A Marine Corps veteran is planning to work out for 22 straight hours in Aiken to raise awareness of the mental health issues veterans face.
Adam Cooper, known as neverquitfitdad22 on Instagram, is set to begin his workout at 4 p.m. Wednesday and continue working out until 2 p.m. Thursday at Max Fitness in Aiken.
Cooper said the number of hours in the workout was chosen because of the widely reported statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
“We have celebrities dying and everybody boohoos but no one thinks about at least the 22 — there’s more than 22 if you really dig into the statistics of it — men and women who are in a dark space and don’t know how to get out of it,” Cooper said. “They feel lonely. They feel no one cares. In reality, there are some of us out there that care. You just have to reach out to us.”
Cooper, who served in the Marine Corps for four years, said he went through his own dark space.
“It wasn’t fun,” Cooper said. “There’s a lot of why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why am I even on Earth?”
Cooper said he tried to get help through Veterans Affairs but his children (“I could never do something like that to my children,” Cooper said) — and physical fitness — (“The gym is my mental health therapy”) helped him make it through his dark space.
“I’ve been through therapy through the VA and on pharmaceuticals,” Cooper said. “At the end of the day, I learned that none of it was really helping me. Turning to fitness is what helped me.”
He said turning to physical fitness helped him find his own fighting instinct. He added once a person finds their fighting instinct, they’ll overcome their mental health problems as long as they don’t give up.
“If I can tell some other veteran ‘just push yourself,'” Cooper said. “You were in the military at one time and you did push yourself. You pushed yourself through boot camp. You pushed yourself through schools. You can still do it. Just because you’re in a dark space in your head. Let’s get out of that dark space. And I if I can do that, I can do this. That’s where I came up with this whole idea.”
Cooper originally planned to do the workout where he lives, Arkansas, but didn’t get a lot of support.
“I started this by myself,” Cooper said. “I had no support and no backup even from other veterans. I really wanted to push this and make it a big thing.”
But Cooper told his family and friends about his plan for a 22-hour workout.
His brother, Allen, mentioned Cooper’s plan to a friend from his time in the Special Forces, Aiken County Veteran Council Chairman Lowell Koppert.
Koppert said he immediately knew he wanted Cooper to come to Aiken because of the 18,000 or more veterans that call Aiken County home and the philanthropic nature of the community.
“So, when Lowell came to me and said let’s do this, I said let’s go for it,” Adam Cooper said.
One of Koppert’s first calls was to Megan DuMont, manager of Max Fitness Aiken.
“We’re super happy to be involved,” DuMont said. “We want to bring mental health awareness across the board. And if we can partner in something like that, that’s going to be personal for a lot of our members here or at our other locations, we want to get that out as much as possible. We want to be as supportive as we possibly can. If we can help just one person, that’s something meaningful to us.”
Cooper said he would begin his workout on a stair climber. He added he was known for climbing stairs for hours.
“I’m going to climb stairs until the body says you need to get down,” Cooper said. “If it takes me eight hours or if I can do the whole 22, I’m going to push myself. I’m a person that doesn’t quit. My body will literally have to start to shut down before I get off those stairs.”
Cooper added he may run on a treadmill or swim once he can’t go any further on the stair climber. He said what he does during the workout will depend on how his body reacts.
Koppert said he wanted to have lots of community members to come out and support Cooper during the workout and help raise funds for When Life Sucks, an Anderson nonprofit formed to assist veterans.
Cooper added that he would not quit.
“I will finish the 22 hours,” Cooper said.
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