Armando Perez: Turning Trauma into an Empowering “Driver of Change”
When his mother took her own life in 2009, Armando Perez sunk into a deep depression. The feeling was all too familiar, as Perez’ father also lost his life to suicide, as did his grandfather, as well as an aunt and an uncle.
- “I had no fuckin desire to peel my depressed ass off the couch…I was spending 22 hours a day crying,” said Perez, now 42 about the days that followed his mother’s death.
- What eventually got him off the couch was when his good friend Guido Trinidad, the owner of Peak 360 CrossFit in Miami, FL and the founder of the prestigious Wodapalooza Fitness Festival, programmed a workout in Perez’ mother’s honor.
- “She was 55 when she died, so I think it was something like seven movements of 55 reps. I didn’t want to workout and see other human beings, but I showed up because other people showed up,” said Perez, who was new to CrossFit at the time. “And I still remember…I did 41 (unbroken) pull-ups on no sleep, no food and depressed. Why? Because of the community I’m so grateful for,” he said.
One big thing: CrossFit has gone a long way in helping Perez, not just become incredibly fit, but also remain mentally healthy enough to do all he has done for suicide prevention, diabetes and for underprivileged children in the last decade.
- After his mother died, Perez stumbled across the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, an organization to support those affected by suicide. He realized there was no chapter in Miami, so he contacted the organization’s founders and helped one in 2010. Since then, Perez has helped council more than 100 people who have lost loved ones to suicide.
- He also became involved with CEMDOE, a diabetes center in the Dominican Republic, “where we offer every need under the sun for people with diabetes,” he explained. Currently, he’s the manager of a $30 million project, and an executive board member for the non-profit arm of CEMDOE.
- Spending so much time in the Dominican Republic also led Perez to get to know many affiliate owners in that country and found a charity CrossFit competition — WOD Con Corazon — which he ran for four years and raised more than $60,000 for an organization that supports underprivileged kids. He is hoping to bring the competition back this year, he explained, as bringing CrossFit to the Dominican Republic is something he’s incredibly passionate about.
- “CrossFit has an ability to break down social economic barriers. Where else do you see a millionaire and the middle class and the super poor sharing a space? That’s what CrossFit can do,” he said.
The big picture: The trauma Perez has been through throughout his life is unthinkable, but he has chosen to use this adversity to become stronger and give back to others, something he said he wouldn’t have been able to do without having the CrossFit community in his life.
- “CrossFit is such an important part of my life…You need a community. It’s what helps us be open, vulnerable and connect…In my darkest days, these people were always there for me. That’s what CrossFit does for me,” he said.
- He added: “Everyone in life has experienced or will experience adversity. My adversity just happens to be losing all these loved ones to suicide. And we all have a choice. To let it debilitate us and use it as an excuse…or it can be the biggest driver of change.”