AUSTIN (KXAN) – A special kind of movement is building in eastern Austin. It’s a training ground that pulls people out of the darkness, and it gives hope to some who are ready to give up on life: getting in shape by embracing vulnerability.
“My journey to where I am now started when I hit rock bottom,” Braydon Alley said. He has conquered some dark moments in his life. “I made a chain that was attached to my ankle and it pulled me down.”
I met Braydon, or as he likes to be called “Bray,” two years ago at a gym in southeast Austin. He only smiled as he trained his client. From my point of view, a man in his 40s trying to get in shape, I thought Braydon had it going; he was thin and healthy. At that moment, I did not know his story and the struggles he lived.
“I had a choice, a decision about whether I wanted to live or a choice to actually make a change.” For two years, every single day, Bray thought “Why am I here?”
“I was just disgusted with who I was and I was pushing everything out of my life,” Braydon said, remembering the dark moments.
“Eventually,” he said, as his smile grew from cheek to cheek and snapped his fingers, “I had to make a change. And for me, that’s why I associated myself with health and well-being.”
Brayden organizes and leads free community training once a month at Squatch Frontier Fitness. It’s a team effort with his other community leaders Danielle Gertner and CJ Finley.
The trio uses their life experiences to remind people that they are not alone.
“Come on let’s go!” said Gertner during Saturday’s free joint training, with a voice so strong that it can move mountains.
It’s a tough week for Danielle. This Thursday it is a year since she lost her big brother, Zachary Scott Gertner, to an accidental overdose of drugs.
“As you can imagine, it has shaken my world and it has hurt my heart. It has been a hard and powerful way to learn to reappear with this new hole in my heart. It will never go away. , ”Gertner said as she tried to hold back her emotions.
For Danielle, it becomes easier to be open about her pain by becoming stronger with vulnerability. Think of it as being in the gym and working out your biceps or your squat.
“Vulnerability and authenticity is a muscle and it gets strengthened over time,” she said. “The more you lean into that vulnerability, first of all, it’s liberating as hell. When you’re vulnerable with someone, you have a safe space and tell your story and let shame or judgment die. You free yourself. “
Outside of Squatch, she is a motivational speaker and ownership coach. She helps women take back their power and own it.
“Every time you hold something in, think of a pipeline, you create gunk in that pipeline, it clogs you from experiencing the full spectrum of what you deserve: love, happiness and gratitude.”
Success is not measured by your career or money. Danielle said it’s about living your truth.
“Find people who support you. Know that you are enough. Every breath you take is perfect. If you can measure the success of your life simply by the presence of your breath, by the laughs, the memories that are created, you will always have succes.”
You can tell that the theme here is about community and vulnerability. Thinking about it makes me emotional. As a young man growing up and not wanting to admit I was gay, I feared what people would say; I felt like I would not fit in. At times, I felt alone.
“At the end of the day, rising tides lift all ships,” said CJ Finley, a community leader and Thrive on Life podcast host. “We know we can get so much better together, not just in the gym, but outside as well.”
Besides getting a good sweat session at Squatch, the next goal is to connect you with people to help you become a catalyst in your community.
There is no competition, no judgment here or strange appearance while training. It’s a pool of people who want to lift each other up.
CJ met his best friend Noah Huisman on Squatch. Their friendship developed like a steppe fire. That fuel triggered Oasyss Sauna, a company that focuses on fire and ice: sauna and ice diving.
CJ is passionate about life and lives every day by making every heartbeat count. He and his wife, Erin, are behind a movement called Thrive on Life. It started after both lost loved ones – Erin lost her father to a sudden heart attack, and CJ lost a family member to colon cancer.
“A lot of fitness is mental, and that’s how you treat yourself every day inside your mind,” CJ explained. “Are you confident, are you kind, are you empathetic, do you love yourself when you look at yourself in the mirror? Exercising these muscles will help you become a more empathetic and loving individual towards yourself, and you will bring that energy out into the world. “
Braydon almost lost himself as he let the chain attach to his ankle and pull him down into the deep dark water. Today he is above water. Bray found the path he was meant to thrive on and wants to help illuminate the path for others.
“These free community trainings are a way to create it for more people outside our community. We want people to come with their torch, and maybe it’s not lit yet, and go out with a lit torch. People do not have to participate in our gym, we just want them to come here for the free workout, branch out and maybe that has inspired them to create something like this somewhere else. ”
Jose Torres is a morning news producer at KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have struggled through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing these conversations in future blogs.