights in prison.
In the old prison days the incarcerated used to get as buff as some of the body builders that compete in the competitions around the world. And some guys miss that drive. But, for the majority of those left to figure out alternative ways to lift weights, it’s the other components that come with it that matters most.
“Health is wealth,” said V. Alexander. “Being older, you want to stay in shape. And to work out takes a group effort. We keep each other motivated, plus it brings togetherness and helps keep each other positive.”
For guys who are 200 plus pounds with muscle mass to keep up, simple calisthenics are not the best exercise for them to do. After a while the large muscles start to deteriorate if they are not used. Those who want to maintain their muscles and strength have no other choices but to use alternative methods.
It is a medically proven fact that working out provides many health benefits, strength lifting being one of them. And one resident misses not only the days of weights inside prisons, he also misses the benefits of heavy lifting.
“I remember when the weights were in prison,” said C Carter. “They [weights] were a stress reliever. It was therapeutic. The social group was on the same accord and it was all positive.”
J. Gurley is too young to remember when there were weights inside prison. However, he is smart enough to recognize the benefits that working out together brings.
“Heavy lifting involves a unified effort. People have to provide spots for each other and keep each other safe. It builds community and friendships,” said Gurley.