Brawny Braniacs

After work, most people carry their laptops back to their cars. After work, Seth Carbonneau sometimes carries his car to his laptop.

Standing 5 foot 4 inches with a brown buzz cut and a mild, courteous demeanor, nobody would be too shocked to hear that Carbonneau works as a lab technician at Harvard’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. On Saturday, Sept. 25, however, Carbonneau traveled to the "New Hampshire’s Strongest Man" contest.

With events like the car deadlift and the monster-tire flip, the strongman competition was not for the faint of heart (or faint of anything pertaining to the musculoskeletal system). Take note: the tagline for the meet was "Lift Heavy or Die". Participating in the 175-lb.-and-under division, Carbonneau chose the former of the two options—representing cancer researchers everywhere, he successfully deadlifted a Jeep Wrangler that weighed nearly three times his body weight.

Speaking about his favorite aspects of Strongest Man, Carbonneau praised the sense of community. "There’s real camaraderie and sportsmanship. Even if you’ve never met anyone at a competition, you’ll talk immediately," he explained.

Gina Melnik, Carbonneau’s training partner, first introduced him to the world of improbably-large-object-heaving. Like Carbonneau, Melnik is not merely a physical force to be reckoned with, having earned her doctorate in experimental psychology from Tufts University.

The two met in a local gym while doing similar power-lifting routines and then struck up a conversation. The rest is history.

But why did such heavy-weight thinkers become such heavy-weight lifters? When asked about the relationship between interests in academia and Herculean vehicle-raising, Melnik said she saw little besides the challenge that both present.

"I started lifting in grad school as stress-relief, and it was working with my trainer that I became introduced to Strongman. What I enjoy on an intellectual level is how things change so much between contests," said Melnik.

"Every competition has different events with multiple ways of executing them. You have to have a lot of variability in your training," said Carbonneau.

Of all people, perhaps Carbonneau would agree that the old cliché is true: variety is the spice of life, but maybe with a few Jeeps thrown in for good measure.

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