How two CrossFit trainers are helping those recovering from addiction

In the midst of Melodie Schofield’s period dealing with an alcohol abuse disorder, exercise was something she was still pretty enthusiastic about as a fitness buff.

Melody Schofield (left) and Gavin Young from Human Strength. (Photo by Albert Hong)
Melody Schofield (left) and Gavin Young from Human Strength. (Photo by Albert Hong)

Nearly passing out near the Philadelphia Art Museum while going for a run after drinking showed her how one, maybe exercise right after drinking wasn’t the best idea and two, even something as healthy as exercise needs to be done in controlled amounts.

It was when Schofield came across the intense exercise routine CrossFit that she knew it would a “huge part of my recovery” — the realization certainly wasn’t immediate but today, the American Ninja Warrior participant feels so strongly about the positive effects of CrossFit that she volunteers a whole chunk of her time as a trainer for Human Strength, a free CrossFit program specifically geared for helping people in recovery.

“This was the person I always wanted to be — I just didn’t know it then,” Schofield said.

Human Strength is the CrossFit-focused portion of Phoenix Multisport, a Colorado-based nonprofit that has fostered a national community of support and physical activity centered on helping people recovering from substance use disorders. Scott Strode, the founder and national executive director of Phoenix Multisport, has made it his mission to promote physical activity as an outlet for those in recovery, whether it was through his profile as one of CNN’s top 10 Heroes back in 2012 or through his TEDx  Talk last year on “finding sobriety on a mountaintop.”

Schofield and Gavin Young are two local Philly trainers who volunteer their time teaching CrossFit through the Human Strength Program at Fearless Athletics, a local gym. The only prerequisite for joining the program? A 48-hour sobriety period that works on an honor system. While that metric is meant to make sure that the people getting involved in the program is somewhat dedicated to recovery, it’s also for safety’s sake because there are no beginner classes when it comes to the CrossFit Schofield and Young teach.

But as with anything else, moderation is key and it’s something that Young makes sure to emphasize for the people who take part in the program — ‘Listen to your body first, listen to us second,’ he said.

As difficult and intense CrossFit may be, there’s a reason why people like Schofield and Young are so enthusiastic about its potential in being a solution for people in recovery. It’s the idea of community and getting through the challenge together — they said that if someone has yet to finish a routine while everyone else is already done, they’ll cheer on that person till the very end. That encouragement, while getting healthy and trying to engage your mind in another outlet, is something these two trainers believe is so important to overall recovery; however, they also stress how a program like this isn’t meant to be a replacement for a more traditional 12 Steps program.

In terms of getting this program introduced into more local gyms, the process is already underway. It’s actually fairly simple for a gym to host a Human Strength program: all it needs to do is open its space. While Melody’s day job is being a recovery counselor, the CrossFit training she teaches has in many ways become a second identity for her. It’s something she promotes heavily on social media (a very effective method of increasing awareness for the program) and for her, it’s a way to just be open about her past, present and future in dealing with addiction.

About the author

Albert Hong

Albert Hong is a senior journalism major and digital technologies minor at Temple University. Contact Albert at albert.hong@temple.edu.

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By Albert Hong