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Meet the RMC Cadets Behind the 3000-on-the-Bar Challenge

On February 17, Royal Military College students Liam Chambers and Joël Charpentier impressed us all when they completed 3,000 pullups each in 19 hours and 50 minutes, raising over $5,300 for Soldier On. But who are they and what prompted them to take this on.

Liam Chambers grew up in small-town Vancouver Island while Joël Charpentier is originally from Quebec City. Currently, they are both cadets at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, but their friendship goes way back. They both served in the Navy prior to joining RMC. Joël joined the Navy in 2000 lured by the prospect of travel, learning languages and making friends. Liam joined a decade later.

“Liam and I go back to my clearance diving days. He was one of my diving students,” explains Joël. “We’re both go-get-it kind of guys so we quickly became good friends.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Liam was in his basement working out one day when the idea struck him. “Now that we’re all isolated, I felt it would be a good opportunity to do something motivational and inspirational,” he says.

So he reached out to his buddy Joël and to Kevin Wakelam at the PSP. “Kevin was enthusiastic. He told us all we needed was a pull-up bar and a go-fund-me page,” says Liam.

The challenge consisted of performing a total of 3,000 pull-ups within the time limit of 24 hours, starting at 8 a.m. EST on February 17, 2021.

When Soldier On checked in with Liam and Joël a few days after the challenge, they were both still sore, but very pleased with their accomplishment.

Why did you agree to take this on, Joël?

“I’m a father of three boys and I saw this is an opportunity to build a time capsule. Something to look back at to show that sometimes you got to work hard to make your mark and to help other people.”

How does one complete 3,000 pull-ups in 24 hours? It seems like a daunting number.

“You do three at a time until you’re done. There’s no secret to it,” says Liam.

“You can’ think about the full number or you’ll never get there, you’re just going to psyche yourself out,” adds Joël.

How did you prepare?

Liam: “We started training the month before, doing different variations of pullups with weight vests. It’s more about getting your muscles ready for the endurance of it rather than some big output of strength because the pressure that goes on your tendons and joints is worse than the musculature strength issues. We got advice from trainers at RMC and from Kevin at PSP. The week before we scaled it down doing 500 pull-ups one day, then 250 the next, 250, 150, and finally three days out we didn’t do any. The last 24 hours ahead of the challenge were all about yoga, hydration, stretching, and mental preparation.”

What was the toughest part of the challenge, your darkest moment if you will?

Joël: “After a thousand pull-ups, when you know you still have 2,000 to go. At that point I shifted my strategy to focusing on just getting through the next hour, taking it one hour at a time.”

Liam: “We definitely had hours that were harder. We each took 10-minute breaks on the hour every hour and other than that we took one 40-minute break, which was a really bad idea because your body starts to seize up and your hands begin to stiffen up. If I were to do it again, I’d avoid the break because the toughest part was getting started again after the break. You get used to your hands hurting. It is like grabbing something on fire every time. The last few hours would have been tough, but we had so much support online that it was actually kind of fun to the extent that it could be fun.”

Did you ever doubt you’d be able to complete the challenge?

Joël: “For sure. My hands were hurting a lot. The calluses started to get really bad. As silly as it sounds, every time I grabbed the bar, I would say ‘Pain you have no vote, you have no say.’

Why Soldier On?

Liam: “I had heard of Soldier On and had seen events happen throughout my time in the forces. I started reading up and it didn’t’ take me long to decide that this was exactly what we were looking for. Raising so much money was great and that we surpassed the goal was fantastic, but the main thing for us was to raise awareness for Soldier On.”

Joël: “I have some veteran friends who’ve been helped by Soldier On. That put the program on the radar for me. What you guys do is awesome. People like to quantify success but as soon as we made that first dollar it was worth it for me. I’m hopeful that it’s going to help a few guys in these trying times. I really hope that this is the start of that snowball effect that turns into an avalanche where more people will be inspired by what we did and take it upon themselves to bring some challenges and raise some funds for Soldier On.”

Anything else you’d like to share?

Liam: “Any cadet can go out and do something like this. I’m hoping it can be the catalyst for further events for lots of people instead of just us. People are a lot more generous than you give them credit for, especially at a time like this I think everybody wants to give and be more involved in their communities. I’d also like to say thanks to everyone at Soldier On, RMC and all the people who donated and kept us company during the night. It was great for motivation. I hope people take this as inspiration to organize their own events and really push themselves. It doesn’t just affect you and the people who receive the money, but the inspirational aspect of it can affect a lot of people.”