Friday, 1 June 2012

New Blogger Dan Ashcroft`s Story

As the VikingR Team grows bigger and bigger every week, I get really excited about what the future brings for our close nit brand ..

Orders are coming in thick and fast and to all the guys who have supported us i want to say a massive "THANK YOU" ..

Designed By Strength Athletes, For Strength Athletes !!! This is our tag line at the moment and it rings true .. This is the way we roll and products are getting better and better all the time .. The new Tshirts designs are incredible and even our packaging has been well received ..

We`re not saying we are the best brand on the planet, what sort of self important arsehole would ? BUT i put my name on the fact that everything is made with care and we think about our customers .. A high percentage of our turnover is re-invested back into strength sports too.

I`m proud of my company ..  And proud of my BLOG too !

The newest member of the Blog team is a great aspiring young Strength Athlete who has been flying up the ranks in the light weight divisions and i know carries a big passion for Strongman ..

I`m proud to present my good friend the "FLASH" Danny Ashcroft ..  As with previous new members to our team, i ask for their story .. I think its important for people to realise that our guys are not University book readers .. Our guys are out there on the Dance Floor of Strength Sports, they don`t give English lessons, they give first hand accounts  of whats going down in the real world .. 

Hope you enjoy !

Mark Clegg

As this is my first blog post for VikingR, I Would like to thank people for taking the time to read my ramblings and secondly introduce myself to those that don’t know me or haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me, yet!
My name is Danny Ashcroft, also known as Flash. The nickname came from my younger days, when I used to be quite quick and nippy. I was born in April 1987 in the grim north, Morecambe Bay to be more specific, and was raised on the belief that nothing came easy and if you want something, you work hard to get it. This belief was ingrained upon me by my working class family, especially my granddad, and its from these early days that I get my mental and physical toughness that is needed to succeed in the strength game.

I have taken a rather long route to becoming involved in the sport of strongman and heavy lifting, but I suppose the passion and desire for strongman and all things strength related was given to me from an early age. Many Saturday evenings were spent watching WWF wrestling on ITV with none other than my mum and nanna, who I’m sure were watching it for the muscular men in lycra. Many a Saturday night was spent moonsaulting off the couch onto my passed out, pissed up dad on the floor and this coupled with the ensuing submission moves I would attempt to put on him meant I was regularly sent to bed early.
However this obsession with the strength and coolness of the American wrestlers helped fuel something inside this 8 year old midget that would eventually create a complex inside me, one that led me to believe if I couldn’t be taller than the pricks that lived around me, I would be more muscular and stronger. This was cemented in me by the programme Gladiators. My favourite Gladiator on the show was Rhino, not because I had the thirst to be black, but because he was 5’7” (The height of my dad, so I knew I didn’t have much to aim for) and he was an absolute animal. Superset this with the annual family watching of WSM on new years day at my Granddads little house on the Hala estate in Lancaster (those of you who know will understand) and the quest to be strong was born. My grandad was like a dad to me and everything he said I valued and he was an avid fan of WSM so strongman would always hold a special place in my heart. My earliest memories of strongman are of Magnus Ver Magnusson and Jouko Ahola lifting rocks, so every Sunday when I walked the dogs on the beach with my mum I would try and pick up rocks like these strength heroes and run around giving it a double bicep pose if I managed to even lift the tiniest pebble.

I then went on to high school and found a particular aptitude for rugby. This would enable me to channel my “little man” complex as I was able to play the bigger boys at their own game, and beat them for speed and skill as well as strength. The years passed at school and I was getting by with everyone calling me small by just giving them a wack, which resulted in more than one visit to the head teachers office. By 14 it became apparent that speed alone wasn’t gonna help me on the rugby field, I needed muscle (please see picture below).

