“Everyone is Recovering from Something:” Connecticut Gym Offers Free Workouts and Recovery Meetings
A Saturday morning at Guilford Athletic Center doesn’t look much different than that of other gyms: a group gathers at 9:30 AM for a 30-minute class, free and open to varying fitness-levels. What’s different is the meeting that follows, a 45-minute, recovery, self-reflection meeting open to anyone working through “any of life’s challenges.”
- The mornings, titled the Recovery Move exercise and Recovery meetings, are run by Clint Zeidenberg, a CrossFit coach and top-200 masters athlete, and Dr. Hannah Jurewicz, a clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, founder of non-profit Journey Home Recovery Living, and athlete.
- The pair has been leading these meetings since September of 2019 when Jurewicz approached Zeidenberg about donating his time and gym, “knowing that he was very invested already in this recovery world.”
Fitness for recovery: It’s no secret that fitness and recovery go hand-in-hand. Larger organizations, like The Phoenix and Fit to Recover, are bringing this idea across the nation, leading free classes and offering community to those in recovery.
Fitness, Zeidenberg and Jurewicz say with research behind them, gets the circulation going, generates endorphins, and can act as a distraction from cravings. This, paired with the intimacy of working out together and spiritual connection from the group, is unquestionably beneficial.
- “Maybe [you’re] just grateful you survived, you didn’t puke or pass out, but you will feel different, just because [you] moved,” Jurewicz says. “Fitness plays a huge part in our recovery, and it always has.” She calls Zeidenberg’s “loving, supportive, energetic” approach their “magic ingredient” to making people feel connected, not ashamed, when working out.
- “To say, I gotta get to the gym, I gotta do this type of program, this type of workout… because I’m not good right now and I need a change in my brain, right now. And there is a change when somebody walks through that door with their droopy face, not connected, stressed out, and an hour later, big smiles and waving and talking,” Zeidenberg adds.
- “To watch these folks come in and become reconnected to their bodies… that’s the biggest thing,” Jurewicz says.
Everyone is recovering from something: The workouts and meetings at Guilford Athletic Center are open to any adult or teen, whether they’re in recovery from substance abuse, anxiety, stress, COVID fatigue, loss, or something else.
Jurewicz says they even had a person come who was overwhelmed from the storming of the U.S. Capitol, pointing out that the workout and meetings are “an opportunity to come together during the scariest times we have experienced, in a safe place.”
- “You look at the world of COVID, and how traumatizing that is, isolating us, we have fear, we can’t do anything about it, we’re helpless… We can come together on a Saturday and workout and then talk about what that is like, and have that sense of one hour of life being connected,” Jurewicz says.
Jurewicz also gives the example of three men, all who suffered from eating disorders:
- “This blew me away,” she says, touching on one of the recovery meetings. “Three guys show up to the meeting, and one guy says ‘You know, I feel safe, and really, my issue is an eating disorder,’ and he starts to tear up, saying ‘I have this weight problem, but guys can’t have weight problems, where do I go for help, I feel so ashamed.’”
- “Then,” she continues, “Another guy says the same thing. ‘Oh my God, I’ve always had eating issues, I’ve always felt horrible about the way I look.’ Then, the next guy says it. Then we have three middle-aged guys, very overweight, saying they’re embarrassed and ashamed to go work out because of the way they look, and ashamed that they have an eating disorder.”
Zeidenberg opened the gym for these three members during closed hours so they would feel comfortable, and worked out with them. Eventually, two of them joined the gym.
- “Now, imagine if they never had a place to go,”Jurewicz says. “They would still be sort of sick and suffering to themselves in that isolated kind of way.”
Destigmatizing: Zeidenberg and Jurewicz say another one of their other missions is to destigmatize recovery. Jurewicz brings up what she calls the “gift of desperation” — those who have experienced the worst of the worst will do whatever it takes, understanding “what kind of a miracle it is to come together with a common problem and support each other in recovery.”
Jurewicz says it’s the people who don’t believe they are in recovery – those that come for the workout and scurry away before the meeting – that are the most “heartbreaking.”
- “All of us are in recovery from life, from society, from pressures, from social media, from all of it, just fear for living and surviving,” she says. “We can help to increase awareness in what recovery really looks like and how wonderful and beneficial it is for everyone, and not just for the second-class citizens who didn’t figure it out. None of us have figured out life.”
Moving forward: The Guilford Athletic Center Recovery Move program is growing, and Zeidenberg and Jurewicz plan for that to continue.
Up until this summer, Guilford Athletic Center was tied to CrossFit. After Greg Glassman’s controversial statements in June, Zeidenberg chose to disaffiliate.
As of right now, he doesn’t have plans to re-affiliate, instead, he wants to move the gym even more towards the recovery community by adding classes and working with sober living communities. He and Jurewicz are also looking for funding avenues in hopes of providing scholarships to those who are in recovery and want to join the gym, but can’t afford it.