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'Massive need': CrossFit Orillia program aids addiction recovery

Addiction recovery program 'sparked happiness and got me excited about something for the first time in a really long time,' says participant
A participant of the CrossFit Orillia addiction recovery program tests his agility on the rowing machine.

CrossFit Orillia, in partnership with the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic in Orillia, has launched a new program for people working through addiction and recovery.

"One of the things we want to do is contribute to easing the burden on health care," said CrossFit Orillia owner and trainer Matt Spencer. "One of the population segments that has a large impact on health care right now is those working through addiction and mental health."

Spencer sees the initiative as an opportunity to prove working through physically challenging tasks can help all people, especially those going through addiction recovery.

"I think there is a massive need for this. The substance use disorder is currently in a crisis state for Orillia," he said.

The CrossFit addiction recovery program has already taken in five people since it began in September.

"Instead of calling it exercise, we call it physiological stress," Spencer said. "When you think of exercise, you think of it as a chore, but when you think of physiological stress, we are talking about what it does to both the body and mind."

Participants of the program are put through physically difficult tasks to strengthen their willpower.

"We coach them through our special mental curriculum that gives folks in recovery a tool that they can take with them and apply to all scenarios," Spencer explained. "We guide them through the mental curriculum and those moments of self-doubt and wanting to quit, and when they get to the end, we celebrate."

When participants in the addiction recovery program leave CrossFit, they feel "empowered" and have a dopamine response that rewires receptors that have been damaged by chemical use, Spencer says.

The program, which is offered three times a week, is free for participants of the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic who are referred.

"We are committed to helping our community in Orillia, especially this population, where cost is a barrier for many," Spencer said.

Hanna, 31, who did not want her last name published, has been participating in the program for a month.

"I was really athletic growing up and lost that to drugs and alcohol," she said. "This sparked happiness and got me excited about something for the first time in a really long time."

She says Spencer has been invaluable in helping her recover from addiction.

"I know that he has picked people up amid a relapse and has helped them to get back on track for recovery," she said. "He is such a genuine guy who really wants to help with no judgment."

Since joining the program, Hanna hasn't had alcohol or drugs, she says.

"A lot of that can be credited to my therapy and CrossFit," she said. "I'm sober, I'm dealing with my emotions on a healthy basis and using the right tools to cope."

While the addiction recovery program tests physical fitness at times, it's more challenging for mental capacity, Hanna says.

"It makes you cope with your mental struggles healthily and physically," she said. "I would encourage anyone who is struggling to take this first step because it's worth it."

Anyone interested in the program or looking for more information about it can email Spencer at [email protected].

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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