Advancing National Service

Why is This Man Making Homeless People Do Push-Ups?

January 6, 2015
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Why is This Man Making Homeless People Do Push-Ups?
The boot camp has drawn interest from downtown workers who volunteer by holding plank and doing burpees. Facebook/Mark McIntosh
They're finding relief in boot camp workouts.

Boot-camp workouts, which include grueling regimens of push-ups, squats, sprints and more, are a privilege usually reserved for people of means. But in Denver, one volunteer is bringing the benefits of good health and strenuous exercise to homeless people.

Mark McIntosh, who was a sports reporter for many years on Denver’s CBS affiliate and currently works as a life coach and motivational speaker, is leading homeless men in workouts that he hopes will be life-changing.

McIntosh calls his boot-camp program A Stronger Cord. Participants once lived at Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter and through good behavior, earned individual rooms at a former motel turned shelter, The Crossing.

On the night that Jennifer Brown of the Denver Post visited them, they were grinding out sit-ups and running laps. “A sweat a day keeps the doctor away,” McIntosh tells Brown, “and the surgeon and the shrink.”

Several of the participants say that exercise helps them ward off depression and prevents them from returning to drugs and alcohol. Gulf War veteran Darwin Ben agrees. He has suffered PTSD since serving, and he says, “My life has been an up-and-down roller coaster ever since.”

McIntosh continues, “The physical piece is important — you get the endorphins going, but it’s also the teamwork. All men, when we are bummed out about life, we tend to go into our caves. This brings us all together.”

A Stronger Cord seeks volunteers to help lead the workouts indoors and outdoors (yes, even in the winter) near The Crossing and in downtown Denver. McIntosh hopes to expand the program through city funding, donations and more volunteers.

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