A few years back, Rae and I were returning from a weekend trip where we had visited someone who had recently purchased a cottage. We talked on the drive home as the girls nodded off in the back, worn out from the sun and smelling of sunscreen. We talked about the idea of a cottage, what we would want, what we could make our own and where we could form memories. It was a fleeting moment and then swept away when the reality crept in that we were in our early-mid 30’s with 4 children and middle incomes. Our hopes were dashed…or were they?
I grew up as a teenager in the 90’s and The Tragically Hip were a serious part of my high school days. Leading this band was the front-man who is engrained into the memories of Canadians born between 1985 and 2005. Gord Downie, the poet, the performer…the Canadian. After I left university in 2000, my passion for the Tragically Hip, and Gord Downie, seemed to fade away into a memory, until That Night in Toronto…
When Gord was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in early 2016 it caused a considerable buzz in Canada. Gord was the face of the nation in so many respects, writing Canadian gems like “Nautical Disaster”, “Fifty Mission Cup” and so many other songs we now claim as Canadian. My wife and I discussed going to see The Hip but then realized ticket prices were going to be through the roof and didn’t think of it again for a while.
One day, I decided for some fateful reason to buy tickets to The Hip in Toronto. I notified another couple of friends Rae and I travel with and we made the arrangements. My expectations of the concert was simply to close a chapter in my life of seeing the band I grew up listening to, have some beer with friends and get a break from the rat race of life. What I got was much more and I believe it may have changed my life.
From the moment we got to the Air Canada Centre and took our positions in the nosebleed sections, it felt…electric. The band started precisely on time and I was transfixed on Gord the entire show. Every song, I turned to my wife and friends and said “THIS is my favorite Hip song”. But it wasn’t, the next one always was. He had an energy, a charisma, a love and respect for his music, his fans and himself that I haven’t seen on stage, in a boardroom, locker room, or any other setting. I learned from Gord that night.
Life Lessons from Gord
- Live with Passion– Gord was diagnosed with a terminal illness and rather than retreating into solitude, he made it his mission to leave a final impression. He decided to tour, to give back to his audience and his fans in Canada. If I was given the same news tomorrow, I am not completely sure I would go in and give the same effort. How do we find ourselves in life where we are so passionate about what we do that we would do it on our last days…by choice?
- Live with Respect– I am not a cushy guy. I spent much of the time at the concert asking myself “what is going through his mind right now?” He connected it seemed with 20,000 people individually throughout the show. The second encore, he spent time making eye contact for what seemed like hours thanking each and everyone of us. When it was finally over, one by one his band members lined up, hugged and kissed him on the lips. It was difficult not to be over-taken with emotion by this.
- Live by your Values– Gord was Canadian. Scratch that, Gord was Canada. Crank Fifty Mission Cup, Bobcaygeon, Three Pistols… this is silly I could go on for hours. Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Peter Mansbridge call him friends. Gord has recently taken to advocating for indigenous peoples and his art will contribute to this cause making progress in Canada. He could be sitting on a beach somewhere but he is traveling to remote areas desperately trying to effect change. Gord is value-driven.
- Artistic– I have never seen anything like Gord Downie perform. I love The Hip, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I drove my wife crazy saying “Look at him!”, laughing, almost crying and deep down trying to empathize with him. I watched and thought of the contribution he is making to Canadian music and culture. I thought about the legacy he is leaving. I thought about what he is creating that is new and unique. Music and the lyrics were pulsating out of his veins, his soul spilling out into the stage.
I had a 5 hour commute the other night from meetings away. I listened to The Hip at full volume, thought about Canada, my kids and most recently my blog and my sad attempt at painting. It hit me like a sledgehammer in the forehead. Everything has changed since That Night in Toronto. I want to create, I want to connect, I want to leave this place better. Then I realized much of this has come about since I had the amazing opportunity to spend an evening with Gord Downie. I realized we all have a chance to create something, to leave something behind and to live with passion. Thanks Gord.
(Photocredit Huffington Post)
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Crossfit is a big part of my life from a training as well as coaching perspective. Over the past 5 years I have seen significant changes over many facets of my life which I attribute to Crossfit. I have met many great people, learned a lot about my self and have improved my overall health and well-being. These benefits aren’t only available to me though and now my girls are starting to enjoy the experience of Crossfit.
What is Crossfit?
According to crossfit.com, “CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.”
For kids though?
Unfortunately the web is full of “bad Crossfit fails” where people injure themselves due to poor form, poor coaching, unsupervised environment or all of these factors put together. What people aren’t told is that these injuries are extremely rare. Sure, people develop soft tissue injuries and other musculoskeletal issues not unlike every other sport or physical activity there is available to us. But the traumatic injury stigma is over-blown.
