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Fitness Program Aims To Create Community For People In Recovery

A dozen people in workout clothes sit in a dance room with a mirror in it
Fit to Recover
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A new fitness program for people recovering from drug and alcohol misuse has started at the PC MARC.

Ian Acker went to treatment for substance use five times. He’s been sober for nearly eight years now. Although Acker believes working out and good nutrition aids in recovery, he founded the Salt Lake-based nonprofit Fit to Recover because he believes the opposite of addiction is connection.

“When we’re using and we're isolating, we stay with our thoughts, and when we're connecting, we’re together—we don't feel as alone," Acker said. "I think that for me is stronger than the dopamine release that you get from exercise or the self-care that you're doing for your body with nutrition, even though those are very important. Being around like-minded people, holding you accountable and making you feel a part of is super important.”

This week is the third week of the program at the PC MARC. It’s free for people in recovery to attend, thanks to funding from the University of Utah and Summit County Drug Court—the requirement, though, is 24 hours of sobriety. Since its first week, Acker says class sizes have increased, and the type of activity depends on the group.

“Usually, it's a lot of body weight, and it's a lot of good music," Acker said. "It's a lot of high fives. It's a lot of connection. It's a lot about getting to know someone that you didn't know, and then there's a lot of gratitude and then a closing. If anyone has any burning desires or anything they want to talk about in their recovery, it's an open floor.”

Summit County Chief Prosecutor Trish Cassell is part of the county’s drug court team. She reached out to Fit to Recover to set up a program in the Park City area, to promote the sort of connection Acker mentioned for drug court attendees and graduates.

“What can we do for our drug court participants, during and after they are done with drug court to continue that connection?" Cassell said. "Because sometimes drug court ends, it’s very, very intense, and then there's nothing.”

Acker says it’s difficult to measure sobriety; instead, he looks at the ways participants have changed their lives.

“We've seen people stay consistent; we've seen people make new friends," Acker said. "We've seen people go out to dinner with people they didn't know. We've seen people create songs. We've seen people start to eat healthy. We've seen people start to love their bodies, and we've seen people go down to the homeless shelter, and then pass out clothes to where they were once homeless. That's kind of how we measure it.”

The Fit to Recover fitness class is held Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the PC MARC.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.