Wow. Where do I start? Adversity. Definition in the dictionary for “Adversity” is “A state of hardship or affliction; also misfortune.” Circumstances or situations working against you, in the gym, at work or in everyday life puts you in the face of adversity. Mind you I am sitting here writing this one week after my 4th knee operation/reconstruction and 9th operation overall in less than six years with the biggest CrossFit competition in the world 12 weeks away. Adversity. So how do we conquer this? How do YOU handle yourself when faced with challenges big or small that take you out of your comfort zone? Be it that Public Speaking Presentation you have in front of your superiors at work to earn that rise in the ranks. The much too familiar 7pm at night and you are in the gym after a crappy day with no energy looking at the cold hard steel staring back at you willing you to lift it with no punch in your lungs to do so. What instinctual behaviour and mindset do you have when facing the adversary that takes many forms and has many faces? Let me share with you what I do to combat these demons…

Without diving too much into fine details growing up I was a pretty fit kid playing multiple sports who found himself pushing exercise aside and blowing out to 112kg at 14 years of age, and no, it wasn’t all muscle, and no, I wasn’t “in bulking season bro”. The body is a representation of the mind and my head was way off from where I wanted to be at this time of life. Sport suffered, mood swings on top of puberty sent emotions through the roof. There were certainly no girls who liked me or wanted to hangout. Throw in some bullying and teasing about my larger than life figure and that’s pretty much how I lived from 9 to 15 years old. The next 4 years… Big…

I decided enough was enough and with grit and determination to change my life I lost all of my excessive fat, start lifting weights in my garage (we had a sweet garage gym setup) got fit and strong and decided to give Rugby League a go. “Let’s try a tough and physical sport” I thought to test out my new powers (unfortunately it took a big toll on my body I am still trying to get right again). Through hard work, opportunity and the ability to pick things up quite quickly I progressed into a career of six years with First Grade clubs such as the Penrith Panthers, St George Illawarra Dragons and South Sydney Rabbitohs, on top of representing Italy for 5 tests and helping them qualify for the world cup in 2013 (I’m half Italian). I now own and run a CrossFit Gym – CrossFit Wellbeing – in Belrose on the Northern beaches and compete at CrossFit where I currently sit 21st in Australia/NZ and 1st on the Northern Beaches in a very short space of time “Crossfitting”. These are the challenges I have faced in the last few years which have defined me as a man with a fighting spirit that will not be broken or held down:

2007 – Broken Jaw/2 fractured cheeks. 12weeks no food only liquids that was tough. Re-fractured my cheek first game back against the same team and the same player who I had the head clash with for the first injury.

2008 – Full knee ACL reconstruction. Moved out of home down to Wollongong, first 1st grade game 10min in. not even 2months later found a tear in my shoulder. Full shoulder reconstruction also. End of the year needed another Knee operation/Arthroscopy.

2009 – Did not get my playing contract renewed, had nowhere to live and had another knee operation/arthroscopy at the back end of the year.

2010 – Fractured my cheek again, 6weeks out. A few games back busted my elbow, had numbing needles to get through the season and had an elbow operation later in the year.

2011 – Dislocated my shoulder over in Serbia playing for Italy, took 2hrs to get to a hospital in a foreign land with no English and shoulder still hanging out. Very scary! 2nd Full reconstruction once I landed in Australia.

2012 – It’s a miracle! No surgeries but started my own business CrossFit Wellbeing putting everything I had out there with my family’s life as well as my own banking on the venture being successful.

2013 – Knee was managing OK but still playing up so finally decided to get scans and had to have another Knee operation/arthroscopy.

  • Of course some good things happened too during this period but these types of traumas although physical, have a massive impact on your mental state of mind and how you overcome these situations, if at all. This is the mindset and approach that I took which wasn’t born overnight, but like exercising a muscle over time grew stronger and bigger to what is now my “standard”: No matter what you think YOUR life is like, there is ALWAYS someone out there who has it way, way worse (100percent true to anyone who is reading this right now). 
  • Every day is an opportunity, so treat it as such! An opportunity to train, to rest, to prepare for the week ahead, to build relationships, never waste. There is already too much of that in today’s world. • The whole “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” quote. Very easy to look past. I don’t apply those exact words in my thinking but that is what life is about, facing challenges and becoming stronger through your decision AND the outcome.
  • To the point above - Don’t be soft, don’t lay down unless this is the person you would like to be, then that’s fine. Because we are creatures of habit and after you take the weaker option time and time again, when adversity stares you in the face, you have automatically made the soft choice. Be steely, thrive and survive in the world off your own back not through someone else’s.
  • We arrive here with nothing, we leave with nothing, other than the experiences we have had and the integrity we have built and upheld in our life. That is what I like to call – Spirit. • Take on risks and challenges and opportunities even if there is a chance you may lose. The human mind is an amazing thing that I believe may never be tapped into in reaching its potential! See how far you can stretch it, how strong you can be. You will surprise yourself.
  • Health and fitness is a great part of our lives and is so important. It is one of the safest environments where we can push the boundaries, take risks and see how willing the mind is, to make the body hurt. Which is why I love applying all of the above points to my training. Safely of course and support with lifts when required, I push my body and my limits very often and have never burnt out from over training or died (obviously haha).
  • We all have different thresholds sure, but try and increase yours! Go to that “dark place” hangout there for a bit, you’ll come back tougher for it. Yeah it hurts and you may collapse at times or be really sore but enjoy that because one day you may not have the chance to get that feeling and will miss it. We all wake up the next day, life still goes on, so again never waste your opportunities. 
  • I’ll finish with this quote, one of my favourites:

“Our greatest fear should not be that one day our lives will come to an end, but rather, that they may never begin”

Feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions or need help with anything, anytime! Also follow my story on instagram at big_al_fit and on facebook as Alex Ranieri – CrossFit Athlete.

Special thanks to Vitamin King. I have never been involved with a more genuine and dedicated family of people providing a service that goes above and beyond anyone else’s in the health and fitness industry, and most other industries for that matter. The VK Team provide the highest quality service that helps change and improve many people’s lives for the better breeding a culture of family and success in our community! Love being part of the team. VK for life.

- Alex Ranieri