Talk to Dennis Augustynowicz, and he comes across as polite and soft-spoken, speaking in calm, measured tones.
But see him in person – as many will do this week at the B.C. Strongman Competition in Abbotsford – and you’re bound to get a markedly different perspective.
After all, at 300 pounds with a shaved head and beard, he can certainly look intimidating, and he’s among the province’s strongest men – routinely lifting 300 pound logs, or pulling 70,000-pound semi trucks with a rope.
What’s more, he does this kind of thing for fun.
Augustynowicz, a 28-year-old contractor and handyman, took up strongman competitions two years ago on the suggestion of co-workers, who had watched for years as he routinely lifted more than the rest of his colleagues, and with seemingly less strain.
“When I was a kid, I noticed that I was usually quite a bit stronger than the other kids,” said Augustynowicz, a Mission resident who grew up in South Surrey and still works on the Peninsula.
“And I’d seen (strongman competitions) on TV before, but I didn’t think to give it a try until two years ago.”
Strongman competitions, run locally by the B.C. Extreme Athletics Association – and of which Augustynowicz is a member – generally consist of a number of feats of strength. Among the event: the 500-pound yoke walk; lifting a 300-pound atlas ball from ground-level onto a shoulder-level podium; pulling semi trucks with ropes; and flipping 650-pound monster truck tires.
“I played a lot of different sports growing up – I did judo for a while, played fastpitch softball, a few years of football and high school wrestling,” Augustynowicz said.
“But this was the first time I played a sport that actually suited me. In fastpitch, I was never tall and athletic, never very fast, but doing strongman competitions, it doesn’t matter.
“There’s no running or anything. You just show up, lift something, and you’re done.”
As if it’s that easy.
Training for strongman competitions is not just going to the gym and lifting weights, Augustynowicz acknowledged. Each individual event requires a specific technique; without it, even the strongest of men would fail.
“I still go to the gym, but that’s more for endurance and cardio now. Some of it comes naturally, but the actual training is all about physics and technique – you really have to train for each event differently,” he said.
“When I first started, it was all a little intimidating, but I’ve got a good group of guys that I train with. We compete against each other, but we also keep track of each other’s progress and encourage each other.”
While he admits he didn’t have perfect technique in his first-ever competition – in which he managed to pull a truck 75 feet – he got by simply on pure strength.
“I looked at (the truck), and I didn’t think there was any way I was going to move it, until it actually started to move,” he explained.
“After that, the adrenaline just kicked in and I pulled it the rest of the way.”
Augustynowicz, the oldest of four siblings, comes from an athletic family; his younger brother, Mark, 19, is also following in his footsteps and is a B.C. teen strongman champion.
“He’s the skinnier of the two of us. He takes after my dad, and I take after my mom’s side of the family – she was a bodybuilder, and that side of the family, we’re all farmers,” he said.
Augustynowicz and his fellow strongmen will put their skills on display Saturday, Nov. 19 at Abbotsford’s Tradex Centre, as part of the Vancouver Men’s Show, which runs Nov. 18-20.
“It’s more of an exhibition, a friendly competition,” he said of the event.