Take Pride Tuesday: The Hammer Stockdale

This week’s “Take Pride Tuesday” showcases one of our early-morning regulars, Matt Stockdale. No matter the weather, or circumstance, Matt’s energetic presence has become more reliable than the postal service. We are thrilled to have him share more about himself with our community!

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Hello! I’m Matt. I work in IT, specifically in Cloud Computing Enablement with a focus on Amazon Web Services. I've worn a lot of different hats over the 12 years that I've worked for my current employer, and am currently Director of Operations for Professional Services.

I grew up on the west coast (Washington and Arizona, and a few summers spent in Alaska) but moved to NYC 20 years ago to further my career, and I've spent the last 10 years living in Astoria.

When I'm not at the gym, I like to hang out with friends, go bowling, cook, read, and play the occasional video game. I'm a fairly adventurous eater; I will eat just about anything at least once.

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A little over a year ago I was suffering from chronic lower back pain. Having just turned 40, I realized it wasn't going to get better if I ignored it. Thankfully, the MRI didn't show any spinal issues, and my doctor recommended physical therapy. I did that for about 12 weeks (so many deadbugs) and finally found relief.

Eventually, insurance stopped paying for the therapy, and I knew that I had an opportunity to cement the habit I had built over the past few months. I realized that one of the key success factors for me was having an appointment that I could plan my schedule around (and hold myself accountable to), so I began looking around the neighborhood for a Personal Trainer.

I don't recall exactly how I found Iron Lion, maybe a reddit post, but I really liked the holistic approach to fitness. It also didn't hurt that the location was great, I live just down the street. When I came in for an assessment, I was really impressed by Chris, both with his knowledge and his no-pressure approach, and decided to give it a try.

When I first started, I had very little gym experience, mostly having done some bodyweight exercises and a little running previously in my life. I know that for many fitness-illiterate people, knowing what to do, with which equipment, at what intensity, and in what order can be a bit much to handle, and I was no exception (watching people do ballistic kettlebell exercises was particularly intimidating). One of the best parts about training here has been that Chris (and his programs) have gradually introduced me to various exercises. motions, muscles, and equipment in a way that was never overwhelming. By week 4 of any given program, I always felt that I had mastered what I needed, and was ready to move on to the next challenge.

I've always been a very technical learner; It really helps me to understand not only what I should be doing, but why I was supposed to be doing it. All of the trainers have been great at finding ways to help me understand the theory behind the exercises, correcting my form not only in how I physically perform the exercise, but how I'm approaching it mentally, and making sure the two are aligned.

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Aside from wanting to avoid a backslide into chronic pain, my more immediate goal was to build the discipline required to make regular visits to the gym a part of my life. I'm happy to say that after a couple of months, I started to think about my gym time not as something that I had to do, or that I promised myself I would do, but as something that I got to do, and started looking forward to it, so I feel like I've absolutely achieved it. 

I'm so much stronger now than I thought I would be at this point when I started, and I'm starting to become aware of just how much what i've achieved in the gym has affected the rest of my life. Aside from the compliments I've gotten from friends and co-workers (and even getting swolested for the first time) which are great, the increase in my confidence in general has led to me really starting to embrace challenges is other parts of my life instead of avoiding them. If I can lift 325 on the deadlift, how hard can just about anything else be?


While I certainly have additional short-term milestones I want to hit (bodyweight bench, unassisted pull-ups, etc) The long term goal is just to keep doing what I've been doing - Trust the program, show up consistently, and put in the work with a smile on my face. The rest is going to take care of itself.