Last month, we featured an interview with Brittany Senseman and Avenu Fitness owner Brent Gallagher about New Year’s Resolutions and gaining a new perspective on fitness goals. This month we are featuring the second half of the interview that highlights Brent’s personal journey.
Why did you start Avenu?
Back in the day I played soccer in college. I had played since I could walk, so it basically had become my identity. When we lost the Conference Championship game my senior year, I didn’t want to leave the field. I didn’t know what was next. Since I was lost without soccer – my identity – I just started running. This quickly became a five-year journey of marathon after marathon, supplemented with hour long gym workouts that trashed my body. To give me the energy I needed to maintain this crazy training schedule along with work, I started popping Ephedra like candy. About five years later I ended up in an internist’s office with a bleeding ulcer and an ultimatum: Change your ways or life isn’t going to be good for you.
This six-month setback forced me to train less and workout only 30 minutes at a time. Instead of running endless miles, I reintroduced the agility work I used to do to get ready for soccer. I worked increasing my sleep from five and a half hours to seven hours. There was such a change in my body from making these small and sustainable steps that I realized: This is it! I ran my last marathon on Jan. 15, 2006, and I opened the gym the very next day, Jan. 16, 2006. As I put the key in the back door to open for business that Monday, I said a prayer. I knew I had been trashing my body, and I thought, “If this 30-minute workout stuff works, then please let this be the right step to take.” For the last 13 years, it seems to have caught on. My team and I have been crusading this message of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, along with training just 30 minutes.
Over the years, though, I had been wrestling with my own mountain of insecurities and shame. In May 2018, I went through an intense week-long counseling/therapy/coaching program for two and three sessions a day to work through my story. It finally came to a point to where my past, what I tried to keep quiet by playing soccer, then running all those miles and lately building a business on top of, started to affect my marriage, my kids and my focus at work. I had been hiding these lies for so long—these chapters of my life that I didn’t want anyone to ever know about. And I always covered it up by saying that I was just running and lost and didn’t know what to do, when, in reality, I had gone through a period of seven years of physical, mental and sexual abuse when I was a kid; and I never wanted anyone to know that. For all these years, I was trying to live up to standards that I wasn’t good enough.
Though my wilderness years really drove me to grow Avenu into what it is today, I honestly step back and say that I wouldn’t change it. I’m happy I’ve gone through the steps to say that I can own this chapter of my life instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed. It’s almost that “born again” moment where I can step into that next phase of life and business with the honest truth. Everyone of us has a story that we are wrestling with. So most use wine, social media, medicine or extreme dieting and workouts to cope and comfort themselves with. Sadly, in the fitness world, this isn’t talked about. It’s all about the look and the sex appeal. There needs to be a new champion of this, one who’s vulnerable and willing to go first. My hope, prayer and vision is to build Avenu into a safe place to being these conversations.
The journey with Avenu was originally built upon how I had crushed my body as an athlete; and for the last 13 years it was about a façade, so to speak. But now we have transitioned to this firm foundation to say that here is the truth; and here are the steps I went through, and I’m going to be completely open and public about it. Not a lot of guys are speaking up about this, especially in the fitness world. It’s not cool to speak to someone about this, but it’s the healthiest thing to do.
There is nothing more freeing than telling your story and then owning it.
A lot of times we put off taking care of ourselves to take care of others. It’s easier to put others first and push our own needs to the back burner. It’s not a comfortable process to address our own story first. I went through the counseling last year, and I’m just now speaking out. Dealing with these problems takes that “50-pound weight” off your back. Any shortcomings that we have now all of a sudden fall by the wayside, and we can laugh about it because you realize this one person has a story and this other person has a story. You know that everyone in the room has a story, regardless of upbringing, age, height, or weight. Then all of a sudden you realize we are all at a level playing field; and when you do step into that gym you can say, we are all here for the same reason. First is to take care of our bodies and second, is to wrestle with our story and process it.
If there was one thing you wished everyone knew on the topic of fitness, what would you say?
It’s all about sustainability. Ask yourself: What are you doing today and is it something you can do five, 10, or 20 years from now? You look at the new diet plans and crazy workout trends and ask yourself, “Is this the thing that’s really going to help me over the long-term lose the weight, maintain an ideal weight and fits into my daily schedule?” At the end of the day, the 80/20 rule applies to everything. If 80 percent of the time we are doing well, then it’s a sustainable way of living, eating and taking care of our bodies. Our whole philosophy is 30 minutes, whether you’re coming in here to lift weights or going outside for a walk or a bike ride.
On the flip side, you look at it with food and say that the easiest way to do something is simply to divide your plate in half and make half of it vegetables and half of it anything else for the next three to six months. Yes, you’ll see some ups and downs. But you get to that point about three months down the road, something magical happens and you flip a switch. It takes time to heal from the inside out.
If you look at it from a short-term view, one little slip up will feels like a failure. And you throw in the towel. When you shift your thinking to a long-term, sustainable view, you realize that you living healthy for the rest of your life. It feels daunting, but a short-term view is the way we’ve always thought and what’s got us to where we are today. What feels good in the moment is great, but look where it’s gotten us. We need to take a broader view and look at sustainable steps. If we don’t get a walk or workout in, or we mess up on food, we don’t throw in the towel and wait until 2020. We realize that everything we do today is paying deposits into our future self and we can jump back on the path this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning.
I hope that you’ve been inspired to wrestle with you story and start on a path to take care of yourself – both body and soul. Check out the Avenu Fitness website at avenufit.com for more information about the gym and to subscribe to Brent’s insightful and encouraging emails!