Ambassador Spotlight: Alan Scherer
Location: Swanzey, NH
How long have you been an ambassador? 1 year
Favorite Athletic beer: Smooth Ascent Coffee Stout (collaboration with Rise cold brew coffee)
Social and professional links: www.alanschererphoto.com
Alan Scherer is not afraid to talk about things that make you uncomfortable.
But that’s his goal -- he wants to de-stigmatize the uncomfortable topics to make it easier for us all to share our stories, connect, and help each other through tough times.
Alan will celebrate three years of sobriety on August 18. He wants to use all that he’s learned on his journey to reach out and help others who are experiencing the same struggle. His goal is to start a community centered around fitness where those recovering from trauma, addiction and mental illness can thrive in a positive, active space. It’s called Roar2gether, and it’ll hopefully be based in New Hampshire.
“Restore your Roar. It’s for anyone that feels like their flame has been put out. How do we restore your roar together? I would like to open up a studio where people in recovery and with mental health issues can sell their work, can have their work highlighted and feel empowered for it, because it’s more about the people than it is about the work itself. As well as a gym, as well as a recovery center where they can get the help they need.”
Alan is a runner and an accomplished photographer. He’s working on starting a local chapter of the November Project in his new place of residence: Swanzey, NH. He recently relocated and has fallen in love with his new community. Giving back on the forefront of his mind, and he’s going full speed ahead on that front. For Alan, life isn’t always about the fastest run or the most difficult race. He wants to build community and make a difference in the lives of others.
“What I’ve accomplished in the past got me here. I think now it’s more about being appreciative of whatever I get to be a part of. Whatever I get to run. Whatever I get to photograph. I’m thankful I can speak up and speak out about the stigmas surrounding mental illness and mental health, trauma, all the things we go through to survive.”
Read on to learn about Alan’s story and the amazing goals he has for his community in this month’s Ambassador Spotlight!
What are some of your favorite ways to stay active?
Running. Once I found running ... I had run before, I had been an athlete in high school. When I found running, when I found this thing that allowed me to overcome myself a little bit, to burn excess calories, to sweat, to just move better, once I found that thing, and for a long while I would run with headphones in and listen to music, and I think once I started running long, I realized that I didn’t want that. I wanted to unclutter my mind, unclutter the demons, unclutter what I needed to get through, and on a long run you’ve got a lot of time so you can go through all of those things in your head and hopefully come out a little more at peace on the other side.
I remember when I first started with the November Project in Boston, one of the co-leaders was like hey who wants to run 15 hills with me and I was dumb enough to say, “Hey, I’ll do it. Unfortunately, the night before I got really drunk. I think I passed out at like 1:30, but the problem was is I had the drink sweats so I woke up at like 2:45. And I was like ugh, if I’m going to run 15 hills, I might as well just get out there on the hills now because it was going to take me forever. So I got out there, started at about 3:30, it took me until about 9 to get all 15 hills because I was still drunk.
It’s those things. There were a lot of things I didn't know before I met the November Project. When I met the November Project, I learned I was capable of a whole lot more. Physically, mentally, spiritually by just showing up and working out besides these division 1 college rowers. It didn’t matter who they were or what I felt they were, I was right beside them doing those things. That’s why I realize free fitness is one of the greatest things for any community -- It’s an ability for anyone to show up and feel as powerful as the person beside you because you all showed up. I think that, really, fitness has built my life to a point where I always feel like I can. Even when I can't, I feel like I can, whether it’s a 12 minute pace or an 8 minute pace. What matters is that I put one foot in front of the other, I got over the fear of the first step, and I'm gonna go as far as I feel like going. It’s comfortable, you’re out in nature. Really I just realized that don’t put limits on what you’re capable of, because you’ll probably far surpass it if you don’t set a limit on it right away.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the November Project?
The November Project was started by these two ex rowers from Northeastern (Boston) who for one month set up this Google document called The November Project, where they were going to meet every morning before work to stay fit through the winter. And so, they did that, for one month they did that, I think, like 5 days a week -- to hold each other accountable to themselves and to each other. And that actually kept going on until the spring. And then around May, they were like, why don’t we invite some friends? So they put a blast out there -- does anyone want to join us for this workout? So one person shows up. Sarah Wild -- she’s one of the fastest girls around. She works for new balance. She showed up. So that was it. The first person showed up. Then 10 people. Then 100 people. Then 300 people showed up to the Harvard stadium stairs. Then 1000 people showed up for a workout in November of 2014. And now they’re in 50 cities across the world. Free fitness. It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what your story is, it just matters that you show up. That changed my life amazingly. I’m married because of the November project. I met my wife at the November Project.
I never knew I could do anything like that before I met these really amazing people running beside me. And then I was like, I can do this because I have these people beside me. I can do this because I don’t have to worry about doing it alone.
