Bell Let’s Talk: How we Move Through Grief and Trauma in Fitness

FIC Explores the Science Behind how Exercise Impacts our Mental Health

(photo: Clint Pratch) 

By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Clint Pratch has lived through every parent’s worst nightmare. But every day his purpose and passion for fitness, and how it changes our lives, keeps him going.


Pratch, Key Account Manager for Matrix Fitness Canada, and a part-time indoor cycle instructor, has spent his career selling the experience of health and wellness – whether it is helping a new gym create an inspiring facility, teaching a heart-pumping spin class or getting a condo in the Okanagan, BC outfitted with the latest equipment. “Your body is meant to move, and it is a blessing to move. It’s the best medicine, and it is what we are meant to do,” says Pratch. “No one can say there is no connection between your body and your brain.”


In the early days of Pratch’s nightmare, movement wasn’t always easy.

Clint and cause
Clint and Caius

Just over seven years ago, Pratch woke up on a normal day, went to have a bath and was thrown into trauma by the piercing screams coming from his wife. As he raced into action, he saw what no father would ever want to see – his 7-month-old baby boy, Caius, cold and immobile. Waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Pratch performed CPR. “When the breath went in, I knew he was gone,” says Pratch. “I kept saying, ‘He’s going to come back, he’s going to come back’ and then when the ambulance arrived, I was yelling like a crazy person, ‘bring him back, please bring him back.”


Caius was gone. 


Pratch was launched into a new world, a place of deep grief and trauma, “The only thing that helps this level of grief and trauma is time,” says Pratch. “Even exercise didn’t help. At first, it was exhausting and a chore. You are living inside a nightmare, and it is like a big well that is overflowing. Overtime, the well drains but it still exists inside of you.” 


His business is built on close relationships, and in the first few months he was grateful to be a trusted partner to his clients. “Grief is real, it is a process, and it becomes you. I believe that trauma and grief make up the best parts of you, the wisest and the strongest parts of you,” says Pratch.


A review of studies on the impact of exercise on grief found that physical activity allowed a sense of freedom and escape from grief, and a distraction. For those who worked out in a gym and with others, there was an added mental health benefit of social support. 


In fact, for Pratch, there were three essential tools that helped him through his first couple of years of loss. One was his purpose to help the fitness industry. “I have always had this thought that I have a purpose here, and because of that – how can I not have an effect on the world around me? I am not just selling treadmills and racks – I sell health. Fitness has always been my saviour.”


He also leaned into exercise and his own workouts, “There is so much to gain from being able to work out. All you have to do is get through the first few minutes and your perspective on life changes. You transcend to a different human after a great workout. But, in the first few months there was no running from this nightmare,” says Pratch.


The third piece that pulled him back was hope: His wife was pregnant. “This might sound crazy, but we started wondering about reincarnation…if Caius could come back? But then Cooper was born, and Cooper is Cooper,” Pratch said, laughing. A few years later, the Pratch family added a little girl to their mix – but both children know about their brother who is never far from their minds.


“Grief becomes you. I actually believe the grief and the trauma make up the best parts of you, the wisest and strongest parts of you,” says Pratch. “You can use the experience and be a leader to others, to help them alleviate what they are going through.”


Pratch caught the eye of Matrix Fitness Canada, who headhunted him to take on key accounts and sales in Western Canada. ‘When I go into a facility that’s all Matrix, I know I played a big part in this, and I am so proud. I have sold fitness amenities rooms to about half the condo market in the Okanagan – for me, that means I have helped people embrace fitness. You keep the fire of life inside of you through purpose,” says Pratch. 


On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Pratch is inspiring Canadians to move. He will be teaching a cycle class at Suka Spin in Kelowna, BC at 9.30am – dedicating the ride to his son. 

Exercise is more than exercise. It is a catalyst. The story we tell ourselves can either be our downfall, or it can be a motivating factor for greatness. Caius was here, and there is a hole in my heart that I will carry forever. But his passing gave me wisdom and strength. You have to use the lessons of pain to teach you. I am a different person now, but I have more compassion. And strength.”

Erin Phelan is the Communications Director of Fitness Industry Council of Canada and the Marketing-Communications Specialist for Matrix Fitness Canada.

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