At first glance Colosseum Gym looks like your normal, run-of-the-mill work out facility. But if you take a walk to the back, through the doors and down the long narrow hallway, you’ll find there’s a different sort of training going on.
“As soon as you’ve competed once, you’ll be hooked,” says Maryland strongman Jon Ward.
A little area in Columbia has turned into the strongman hotbed of Maryland thanks in large part to 35-year-old Ward, who moved here from England in 2011. When Ward arrived there was nowhere local to practice his passion - lifting very heavy things for fun and fitness - so he changed that.
“I was driving back and to from Virginia every weekend, going to train strongman specific movements,” said Ward. “After a few months of living here I got together with a few of the guys that were lifting here. We started to build an inventory of Strongman equipment.”
That equipment is for the same stuff you see on TV in the big competitions: lifting atlas stones, frame carries and of course deadlifting cars.
“Attempting to lift a car up, attempting to load these atlas stones that are two or three times your body weight, it’s just cool.”
Strongman in Howard County and in Maryland has been around for decades but it really saw its resurgence take off just over the last few years when Jon was tabbed to oversee the sport in the entire state.
“I would say the end of 2013 this started to be the main focal point for strongman in Maryland,” said Ward. “That was the first year I became Maryland State Chairman. That was the first year I decided to take on promotion of Maryland’s Strongest Man.”
One of the sport’s governing bodies, Strongman Corporation, picked Jon to be their top guy in Maryland. He’s taken that role and run with it.
“We’ve grown the Strongman Corporation membership in Maryland by almost ten times,” added Ward. “You’ve gone from having 30 members that compete in Maryland to almost 300 people right now.”
Jon estimates about 35 percent of those members are women. He says all-in-all competitors range in ages from teenagers to 50 years old. So who knows, Maryland’s next strongest man or woman might just be your neighbor, your friend, or you.