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Thanksgiving 2017 has come and gone and we have much for which we are thankful. Im thankful that nobody got sick from my train wreck of a turkey. Im thankful that nobody mentioned the fact it tasted like I embalmed the damn thing with charcoal lighter fluid before undercooking it. Im thankful that our kitchen was packed with bowls overflowing with far tastier food than my gobbler and our living room was filled with those for whom we love and care, dearly.

It is impossible to talk about Thanksgiving with out thinking about the gym. From day one, the plan for Athletes Unleashed was to make it more than a job. It was going to be about people, relationships, and results. It wasn’t the brick and mortar that was going to hold the place up. Our girders were going to be flesh and blood. We couldn’t build upon merely concrete. Our foundation had to be commitment. There may have been walls but it was the laughter, the love, the encouragement, the clang of weights, and the rasping sound of bleeding lungs that was going to keep out the cold and noise from the rest of the world.

5 years later Athletes Unleashed stands. A living, breathing creation not of any individual person, but rather, an amalgam of personalities and the relationships they created. To say we are thankful is an understatement. You have given us purpose. You have given us a mission, and a Marine without a mission is like a rifle without a bullet. Running the gym is an exercise in diverse jobs and responsibilities. Grounds and equipment maintenance, programing, coaching, administrative and billing duties, professional education, relationship building. While the myriad tasks keep us busy day in and day out, it is the relationship building for which we are most thankful. The opportunity to build relationships and be a part of the family that is Athletes Unleashed is a blessing beyond which we ever thought possible.

We have lost count of the friendships that have been rekindled at the gym. Every month when a new athlete walks through the door my smile goes ear to ear as I hear someone say, “Oh my gosh! You go here, too? I haven’t seen you in…” The number of new friendships that have been created is incredible. Athletes from all walks of life have come together and formed tight bonds of mutual respect, shared accomplishments, and fierce loyalty. Farmers still wet behind the ears and veteran school administrators find common ground and interests. CEOs of some of the most successful companies in the WNY region and college students relate to each other on a personal level only possible on the far side of a 20 min near death experience involving a barbell and a jump rope. We have had the privilege of watching relationships turn into marriages, we’ve been present for proposals, and we have had the satisfaction of attending the weddings of so many of our athletes. We have seen the UNLEASHED graduated from schools and watched them put it all on the line as they give their all in fitness competitions. The cycle of life hides from no man, and we have shared in the grief of death and the joy of birth. The newly birthed future UNLEASHED are never ending source of smiles and happiness.

It is fitting to reflect on the opportunities we have to focus on our health and wellness. Never before in the history of mankind have we had it to easy. Death, while certain, should remain a stranger to most for far more years than it did to our grandparents, and even more so to the generation before them. Food has never been more plentiful. Jobs abound for those motivated to work. We are an affluent and successful society. There is more disposable time and income that at any other point in our nations’ storied history. There has been an explosion of gyms. The internet is an open window into the world of fitness. There are thousands of websites and experts willing to show you the way. Those that doubt any of this, put down your $100 per month iPhone, kick up your $150 timberlands or Uggs, and while you are sipping your $6 micro brew and waiting for your waitress to bring you your $19 plate of the latest trend at the patio grill take a look at your wifi connected, all wheel drive, power window, power lock, 7” touch screen, with parking assist vehicle and reconsider. We have it pretty damn good. Despite all of this, for the first time since 1993 our life expectancy is decreasing. Heart disease and stroke are the two biggest culprits. It is nearly unfathomable to think that in the middle of our success we could actually be this lazy. It is happening and more people are pushing daisies because of it.

In the 20 plus years I have been coaching athletes there has been no shortage of excuses proffered by those not able get it done. My husband, my wife, my job, my kid, school, work, my kids’ school, my wife’s school, my dog, my dog’s school, my knee hurts, my elbow hurts, bright lights, too cold, too hot, too hard, too heavy, too fast, too slow. It all boils down to one thing: not making your fitness a priority. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and the same 7 days in a week. There are people that are equally busy, equally engaged with numerous family and work responsibilities, that are able to get into a Gym Full of Iron and improve their fitness. There are also those that are equally busy and are dealing with far more challenges than any of us. Below are a few motivating examples to light a fight in our bellies.

Former Marine Eric McElvenny has completed numerous marathons and Ironman races. His best marathon is a 3:21 and his best Ironman is a 11:34. He is missing his right leg.

Former Marine Jose Luis Sanchez finished his first marathon in 5:21:56. He is missing his left leg.

Former Marine Alex Minskey is a successful fitness and underwear model. He is missing his right leg.

Former Marine Kirstie Ennis climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. She is missing her left leg.

16 year old Kate Foster is a competitive gymnast. She lost her leg to cancer when she was 12.

Search the internet for “All Things Gym makeshift platform”. You will see some stunning pictures and videos of the conditions with which Olympic Weightlifters in Cameroon routinely face. For those too lazy to search, you would will find make shift weightlifting platforms made level with rocks, competitions next to piles of rubble, and buckets of dirt, literally, rather than chalk.

In light of all of this, take the time to be thankful for all the opportunity we have in this life. We can be whomever we choose, live where we want, and are free to pursue our dreams. Make sure you are taking time to pursue your fitness.

Semper Fi,

Coach Robby


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