Written By: David Bradstock
I first met the Four Barrel crew in 2013 at an obstacle course on the Waterfront in Louisville. At that time I was searching for something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but as soon as Case shook my hand, looked me in the eye and introduced himself I knew where I not only wanted, but needed to be.
A few days later I walked into the original building on Hausfeldt Road. Before I asked about programming, class times, structure or even pricing I needed to know what type of music the staff played. Where I was working out at before it wasn’t uncommon to be forced to hear Justin Bieber, The Pussycat Dolls and even Nickelback. Don’t get me wrong, I know that does it for some people, but it is right up there with a paper cut that won’t heal for me. I could not be given a 100% guarantee that those would not show up on a playlist from time to time, but there would be uncensored rap and they would play it loud. I could handle that compromise.
At that time I thought I needed a bigger arena. Train with more talent. Learn from better coaching. All of this to get better. Better at what? I was 26 and had trained for athletics my entire life. I had accepted the fact that my athletic career was over after high school, as there is not much of a demand for a 5’8” (on a good day), 175 pound guy that can’t run a 4.3 40 yard dash with a 5 yard head start. I wanted to be the best I could be that day. I wanted to prove to myself that this would complete me. I thought this would complete me. I would be wrong.
I was getting all the benefits that a lot of us see when first starting CrossFit programming, exponential growth physically, mentally and socially. I was doing things I had never done before. Loading weight on a bar to perform one lift that, at one time, I hadn’t picked up in a total workout. Changing my mentality of me versus you at the gym. Buying into the idea of community at the box. For the first time in my life I could honestly say that I was content. All of this contributed to Four Barrel becoming a staple in my day-to-day life. I had become part of the community. Being invited to weddings, holding newborn babies, eating dinner outside of the gym and becoming something bigger than myself. People being brutally honest and compassionate with me while I knew I was hiding something from them behind a thin, fake veneer of a smile and joke.
I didn’t know at the time, but I had always had a feeling that I was somewhat different. I couldn’t explain it. When things were good, they were great. When they were bad, it was a disaster. CrossFit was able to help me find a little bit of balance in life. This was brought to the forefront of my life when I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder. I was able to use the gym as a somewhat holistic treatment. It helped me as a cooping mechanism. The social interaction kept me in contact with people on a personal level. The WODs helped me burn off all of the negative energy that I had pent up on a bad day. Unfortunately, this was not enough for me and after some milestone life events I had to seek medical advice that I had been avoiding for most of my life.
According to a journal entry from 2015 in Frontiers in Psychology, there is not enough data to prove weather or not physical exercise has a positive effect on Bipolar Disorder yet. Doctors, however, do typically encourage the practice of some sort of activity based off of the response that unipolar patients have seen. The act of physical exercise normally increases the release of endorphins that can cause the person performing the act to reach a state of nirvana, “runner’s high” or a heightened sense of happiness. Other side effects have been better sleeping patterns and an increased appetite. Unfortunately this is not the case across the board. Other studies have shown that some patients at the high end of the spectrum while in a manic state can “spiral” out of control and do not see the same effects.
As with most psychological cases, there is no clear answer to use as a blanket cure. Each one must be seen on a individual level and have the frequency, intensity and type of exercise adjusted in addition to therapy and medication.
Going through my journey has allowed me to look through life with a different lens. Made me appreciate the daily interactions with the people that I enjoy being around and no longer take those small hellos, handshakes, fist bumps and shared sweats for granted. I have had to accept that I cannot put the past behind me, but I can turn a new page. I have had to forgive the things that I hate in myself so that I might be grace for someone else. This is what being part of a community means to me. This is what being at Four Barrel means to me. That not only can any person on the gym lean on me for support and know that I will be there to lift them every single time, but that I will be able to do the same thing when needed.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank each and every member and coach that have been there for me and allowed me to be a part of their circle. All of you mean more to me than I can put into words on a computer screen. Thank you for when I needed you there the most and your continued support on my journey.