Monday, May 9, 2011

Living the Dream: The Swimming Trucker

If they make a movie about the swimming trucker, I think it should be called "Sit, Shift, Stare, Swim."  I dare you to say that five times fast.

On a rough Saturday morning in college I was watching cartoons through the painful eyes of a splitting headache when my roommate Clint walked in and asked “did you know you guys kept me up until past three o’clock last night?”

“Keep it down, dude.  Shhh…  You’re killing me.”  I replied.  “Rough night.  And no, I don’t remember keeping you up.”

“You and Todd were plotting out your plans to drop out and become truckers.  It really seems like you’ve put a lot of thought into it.  You were going on and on about how awesome your new Smokey and the Bandit lifestyle is gonna be.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Shut up.”

… I must have reached that point after the bars closed on Friday night where the conversation went beyond small talk and into absurdly deep subconscious hopes and dreams.  I don’t get there very often and it usually takes quite a bit of help from Jim, Jack, Jose and Sam Adams if you know what I mean.  I don’t think I had ever voiced my secret longing to hit the road in a semi.  The reason I never did it?:  I just couldn’t leave the sport.  Especially at that time in my life as I had just started my coaching career for $200 a month with an awesome group of 12 and under Aqua Bears.

I had worked in commercial fishing in SE Alaska.  I had no problem with being away from civilization for weeks at a time with no shower, no healthy conversation and a bed with three walls designed for a person no taller than 4 feet.  I had proven I could stay awake for 12 hour wheel watches with auto-pilot and nothing to look at but the horizon.  I knew I could drive a truck and enjoy it.  My biggest issue with heading out to sea for 8 weeks was the thirty pounds I had to lose in the fall to get back into racing shape.  My body would just fall apart if I went back to a life like that and that is exactly what trucking would have been, only way more sedentary.

So, when I saw Siphiwe Balika being interviewed on MSS last week, I was tremendously impressed.  He has been a trucker for three years.  He is on the road for over 300 days a year.  It didn’t take him long to start gaining the trucker physique and he made the decision to fight it.

I know what you’re thinking.  Sylvester Stallone was a world class arm wrestler in Over the Top and all he did was hook up a pulley in the cab of his truck.  What is so impressive about this guy?

For starters, he swam at Yale and was out of competition for 18 years.  He just turned 40 and won the 50 and 100 free at Masters Nats this spring with a pulled groin.  He bikes, runs, swims open water and at local Y’s, does push ups, sit ups, squats… he basically finds a way to be a fit person even when he is facing obstacles in every direction.  He is also taking his message to other truckers to help them combat the obesity that is essentially an occupational hazard in the industry.  What a bad ass.  He has basically turned his career into a lifelong fitness tour and is making the world a better place by pulling others along for the ride.

“It’s a mindset.  Whether you’re home and you’ve got children, working a 9 to 5 job, you can find time to work out in that situation.  It’s basically just a commitment.  I realized that if I couldn’t find 15 or 20 minutes to keep myself healthy, then what am I really doing?”

Damn… How many of us have nothing standing in the way of fitness but our own minds?  I work at a pool all day and I still can’t get off my lazy butt.  As a coach, I am supposed to be the guy who makes a career out of bragging on my sport being a "lifetime sport."  After hearing this interview, I totally believe in the message.  Anyone can find a way to be a fit person.  Anyone.  This guy is a freakin’ hero.  Keep it up man. This story is truly inspirational.  I am in awe.


  1. When they first saw that interview, was anybody else's first thought "why does a guy who went to Yale driving trucks for a living??"

  2. Have you ever seen one of these guys back a 8.5' wide trailer into a 9 foot dock in one Y turn? Do you know the skill it takes to drive 20-30 tons of merchandise in a great plains crosswind with what is essentially a giant rectangular sail? The guy lives the definition of bad ass..

    OR the distinct possibility of what he went to school for has no appeal to him anymore. BTW; Truckers can make serious money (being paid by the shipment or mile), especially if they own the truck, and the added bonus of seeing the country.