The November Project is an opportunity for anyone of any fitness level, and you’re going to intertwine your life with other people doing the same thing. Pace doesn’t matter; that’s irrelevant. A healthier community is built from the ground up by choosing to just show up.
Now here in Keene, we just started one called Swanzey-Keene Fit project to try to become November Project Keene. The goal is to get free fitness community thriving here that can get the backing of the November Project. It’s amazing, it really is. I even have it tattooed on my arm -- it’s that important.
Starting your own chapter in your own town -- is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
It changed my life. So to bring November Project here would be a true blessing if it becomes possible. At our first workout we had one person show up on Saturday June 5th. It all starts with 1.
I think we’re in the right place now. I think we’re in the right place (Alan recently relocated to New Hampshire) for so many reasons. We have everything at our fingertips here. It’s really cool here. I think we’ve found a fitness community as well -- they have a lot of run groups, a lot of trail running, a lot of hiking. All is fresh, all is new. It’s just a new chapter.
Why did you apply to become an ambassador?
How could I not want to help someone who’s found a way to help me? Even though they don’t really know it. Most of the time you don't know the people you’re gonna touch, you don't know the extent of the value of something like a non alcoholic beer. A non-alcoholic beer that tastes good, that doesn't have a lot of calories, just all those things. But then the pride of the company to give back, to empower people, empower athletes. To empower just ... life in the best way that it can. Especially last year. When we’re trying to go through all of these things and then to have a company like athletic brewing to lean on, to be able to share your passion for life with the amount of enthusiasm I have for life, you feel good about it. It used to be that nobody drank non-alcoholic beer or nobody said they did because it’s not the cool thing. When it’s all said and done, the only thing we really have is who we choose to be and who we choose to associate with. So my goal is to always associate myself with people doing good things and in turn mirror that in my life and how I choose to share myself openly and honestly and fearlessly forward.
How did you find Athletic Brewing?
My wife found it, and we’ve been drinking it ever since. It just gives me something to enjoy without feeling bad about myself.
That’s a big deal. Because I feel like alcohol is like that, there’s so much guilt associated with it.
Athletic Brewing’s made it cool to be sober. Athletic’s made it cool to day drink while you’re riding your bike, while you’re running. I wouldn’t mind doing a beer mile with an Athletic brew, because the effects are good, not bad. Those carbohydrates actually help you, not hurt you.
I’ve known people who have tried the beer mile with a regular beer and they got really sick.
But people like it, there’s a lot of people who like that because we’re so used to hurting ourselves, we’re like oh that’s how it’s supposed to be. No, no, we’re just too stubborn to remember and to realize it doesn’t have to be that way. We can be our own best friend instead of our own worst enemy, but that’s basically what our life perpetuates: How long is it going to take us to realize we need to be our own best friend? We need to be more gentle with ourselves. We don’t need to be more dysfunctional, we don’t need to be more self-destructive. We need to be less. We are enough, we are powerful, and we are still here!
How has the ambassador program helped you in your professional, personal or athletic endeavors?
It makes me feel more empowered. I can go get a six pack of Athletic Brewing, and I feel good about myself for doing so because I’m continuing my continuous days of sobriety, i’m changing the narrative of my life, I’m changing the narrative of needing an alcoholic beverage to feel good about myself or celebrate something I just accomplished, because how many races are there where you're finished with your race and there’s a big afterparty. So I’m changing the narrative in my own life and hopefully setting an example for other people to do the same or give it a try, or just try athletic brewing because you’re gonna like it.
It doesn’t take alcohol to celebrate. A celebration is an accomplishment well-earned. So it shouldn’t necessarily take a shot of tequila or an IPA. It shouldn't take any of that stuff for us to be enjoying what we have accomplished or what someone has accomplished. The celebration itself is the building of community that you choose to have and that you choose to support. How healthy is the community? That’s where my life changed -- it’s what kind of communities have I put myself into? That matters. Because you want a community that’s gonna meet you halfway, when you reach your hand out, they’re gonna grab it, when they reach their hand out, you’re gonna grab it. Because we know what it feels like for that not to happen. We know what it feels like to feel alone in a room full of people.
Professionally, my life is mostly a stay-at-home dad. I do some photography. I’m working on getting my personal trainer certification again. What I want to do is open a nonprofit that helps those in recovery from addiction and trauma and the foster care system. I’ve been part of all of these things. With fitness but also with creative passions. If it wasn’t for fitness and photography, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you today. Those two things allowed me to move forward in my life.
Today I’m an award winning photographer. I’ve logged a lot of miles.And none of those have been winning races or anything like that, but when it comes to my professional life, I don’t even think I’ve touched where I can go. I have so much passion. I have so many skills, so many talents. I just haven’t even touched the surface of what I can do.
It sounds like you have a lot of really awesome goals, and that’s exciting. The non-profit that you’re talking about -- that sounds amazing.
