The Ax-Man Cometh: Arden Cogar Jr. Rules Timbersports

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In a past life, or a Game of Thrones episode, Arden Cogar Jr. would have made a splendid executioner, so skilled is he with an ax. Instead, the 43-year-old Cogar is a defense attorney for a firm in Charleston, W.Va. At 5-10, 270 pounds, he’s also one of the top timber sports athletes in North America. While many readers may have an incomplete understanding of what it is that a timber sport athlete does, it does not entail skipping, jumping, or the pressing of wildflowers. To shed light on the topic, and with the 29th annual Stihl Timbersports Series on the horizon, it felt like a good time to check in with Cogar, who has won that event five times.

Getting him on the phone for a quick Q&A wasn’t easy, between his day job and workout schedule.

Edge: Talk generally about your exercise regimen.

Arden Cogar: I do two hours of physical activity a day, whether my workload is heavy or light. It could be weight training, it could be event training, it could even be just simply mowing the lawn. I force myself to have a physicality to my nature, to avoid becoming too sedentary, and to avoid the aggression-added anger that comes with the practice of law.

Edge: Is it like the decathlon, in which versatility is paramount?

AC: There are six disciplines in the Timbersports Series [the Springboard, Stock Saw, Underhand Chop, Single Buck, Standing Block Chop and Hot Saw]. You get 10 points for first place and one point for 10th, so you have to be skilled in all six disciplines in order to advance, and even more skilled in order to win.

Edge: You’ve talked about coming to CrossFit and Olympic lifting relatively recently. It sounds as though you feel that you’re not getting older, you’re getting better.

AC: I always liken Timbersports and lumberjack sports to golf. We start playing when we’re really young, we have all the physical ability in the world, but our mental ability and technique simply suck. And as we age, our physical abilities decline, whereas our mental abilities, they improve. As those two points intersect on a graph—in middle age—that’s when you play your best golf, and that’s when you’re at your best in Timbersports.

Edge: There’s a precedent, in your own family tree, so to speak, for excelling well into middle age.

AC: My father, Arden Sr., made it to championships at the age of 60. That’s my goal.

EDGE: That’s incredible. Is he still with us?

AC: Oh yeah. He’s 80, and still competes. Primarily in masters events, but also in some championship events at various festivals throughout the country.

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Edge: You’ve mentioned that your wife and two daughters also compete in Timbersports. It’s a game the whole family can play!

AC: Twenty-two of the people that make up our local [timbersports] association are from the Cogar family. There are 15 of my cousins, my father and uncles, and my wife and daughters.

Edge: When you talk about improving technique, what’s an example of something you’ve been refining?

AC: Well, this past winter I focused on several areas. On the Springboard event, I had gotten in the bad habit of chopping too close to the tree. And so I made a point of standing back further on the board itself, allowing me to get my arms extended, which enables me to hit with more power.

Another example is the Standing Chop Block. I have been for more than 20 years North America’s top Standing Block cutter. Last year was by far my worst year in that event, even though I performed well. As with the Springboard, I was standing too close to the stand. So I backed up an additional four inches, and I also added additional rotation in my torso, enabling me to cut the logs in fewer blows.

Edge: Are you noticing this from film study or being told by your peers?

AC: I videotape almost all my training sessions. I frame-by-frame them on the computer, I time the backswing as well as the foreswing. It’s almost an obsession, a passion for me, to get the most out of what the good Lord gave me.