Written by Sydney Crowe

What is home? There’s over 4 million results when you ask Google - but a dictionary definition can't explain the feeling of walking in the front door and feeling safe, feeling like you belong, of really feeling home. So then, perhaps the question should be what makes a home? For me, home is the place that I can go and be both vulnerable and strong. Home isn’t a place, per say, but a community, and community is something I've known my entire life. I’ve grown up in countless different communities: from soccer to theatre, even my first job was with an organization that worked very hard to make it’s culture community based.

Community is my core. In August of 2016, when I was cut from the U of T Varsity soccer team, the first time I had ever been cut from a team in my life, I felt like I was lost at sea with nothing to hold on to. I’d created my entire life around being a part of that team. Everything I did revolved around making myself a better player - from the things I ate to the amount of sleep I got, even the amount of effort I put into my classes - everything was in direct correlation to how much I wanted to play soccer come the fall. U of T Varsity has a saying that we “Bleed Blue” - I took that a little too literally. I lost myself in my team and as a result, when I was no longer a part of it, I was just lost.

 

It was devastating. I became disinterested in school, going to the gym became a painful reminder of the amount of hours I had dedicated to a team that I was no longer a part of, and I hit a low point where all I really did was watch Netflix and eat a lot of ice cream. While my knowledge of Dexter grew, so did my discomfort with being stagnant. There’s nothing in this world that I hate more than being still - let’s be real, you’ve all seen me zip around the cafe like a tiny hurricane doing things, randomly flipping into handstand walks, zipping back to make a coffee only to go directly to cleaning something… I’m bad at the stillness thing. Meditation and I aren’t on very good terms (we’ve tried) - so watching Netflix and feeling bad for myself got old fairly quickly.

 I’d said for months before getting cut from the team that once I graduated from University and stopped playing soccer, I’d start doing CrossFit; I’d always believed that the two would go hand in hand. I wanted to be able to transition from a team mentality to an individual one after I finished my soccer career - and eventually I snapped out of my self induced pity party and realized that, though the timeline had changed, the overall goal hadn't. This brought me to the Academy.

 Lions have always been my favourite animal - they are the one that I’ve tried to emulate my whole life. They are fierce, unwavering in their dedication to their pride, and willing to do whatever they need to do to not only survive, but thrive in the animal kingdom. Coming to a gym called Academy of Lions seemed fitting for my next steps.  After all, who wouldn’t want to be a lion?

So I showed up. Nate was prepared to give me the full tour but I told him that I just needed a membership and I needed to start as soon as possible. ONRamps or not, I was determined to get moving again.I got my ass kicked in Metcon classes for a week until I finished my two ONRamps with Frances - and then? Then I took off running - not literally running, let’s be clear, I hate running. I haven’t looked back since.

Update: Metcon still kicks my ass. It’s been 8 months. I love every minute of it.

 I became immersed in the classes, the culture, but most of all - I found myself a part of a community again. This time though, the community was one that forced me to focus on myself, and on my goals as an individual - not as a part of a team. Before I knew it, I wasn’t just a member of the community, I was officially a part of the AOL Crew.

This place saved my life okay? I'm not afraid to admit that - hell, I tell everyone I meet that they should at least come for one class or one coffee or even just to walk into the cafe and feel the electric passion that fuels it. There's nowhere else like it. There's no other gym - Crossfit or not - that has what we have, no other cafe that sees the kind of connections we do and absolutely no other place in the world that I feel so damn connected to. I watch our crew work day in and day out to make this place. I watch our coaches hustle to make the classes accessible and worthwhile for everyone, and I watch every lion put 100% of themselves into this little home away from home. This is not effortless - and that makes it so much better. This place is not an accident, it isn’t something that just happened.

The Academy of Lions is intentional. It is authentic.  It is exactly what it intends to be.

 So what is home to me? It’s this place. It’s being inspired daily by the community that surrounds me. It’s constantly pushing myself in my goals and being supported every step of the way, because, well, that's what Academy is - a bunch of Lions doin' what lions do.

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