This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution to colleagues, clients or customers, or inquire about permissions/licensing, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com
When COVID restrictions on gyms were eased, I noticed a group of “lifters” at my club who I had not seen before the lockdowns. They seemed to be at the gym no matter when I was there and formed a little supportive group encouraging each other to push harder and heavier and were excited whenever someone achieved a personal best. My son was part of this group and he shared with me that some of the group members got to know each other online while working out at home during the pandemic, explaining why they were so familiar with each other when they finally got to meet in person.
The most beautiful thing about this group is that their ages range from 18 to 65, they represent different ethnic backgrounds and they speak with a variety of accents as they pump each other up. Over the months that I’ve seen (and heard) them, however, one young man has stood out. His name is Gabriel Nunes and I’ve watched him lift heavier and heavier weights while boosting the emotions of his fellow trainees. His energy and enthusiasm for what he is doing is infectious and has been rubbing off on everyone in his orbit making me want to get to know him and share his story with my readers.
Tell me about your background? I moved to Canada from a large Brazilian city in 2016 with my mom. When we arrived, we didn’t speak any English at all and had never experienced winter or snow. It was a challenging time, but, I wasn’t happy in Brazil and feel that coming to Canada was the best decision that we ever made. Since arriving, I’ve attended an ESL (English as a second language) school and then enrolled at Columbia College before earning my High School diploma online during the COVID pandemic.
What drew you to weightlifting and powerlifting? In Brazil, I started racing Go Karts with my dad when I was about 6 years old and then at the age of 8, I started racing professionally. When we arrived in Canada, I continued racing and started to work out as the cars got bigger with bigger engines and more physical demands. Eventually, I moved away from motor sports due to the costs involved and when things were shut down due to the pandemic. At that point, I was hooked on working out and got a gym membership and a personal trainer.
What impact has it had on your life? Training with weights has completely changed my life. When my personal training sessions expired, I decided to learn as much as I could about nutrition and working out on my own. I was always a skinny kid with no confidence who felt intimidated around bigger guys, so I learned how to eat better and was able to gain significant weight. I experimented with weight machines and dumbbells and eventually I discovered barbell training and powerlifting which has become my sport of choice. Powerlifting has replaced racing in my life, fulfilling my need to be dedicated to something and to compete at it.
Currently, I am enrolled in the Health, Wellness and Fitness program at Mohawk College and I’m hoping to attend McMaster University to study Kinesiology. I would love to coach and help others change their lives like I was able to do.
How did working out help you cope with COVID-19? Weight training provided me with a huge mental lift during the pandemic. I wasn’t in school and daily life was disrupted. Being devoted to something meaningful that I was passionate about gave me some structure and “something” to do. I arranged to train alone in a commercial gym that was closed and then bought some basic equipment for my home and converted the basement into a powerlifting studio. When there wasn’t much to look forward to, I was always excited to workout and share my experiences online with others.
What achievements have you experienced? After three years of learning, training, experimenting and pushing myself I will be competing in my first ever official powerlifting competition (which took place on Oct. 2, in Ancaster — Strength in the Valley-2). I’ll be deadlifting, squatting and bench pressing for my personal best totals on the day.
How is your life different than it was when you started? I’m not skinny anymore and I have way more confidence. I have a plan for my life and I have an incredible group of friends who are really more like family to me. We all met at the gym after becoming familiar with each other online during COVID and we support each other in our sport and as well as in our outside lives at school and work. We also hang out socially between workouts regardless of our ages and backgrounds.
Congratulations to Gabriel who finished 3rd in his competition and was 9 for 9 (which is perfect) in all of his attempts. He was 4.4 lb shy of qualifying for the provincials.
Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. To order copies of Toronto Star articles, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort