Exercising through difficult times

My parents separated when I was 11 years old and during this difficult time, my father used to cry on my shoulder regularly. Picture that for a second, a grown man crying on a boy’s shoulder.  I had no idea how to handle this emotionally or physically.

Then one day during school, I collapsed to my knees and cried uncontrollably in front of the class. Definitely not one my finest moment and in hindsight, I think I was close to a nervous breakdown. However, I was 11 and I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was my world was changing.

Fast forward a few years…..

During my last year of high school my father was diagnosed with cancer.  I wasn’t living with him at the time, but it put a tremendous strain on my family during my hardest year of schooling. However, my mother supported me and kept me focused.

A few years after high school, I was broke, unemployed and homeless because I wasn’t the finest human to hang out with.  And if my father didn’t bail me out, I would’ve been in big trouble. Luckily for me, I had my dad to fall back on but little else.

Not long after this, I watched my father take his final breath. Even though his death was expected (and a blessing because he was in a tremendous pain) I didn’t handle it well. And rather than deal with my feelings, I used to party like it was 1999.

You name (drug of choice) it I probably did it. I don’t remember a lot of this time  because I destroyed a few brain cells. It was fun, but it wasn’t sustainable. Lucky for me I had friends and family to drag me out of the abyss.

Note- There was a lot of good times in between. I’m making a point.

One friend in particular changed my life.

One day over 20 years ago, we were both messing around, talking trash and then out of the blue he had a strange request.

“Lift up your shirt.” He said

“Why” I asked.

The look he gave me suggested I do it or else, so I did.

“Mate, you really need to hit the gym.”

The very next day I joined a gym and my love of exercise began. And I loved it so much that I became a personal trainer a decade in a half later in a different country.

My first few years in the States, (before getting certified) were a bureaucratic nightmare. Unable to work because I couldn’t obtain a Green Card, I spent a lot time hanging out at the local Y exercising and shooting the breeze. Exercise kept me out of trouble and stopped me from ramming my head into a brick wall over my immigration status.

Then I became dad and the caregiver to two boys under the age of 16 months which caused a major case of baby brain syndrome. So, as soon as my wife got home from work,  no matter how exhausted I was, I went to the Y to lift.  Exercise kept me from losing my mind and focused on my kids.

After becoming a personal trainer,  whenever I suffered a personal setback or when one of my friends died, I had exercise. Exercise kept me on the straight and narrow during difficult times.  

While the former me would’ve chased pills with booze, the latest version turned to the barbell instead of the bottle. Thinking about anything else and being in the moment with a weight with at my feet, helped keep my sanity and from feeling sorry for myself.

Wrapping up

You started to exercise because you want to look better and to like the person staring back at you in the mirror. Vanity is where most people start and it’s where I started too.

However, the older I get and the more I look back on my life, I realize exercise is so much more than six-pack abs.  Exercise is my anchor. When everything else goes to hell in a hand basket, focusing on the barbell keeps my sanity intact.

At least temporality. 😊

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

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