So I decided to join VVV gym on my aunties membership. The £5 I earnt from my increasingly uphill paper round was used to pay for this and I was off. The weights room was a tiny little room with mirrors on the side of a health club.  My favourite exercise was the smith machine bench and cable crossover, anything that made my chest bigger and encouraged the girls at school to touch my testosterone filled body. The extra attention from the woman folk made my trips to the gym more and more regular and it wasn’t long until I was purchasing muscle & fitness magazine and was reading the secrets on how to gain the “perfect 6 pack”, and big arms.
I then hit 16 and strength & conditioning became more important to my development in rugby and I was told by coaches I would have to do this thing called squat and power clean. I had no idea what this was at the time because girls were not interested in the size of quads or hamstrings, they wanted biceps and abs. BUT, I wanted to be a sportsman, and I knew nothing came easy, thanks to the constant reminder from the estates round my way and the constant ringing in my ear from my mother, so I embraced the squatting. This bought strange looks from the members of the health club as they didn’t really seem to understand what was going on, but every time I stepped out onto the pitch every week, I knew exactly what was going on, I felt the difference in speed and strength, and so did my opponents.
After a successful sixth form I progressed onto uni, and ended up at Loughborough. No for anyone that doesn’t know, this is THE place to go if your interested in size and strength. You have little or no option but to join a gym and get big coz on first arrival it seems the whole campus is full of Greek gods. It was recently described by Saint Helens and GB rugby league international John Wilkin as a place full of monsters studying a BSc in Bench Press. Coming to Loughborough as a successful rugby player at school meant nothing as everyone shared the same luxuries. So again to get anywhere, I had to work. I was selected for the rugby league team and never looked back.

Every week consisted of 4 gym sessions and 4 team sessions, so to not get fit and strong was impossible. I was instantly noticing the improvements and an obsession had taken over. I loved the gym sessions, due to my desire and short levers I was statically stronger than most of the team and I loved this. I would spend extra hours and extra sessions working on my strength and working on being THE strongest.
After 2 years I was given the opportunity to go and play rugby in Australia for a year and by now I was beginning to believe that a career as a sportsman was a distinct possibility. I worked harder than ever in the gym to get into the best shape of my life. I was now obsessed with lifting big to get big and getting the admiration of team mates and friends for the things I could lift. Squatting and bench press were staple but I was still yet to ever pull a deadlift.

I returned to England to finish my degree with every intention of returning to Australia to honour a contract I had with a team in NSW. However, during my final year, at the age of 23, I was badly knocked out 4 games in a row and it was explained to me that it be best I never play again. I was heartbroken and was totally lost for a while. I hit the booze and went a bit mental for about a month. I kept with the gym a bit, but only the occasional session when I could be bothered.
I then saw a very good friend of mine in the gym lifting a log. The large headed fella lifting the Log was Adam Bishop, or Bish to the Sugden folk. He explained to me the weightclasses in strongman, this bought back memories of my childhood and my now deceased granddad, and the decision was made within about 2 seconds, that’s what I would do, and that would be my life.

I started log pressing and deadlifting with Bish every week, and the first time I ever pulled a deadlift for 1 rep I pulled 200kg, Bish said this was a fairly decent achievement, and after plenty of nagging from him and my girlfriend it was decided I would enter my first comp and start training down at the container with JT and the crew. I immediately found the team spirit and camaraderie that I was badly missing and craving since retiring from rugby and the fire was lit. Over the last 2 years I have rarely missed a session and seen drastic improvements in all things strength related. I have put blood, sweat and hard graft into my training and I’m now starting to reap the rewards. This became most apparent with my recent 3rd place in BSM U80kg and I now want to push further, and become a nationally recognised u90kg competitor. For me this is going to mean adding bodyweight, but such is my strength background, I want to remain mobile with this. I see next year as my breakthrough year as an U90 and then the competitive instinct in me says I must go all the way.

So that’s my journey in strength, and although I’m only 25, it feels like its taken me to the highs, then lows and now I’m creeping back up there again. I hope you now understand some of my obsession with strength and the dedication it takes to get somewhere on the ladder. Thanks to Mark and VikingR, and I look forward to many more blog posts in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Danny "Flash" Ashcroft

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