StrongMen is forged with a simple ethos; Conversation with like minded people sharing similar experiences. Mental health and resilience work directly in conjunction with your physical health.
Co-Founders Efrem Brynin and Dan Cross met as a result of Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins, following unexpected and tragic loss, both men use similar techniques to help them survive and adapt to their circumstances, both men continue to use physical exercise and general wellbeing in their daily lives.
It’s hard to look back now and see exactly when I noticed the importance of exercise as part of my routine. Before we lost James, I kept myself fit, enjoying everything from dog walking to running and most things in between.
In those early days everything stopped, survival was the only thing that mattered, diet, exercise and wellbeing weren’t priority. The haze that surrounded those early months was so thick, it was difficult to think, life would never be the same again. After a few months I started to try and add structured routine back into my life, I returned to work (which with hindsight was a mistake), I started to try and exercise again, challenging, and to a degree, punishing myself.
My first target was the Para 10 event some 6 months after we lost Jay. When Jay joined up he wanted to join the Para’s, but was persuaded to consider Military Intelligence, to use his analytical skills. James himself had completed pre-para and was scheduled to complete P-Company immediately on his return from Afghanistan, so that seemed like a sensible goal. It was tough but I completed the run in under 2 hours, that kept me interested and I adapted my exercise regularly. In recent years I’ve tried everything from Krav Maga to CrossFit, which I absolutely love.
My routine currently is focussed around my fitness and wellbeing and I enjoy exercise now as much as I’ve ever done. Having been diagnosed and treated for Prostate Cancer in the last few years I’ve also made changes to my diet, using Ginseng Tea and Magnesium tablets to help boost my immune system and energy levels. Ultimately it’s my belief you have to enjoy the exercise that you do and regularly change to keep yourself interested and challenged, so find what works for you and keep pushing. As I’ve got older and experienced my vulnerabilities whether health wise (with cancer) or mentally (with James) I’ve had to work so much harder just to get slower, but the reward is mine and my families. I’ll never be 100% content and will always wish life hadn’t been so challenging, however, sunny days are often, new experiences and finding my new balance helps me prepare for the future in a way I never thought I could.
My daily routine comprises first and foremost cup of tea, stretch for 15-20mins, walk the dogs, breakfast, work and exercise (typically 1 hour 6 times each week)
Over the past 5 years I’ve been very open and honest about how I have been feeling mentally, emotionally and physically. Fitness, sport, competition has always been part of my life but I never really knew how important it was until we lost Nikki. In fact, I didn’t know how important it was until I began suffering with crippling stomach aches and migraines around 6 weeks into my trauma & grief. A visit to the GP saw me come away with two diagnosed conditions, 3 lots of medication and one piece of advice. The GP told me about the build up of stress hormones and adrenaline in my body and he said that this was most likely the underlying cause of the stomach and head pains. He advised me to get back in the gym every day and lift some weights or get a thirty minute gallop on the treadmill. This would help alleviate the stress hormones and I should see a steady improvement in my physical health that was being so impacted by my mental health. So that’s what I did, I went to the gym every morning after taking the children to school. I’d spend half an hour running followed by a couple of hundred press-ups and some abdominal work. The time in the gym allowed me to focus on the training which gave me just a tiny respite from the intrusive thoughts and issues I was having. This was the first step in understanding the impact exercise could have.
Weeks later the stomach aches were gone and the headaches far less frequent. I no longer needed the medication.
The saying “blowing off some steam” is so true! The build up of negative energy will start to harm you if you don’t find a release valve. The stress has to go somewhere, if not out, it stays in and does damage from the inside.
My exercise routine is currently a little bit reduced compared to normal but I put that down to the covid outbreak and not really being able to lift any weights at home. Plus, my holidays are cancelled so I don’t need to be bikini ready LOL. The difference now is that I am able to recognise when that negative energy is creeping in and I can take myself out for run in the local rural areas or pop into the gym and throw some weights about. Every day I’m up around 6am and take the dog out for a walk before heading off to the local gym for a thirty minute run and some light weights. I allow myself the weekends off. When I’m in full training mode, I visit the gym twice a day.
I can't ever envisage a time when I wont use exercise as a daily medicine for my mood and mental well-being. Recovering from PTSD, anxiety and depression is hard work but, it was made a little easier to achieve by taking the time to look after my physical health.