The reason that I liked Crossfit when I first started at Crossfit Kinetics (shout out to Keith Kenny and Matt Smeltzer) is that I felt like a kid again. I was in my mid-thirties and for the first time trying to learn how to do hand-stands, crawling around on the floor, doing lots of air squats and other gymnastic maneuvers that I thought were behind me. Learning these skills at 7 or 37 has tremendous benefits for physical literacy but also cognitively in terms of development of the structure of your brain and new synapses between neurons (my BPE is slowly coming back to me). As a coach, I love it when someone in class asks if I can teach them a new movement or skill and love it even more if they are as old or older than I am!
What are the benefits to kids?
- Physical literacy– at a time when early sport specialization is such a controversial issue, Crossfit comes through as either a supplement or an alternative. The specialization of Crossfit is that it is completely unspecialized. Participants on any given day will be expected to complete Olympic barbell lifts, gymnastics, running, kettlebell work and the list goes on. Kids learning functional movement patterns at an age-appropriate level (volume, load, intensity, duration) will have profound positive implications when then applied to sport. If not applied to sport, the participation will have life-long implications for simply being able to demonstrate solid body mechanics. When I think back about all the bicep curls I did in Midget to get ready for hockey, now I shake my head. There are much better movements which will translate into hockey performance (deadlifts, cleans, snatches, squats).
- Strength– my girls love sport and they are as competitive as I am. They see other athletes (guys and girls) and they have an admiration for strength. In addition to physical strength, the sport/pursuit has a component of mental strength. The ability to get through a grueling workout is often very dependent on the athletes ability to not think about how uncomfortable it is and power through. I believe this translates into how people handle other life challenges. Some days, everything just seems easier if I have completed a tough class at 6 a.m. and have pushed my body and my mental discipline to the max.
- Social– Greg Glassman (Founder of Crossfit) and the thousands of box owners (name for Crossfit gyms) have created an environment where people encourage one another and celebrate when someone in the class breaks a personal record. A personal record might be 1 pull up for one person and it might be 50 straight pull-ups for someone else, it really doesn’t matter what the PR was, it only matters that someone had the discipline to stick with it and achieve it. Great coaches will ensure everyone in the class knows each other’s names, complete introductions and sometimes put people into partners.
- It can be Competitive– there, I said it. I want my girls to be strong, to compete fairly, to lose with dignity, come back stronger and win. In the gym, on the field, in the workplace and in life. If my kids want to compete, Crossfit offers an opportunity where they can quantifiably see each day how their numbers are doing, how they are measuring up and how they are developing. People can adopt whatever level of competitiveness they want but at least the opportunity exists to measure progress.
- Transfer into other areas of health and wellness– if you are training a lot, you need to properly refuel and follow a healthy diet. Mobility is also a critical component so people learn how to stretch and mobilize. Athletes at Crossfit gyms are constantly talking about food, nutrition ideas and learning from each other.
We are fortunate we have a new Crossfit Box in our area, Clan Crossfit. The owners (Jason and Ashley) have focused on the inclusion of many youth classes in the weekly schedule. There are all kinds of great athletes and beginners coming in and making improvements in their overall fitness and performance. I am grateful the Gunn girls will have the opportunity to get involved, get strong and meet other great kids.
I have been a Father for 13 years now and have 4 healthy, happy girls. I have made some mistakes and there have been some bumps along the road. Life gets busy, goes by fast and there have been times I lost sight of what is most important in life. By no means am I an expert on parenthood (my friends nodding in silent approval) but I have done one thing that I am proud of and will be when I am on my last days.
You might think the picture above (credit to Lisa Cock) means this is a blog about bedtime, but it isn’t. I love the morning. I love waking up before the chaos breaks out, taking a moment to breathe, pour a cup of coffee and sit in silence. I sit and listen to the white noise of the fridge/furnace, the cat snoring or the kids gently tossing in their beds in their rooms above me. I like easing into my day until the last sip of coffee is almost cool, then standing up with intention and calmly starting towards the shower.
I wrote this blog about 6 weeks ago and left it in draft mode and kept coming back to it. I couldn’t post it, it just didn’t feel…right. Finally, someone did something special and I felt it was right to post it and continue the discussion.
In High School, I was a ‘normal’ boy. I played sports, chased girls, stayed out past curfew, upset my parents, and regrettably bullied other kids. I was mean, irresponsible and I had a superhero ego. If only I could understand what was to come.
2016 is in the books and I am looking forward to 2017. There were a lot of great things that happened (big and small) in 2016 but also life threw some surprises and the passing of people close to me and my family.