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How I Found fitness and Why I Stick With It (Chris M)

Fun little fact about me, I wasn’t always in decent shape, (see photo below) I only quit smoking cigarettes about ten years ago, a habit I picked up when I was fourteen. Back then it was perfectly fine for school kids to go out for a smoke in between classes. By no coincidence, I also began drinking heavily and enjoyed other recreational drugs. It was the 80s and I was a teenage metalhead thinking that I would never die.

The closest I got to any kind of fitness program while I was growing up was buying protein powder in bulk and repping out chest and arms at the local gym. The only cardio I got in was when I had to run from the police, which was an every weekend occurrence. Some folks would spend their weekends going to the park, camping or hiking. Me, and my other degenerate friends would pass the time drinking and smoking the devil’s lettuce at the same park that others would exercise in, until the Fairfield, New Jersey, cops would arrive and try to ruin our fun.

Fast Forward a few years, I managed to graduate High School and I was continuing with my bad life choices and freezing my butt off working at the local Amoco gas station. In NJ, we’re not allowed to pump our own gas, so I benefitted from doing that job until I got busted for selling empty oil bottles to unsuspecting customers. My boss, John, was a sheriff’s officer who actually tried to help me out. I was close to turning 20 and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

After I got fired from pumping gas, I took the test for Essex County Corrections and I found myself walking the tiers of one of the most dysfunctional county jail systems in the country. This place was so crazy that I actually excelled at my job. Although I would drive into the Newark complex every day thinking that today was the day I was getting a shank in the kidney, I got along great with the command staff, and truth be told, I even got along pretty well with the inmates. I continued this job until I managed to land a job with the same police department that arrested me when I was a teenager!

I managed to be a “functional” alcoholic while I was a police officer. I loved the job back then and my department sent me to first responder and firearms instructor schools. Another fun little fact about me, I was terrified of public speaking. The job didn’t care about my phobia, however, and whenever there was a police academy class going on, I would spend a few weeks there teaching the recruits CPR and firearms training. I spent most of my career bouncing back and forth between the patrol division and the academy and I really got a lot of fulfillment from helping these young kids become future police officers.

While all of this was going on, I continued to drink heavily, mostly at home by myself because I didn’t want anyone to know. I never really missed work, but I would burn up most of my vacation time just drinking on the couch. When I turned 34, I entered an inpatient rehab facility, (for the second time). My bloodwork was awful, my job began suffering and my marriage was on life support.

After my stint at Sunrise House, I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes or I was not long going to be in this world. In addition to staying sober, I quit smoking cigarettes. I joined a local gym where I would spend about a half-hour on the treadmill seriously debating which was worse, an early death or this stupid, boring treadmill. One day I overheard some dudes talking about the fitness games and how dangerous fitness was. I Immediately quit that gym and joined up at the tiny fitness box in my town. I went through their beginner’s program and after the first WOD, which was about 5 minutes long, I was hooked. I also found myself lying on the ground, looking up and wondering if I just got hit by a bus. That feeling has never left. Whether it’s a short Fran or a long Murph, I get hit by phantom buses on a regular basis.

fitness legitimately saved my life. It’s hard to smoke and drink like I did when you have Fran, Diane or 12 days of Christmas waiting for you. I also need to be around other like-minded individuals who enjoy this constantly varied, high-intensity program. Not enjoy like “ooh ice cream!”, rather enjoy like, “I am so happy I didn’t die today and I cant wait to do tempt fate again tomorrow” sort-of-enjoy. If it wasn’t for fitness, I would have picked up a drink or a smoke a long time ago. For me, I need to be tested and spend time outside of my comfort zone. This is a positive way to do that. The fitness community is so close because of our mutual suffering. I can honestly say that at 46 years of age, I have never been in better shape in my life and I owe it all to fitness.

Side note: even though I have been a fitness trainer on and off for over five years, as well as all of the time instructing at the academy, I am still terrified of getting in front of a group of people and would much rather sit in my room and hide. What makes it easier for me to train others is that the fitness community has the BEST group of people I will ever meet. I don’t look at training a class like public speaking, I look at it like, ”these folks are my friends and if I can play even a small part in their fitness journey, that is awesome! There are two things that I can talk about all day, recovery and fitness and if anyone ever needs to talk, I am a great listener!

Chris Morgan is a retired New Jersey Police Officer and a CF-L1 trainer here at fitness Cape Coral.

If you’re interested in attending our first Sober Sunday workout at fitness Cape Coral, please click here.

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