Former Addict Offers Free CrossFit Classes to Those in Recovery

March 5, 2023 by
Photo Credit: The Barbell Saves Project
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There are many paths that lead one to owning an affiliate, and Rob Best’s is an unlikely one — a powerful story of resilience and redemption at that. The Arizona-native’s gym, The Barbell Saves Project, is a non-profit organization in Phoenix dedicated to providing individuals in recovery a completely free place to embrace community, feel supported in their sober lifestyle, and improve their lives through movement and exercise. 

After spending most of his 20s addicted to opiates and in an “out of control spiral”, Best was finally able to get sober at thirty-one.

“I (tried) the 12-step program. I went and did all those other traditional programs. But the one thing that maybe separated my recovery from the others in my circles was I just for some reason gravitated towards exercise,” Best explained. “I didn’t know back then why, but I know now that there’s science to back up the effectiveness of fighting and combating anxiety and depression with exercise.”

He went on to share that he used to believe that “I’m not that type of person that exercises every day,” however, “I knew that statement was wrong. I knew I could do whatever I wanted to, wake up with whatever intention I wanted to, and that I can be whatever person I want to be every day. If I want to be the type of person who exercises every day, all I have to do is wake up and exercise every day.”

This dedication to consistency and a habit of fitness was the catalyst game-changer for Best.

“If you learn the discipline required to take care of your physical body through exercise and through healthy eating, it lends itself to your ability to have strong relationships…when you have good relationships with other people, you can finally take care of yourself (and) you can really start to build on your own internal self,” said Best. “Because that’s what I was doing when I was trying to tell my parents like, I don’t know why I’m driven to do this. It’s not the exercise and endorphins, it’s the discipline. I’m getting up at 4AM and doing this shit because the old me never did. I’m going to invest in myself and I’m going to tell people no, because that’s what I never did. I knew I was doing something to build the foundation that I’m going to need to be a good employee, to be a good husband, a dad, a brother, and it all started there. I needed to learn discipline and responsibility, and I used exercise as a great model for that.”

Living out this newfound identity, in his early 30s, Best opened a gym with his now wife and it didn’t take long for them to start helping folks in a similar situation to what he had gone through.

“I was just going to these AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and bringing guys back and giving them an hour class just for free. I didn’t even think of it as a non-profit or anything like that, I just thought it would be a cool way to give back,” Best shared. “And a professor from ASU’s social work school came in one day; there’s like ten people doing this workout and they’re all in recovery. And she was like, ‘What is this?’ And I explained it to her, and she said ‘Wow, this is pretty cool — we should make it more formal.’ So, we formed a non-profit.” 

Now, the brick-and-mortar space is registered as a healthcare provider, working closely with rehab centers around the valley to provide access to functional fitness classes four hours per day, five days a week, to those who can tremendously benefit from it. Furthermore, all six of the coaches on staff are salaried, full-time employees who are also in recovery.

“Anybody that identifies as someone who has struggled with drugs and alcohol and has 48 hours or more of proclaimed sobriety, they can attend those classes, no questions asked, no insurance, none of that stuff. Just free classes,” Best said.

To donate to The Barbell Saves Project, sign-up for a class or learn more, visit their website:

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