Written by Ashley Dier | Academy Of Lions Media Team | Toronto
Imagine willingly throwing yourself down a concrete staircase while standing on a small, wooden board on wheels. Imagine the feeling of your body sliding across concrete, exposed skin shredding like soft cheese through a grater. Now imagine the freeing feeling of weaving through traffic, flowing with the pace of the city. This is skateboarding, both the good and the bad, Nathan Blackmun is a skateboarder and an athlete.
Nate, is often the first person you see when you enter the Academy ("front end/membership guy"), and that's a good thing. He exudes passion, for his job, for skateboarding, for photography, the city, for everything really and it shows.
Nate projects a warm curiosity and wants to know your story. He has a humble, laid-back, East Coast vibe (he's from Moncton) and despite skateboarding for 15 years, has never thought of himself as athletic. "I always wanted to be athletic but I wasn't really. In basketball I was the second last person chosen on my team. I wore jeans all the time..they basically just didn't know if he could wear shorts". When I ask him if he considers himself an athlete today, he promptly and firmly answers "no".
Many parallels exist between the skateboard and CrossFit worlds, the positive attitudes, the strong community environment, you learn resiliency, you become confident, Nate was introduced to all of these at an early age through skateboarding.
"Once I latched onto skateboarding my life totally shifted," Nate says. "I met all the coolest people that shaped who I am now. Skateboarding also taught me a DIY attitude which I've transitioned into photography. I'm not just shooting random things, I try to see an object being something more than it actually is." Nate deepens the point further, drawing a comparison to how Skateboarders see the world differently than everyone else; a flight of stairs is more than just steps on the way somewhere, to a skater, it represents an obstacle and an opportunity.
"With fitness you're challenging yourself and it's you alone doing the work. Just like with skateboarding, it's just you doing a trick, it's independent, you're alone on the board, but you have a huge community behind you. It's the same here..it's just you against the bar just like it's you against the skateboard."
Inspired by the community he is surrounded by, Nate has begun to make positive changes and enjoy things he once hated. "You're surrounded by a lot of elite athletes here, all different levels and it pushes you to want to be better. Take wanting to run a half marathon, before working here I hated running, I would be that dude, that was like "fuck running", and now I like running a lot."
Knowing Nate's passion for skateboarding, his love for Crossfit and community, and his current fling with running, I ask him again if he considers himself an athlete. "I think being an athlete is competing in something, I'm just trying to be a healthy as I can be, just living life. I think when you put the 'athlete' title on it, it puts pressure on that's not needed. Even as a runner it's like why can't I just be a runner, why do I have to be an athlete? Why can't I just be a weightlifter? I know it's the same but the word athlete, I find intimidating. I dunno, maybe it's because I'm not confident enough " he said.
I share my views on "being an athlete" and how a large portion of my life is dedicated to health, running and fitness and despite this I sometimes struggle even calling myself a runner. This prompts him to reflect on his position. "I guess now that you say that, I may change my answer...I think how I go about things, maybe I am an athlete."
I check the time and realize I need to run to a class, Nate knows this and gets up but quickly runs back over to me, and says "there are so many creative professionals here at this gym that I don't think it's a coincidence. I don't know what it is, but there has to be something that drives creativity."
I agree, we part ways, but Nate has me thinking. What is it about these workouts that draws in such creative people? We all come from a different place, and our stories differ slightly, but we are all the same. Be it the skateboarder from Moncton who fell in love with the community and the challenge of athletics, or the coach who needed an apprenticeship at the exact time one was offered to him, we are all small, unique but necessary, pieces of a larger puzzle, each one needed for the story to be complete.