Story by Ben York
“Challenge and adversity are meant to help you know who you are. Storms hit your weakness, but unlock your true strength.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Being strong in the storm isn’t solely a mindset; it’s a state of being.
Each person’s definition of “strength” is equally distinctive to their definition of “storm.” However, the innate ability to rise above the proverbial ashes when your world seems to be crumbling down around you is something we all share.
That is, if you make the conscious choice to move forward – only forward.
For APEMAN James Getchell, the path has never been easy. But rather than look at every challenge he’s faced in a pessimistic, defeated way Getchell has always seen them as opportunities to grow – both figuratively and literally.
Getchell, an only child, grew up Washington. His grit and work ethic were instilled at a young age by his father who spent decades building logging roads. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, so much timber was wiped out that the need for logging roads quickly diminished. His father was laid off, and had to take a job where he brought in 1/3 of the money he used to. That led to his parents’ separation during his senior year of high school.
Getchell began to search for purpose – something he found in the Marine Corps.
“I signed up on the delayed entry program during the start of my senior year,” Getchell said. “I enjoyed the discipline and sense of honor that came with being a Marine. I spent the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993 in Somalia. Witnessing the hardship and living conditions there gave me an appreciation for the little things I had taken for granted before – simple things we use every single day like running water and functioning restrooms.”
Getchell began weight training in high school and started to advance while he was in the Marines. He started focusing on powerlifting, however, in 2002 at the beginning of what would be an incredibly long season of hardships.
“I had the typical failed first marriage,” Getchell said. “That was tough. The heavier challenges came a few years later.”
He’s putting it mildly. In consecutive years from 2012 – 2015, Getchell suffered through the sudden loss of his father, his mother’s suicide, the passing of his best friend due to alcoholism and kidney disease.
“My father had been battling health concerns for years,” Getchell reflected. “In 2012, he had a heart attack and became unconscious. When we arrived at the hospital, I asked to be alone with him. I sat with him and told him if he was tired and ready to go, I understood. An hour later while at our hotel, we were informed he passed away.”
That was the beginning of the most difficult years of Getchell’s life.
“My best friend and training partner lost his battle with alcoholism the following year in 2013,” Getchell said. “Then in 2014 I woke up to get ready for work and saw I had a voicemail that my mother had committed suicide, and that I was to blame. We later learned there were many other factors, but the initial voicemail will be with me always. If it wasn’t for the love and support of my wife, things would have been even more difficult.”
Getchell turned to powerlifting as therapy. That is, until he was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015 (along with various other health concerns) which drastically affected his training.
“Lifting allowed me to release the anger, frustrations and pain in a productive way,” Getchell said. “With the health issues I faced, they told me I wouldn’t be able to lift any longer. I didn’t accept that. So I altered my training style and after the doctors were happy with my bloodwork, they told me I could lift again. Along with my wife, that gave me the boost I needed to continue moving forward.”
Weight training, for Getchell, is more than getting big and strong. It’s deeper. It’s about battling your demons. It’s about overcoming your fears. It’s about building a better version of yourself.
“I often say that powerlifting is not what I do; it’s who I am,” he said. “I love the camaraderie at competitions. I love that someone you have never met before is screaming and supporting you through every attempt.”
When you speak with Getchell, it’s abundantly clear he isn’t asking for pity. Far from it. Rather, his strength – both physical and mental – is remarkable considering the adversity he’s faced. Through it all, he’s remained grateful, positive, and thankful as he focuses on providing a better life for his beautiful family. The code he lives by, “strength and honor,” isn’t hyperbole; it’s personified through him 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Being strong in the storm is a conscious choice he’s made, and he’s never looked back.
Ultimately, that’s what led Getchell to APEMAN.
“To me, APEMAN STRONG means not giving up no matter what the odds are,” he said. “It means supporting those who fight the good fight.