A little over a week ago I sat down with Brooks Blanton to get a better idea of who this guy really is. We all know him as a hard worker and constant encourager in the gym, but who is he outside of 8th Day’s walls, and what brought him here in the first place?
Here’s a couple quick hit facts about Brooks.
If you get a chance to talk with him about his journalism career the stories that follow will not disappoint. He covered hurricanes for Fox News from for eight years, constantly on the move from storm to storm. He reported on Katrina and Rita back to back in 2005, Hurricane Dean from Kingston, Jamaica in 2007, Hurricane Ike in Texas in 2008 and countless other storms you may have never heard of. You likely know the scenes from disaster movies where one side of the expressway is packed with cars as citizens are ordered to evacuate. Well Brooks was usually the lone car driving against the flow of traffic, literally heading into the storm. That’s the scene that played in my head as Brooks described flying into a city on the very last flight before the airport shut down, grabbing a rental SUV and then stocking up on supplies (food, water, etc.) to ride out the storm and report on the devastation it would leave behind.
After hearing about his career and travels I wanted to know about the path that brought him to 8th Day Gym. Until he was in his mid-20’s, he never considered himself an “athletic” person; in fact, he described himself as clumsy in sports. In high school he ran Cross Country and Track, but only so he could be part of a team, not because he was any good at it.
So what “flipped the switch” and pushed him to be an athlete? For Brooks, it was his Mom. At just 24 years old she was in a terrible car accident. It was so bad, paramedics pronounced her dead on the scene. Thankfully she survived, but has lived much of her adult life going through one surgery after another. The trauma from the accident left her mostly disabled, unable to hike, bike, run, explore, or anything active at all. When Brooks hit the age of 24, he realized it was at that exact age his mother lost her ability to be active. Going forward Brooks decided he wouldn’t take his gift of movement for granted. When he hikes to the top of a mountain or bikes on a new trail, he looks around and thinks about how lucky he is to be able to do the things his mother cannot, and realizes how quickly it can all be taken away.
So, how did he get to 8th Day? After making a commitment to exercise and pursue new experiences he started doing Bootcamp and kickboxing classes near his home in Atlanta. When he finally moved back to Grand Rapids he tried out a couple of gyms but eventually found his way to Bootcamp here at 8th Day.
“I would have never entered a CrossFit gym if it weren’t for those Bootcamp classes” he told me. One of his instructors in Atlanta frequently told him how terrible CrossFit was, and how everyone gets injured, so Brooks had a very negative view of CrossFit. Therefore, he stayed in Bootcamp for a long time and grew comfortable. Eventually he felt his progress had slowed, and that he wanted another level of challenge. However, CrossFit was very intimidating to him because he knew he would once again be “at the back of the pack.” Yet, finally, after a lot of coercing from coaches and many of his friends he decided to give it a chance.
He was right! He was the newbie all over again, and it was hard. Finding many of the new lifting movements challenging and difficult he would “cherry pick” the classes he was good at and skip the ones he was nervous about. Eventually he knew that had to change as well. Brooks has been in CrossFit for most of 2017 now and has decided to face his challenge head-on. He now seeks out those classes with difficult movements and accepts each success and failure as a learning experience.
“Fitness and athletics have always been a constant state of evolution for me,” Brooks said. “I have never been naturally talented so I’ve had to work hard and do things that make me uncomfortable to grow”.
After we finished our coffee and got in our cars I thought about that last part a lot. About how though Brooks may not be “naturally talented” in athletics, he is a naturally talented writer and journalist. We all have things in life that come naturally to us and other things we have to work at. Like Brooks, if you’re willing to step into those uncomfortable places and commit to giving it YOUR best effort you may just look back over those efforts and think “Hey, I’m pretty athletic after all” just like Brooks does now.
P.S. If you want to talk to Brooks about something cool he’s doing in Grand Rapids and the entire state of Michigan to make a huge difference in people’s lives. Ask him about the “Problem Solvers” segment he started at Fox 17. If you’re like me, you’ll be completely blown away how our local news is impacting the entire country in a positive way.