Written by Zach Donahue
June 27, 2018 – 2 years, 2 days after I injured my shoulder
I walked through those doors with absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew was what I saw on the occasional Facebook and Instagram posts and ads that showed up on my feed. All I knew was I needed a change. I was tired. Tired of my shoulder still hurting two years later. Tired of going through the motions. Tired of trying to fit in with people who flat out didn’t care for me. I needed to be myself again.
So, I walked into those doors, ready to workout again. Actually workout. Not the lazy uninspired lifts I would call a workout to make myself feel good only to eat a box of Poparts for dinner and negate anything good that I gained. Working out, pushing myself, competing even against just myself, and being a gymrat was where I felt like I was always myself. There was no mask I had to put on. There was no puzzle pieces I had to figure out. It was all there. It was all me. All I had to do was find it.
I never knew what I was about to find. Full disclosure: I had no plans to get to know the community or the coaches. I just wanted a place to be able to workout and push myself and I knew that Lifetime or the Y wasn’t enough. I needed more. I needed someone to push me, to inspire me, to make me feel alive. To pursue something I felt I lost.
By the end of that first class I felt alive. I felt pushed and challenge. I felt accomplished. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in years. It was a feeling I needed. It was a feeling I needed to escape from whatever hell my life was barreling towards. It was the reset I needed.
I was hooked. I was wrapped into it and I wanted more. I slowly began seeking coaches after class and asking to refine things and searching for ways for me to be a better athlete. I ditched my old mindset and dove into the community. What made this place tick and why did it ignite a fire in me I hadn’t felt in over two years.
October rolled around and I kept soaking it in. There was this shiny new thing called the 365 challenge. And I made it this far at this crazy place so might as well go all in. A reset and change to my dieting and healthy eating. Oh and I got a recipe book! What else did I need. I took the leap and found another level I didn’t know I had. I pushed myself in workouts and pushed myself in finding ways to cook creatively and healthy. It was timed right when I needed it. And throughout all of it I pestered Konnor way too much and got way to excited to do burpees. Because hell, everyone hates burpees so lets have some fun with them.
Two years later and the people I met at Alchemy have had some of the most profound impact on me. Hell, I even convinced Brock at NOLO to hire me at front desk because I needed more Alchemy shoved into my veins.
Friends, coaches, and athletes alike helped me rediscover a part of me that I thought died. Instead it was just buried beneath a mask and through various puzzle pieces scattered around. All of them allowed me to take the mask off and just be me. They all allowed me to get overly excited, especially if burpees are involved, and find love in pushing myself to a limit I forgot I had. They challenged me to be healthier and love cooking again. They all gave me clarity.
Who knows what turn my life would’ve taken if I never walked through those doors. I really don’t want to think where it ends up. But I know the work and growth in my life stemmed from taking the leap of faith and just showing up on that Wednesday. Slowly the pieces of the puzzle start to fit more cleanly and those that I would shove into place drifted away. The masks and fear of being myself fell and I was surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed. It was the shift and change that I didn’t know how much I needed. And after my shoulder injury it gave me the comfort to keep pushing and grinding again.
I’ve done the challenge two times since that fall. Each time pushing myself to be healthier or find something new in working out. I started cooking more and being more creative with the meals I cook. My rugby career revived itself and last fall I had one of my most (individual) successful seasons since college. Coaches and the community have had my back and I feel comfortable in just taking the leap of faith and diving into things. They had my back before they got to know me, they had it throughout quarantine, and they had it everywhere along the way. All of them saw something inside me and feed it. Feed it until I became a new, better version of myself. And damn if I don’t feel unstoppable because of them.