How An Insurance Bureaucrat Saved My Life – Ted Fryia

Most people call him "coach." 

Long before I met Ted, I knew him by reputation: talking to his oldest kid (Brent) about mental imagery years ago, he said, "yeah, my dad did that stuff with us since we were kids."  He's produced some of the best athletes to come out of the Sault.  He's been a big part of the foundation of Sault wrestling for decades. He's a great athlete (ask him to show you handstand pushups on the parallettes when you see him at the Park.)  And he still washes the mats, too. 

So when "Coach" Fryia emailed me this essay last night, I thought, "this will be a great post….next week."  After all, it's Heroes Week.  There's a lot of new content on our site already.  But then, as I caught myself changing my facebook status to quote Ted, I knew I had to get it out there today.  Enjoy.

When one
thinks of an insurance bureaucrat, the picture that often comes to mind is of someone
sitting in an office overlooking Bay Street in Toronto in his over-stuffed
white shirt.  He’s probably chomping down
on a jelly doughnut and poking at the number pad on his computer, doing his
actuarial duty, creating some new statistical pattern to justify jacking up our
rates.  Or maybe it’s some other guy who
denies payment on a claim because of some missed fine print.  But I bet it’s never of someone who might
have saved a life.

Ted2 It wasn’t
for me either.  Not until recently.  Not until my life insurance company informed
me, through the mail no less, that they were cancelling my life insurance
policy.    The reason stated in the
letter was something about the presence of an irregular heartbeat, indicated on
the echocardiogram I’d had during a physical. 
That’s ridiculous, I
thought.  How could they do that to
Didn’t they know I was an athlete – at one time?  Didn’t they know how many kilometers I used
to run every week?  Didn’t they know what
I once bench pressed when I was only 155 pounds?  And even if they didn’t, surely someone who’d
never met me didn’t have the right to make such a judgment.

While my
wife urged me to call my doctor to get more information and send a letter to
the insurance company, I did some digging around of my own.  And that’s when I discovered the
real reason that doughnut addicted shirt
looked at that ECG printout then stamped
across my file.  It was sloth.  Not his – mine!  Over the years my inner sloth had
convinced the rest of me to follow the path of least resistance. 
work hard, you’ve got a family to take care of and there’s no time for anything
it kept saying.  At first I
battled.  But eventually the battle
turned into nothing more than a shoving match. 
And truth be known, after a while I wasn’t even pushing back all that

In hindsight,
I wonder where that disciplined self, the one that used to bully sloth
mercilessly, had limped off to.  Why
didn’t it tell sloth to hit the bricks, and let it be known that to take care
of your loved ones
you’ve got to take
care of yourself
. But sloth had teamed with pride.  And pride was still living in the past where
it was too arrogant to consider what it was seeing in the mirror, and that the
lack of energy it was experiencing was only temporary –
if it did something about it. 

Poster And you’d
think living in my house, with sons who are both athletes of some repute, and
with who it looks like fitness will be life long, would have motivated some
part of me to change course.  The
constant ribbing about
“being on the
, but not sticking with it, the comments about getting older, then
the callouts,
“I think I can take you
, should not even have been necessary. 
But they had little effect, other than to kick start a volley of
wisecracks, usually ending with pride getting in on the banter and telling them
“we might just have to old-school
.  But deep down I knew, if a
tournament ever broke out in my house, third place was as good a finish as I
could hope for.  And since my wife,
Katherine, had been working hard herself, beginning a couple of years ago with
personal training sessions and recently becoming one of the Barbell Betties,
maybe fourth place was more realistic. 
And of course there’s Lisa, Brent’s significant other, the daughter we
never had: maybe fifth place?

(right: old-school 'em!)

 A terrible
family history of high blood pressure and heart disease was not something my
inner sloth even cared about.  But the
wake-up call from the insurance company, to be frank, scared me more than a
little.  That’s when some other part of
me, that old prideful and stubborn part, got into it. 
was no way sloth and someone who squeezed numbers for a living was going to
make decisions about my future.
was time to push back. 

I was
familiar with the crossfit philosophy.  It
had been a staple of my training when I was young: the intensity of crossfit
and its total body concept is just about the closest you can get to high level
wrestling training.  And my early visits
to Catalyst confirmed what the rest of my family had been saying; super staff, the
right atmosphere, right approach and a lot of great and inspirational people
are what make it the right fit.  And the
place to old-school that inner sloth. 

Ted3 In the
beginning, I started slowly.  There was a
part of me that was still holding back – not going all out.  Knowing myself, I was concerned with starting
back with a 20-something year old mindset and this 50-something year old
body.  And there was the doctor’s warning
to, “not overdo it”.  I also worked to
keep my natural competitiveness in check for the first six or eight months, but
as time went on I had sloth on the run, and the hesitation that held me back
was losing its grip. 

I think I
turned the corner on the day of Franfest. 
Until then I hadn’t pushed to whatever my limit had become.  Even getting ready the weeks before – learning
and practicing the butterfly kip – I never attempted to hit top end.  But that would change.

Going in
that morning I knew there would be no holding back.  Waiting my turn, I was not only caught by the
wave of energy in the building, I was truly inspired by the others who went
before me, and none more than my own wife, Katherine, who pushed so hard
through her sets despite the fact that the weight she was using was too heavy.  Even though I was frustrated with not being
able to string as many butterfly pull-ups together as I thought I should, I
pushed across that personal threshold and to my limit.  And my time? 
I didn’t get a look at the clock before I began, so I might have done
Fran in – under a minute? 

Yeah, yeah,
I know it’s a stolen joke, but I feel as if, with an assist from an insurance
bureaucrat, I’ve stolen a portion of my life back – at least a better quality
to it.  So now I’m planning on making my
sixtieth birthday the new thirty.  I’ve
even got a special 60
th birthday workout planned for that day – at
Catalyst in 2015.  If you’re around, join