WEST END AC member Vanessa’s personal account of her struggle and triumph with COVID-19 and the solace she found virtually with our Support Chat Group and online Classes.

WEST END AC member Vanessa’s personal account of her struggle and triumph with COVID-19 and the solace she found virtually with our Support Chat Group and online Classes“I will never forget that day, Thursday March 12th, 2020. It was sometime in the afternoon when I suddenly heard on the news, schools would be shut down for two weeks! A few days later, workplaces were closing, people were getting laid off, the government was building makeshift hospitals on parking lots, and everyone was wearing masks. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the world was shutting down and my whole world was turned upside down.

My first thoughts were that I couldn’t live without my gym family. My routine had stopped and my job was gone….not to mention my kids were home ALL THE TIME. The first few days were rough and I was really down. The easy and safe thing to do was to watch Netflix and run to the cupboards for my emotional comfort, “creepy carbs”.

 In the midst of all of the uncertainty, I received a Chat Support Group invitation from my favourite place, WEST END AC. The link was offered to all West End members. The outpouring of kindness and support from the coaches, owners and members within this Chat Support Group was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was a ripple effect right from the beginning…the kindness immediately started to flow. There were offers to do pick-ups and drop-offs of grocery items, lending of weights, donations of gift cards, money, grocery and home supplies, emotional support, mental health talks, and many encouraging words. There was a strong sense and feeling of community, no hidden agenda, just genuine people lifting each other up during a difficult time. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I realized I wasn’t the only one having a difficult time adjusting. Then, I had my “A-Ha” moment!

‘After all, I am not going to die from this, what just happened wont keep me from acting with generosity, kindness, self control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility and courage’.

After a few days had passed, I noticed several members, including myself, had one thing in common. We all had the need to continue to “show up”, as Vinny would say. I suddenly had the desire to turn adversity into opportunity. I needed to continue to workout physically, to connect mentally with the group, and equally as important, to use the group chat to help keep each other accountable. Vinny, our coach and part owner of the gym, began giving daily free-of-charge work-outs on Zoom. He knew, deep in his heart, how important West End was to all of us. He knew, deep in his heart, how important West End was to all of us. He also knew this would lift us up and would make us come out of this stronger, both physically and mentally. Of course, he didn’t stop with the chat group and virtual classes, he also began a Mental Health Podcast with an array of guests who each suggested great ways to cope with our current living conditions.

As the days and weeks passed Vinny continued to reach out to us, individually and as a group, to support us anyway he could. The most incredible thing about Vinny, is that he didn’t have to do any of this, but he chose to, because, to him, that was the right thing to do, and to me, that truly revealed his character and the wholesome human that he is.
During the COVID-19 pandemic many things had been taken away from me, but I knew I still had my mind and that I could control my thoughts, choices and attitude. Equally important, I had the West End Family. Vinny also gave me the assurance that I could weather any storm that came my way and provided continued encouragement to adapt, evolve, and come out of this stronger. There’s no doubt the West End Family has helped support my physical and mental well-being.

How? By having the best ‘pre workout’ a person could ask for: quick chats with ‘the group’ before the zoom class to connect with others mentally, to ‘check in’, to see people smile, to joke around, and genuinely get asked ‘how are you doing?’ This was our virtual water cooler. Our virtual connection soon became my support system and the driving force for my days. Waking up early was exciting, the days were going by faster and the weeks were feeling shorter. New friendships were formed. We continued to have fun, laugh, sweat, swear, challenge each other…you could feel the energy, the passion and the commitment from every single person in that workout. But it didn’t stop in the Zoom sessions. The connections lasted well after the workouts and throughout the day in the chat….and that’s what makes West End so special.

Anyone can do a workout online, but the West End Family is more than just a gym, it lifts you up, energizes you, encourages you, motivates you, inspires you, challenges you, and most importantly, cares about you. Your physical and mental well being are their top priority. I have never been part of a community like this, nor anything even close to it. We all come from different places, backgrounds, jobs, ages, genders, it doesn’t matter, all you have to know is that once you are part of West End, you are part of a greater purpose. You have a home away from home, a space without judgment, where you will grow and become a stronger person mentally and physically. Even during a global pandemic! I am a better person because of my West End Family.”

Written and Submitted by Vanesa Symchych