Darren Caine: THAT Guy You Want Helping to Build Your Community
Written by Samie Acevedo
Besides puppy cuddles and snagging the best Oly bar in the gym (you know the one. The really spinny one that guarantees good lifts), there isn’t a better feeling than that of belonging.
Feeling welcomed and belonging to a community can make all the difference in your life, in and out of the gym. And a big part of feeling welcomed in a community is about the people who make up that community. There are special people who always greet you with a hello, or a playful nudge. If you are nodding and thinking of someone like this, you might be thinking of Invictus member Darren Caine.
You might have met Darren in a Performance and Fitness class a few years ago. Or you might have been greeted by Darren while he worked the front desk or, more recently, in Comp class. However you know (or don’t know) Darren, he is one of those special welcoming people.
Darren grew up a standard 90’s kid running around the block and playing video games. Born in Livonia, Michigan, Darren lived in Detroit for 9 years before moving to Redford. He remained there all the way through high school and upon graduation, where he moved to Atlanta, GA, to attend Morehouse College.
He lived in Atlanta for four years, returning to Michigan during summers and Christmas break. Darren grew up in the suburbs but directly bordered Detroit, so he was able to always have a sense of what it was like to live in a city. Growing up, Detroit was not the greatest city experience, so it wasn’t until he moved to Atlanta that he got the true experience of what it meant to be in a big city.
Most of his city experience in Detroit was going downtown to watch the Detroit Lions play, as his family had 4 season tickets since around ‘95. Football was his life and what ultimately got him into fitness. Initially, it was training for the season with afterschool weights programs or running track to stay conditioned. After high school, he kind of fell off, settling for partying and the college scene, but there seemed to be something missing. He was missing that feeling of accomplishment only hard work can deliver.
While playing football-shaped his inclination for fitness and athletics, a few years later, after partying and enjoying himself in college, Darren found his way back to a fitness routine. He was working the closing shift at a video store, and the only affordable gym that was open after work was Planet Fitness. With $10 for a membership and bodybuilding.com as his guide, Darren started working on his fitness. Once he got his groove, he made an upgrade to LA Fitness. Now he was paying $30 for a membership and was a self-proclaimed “gym bro”. Life was good.
But Darren, like so many others, wanted to make some moves. He applied for a new job in San Diego, and within weeks, he moved across the country. He ended up in Downtown San Diego and on his way to his new job, he happened to stumble across Invictus. He walked in and decided to give it a shot. He remembers his first workout had snatches in it and mid-workout, looking around, and Invictus members Morgan, Nadia, and Cassie were all moving heavy weights while he was struggling to move the significantly lighter weight.
After that day, Darren was hooked. He consistently came into the gym and began working on skills. He wanted to gain those hard skills he saw other athletes do. He worked with coaches Kirsten and Bryce – and with practice and patience and some persuasion from Invictus member Marcus – Darren made his move and started Comp class.
What is most special about Darren is his ability to simultaneously dedicate his efforts to his own athletic goals and to, seek commonality, and build community. He enjoys being surrounded by athletes who are skilled and talented, and with the help from coaches, like coach Bryce, he is learning to enjoy his athletic progression and to stay in his own lane. And even when pursuing your own athletic endeavors can consume your focus and your energy, we can all take a page from Darren’s book and take a step back and take the time to say hi to someone. Darren notes that at the end of the day, we all hate the Assault Bike, we all are putting in the effort, and we all share the commonality of working towards our own self-improvement through fitness.
And while CrossFit isn’t for everyone, there are many people who do not have access to fitness programs and coaching because the truth is, CrossFit or fitness programs like CrossFit are not as available to disadvantaged communities. Darren notes the missed opportunities for communities and the great benefits CrossFit could bring. He suggests creating more outreach opportunities, making coaching education more accessible, and bringing an accessible version of CrossFit to communities.
This is just a small insight into what kind of person Darren is. When asking him what message he would like to send to the world he says, “Remind yourself where you are and where you’ve been on the road to where it is you want to go. Just show up, do the work and be yourself.”