by Jonathan Vickers /
A boombox blared as Ian Acker and 4 others fought through pushups, sit-ups, sprints and other exercises in Sugar House Park. A year before Fit To Recover was even an idea, the crew pushed each other to workout together every Saturday morning. The goal wasn’t necessarily to get fit, but to fill the time they would otherwise fill with their addiction. Now, FTR has been open for over a year and it is far more than just a few guys with a boombox in the park. Utah’s first ‘sober gym’ is a full-service gym with kettle-bells, barbells, 12 racks, boxes, a recording studio and a brand new climbing wall!
This January, Fit To Recover celebrated its one-year anniversary with the unveiling of a climbing wall that was attended by over 100 people who support FTR’s cause of providing alternative activities for those suffering from addiction. The Salt Lake City based gym is the first of its kind in the nation, and welcomes anyone and everyone who believes in its mission whether suffering from addiction or not.
“It is really just a big group of people helping each other and FTR is a place for them to gather, explains Fit To Recover founder Ian Acker. “It is dedicated to recovery and people who support recovery. You just have to know and believe in the mission to join us.”
The gym’s location in the West Valley of Salt Lake City was the perfect building for not only a gym, but a climbing wall. Originally an old photographer warehouse with 30 foot ceilings, the building was basically a blank slate when Ian showed up. The warehouse quickly filled up with workout equipment, a sound studio, and space for dance, yoga and art classes. However, from the beginning, one area was set aside for something else.
Marci Warner, who has been with FTR since the boombox sessions at the park, was the driving force behind adding a climbing wall. She had used climbing to help with her own recovery and wanted to share the sport with others trying to fill the time that had previously been consumed with addiction. With only her personal passion for the sport and a blank wall to fill, she pursued donations and help from the climbing community for a small climbing wall.
Marci used an Indie Gogo campaign with Petzl to get money for her project. Below is a video about her efforts to raise funds for the project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckHuuAlUTr0
Since starting to pursue the climbing wall project in 2015, Marci has made her dream a reality. In an effort to help in any way possible, the climbing community came out of the woodwork. With help from local climber Mike Beck, Marci was able to connect with much of the climbing community. Alpine Fit aided in fundraising, Petzl contributed $6,000 for the building costs, Asana provided padding at a huge discount, Atomik donated holds, and Momentum designed the wall and helped with finding contractors. Momentum setters Steven Jeffery and Rodrigo Arroyo also donated their time setting the gym’s first boulder problems.
“I get really excited about homestyle walls and many others do too,” explained Momentum’s VP of Development and Construction Noah Bigwood. These smaller walls are the seeds of the climbing community. If you get a tight knit group climbing together on a small wall, they feed each other’s excitement for the sport. I expect this wall to become a gathering place where people will become passionate about climbing.”
While the gym offers a variety of activities for those battling addiction, Marci and all of FTR are excited about the addition of a climbing wall. Now when Marci describes climbing as a metaphor for recovery, she and others can climb together as an alternative to addiction.
To learn more about Fit To Recover visit their website here: http://www.fit2recover.org/home.html