A few months back while traveling on my journey, as the kids call it, I stopped into this town called Murrieta located in Southern California.
As usual, I stopped into a local CrossFit to lift some weights and throw them back on the ground. I was greeted by this super cool dude named Brent. He was very inviting and was the epitome of what CrossFit coaches should be. Friendly, energetic, and the dude was a beast. Naturally I asked him to share some inspiration with the folks who read this blog of mine.
Below you will find out how he came back from a brutal helicopter crash, his thoughts on beer, why staying in shape isn’t an option for him, and how being 41 isn’t an excuse to not give 110%.
Give us a little background. (i.e., name, age, where you live, occupation, certifications [if any], how long you’ve been an athlete or into fitness)
Brent Barber, 41, Murrieta, CA. Law Enforcement Officer, CrossFit Level 1
Why did you start working out?
I’ve been into fitness, sports, and high intensity extracurricular activities pretty much my entire life. Most of my fitness exposure was in relation to a sport I was playing and physical conditioning specific to that sport. This type of fitness application made me single minded as an adult in regards to what “fitness” was. Example, when I was assigned to an LRP Team, endurance was “fitness”. When I was assigned to a plain clothes street team, explosive speed for quick foot chases and muscle mass for physical contact was “fitness”. I didn’t see a value in training for the unknown and unknowable. I trained for the “expected”.
I got into Law Enforcement at a young age and was eager to get involved in the high speed shit you see in the recruiting pamphlets. I did my time as a nug and jumped on board the special operations group as soon as I could. In 2007 I was in a helicopter crash that left me alive but severely injured. I broke my back, sternum, 4 ribs and opened up my melon pretty good right across my forehead. I went from being fit and active to completely broken and sedentary with the snap of a finger. The recovery was rough. I was in a the hospital for a while, then laid up for months. It was a year before I was out of my cast completely and free to move. I was popping pain pills, both OTC and prescription on a regimented time schedule. I couldn’t function without them. I tried getting back in shape by doing all the things I did before the crash to stay fit. I ran, did calisthenics, isolated weight training, etc… Nothing worked to get me strong and pain free. My back hurt all the time. My emotional state was trashed as well. I was depressed and trying to find my way through dealing with a traumatic brain injury the tough guy way, the wrong way. I was broken.
Meanwhile, at my unit’s facility, one of the guys on a different squad had started doing CrossFit. Our facility was an old helicopter hangar so it made a perfect CF gym. This dude’s brother had recently opened Rancho Cucamonga CrossFit and was really successful. This guy started getting more and more guys to join him and it was getting pretty popular among the special ops divisions in my sector.
I made fun of them for a couple months and found a thousand excuses why I shouldn’t try it. Meanwhile I was getting more unhappy and damaging my body’s organs due to way too much pain meds.
July 21, 2008, my birthday, I’m woken up by my phone. I see it’s a guy on my squad. I figure he’s calling to wish me a happy birthday and make fun of me again for being the oldest guy on the team. Wrong. One of my best friends had taken his own life the night before. He was in a similar situation as I… Battling PTSD, chronic pain from numerous old injuries, fighting his way through marriage problems and depression. He tapped out. On my birthday.
There is no other way to put it then “it fucked me up”.
Suicide was never an option for me, never in my head. I didn’t think it was capable for it to be in my brother’s head either. It was. His death scared me to immeasurable levels. My mind opened to every possible option of recovery to get myself back on track. Aggressive therapy and CrossFit got a ahold of me quickly.
I started CrossFitting with the guys at work and quickly realized that I needed some experienced and dedicated guidance. I couldn’t figure out anything. I couldn’t Kip, do any lifts with a snatch grip, squat without my heels coming 4 inches off the ground, NOTHING. The guys at work meant well but just didn’t have the knowledge to get me squared away so I joined a CrossFit gym in my neighborhood. I went every day. I listened and applied what I was taught like my life depended on it. Within about 8 months my core strength and mobility had increased so much I was off pain meds completely. The support of the CrossFit community and the fact that these nutty and diverse fitness junkies figured out a way to keep this shit fun everyday was amazing.
I. Was. Hooked.
I started coaching around 2010 and really love it. I really like when someone comes in the gym unhappy, demoralized and generally defeated with their fitness journey. I love that we, as a community, have the opportunity to walk the path with them and support them in their fitness journey. To see so many people go from broken to powerful and confident is my happiness. The examples we set for our peers and our children is amazing. The support we lend to one another in all types of situations, in and out of the gym, is inspirational.
What is your mindset throughout the day?
I like to get my workout in before shift on workdays. If I do, my mindset is pretty good and I’m easy going. If I don’t, I’m not usually fun to work for…
I try to lead by example and stay positive when I can.
Humble. Fit. Honest. Loved. Kind.
What foods do you eat and stay away from?
I don’t eat well. I eat what I want but don’t really get crazy with anything bad. I drink coffee and water all day. No soda or crap. I eat naturally good chow but it’s usually on bread, between bread, next to bread, or on a chip. I’m basically lazy when it comes to food prep. If I had the energy to get stuff put together I would love to eat better.
And Beer. Beer is really great. And Bacon. Bacon is Bacon.
How do you stay motivated to stay in shape?
My life depends on it. Spiritually and physically.
What do you tell yourself when your mind tells you to give up?
I channel the energy of those I admire, both past and present, and I hear their voice in my head screaming at me to fight through. I know it’s a cheesy saying, but I often yell out loud “It’s a good day to be alive!!!”. Or “We don’t quit, We don’t lose!!”
Who inspires you? (this doesn’t have to be someone famous)
Many do. Some come into my life and move on, leaving inspiration and a footprint behind. One dude that has always motivated the shit out of me is Mark Divine. I’m 41 and I often complain about it. I use it as an excuse sometimes when I don’t feel like throwing down 110% in a fight. Mark Divine is 51 and can run circles around me. He teaches the well rounded health benefits of CrossFit, Yoga, Meditation and Martial Arts. He occasionally posts some workouts via SealFit. Check em out and knock a few down. Each will take about an hour. Not for the one trick ponies.
What is inspires you about them?
Mark’s warrior spirit but quiet demeanor. He’s a freaking bad ass but he doesn’t need to be the one to tell you. You figure it out pretty quick on your own. He’s someone who you want to learn from, not need to learn from. Big difference.
What books/blogs/movies inspire you?
Book- Service / Movie- 180 degrees south
Best strength move in your opinion and why?
Squat Clean. Very functional and easily applied in my line of work. Get your brother off the ground and get him to cover.
Run 2 miles
Rest 2 minutes
135 pound Squat clean, 20 reps
20 Box jump, 24″ box
20 Walking lunge steps with 45lb plate held overhead
20 Box jump, 24″ box
135 pound Squat clean, 20 reps
Rest 2 minutes
Run 2 miles
True test of will to fight through when you smash face first into the suck. The clock gets irrelevant about 2/3 into it.
I like to hear (fill in the blank) music when I work out.
Punk music and angry rap.
Fav song to WOD to?
Mother. / Danzig
Best advice to anyone struggling to get in shape?
Find the right community that you trust and will help you no matter what your current situation is. In my world, it’s the CrossFit community that scratches that itch. If there are 250 gyms and workout groups in your area, walk into every one until you feel at home. Don’t be quick to judge or find fault. Give it time. All you have to do is move. You don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest, but you have to move. Quitting is not an option. Losing is not an option. Done.