Salt Lake City’s sober gym celebrates one year with new climbing wall

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An all-hands-in team building exercise with members of Fit2Recover. (V Alvarez Photography)

The only sober gym in Salt Lake City continues to evolve to fit the needs of the community on their road to recovery from addiction. Fit2Recover unveiled its new climbing wall on Jan. 16 to commemorate the anniversary of the sober gym.

The gym, located at 789 W 1390 South, was created and designed to help those in recovery from drugs and alcohol in response to the rising addiction rates in Utah and the U.S.

“It came from a lack of somewhere to go when I got out of treatment,” said Fit2Recover founder Ian Acker. “I didn’t feel comfortable in social settings, so I wanted to make a place where people felt comfortable and not judged. You know, a safe place.”

Fit2Recover is a non-profit gym focusing on “giving back to the community” by helping the homeless and those in need.

“Service is one of the biggest things that has helped me,” said Marci Warner, Project Coordinator for Fit2Recover. “When I am able to be of service to someone else, it brings me outside of myself, and allows me to be in a humble state.”

Volunteers and employees at Fit2Recover have experienced addiction on a personal level as well as with loved ones going through the recovery process.

Acker’s mother, Suzanne Acker, who is also the Communications and Development Coordinator for Fit2Recover, believes addiction affects the entire family.

“Everyone is impacted with addiction,” she said. “The same is true with recovery.”

Suzanne Acker further explained the gym’s goal is to “turn the pain of addiction into the purpose of recovery.”

James Sjostrom, head trainer for Fit2Recover, believes the best part of working with those in recovery is seeing an actual change of heart and true desire to work toward a healthy lifestyle.

“To watch somebody really decide, (and) say, ‘I’m not just going to stay sober, but I want to recover’ and to really be able to work towards a healthy lifestyle,” Sjostrom said.

Fit2Recover has a four-part program where they focus on creativity, fitness, nutrition, and community service. Creativity is an important component of Fit2Recover’s recovery process. This pillar is what prompted Warner to build a rock climbing wall for the gym sponsored by Petzl Foundation, and Momentum Climbing.

“When I was first trying to get sober, about six and a half years ago, some people went climbing down in Moab and that’s where I first learned about climbing,” Warner said. “That was kind of an outlet for me, and helped me get sober. So I kind of wanted to bring that idea to Ian’s gym.”

Fit2Recover also provides outlets such as an audio studio and creative writing classes all taught by those who have been through the recovery process.

For the physical pillar, Fit2Recover provides a variety of classes, fitness equipment, and trainers, all to help keep members physically fit.

“We use exercise as a principle to help us get better,” Sjostrom said. “When I have a healthy body, the healthier my body is, the healthier my mind is … We can start the process of recovery in the physical realm which is a lot easier for people to grasp.”

For nutrition awareness they created a program called Food2Recover, founded by Ian Acker’s sister, Tessa Acker, where they have registered dietitians who work one-on-one with members and provide workshops to teach healthy eating habits.

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