by: Erik Nelson
I’ve always been an athlete. For as long as I can remember my parents graciously shuttled me from sport to sport, from the field to the rink, from the the court to the course. I was an athletic jack-of-all-trades, also a master of none. My athletic ability allowed me to find some success playing baseball at the D3 level in college where myself and my teammates placed an importance on strength and fitness, spending a lot of time in the weight room working out. It made sense: I wanted to help the team win and the stronger I was, the further I could hit a baseball. There was a reason for the workout we did—they were specific movements that would translate to success on the field.
Fast forward to my senior year and I was shocked, no MLB teams wanted my services. Just kidding, barely hitting .300 at a small M.I.A.C. school doesn’t get the scouts blowing up your phone. So there I was—my athletic career had come to an abrupt end and while I was a confident graduate with a job at Target, I felt a sense of confusion in how to fill my newfound athletic void. Out of habit, I continued to go to the gym. Unsure what to do in my post-collegiate athletic life to stay fit, I would unpredictably concoct workouts to my liking. One day I would be on a squat rack, another day a bench and yet another a treadmill—to “get my cardio”—whatever that meant to me. I didn’t know why I continued working to maintain a high level of fitness, but I kept up nonetheless.
Not too long after graduating and having a short stint in a cubicle, I decided to go all-in and for a variety of reasons picked up and moved across the world to Shanghai, China. I had a friend of a friend as a contact on the ground (with a couch), but knew no Mandarin (现在我说一点!), didn’t have a job and was unsure how long my risky jaunt across the Pacific might last. Even amongst all this uncertainty, one of the first things I did was find a gym. Again, even without much of a plan, it was important to stay in shape and get a sweat in several times a week. I think deep down I felt like if I had fitness in my life I could get through whatever the Orient might throw at me. Turns out, I didn’t know how right I was.
Over two years living and traveling in Asia, the intersection between the adventure I was living and my penchant for fitness was blurred beyond distinction. Time and time again, situations presented themselves and I was in a situation to capitalize on them as a direct result of making fitness a cornerstone in my life. A friend asking (betting) if I wanted to whimsically run a marathon through the Shanghai air pollution? I was (somewhat) prepared. Going wake boarding in Deep Water Bay on the south side of Hong Kong island? Sure. Taking the wrong bus and humping a heavy pack 5 miles across the Thai-Malay boarder? Not ideal, but no problem. An unforgettable three hours of stand up paddle-boarding around an island in Bali? I had the stamina. Playing 36 hours straight in a softball tournament on a military base in Seoul, Korea? Ready to go! The common denominator with these and countless other experiences was that my time in the gym prepared me for whatever I came up against. There was no worry that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the inherent stresses I threw at it which, allowed me to fully absorb my often thrilling and exotic adventures.
Now I’ve found Alchemy. Living back in the U.S.m the adventures still continue—though are a bit more sporadic in frequency—and fitness persists in how I choose to see and experience the world, both at home and abroad. Not long after joining Alchemy (my lungs and legs quickly adapting to the onslaught of A10s and A20s) I took a trip to Havana, Cuba. While the five day trip was amazing in many aspects, the memory that was most impactful was an early morning run I took along the Malecón. The city was just rustling to life. Smells from street vendors preparing breakfast for locals and quiet groups of conversations between fisherman setting out to their boats made for an unforgettable atmosphere as I experienced an authentic look into life in Havana—one I’m convinced was guided by fitness.
While it took some time wandering around the world, I’ve finally found it, my reason for maintaining good physical fitness. It is no longer to hit a baseball. It is to get out there and live. Regardless of the country or the activity, I can go forward confidently knowing that Alchemy continually prepares me to pursue my legend. With such a cohesive community of like-minded, strong individuals I am excited to be pushed (and to help other Alchemists) to be the best version of myself I can be.
Erik Nelson is a coach at Alchemy Edina. When he’s not in the studio you can find him working on his golf game, adventuring around the world, relaxing with a book or at a brewery enjoying a beer with friends.
[The PYL Series highlights individuals that don’t just tolerate discomfort to purse their legend, they anticipate and embrace it. Knowing what you want, and knowing that you’ll do anything and overcome all obstacles to achieve it is not easy, but it is the only way to reach your own legend. Pursue it vigorously, and the universe will conspire to help you achieve yours too.]