Struggling to stand tall

Debbie Jacob -
Debbie Jacob -

IN THE 12 years I knew Colin Sebright as my personal trainer, I recall only one time not seeing him smile or laugh. On the first day I walked into the Fitness Centre in Starlight Plaza in Diego Martin, Colin wagged his index finger in the air as I struggled to walk to him. My right knee had to be taped in place from my ankle to my hip, and I used a walker.

When I finally reached Colin, he said, “We don’t limp in this gym.”

“But I can’t help it,” I said.

“Oh yes you can,” he said.

In the next ten minutes, he taught me, “Chin up, suck in your gut and stand tall.” He taught me how to stop limping through life. It was the beginning of a physical journey that spilled over into my life emotionally.

Colin gave me the strength and willpower to face a long rehabilitation process made more difficult by a neurological issue I had that left me dizzy and flat on the ground much of the time. The ground felt like rubber under my feet when I tried to walk, half of my vision turned black, I hallucinated and had debilitating migraines with auras and dizziness. He figured out how to fix that too when no doctor could.

Everyone who trained with Colin considered him to be a genius in his field. He trained all athletes – cyclists, runners, water polo players, swimmers like Dylan Carter, George Bovell and Paralympic swimmer Shanntol Ince. For 36 years he worked in the Fitness Centre fixing everyone’s injuries, lifting our spirits and making us strong. He celebrated our personal successes outside of the gym.

Colin’s day in the gym began at 6 am and ended after 6 pm. He took a break for lunch and rested from 11 am to 1 pm. Often between 8 pm and 9 pm he would call to tell us how proud he was of our efforts or progress. Early on, when he tried to figure out strategies for my neurological issues, he called to say, “Your brain has me working late into the night.”

He gave me exercises that made me negotiate space in different planes.

“You only operate in one plane alone: straight forward,” he said. “In life, we have to move in many planes.”

He possessed extraordinary patience. For most of the first year, my training was done on the ground after I took a Stemetil for dizziness. When I began standing up, and he told me how to move, I would say, “But I can’t feel my leg.”

Frustrated to the point of crying, I lived for Colin’s patience and encouragement. Colin was our rock. I tried all of his time slots in a day and, as anyone who knew Colin will tell you, we never saw him lethargic, grumpy, apathetic or sad. He kept our spirits up, found doctors for us and made sure we were always as strong as possible physically and mentally. He believed training was not just exercise. It prepared you to face life.

His wife Joan says, “He always knew how to say the right things. He was a great husband and father. Such a kind soul. So passionate about his work and so willing to help anyone.”

Colin loved life, his work and people beyond all measure. During this 18 months of covid19, he held many of us together in our moments of despair. One of his last messages he sent to me when I was dealing with a personal matter was, “Don’t give up hope.”

I often told Colin, “If it wasn’t for you, I would have had no quality of life." I came to him in pain and feeling worse off than Humpty Dumpty. He transformed me into a 67-year-old without a single pain.

Nearly every day, I said, “The work you do is so important.” He knew that. I know he longed for his life and work before this pandemic. I imagine the physical adjustments his body had to make when he could no longer exercise as he once had.

Colin’s death by apparent suicide on August 30 is beyond our comprehension. Those of us who knew him take solace in our love and respect for him. In our deepest despair, we struggle to keep our chins up and stand tall. We work with the hope, courage and strength Colin taught us to find within ourselves. I feel like I am learning to walk again, one step at a time.


"Struggling to stand tall"

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