For fitness enthusiast Nolan De Leon, tackling a Guinness World Record became an opportunity to raise funds for a non-profit that supports people struggling with their mental health.
In October, De Leon broke the record for the heaviest weight lifted by Turkish get-up in one hour. A coach at Fukumoto Fitness in North Kildonan and a master’s student in the University of Manitoba’s department of physiology and pathophysiology, he lifted 5,897.2 kilograms (13,001 pounds).
Guinness World Record officials are reviewing a video of De Leon’s attempt and other supporting documents before the new record is deemed official. (Chris Cox of Elora, Ont., set the previous record in May 2021, when he lifted 4,868.2 kg.)
As part of his attempt, De Leon raised more than $3,500 for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba. The 25-year-old downtown Winnipeg resident was motivated by the anxiety people are feeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s a great organization with great staff who are dedicated to helping people with their mental health," De Leon says. "It has been a difficult past few years, and I wanted to make sure people knew about resources they could access to help them get back up, essentially."
The last two years have been all about getting back up for De Leon.
He was in Belgium doing research when the pandemic hit in March 2020, forcing him to abandon his project and return to Canada.
"I was extremely depressed and disappointed with life," he recalls. "I was in bed, I was sad and I didn’t want to face the day."
He took small steps to emerge from his depression. At first, the goal was to simply get out of bed. Eventually, to further rebuild his physical and mental strength, he turned to the kettlebell training he’s done since Grade 9 at Garden City Collegiate.
One exercise in particular spoke to him: the Turkish get-up.
It involves an athlete lying on their back, raising a kettlebell over their head and moving to a standing position using a particular set of movements with the weight still raised overhead.
"When you’re doing Turkish get-ups, you’ve got this weight you’re holding up — and I thought that was symbolic," De Leon says. "When you think about depression and the struggles we face as a society, sometimes all you can do is ask yourself: can I get up one more time? Like with the kettlebell — no matter how heavy it is, can I lift it up and get off the ground one more time?"
The Free Press | Newsletter
Want to get a head start on your day?
Get the day’s breaking stories, weather forecast, and more sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning.
A unique challenge arose 55 minutes into De Leon’s attempt, when he dropped the bell twice — something he had never done before.
"I laid down, took some deep breaths and asked myself: can you get up just one more time? I tried to get all the distractions out of my head, and I was able to get up 12 or 13 more times. That was what broke the record."
De Leon, who is starting his PhD soon and will enter medical school in the fall, is already thinking about what fitness achievements he might aim for in the future.
"Whether that be another Guinness World Record or competitions of some sort, I’m definitely into pursuing strength wherever it’s going to take me," he says, adding he is grateful for the support of his partner.
"A huge special thank you to my fiancée, Kayla Atwood. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her."
If you know a special volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a list of volunteer opportunities for Winnipeg and surrounding areas. For more information about these listings, please contact the organization directly. Volunteer Manitoba does not place volunteers with organizations but can assist you in finding an opportunity. To learn more about its programs and services, go to www.volunteermanitoba.ca or call 204-477-5180.
The Women’s Health Research Foundation of Canada is expanding membership on its volunteer board. Applicants should have a keen interest in promoting women’s health by supporting research. A background in fundraising, accounting, or marketing and communications would be helpful. Applicants should send a resumé and brief overview of their community/volunteer experience, and their interest in the research foundation, to email@example.com.
Mosaic is seeking volunteers to serve on its board of directors. Board members work with the senior management team to develop a long-term strategic plan, ensure the organization is carrying out its purpose and provide professional assistance as needed. Send your resumé and cover letter to executive director Val Cavers at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 31.
The Canadian Red Cross is seeking volunteers. When disaster strikes, you can help, and the Red Cross can show you how. Go to www.redcross.ca/volunteer, email email@example.com or call 1-844-818-2155.