Carrying the weight of the world

March 26, 2014 | 7:41 p.m.

Amateur body builder balances learning, lifting and life

Sports | Tony Larson for The Clarion

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Amateur body builder Jeff Riepe is honest about the demand of his lifestyle, “Am I tired? Absolutely. Would I like to sleep for a week straight? Sure, why not? Am I happy with the way I’m living? No question.” | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Roman DeWitt

The screaming of an alarm at 8 a.m., shattering the tranquil silence of the morning, is enough to make any college student want to hurl it through the window. One particularly stocky fellow almost scrapes his broad shoulders on the door frame as he enters Bethel's weight room at the unearthly hour of 6 a.m.

“Sleep? I think I’ve had about an hour’s worth within the past week.” Jeff Riepe said. “With all of the things that I need to get done to get to where I want to be, I don’t have time to sleep.”

The young man who resembles a short brick wall trounced over to a barbell loaded with weight and thrusted it up and down for another 30 seconds before stopping to catch his breath.

After training for half an hour before the 8 o’clock rush of exercise enthusiasts flooded the weight room, Riepe made a beeline over to the stationary bikes for his post-workout cool down.

Jeff Riepe has been a member of Bethel University's athletic training program for two years and hopes to attend graduate school to earn a doctorate in physical therapy with an emphasis in sports or orthopedics. But maintaining a 3.87 GPA while undergoing a rigorous training regimen as well as completing clinical rotations for both athletic training and physical therapy has been a hard fought battle consisting of many late nights, early mornings, a little blood and a whole lot of sweat.

Riepe doesn’t take much for granted during his college days. Whether it’s studying relentlessly for a biomechanics exam, staying up with friends until 3 a.m. or waking up at the crack of dawn to get into the weight room, he takes everything in stride.

“Am I tired? Absolutely. Would I like to sleep for a week straight? Sure, why not? Am I happy with the way I’m living? No question,” said Riepe, as he chugged a protein smoothie in between sentences.

“On one hand, I have an intense and burning passion to work with athletes, to see them made whole, not only physically but spiritually and personally as well. Injuries cause individuals highly invested in sports to question life down to their very identity. My desire is to not only restore them completely to a peak level of performance, but also speak meaning and purpose into them that goes beyond athletics. My determination to see these goals to completion is relentless.”

On a normal day, he is up by 6 a.m. and enjoys a breakfast of a half dozen egg whites and oatmeal, followed by a protein shake and pre-workout smoothie. People often worry about gaining weight in college, but Riepe’s classmate, Grant Dye, has seen his friend embrace the weight change.

“I think Jeff has the opposite problem,” Dye said. “The difference is, the weight he gains is literally 100 percent muscle.”

Following an hour-and-a-half lifting session full of what most would consider sheer torture, Riepe grabs a quick shower. Meal number two is next on the docket, which consists of more eggs, more oatmeal and another nutritional shake.

“After I get my lift and morning meals in, its time to refresh, lock and load, and to hone in my focus for a day filled with classes,” he said.

Focus doesn’t seem to be an issue for Riepe.

“Jeff knows how to get after it in the classroom,” said Chris Carroll, a professor of statistics and applied health science. “Not only does it take a specific level of knowledge and thinking power to succeed in class, it takes a huge amount of discipline.”

The long day proves tiring for Riepe. After inhaling his third and fourth meals of the day, along with copious amounts of caffeine, Riepe returns to his usual library spot located on the upper level. As his sore arms and legs beg for rest, Riepe dives into his therapeutic exercise text book.

“Sometimes I feel as though someone has placed a massive slab of granite on my back that I need to not only balance and hold, but bear while doing sprints up stairs,” said Riepe, discussing the pressure that is placed on him during his busy schedule.

“But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The stress is unfathomable, the tests are hard, the workouts are strenuous and the nights are late, but this is my kind of life. One day, I have complete confidence that this will pay off, not only for me as a professional, but I hope even more so for countless athletes who will have their lives changed and impacted for the better because I was willing to give my all in the small and seemingly miniscule things.”

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