FITNESS IN RECOVERY
When I stopped competing and slacked off with my workout routine (which at the time was my therapy, my solitude), I quickly slipped into an oblivion of drugs and alcohol, which at first was fun (stupid fun), then it was fun with problems, and then it was just problems which ended with me being alcoholic, drug addicted, and homeless. I remember my very first meeting like it was yesterday. When the other members and speakers stated to go to a meeting every day, go to the same meeting every day, get a commitment, become accountable and help others - I said to myself “Oh wow! I know this process. This is just like a fitness regimen”. My life is like Groundhog Day (and if you’ve seen the movie, you know its great fun). I go to my meetings at the same time. I eat the same things at the same times. I meet with my sponsor at the same time. I workout at the same time, train clients at the same time, and I sleep at the same time. My Fridays are not all that different from my Tuesdays. It’s called a regiment. It doesn't matter if it’s in fitness or in recovery, the same principles apply. When you keep the process going one day at a time, positive change will happen.
When in recovery, having a lot of free time is not a good thing. Filling an addict’s day with things to do is something that automatically benefits them by keeping their mind occupied with positive things. Just like knowing when and where my next meeting is, going to the gym requires commitment and planning. Let me explain this further. I need to take the time to plan when and how I’m going to get to the gym, at the gym I need to figure out what muscle group(s) I’m training and what equipment I’m going to use and the proper way to workout. If I want results from my workout program, I now need to implement a fit and healthy meal plan that requires me to educate myself on nutrition and implementing that into my daily life, which further requires me to educate myself about what foods I’m shopping for so that I can prepare my meals for the week. Then lastly, knowing how much sleep my body needs to recover and ensuring that I get enough sleep every night. All of a sudden, I have this regiment that keeps me accountable for progress; physically, mentally, and spiritually.
As a recovering addict, I need to have a frame work in place. The same principles that apply to get sober are the exact same principles that are needed to get fit. That frame work is my meetings, my fellowship, daily input from my sponsor, and my 12 Step work; adding a fitness routine based upon the same principles that I already practice through my 12 Step work, will now give my body a much better chance to recover psychically and therefore my mind can now actually focus and grasp all the new positive information needed to rebuild my life. All these things, by the end of the day, give me a better chance to be happy, joyous and free, sometimes more, sometimes less. Not only that but it holds me accountable for my actions daily. I am truly on top of my game, my spiritual maintenance that I don’t have a need to use and I can honestly say that I am happy, joyous, and free.
Founder of Sober Fitness
If you have questions in regards to fitness in recovery, you can reach me at:
The vast majority of all fitness routines are based on a “no pain, no gain” ego based philosophy. I would say 90% and maybe more. Force the body, push through, work harder, just do it and do it anyway. These are all philosophies that feed the ambition to get fit and gain muscle by driving on inner fear and pain as fuel. I want to move completely away from that. To be on the other side of the spectrum. I want to bring a spiritual aspect into the fitness philosophy. Of course, you still have to take action and follow through, but I want the reasons for pushing through the so called “pain barrier” within the workout to be a positive driving force rather than a negative one. Let me use my story as an example of how the approach to fitness training could be changed for people in recovery.
I used to be a bodybuilder, winning Championships, but I had internal turmoil. There were things going on in my life that I didn’t know how to deal with. Luckily, I was introduced to working out early on in my life, first martial arts at the age of 5 and then weights at 13. Otherwise, I’m convinced that I would have become a drug addict much earlier in my life. I found a way to match and cover up the pain I felt on the inside by masking and fueling my workouts with the inner pain that I was feeling. When other people were claiming they couldn’t handle the stress of a tough workout or deal with their muscles burning, I thought it was awesome. I could cover up the pain I felt on the inside with the pain I could pile on from the outside by working out. It was like a medication to me, a mask, a band-aid. I was that guy who didn’t have a pain barrier. That’s what made me a great athlete, but that was my only tool to cope with life.
When I was younger, my only motivation came from pain. After I began recovery and changed to a more spiritual focus, my training became much less ego-oriented and was based on a spiritual foundation. If you can do the same amount of pushing through those limits coming from a place of joy and happiness, it’s a totally different mindset. True self-esteem comes from a psychic shift by working a spiritual program. This goes for recovery from addiction, just as much as your fitness and nutritional program. The same psychic shift is needed to change the ego. This is why fitness training is such a powerful tool for people in recovery. That is why I created Sober Fitness: A Fitness Program designed specifically for people in recovery from addition. It’s gratifying to train people in recovery because you give them a tool to improve their lives.