homepage logo

Beyond Bars: Exercise and fitness have been critical in addiction recovery

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | May 7, 2018

My state issued counselor recently told me he isn’t worried about me going back to prison, using drugs again, or having difficulty acclimating to the free world. As a result of this assessment I am no longer required to participate in any counseling or substance abuse classes. I’m done with that portion of parole. The classes and meetings are one less thing to worry about, but now I feel a greater onus to do something to stay involved.

In my first week out of prison, I met up with a guy named Jared Shaw, who is quite an inspiration. He had his own struggles with addiction and has come all the way back and is now doing his part to help others. He’s the founder of Recovery Strong. When we met he gave me some Recovery Strong gear – a hoodie, hat, and T-shirt. He sells some branded stuff and uses the proceeds to sponsor recovering addicts with things like a gym pass for a few critical months.


RELATED: Beyond Bars: The stigma of prison, parole

Well, that’s the idea, but I’m pretty sure he ends up giving more stuff away for free and reaching into his own pocket to help. So while he’s not set up as a non-profit with the government, you could definitely call it a non-profit business. He does it to give back.

It’s a simple idea and small charity, yet has the potential to make all the difference. I know for me, exercise and fitness was critical in my recovery. I’ve credited incarceration for helping me quit; I wasn’t going to quit drugs with anything short of lock-up. However, there was over a year after I had gone to jail for a few months and quit drugs before I was sent to prison. Exercise and fitness played a great role in my ability and desire to stay off drugs after I had gone through the hardest part.

I probably took it to an extreme and just substituted a much more healthy addiction. I was playing pick-up basketball, lifting weights, training jiu-jitsu, each multiple times per week as well as playing softball and swimming in the warmer months. I was doing something physical every day a couple times per day, and for me that worked. Before I went to prison, I was the most physically fit I have ever been. Now I’m not saying you need to go to that extreme, but I can attest exercise is an effective tool in the battle against addiction.

To raise brand and cause awareness, Jared has been providing a free workout at Koa Kingdom in Layton for the past five weeks. I’ve attended the last two and the vibe was amazing! There were total strangers giving each other high fives and everyone was sweating and smiling – good clean fun. They have had good turnouts, but it is my hope this sixth and last planned one will be the best turnout yet.

Now, I can’t very well mention Jared without mentioning his sister Emily, who is a co-owner at Koa and provides the space and time for this activity. I also just wanted to thank her, especially because she doesn’t know I’m planning to do this: I am inviting anyone who has in some way been affected by addiction personally or by family and friends – and that’s just about everyone – to come and join us.

It’s a great place to meet people. It will be Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at Koa Kingdom, 109 W Gentile St., in Layton. Come ready to work out and have some fun! See you there.

Brian Wood, of Layton, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He served four years in the Utah State prison system before being released on parole on Jan. 2, 2018.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)