I wake up some mornings and I can’t walk properly. Worse, some days I can’t go to work since my back is so jammed up nor can I play with my son either. I’m limited to how long I can stand and how long I can sit, it is a lingering reminder of the Afghan war and it’s the biggest gift I could have ever been given.
I recently spoke to an auditorium full of high school students during Remembrance Day about sacrifice and why we remember those who fell in battle. I wanted to convey that we’re not glorifying war or beating the drum of patriotism but we’re honouring the sacrifices that so many made so that we enjoy the modern comforts of peace and stability at home.
Every one of us who has deployed to any of the dusty battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan are well aware of sacrifice. We all made one, one way or another, and some paid the ultimate one. My sacrifice was the health of my back. And no, it’s not what you might think, I wasn’t rushing to save a truck full of children under heavy enemy sniper fire, I simply was picking up my gear on patrol and BANG! I thought we were under contact. Turns out, it was just two of my intervertebral discs deciding to explode out of their vertebral homes.
From that point on, I soldiered on. I took drugs for the pain and just ‘gave ‘er’. “It’ll probably be better in a few weeks”, I told myself. I got home and things seemed alright, but I was slowly degenerating to the point where I couldn’t get into my car without wincing. I missed professional development courses, I stayed home some nights instead of grabbing pints with the boys and ultimately started living with nagging, life-altering pain.
I took drugs for the pain and just “gave ‘er”
How could this possibly be a gift? As I was talking to the students in the auditorium, I stated that my injury is a gift since it totally changed my perception on fitness and health. First, I asked myself, “why did this happen?”. It turns out that I had some very pronounced physical weaknesses and mobility issues. This lead me to undertake my personal training certification and learn more about anatomy and functional strength. Second, two months after my son was born, I had a terrible, incapacitating lock up of my back. The physical pain was excruciating but worse was the pain of knowing that I couldn’t help my wife or take care of our son. This was the moment I knew things had to change.
From that point forward, I took my injury very seriously and hired an incredible coach at my local Crossfit box. We worked together for over a year, I competed in the Crossfit open and haven’t had a serious incident since. However, the greatest part about hiring my coach was that he eventually became my mother’s coach who was beginning to physically deteriorate. She went from being a diabetic with limited mobility to literally running after her grandson and drastically reducing her use of medications.
Now understanding the power of a good coach, I mused if I could be just as influential in other’s lives. I’m a teacher by trade and was a high school science teacher at a great school but something started to nag at my soul. I poured myself into podcasts and books; I learned more about myself from Joe Rogan’s podcasts in 3 months than I did in all of University. The lesson that stuck was this:
Don’t waste time doing sh*t that you’re not passionate about.
This message resonated in my brain, daily. Teaching was what I loved to do but the classroom wasn’t my passion. This manifested itself as a health scare when my doctor discovered I had dangerously high blood pressure. I’m 36, in the best shape of my life, I eat well and sleep well and I have heart attack level blood pressure? The universe was sending me a message that was loud and clear – I needed a change or die!
I finally made the hardest professional decision of my life and left my comfortable, permanent job to work in the education technology field. It didn’t last long, but it hardened my resolve to finally do what I always wanted – launch my own fitness business. I’ve been able to bring some of the new tech skills I learned to bear on my new coaching business and the fact that I know I can overcome a debilitating injury only strengthens my tenacity that I will be successful.
Every day I reflect about my mission in Afghanistan. My physical pain is a constant reminder that I’m still alive. This is a cherished gift of mine because I got to come home when others didn’t.
I got to come home when others didn’t
My talk with the students closed by outlining this one final point; sacrifice and struggle, they have allowed me to appreciate my life to the fullest, I hope to convey that through my coaching and help change as many lives as possible.
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