For Ed Shepherd, Runwell is a perfect avenue to bridge his passion for fitness and wellness with his struggles of addiction. “Coping with my addiction is a daily struggle, but I have to be open and honest about what I’m going through, even when I don’t want to be,” he admits. His involvement with Runwell has given him an opportunity to surround himself with strong individuals who share his passions, struggles and desire to help end the cycle, and the stigma, of addiction.
Shepherd’s father, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol, committed suicide in front of the family when he was just three years old. His grandfather also committed suicide. He grew up watching his mother and other family members cope by abusing alcohol, “My childhood memories of family life is encompassed by frustration of late nights of alcoholic binges and holidays that ended badly. Because of the chaos that surrounded me growing up, I used athletics as a coping mechanism and it still is to this day.”
Shepherd himself was never addicted to drugs or alcohol, but he’s struggled with other addictions that have affected his life in negative ways. Many people who cope with exercise often find they are addicted to it, and while it may be considered a healthy addiction to some, it can still have a severe impact on the lives of those involved. Shepherd says when he wasn’t using exercise as a coping mechanism, he turned to porn, both of which had a serious impact on his life and marriage.
“When my addiction affected my marriage, I knew it was time to seek help.” Shepherd worked intensively with his counselor to combat his addiction, and to this day feels therapy has made a profound difference in how he views himself and his addictions.
Following his dreams, Shepherd quit his full time job last year to start his own coaching business which has turned out to be more of a success than he imagined. He’s also working to open a running store, Runabout Sports Roanoke, which will cater to completely individualized data analysis for runners. “We will have a treadmill set up with video cameras to show how your foot lands and overall running mechanics, this information is valuable for a runner and provides them great deal of insight from targeting strength training down to shoe selection.”
He has partnered with several other wellness enthusiasts to open what they will call the Wellness Plaza, which will be home to retail, massage, physical therapy, and coaching.
Shepherd considers his coaching style and path in life somewhat nontraditional, but feels he is finally where he needs to be, motivating others on a regular basis, “‘Can’t’ was a word I heard a lot growing up, even had people say it recently when I was about to quit my job and start my own venture. I realized ‘can’t only affects you if you let it. I did quit my job, I did start my own business and I have seen success. I celebrate that.”
As far as harnessing the negative energy of his addictions, Shepherd says exercise, prayer, counseling and surrounding himself with strong individuals is what keeps him moving forward on a healthy path. “Athletics was a way of running from my past, but I realized I had to face addictions that were difficult to admit to, I had to run at them instead of away and I had to learn how channel that energy in a healthy way.”