Observations on The Transformative Power of Recover Strong

Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe the Recover Strong group in action. My duties to Granite Mountain are such that I can’t regularly attend the Recover Strong group so it is always special for me  to have the opportunity to attend. While I have been in attendance several times, yesterday I was hosting Luis Finch the Founder of Welwynn Outpatient Center, a truly innovative organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Being able to speak to Luis at length about his experience of seeing Recover Strong for the first time caused me to really reflect on our program and the impact its having on those who attend. It was like seeing it again for the first time.

In my experience  the first time someone hears about Recover Strong their initial impression is that we merely have a fitness component to our program. Without seeing it first hand it is sometimes hard to conceive of the fact that Recover Strong is a therapeutic model and the true heart and soul of our organization. The “fitness component” is not a nice add-on rather it is the primary driver of the transformations we are witnessing in the lives of our patients.

There are several important factors which set Recover Strong apart and make it unique. First, our therapeutic model is based on a body of neuroscientific research which has proven conclusively that intense physical exercise can modify the manner in which an individual’s brain is functioning. Brain waves are measured in hertz and amplitude most often by Electroencephalography (EEG).  What the research has shown is that intense (measured in terms of percentage of maximum heart rate) physical exercise actually raises the frequency at which the electrical impulses in the brain are occuring. This  coupled with the changes in brain chemistry caused by physical exercise create an environment conducive to neuroregeneration. Neuroregeneration is the actual growth and repair of nervous tissue including the  generation of new neurons, glia, axons, myelin, or synapses. This is the actual process by which the brain can heal itself from a cellular level.

Secondly, each of our Workouts of the Day (WOD) are carefully and thoughtfully designed to push the individual into a zone of exertion which is outside their comfort zone while remaining a series of activities they can complete if they put forth an appropriate level of effort. This creates a therapeutic environment where first an individual can confront and then overcome an obstacle which at first glance feels insurmountable. This allows our group leaders to draw parallels away from the gym to the rest of the individual's life, and creates a therapeutic dialogue to encourage an individual to explore his or her beliefs about themselves. For example, a mantra across the organization during runs is “two more steps”. Two more steps can be heard from staff to client, client to client, and client to staff. The idea is that when you think you can’t do any more, when your mind is telling you to quit and that you’re not strong enough, take two more steps. Thus demonstrating that you are stronger than you think, in the gym and in life. It is the ability to take challenges and obstacles in the gym and use them as living metaphors for challenges in life that create an incredible opportunity for growth within the Recover Strong model.

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One of the first things you notice when you see a Recover Strong group is it’s not just the clients sweating in the gym. On any given day our Executive Director, CEO, house managers, and therapists are all doing their best to complete the WOD. They are huffing, puffing, sweating, and suffering side by side with our clients. This, perhaps more than anything else we do, creates a camaraderie and community spirit like no other facility I’ve ever seen. This week about half way through the Recover Strong group Luis turned to me and said, “this is amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it”, referring to the sense of shared experience and community which was clearly evident in the room. The belief that all members of our community, while serving different functions, are important, valuable, and equal is the heart of what makes Granite Mountain so special.

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At the end of each session of Recover Strong there is a process group where everyone sits together and shares their individual experiences during that days training period.  During this process many of the clients praise their peers for their days efforts, we discuss the changes in body and mind which Recover Strong is creating, and use the opportunity to further explicate the parallels between what we are accomplishing in the gym and our lives in general. The peer to peer coaching, accountability, praise, and kindness is truly a sight to behold.

Perhaps there is no greater single reflection on the impact that Recover Strong is having in the lives of those who participate than the large number of clients who actively ask for and participate in additional Recover Strong WOD’s. These are after hours, and not required in any sense. When our clients speak of their experience with Recover Strong they speak in terms of transformation, it is truly something that must be seen to be believed.

Until next time.

Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell
VP of Communications & Market Development


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