by Sally Deupree
John Michon isn’t shy about his mental illness.
“It’s the first thing I’ll tell anyone,” said the 54-year-old who trains at CrossFit Logan in Chicago. “People are afraid to talk about it. You can’t touch, see, or feel a mind disease.”
Michon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years ago, but has known that there was something different about him since his grandfather passed away more than 40 years ago. He struggled with it until he found a cognitive behavioral therapist that understood his feelings.
In 2012, he found another way to manage his disease and stay focused: CrossFit.
“CrossFit is a part of my meds,” he said.
Michon was a competitive swimmer growing up and continued to swim laps for exercise as an adult. He even worked out with a trainer at his neighborhood gym for about 15 years, but still something was missing.
Michon said the group classes and one-on-one training sessions at his neighborhood gym just couldn’t compare to the motivation and support he gets from the group of athletes in a CrossFit class.
The camaraderie is the main reason CrossFit has been so beneficial for Michon.
Michon owns his own design firm and helps run a non-profit, Designs for Dignity, but because he works for himself, he misses out on the office relationships people benefit from when working in a traditional office space.
“CrossFit has been my office,” he said. “To have a gathering of people – being around all these people – the high is unbelievable.”
One of Michon’s friends and training partners, Ariel Litvin, said CrossFit allows Michon to be himself, away from business clients.
“At the box, John is just John, the little guy with the big smile,” he said.
Michon uses CrossFit Logan’s whiteboard as a gauge, looking at scores and times and determining what he should aim for during any given workout. He likes seeing younger athletes’ scores and trying to keep up.
“The endurance of CrossFit and trying to strive for things that seem unreachable help with my life and my desires,” Michon said.
He admits that even the physical space helps balance him out with the rowing machines lined up nicely along the wall, the pull-up bars and racks centered in the space, and the bright, clean feeling of the box.
He trains mostly with head coach, Morgan Funke, and works out alongside Litvin.
Competing in the 2014 CrossFit Open has also helped Michon bond with other athletes and stay positive.
Funke said the Open has also allowed Michon to see his improvements.
“He’s always asking what he did before, and seeing the measured success is validation,” Funke said.
Michon’s goal in the Open is simple. “I’m just hoping to get through it. I just want to see how I stack up against other people my age and size.”
He also understands what the Open is all about, “This isn’t about being the best out of everyone; this is about being the best I can be,” he said.
Michon proved that in his 14.1 workout. Funke said that he completed more double-unders than he usually does, and instead of scaling the workout, he chose to complete it prescribed.
Since 14.1, Michon has had an old shoulder injury flare up and has been going to physical therapy. Yet he’s anxious to get back to his box soon. He admits that he has noticed a change in his mental fitness since he’s had to sit out the last two weeks.
“The first week I didn’t notice a change, but now the anxiety is staying a little more than I’d like,” he said. “It’s like CrossFit burns it (the anxiety) away and keeps it in check.”
Beyond the Open, Michon knows that the long-term effects are what are the most important. Funke agreed. She said Michon will only continue to thrive in a CrossFit environment.
“I’ve seen John become more confident,” Funke said. “And he knows who he is. Being a CrossFit Logan athlete is a part of that.”
For Michon, CrossFit is now a huge part of his lifestyle, and it’s making him better everyday.
“I hope I can be doing this another 20 years,” he said. “How fabulous would that be?”