Restore your Roar. It’s for anyone that feels like their flame has been put out. How do we restore your roar together? I would like to open up a studio where people in recovery and with mental health issues can sell their work, can have their work highlighted and feel empowered for it, because it’s more about the people than it is about the work itself. As well as a gym, as well as a recovery center where they can get the help they need.
Really, it’s about continuing the conversation where we normalize recovery, normalize mental health. Normalize that it’s OK to not feel OK, but what are we doing to feel better? What are we doing on a daily basis to find a better way? The things I learned were that I wasn't responsible for the things I couldn't control or change. The only thing I'm responsible for is my piece. What can I control, what can I change, what can I do better than the generations before me? As a child all I had was time. Once I learned what my responsibility was, once I held myself accountable for that, and once I learned that it was my fault if I didn’t do something better with my life, if I didn’t take healthy steps to move forward in my life -- to have friends, to have a life, to have hobbies, to make money, to make a difference, to make an impact, to be a leader, all of those things -- then nothing was going to change. Then nothing was going to change. And so in 2010, I had a come to Jesus moment where I was either going to kill myself or I was going to heal myself. And I asked myself, is this all I have to offer the world around me? Thankfully the answer was no. And I had no idea where I was going from there. But I knew that I was going to do it on my terms, in my shoes, and my time. Baby steps count. Two steps forward and one step back is still a step forward. And to be better than yesterday and move forward is what I used to get myself here today. It’s never easy. But it’s always worth it. We have one life. We have one opportunity to make a difference in the world around us. But it always starts within us.
What are some of your proudest achievements (athletic or not)?
I think my greatest achievement is every day I look at my life and I'm like how did I get here? I was set up to fail. I had two parents that shouldn’t have been together. I had a family that didn’t really support me once I had a voice in my head and started asking tough questions. If we’re not loved, then why are we taking space here? Life is a choice, it’s not a requirement. We can exist or we can learn to thrive. My life is thriving now, and I still have a tough time. Because it’s good. I’m so used to it being tough, to having to grind it out, to fight myself to get to where I'm going.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I think the gentleness that I have to tell myself to use every day to create more responses instead of reactions. There’s no thought that goes into a reaction … you can react, and you can destroy yourself, you can destroy the world around you, but if you take those 5 seconds to slow down and think of a good way to respond, you don’t have to blow it all up. These are the things that I’ve learned, and that’s led me to running long miles, doing crazy, amazing things, but being bipolar, I’m a little bit more apt to give myself a chance because who cares. I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I might accomplish something. If I fail I fail, but who cares.
What is a bucket list event or race that you’d love to compete in?
What I’ve accomplished in the past got me here. I think now it’s more about being appreciative of whatever I get to be a part of. Whatever I get to run. Whatever I get to photograph. I’m thankful I can speak up and speak out about the stigmas surrounding mental illness and mental health, trauma, all the things we go through to survive.
What does living without compromise mean to you?
It helps me to realize that whatever I’m going through, as hard as it is, there’s no reason to hide from it. There’s no reason to try to overcome it by compromising your sense of self. Your self care, your self love, your self esteem. It’s in learning what makes you happy, what makes you proud, what makes you want to go out there and be spit on by others openly. How bold are you going to be today to try to love someone who doesn’t want you to love them? I have a hard time with my wife because she loves me so sincerely. With all the pain I’ve gone through in my life, my whole self image was to try to fit in, to be someone who was worth being around because I didn’t feel like I was valuable. It’s hard for me to allow love in. So every day I have to make a conscious effort to allow her to love me. It’s hard. It’s a process. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. You don’t have to be who you were yesterday. You don’t have to be that person that you were. We don’t have to hide from who we are emotionally, spiritually, physically. I think we’re learning that more now. You are enough already. I am enough already. Who are we trying to convince that we’re not? What are we trying to do to hide in plain sight because we’re afraid of who we are?
What’s your favorite recovery food?
There’s these fruit snacks and they have fruit juice in the center. They’re the only ones that are actually good when they gush. It’s totally random, and I can’t find them everywhere. But, I don’t really have a favorite recovery food. I’m so abstract as a person, if it works, or it’s there, it’s the best thing i could ever see. There’s not a lot of things that I turn my nose up to.
What’s a rest day look like for you?
I don’t do this as well as I should. I’ll watch movies or take photographs. I’m just trying to keep my mind off the fact that I’m not working out. That’s the hardest part. I’m just giving myself permission to rest.
So what gets you up and out of bed each morning?
Opportunity. To create change. To make today better than yesterday, and hopefully create a tomorrow worth living. I have no idea what that is when I get up, but hopefully I'll fill out my day doing things, creating things, talking to people, hugging my wife, and hoping that I've done enough in that day to shower the blessings onto the people and myself for that matter.