PYL Series: Mike Borell

Look at this Legend.

…a skinny little brace-faced punk rock teeny bopper with a terrible haircut and the most prized possession of his life, his new guitar. That legend is me and this moment captured in time was pivotal.

I grew up obsessed with sports. I played practically everything you could sign up for in a regular suburban town and I was actively participating in athletics year-round. Fast forward to the time of that awesomely awkward photograph and all that changed. It was during this time in my life that I decided to give up athletics and focus on the one thing that made me feel more alive than anything else in the world – music.

With the dramatic drop-off of physical activity in my life (aside from constant head banging and the occasional mosh pit) I was encouraged to start working out. My biggest hero was my older sister and her friends were gigantic jocks that I looked up to greatly. They told me to eat more, lift more, and get bigger. I loved the sound of this idea. I had always been the “skinny” “little” “kid” my entire life and I was motivated to change that. I wanted to be like the big boys.

Thanks to my dedication in the gym and some timely teenage growth spurts I started becoming one of the big boys. However, this lifestyle that I had cultivated of devouring calories, guzzling protein powder, pounding pre-workout supplements and “going hard” in the gym for hours on end started to take
its toll some years down the road. Becoming a big boy became a big problem. I was not physically proportionate to my body’s natural structure, my diet was terrible, my training was repetitive and unsupervised, I was suffering from injuries, and I wasn’t happy. The gym, the second love of my life, went from a place of self-improvement to self-destruction. Too often I would enter this space designed for health and progress only to find myself leaving in pain and spending the next few days bedridden popping pain killers because I had thrown my back out or torn my shoulder again.

Eventually I had enough. I needed something new so I took a break from the weights for a while. I found yoga, but I missed the gym and soon found myself back in there returning to my old habits. I was going nowhere fast until a close friend who was all too familiar with my struggle recommended Alchemy. The pitch was that it combined yoga with strength training – one thing that I needed more of and another that I wanted more of. It seemed like the perfect fit, but I was hesitant. For over ten years I had been going to the gym alone, blocking out the rest of the world as I plugged in my headphones and jammed out to the rhythm of the weights – the isolation was meditative.

Music has always been a major component of my life and my workouts. The right moment in the right song can push people to places they never thought possible. I’ll always remember an experience that I had during my first few days at Alchemy. We were ten minutes into an A20, around the time when you start to really wonder how will you ever make it another ten. The class was alive and moving to the beat of drum and bass. It was high intensity pandemonium when all of a sudden – BOOM – the music cut out. Dead. Silent. Some iPhone error that lasted about five seconds. But for those five seconds the room was not filled with silence. It was filled with a chorus of legends. Twenty to thirty like-minded athletes breathing hard and breathing heavy. Filling the space with their life force. Pushing each other to new limits in harmony. With the music gone, I realized at this moment that I was no longer in isolation with my workout. I realized that I didn’t need to be a big boy. I realized that health and wellness is not defined by how much you bench press, how big your bicep is, or how many hours a day you spend in the gym. I realized how important community was. I realized that I needed support. I realized at that moment that we were all in this together. After that class I decided I was #AllIn and never looked back.

I haven’t considered myself to be an athlete since I was probably twelve years old. Since joining Alchemy I’ve reconsidered. This community has had a great affect on my mind, my body, my spirit, and my overall outlook on life. The last time I felt this excited may have been when that photo of me with the guitar was taken. As a coach at Alchemy, it is my hope to excite and inspire others to pursue their own personal legends, just as this community has done for me.

Mike Borell is a coach at Alchemy NE.  In his spare time he enjoys making and playing music, building and riding motorcycles, and pursuing his legend every day. 

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