AfterParty Hero: The Sober Trainer Who Created Recoveryfit

AfterParty Hero: The Sober Trainer Who Created Recoveryfit

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Afterparty Hero: The Sober Trainer Who Created RecoveryfitRick Hagaman celebrated 19 years of sobriety on August 2, 2016. He went to his first AA meeting at 18 but didn’t effectively call it quits until he was 30. What finally made him give it up for good? “There was a lot of self-will and trying different formulas to continue doing what I was doing. When I went [back]into the rooms, there was no big event, no arrest, no fight—I just felt nothing. I was just like what’s the purpose? Why am I on this planet? I don’t bring any positive thing to anyone. It was a spiritual vacancy,” he says.

What It’s Like Now

Today, Hagaman is thriving in sobriety. A personal trainer before getting sober, he describes his fitness routine prior to recovery as the “binge and purge” method: going to the gym three to four days in a row, swearing off all the bad habits then he would go out for “one drink” on a Friday night…and not come-to until Tuesday morning. Still, he credits exercise as a tool he desperately needed in the early days of quitting drinking. Hagaman recalls, “When I wanted to rip someone’s head off, I’d go to the gym. I’d get some of my energy out; I’d get home and feel better. I’d go for a run and after the run the world didn’t look so bleak.”

The longer he stayed sober, the more Hagaman believed that he wasn’t alone in his need for regular, structured physical activity—especially in early recovery—and the more he wondered why it wasn’t a legit requirement at treatment facilities. Having successfully run a private fitness and training company (Blue Cay Fitness) for over 10 years, it was two years ago that Hagaman began to create his passion project: Recoveryfit. Described on its website as “a physical experience of the 12 steps and principles,” Recoveryfit is a training curriculum designed wholly for those in early sobriety who are also working a 12-step program. It is a physical program that complements the spiritual program, and it’s why Rick Hagaman is our latest AfterParty Hero.

How It Works (And You Definitely Gotta Work It)

The exercises are doable for any level of physical fitness. Whether someone is coming out of a six-month crystal meth run, or just reaching 30 days sober and taking up a jogging habit, the fitness program is accessible. And each session is tied into the 12-step framework by corresponding to one of the steps.

With Step One, for example, Hagaman explains, “In order to have come to this point of admitting powerlessness and un-manageability, we had to have a moment of clarity—an honest assessment of our lives. If we’re real alcoholics, we admit that to some degree, ‘my life is unmanageable and I’m powerless.’ That same thing holds true with fitness and wellness.”

Each session begins with a 15- to 20-minute talk followed by a demonstration. After that, clients can expect a 30- to 40-minute workout. The demonstration is usually one of the 12 steps manifested. Continuing with the Step One example, Hagaman describes one of these demos like this:

“I ask someone to come up and be the volunteer—usually the strongest person in the group. I ask them to do five push-ups for me. They say it’s easy so I tell them to do five more but I put my hands on their back and make it so the fifth one is really hard. They say it’s harder and I say, ‘but you were able to push through it.’ They come to ground again, do five more push-ups, then I sit on their back and they try and struggle, and tell me to get off their back, then they do five push-ups.”

In this scenario, Hagaman (or one of his specialized sober trainers) is acting as both alcoholism and addiction—at first, life is easy; you’re cruising along. But alcoholism and addiction are standing by the side and watching. When life starts to get harder, you can push through with self-will but it’s not quite as easy or enjoyable, and eventually it takes over and you can’t even manage. The trainer is the physical manifestation of powerlessness. Hagaman reiterates the importance of these visual demonstrations, then doing the exercise themselves. “When someone reads something, they maintain it at one level. When they read and someone else talks about it, they maintain it at a different level. When they also experience it on a physical level, they’re going to retain it much, much longer,” he claims.

Another example? Step Three is all about the principle of faith, so it’s usually a partner workout. Trainers typically talk about faith and the physical experience of faith, then go through 10 stations—each one presenting a different life problem manifesting as a physical challenge where participants can practice “turning over” their will. Alcoholics notoriously have a hard time asking for help, so this exercise forces them to help each other. Hagaman or one of his trainers might write an issue on a racket ball. They bounce the racket ball to a pair training together and they read it, “Mom calls: 80 reps together.” It doesn’t matter how they split it, they just have to get to the problem solving. “It teaches them they need and rely on each other. They feel a feeling of accomplishment for working it [out]together. The next station might be a stubbed toe, a bad hair day or just being sad or hungry,” Hagaman says. “I try and use fun, realistic scenarios…things that they’re going to experience when the old tools aren’t there anymore.”

I, for one, think this concept is brilliant. Honestly, in that first year, I was willing to do whatever it took to not drink or use—and sometimes it took a lot. 

Carrying the Message

Hagaman’s big picture goal is to get this program into treatment facilities across the country. Inpatient programs or IOPs would be able to pay a licensing fee to use the Recoveryfit system, then buy the instruction manual, training guide and props from Recoveryfit, and—in an ideal world—hire their own alumni as trainers. Hagaman believes recruiting trainers in recovery who have a working knowledge of the 12 steps is essential.

Recoveryfit seems like a solid compliment to 12-step work that’s bound to lead to some self-discovery beyond the emotional and mental journey. For Hagaman, it’s ultimately just his way of being of service to others. He says, “My primary goal is to help another alcoholic. If I can create this system where more and more facilities can experience these groups, then I am doing my job.”

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6 Comments

  1. I think I get it and in it’s simplicity sounds great. I have experience with working out everyday in my first maybe 10 years of sobriety. It was a huge self esteem boost. I was well into my Big Book 12 Steps and taking action to feel better about myself spiritually mentally and physically. Not always easy, sometimes praying for the willingness to get to the gym but always feeling better about myself as a result. Eventually I worked there to pay my membership.. It did round out my sober life offering many things that never applied to me while drinking alcoholically. An inner strength I guess you could say. I was caring enough about myself to take care of myself. Eating and drinking decent foods, vitamins. Then why not buy some decent clothes too.. I seemed to clean up my life beginning on the inside.

    It’s just that when introduced to a treatment center dynamic with it’s regulations, insurance guidelines, mental health liabilities and such it seems to get complicated. Not sure a simple release form is sufficient there.

    It seems a medical staff with emergency care unit would have to be available, that throws the cost over the top. Much more than a nurse taking vitals and handing out meds. We’re talking detox and rehab now right?. Sure everybody online seems to be an authority of sorts but in the real world these newly sober patients can and many times be very sick. Undiagnosed Hepatitis, HIV or other assorted viral infections, spiking blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes2 and other food related issues. Damn I’m sounding pretty negative here, not my intent.

    It seems you would do better as an after rehab introduction to sobriety where you are your own entity. A prerequisite would be a thorough physical and mental health evaluation. No sense having anyone needlessly drop dead on your watch or witness the anorexic bag of bones that just absolutely has to run five miles everyday or else believe they are fat and disgusting wishing to hurt themselves. How about the cutter who has stimulated physical memory from past sexual abuse or the like.

    Anyway, good luck. Spiritual and physical are indeed critical but the mental maybe shouldn’t be left in the hands of the mentally ill. Not saying it’s right or even the rule but I’ve found with newly sober people who step out raw from a hopeless existence? The need to return to the security of their chaos is still there, they do well to have someone do their emotional unraveling or untangling for them for a while anyway. It that’s you? Then exploring all angles is key and not just the ones that will open the treatment center doors. Like if they say it’s ok then it’s ok. This is about you and being responsible. The whole we’re messing with peoples lives thing.

    Hope your plans materialize and help many who suffer find their way out..

  2. Counselorchick on

    Why? Why do these things ALWAYS have to include the 12 step cult religion!!!!??? Oh wait, because no one can possibly get ‘sober’ without the faith healing. Even though it didn’t ‘work’ for him for many, many years! Fucking diabolical brainwashing.

    That brainwashing is indeed powerful while you are forever ‘powerless.’ For fucks sake man.

    https://12stepcultreligionexposed.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/alcoholics-anonymous-destroys-self-esteem/

    • How about you relax. Kudos to you for you sobriety, maybe someday you’ll get your own write up. Your anger has no place here.

      As for Rick, bravo buddy. Bravo.?
      Way to combine your passion with purpose. I’ve watched you train in a professional capacity for years and been impressed by your overall professionalism- you are no average LA trainer. To see you take that level of prisessionalism and deliver it in this new light… fan-freakin-tastic. there is nobody better suited for the mission of delivering the message of healing powers of fitness than Rick. Congratulations. ✨

      • Counselorchick on

        There’s that condescending ‘anger’ BILLShit right on cue, as if you brainwashed steppers can read minds somehow. The cult didn’t work for him for 12 years! But rather than admit it’s a crock of lies, he had to accept his faith healing powerless disease crap and incorporate it into his far better way. Relax? Why don’t you shut the fuck up and stop defending a dangerous cult religion. That’d be great. Go with God stepper.

        • Counselorchick on

          There’s nothing “supportive and positive” about the 12 step cult religion. How can you people breathe with your heads in the sand? Neat trick.

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About Author

Mary Patterson Broome is the Editor-in-Chief of RehabReviews.com and After Party Magazine and has also written for Women's Health Magazine Online, AOL and WE TV. She has been performing stand-up comedy at clubs, colleges, casinos and festivals across the country and internationally for over a decade. Originally from southern Alabama, she now calls Los Angeles home.