“CrossFit saved me. It’s what it did. And it brought me back out. Brought me out of the dark.”
Bruno Guevremont’s story is incredible.
The owner and head coach of CrossFit Stasis in Victoria, B.C., Canada is getting ready for the gym’s first CrossFit Games Open competition after officially opening its doors in August.
But five years ago, he was getting ready for something entirely different.
The 14-year Canadian Forces veteran was a leading seaman and a navy clearance diver with expertise in explosives. In 2009, he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan and served on a bomb-disposal team with a mission of defusing bombs and booby traps.
As first reported by Murray Brewster of the Canadian Press, on June 6, 2009, Guevremont deactivated a live bomb worn by a Taliban suicide bomber, who was targeting the Afghan president’s half brother. Without wearing a bomb suit, Guevremont was able to neutralize the bomb and lift the explosive vest off the suicide bomber's shoulders, saving numerous lives and preventing devastating damage. In deactivating the bomb, he also saved the life of the suicide bomber; interrogators later discovered he was mentally disabled and tortured into carrying out the attack.
Despite the heroic act, the Canadian army never formally recognized Guevremont. And when he returned from Afghanistan, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It was a really rough time,” he said.
It was in 2008, during his time in the military, that Guevremont started CrossFit. He trained using CrossFit to get in shape to try out for the Canadian special forces. But by the time he got back from his second tour at the end of 2009, he had stopped all training, hobbies, “everything,” he said.
It took another full year of inactivity before Guevremont got back to CrossFit.
“I got fed up (not doing anything),” he said. “I just started doing a little (workout) for myself, and looking at it as a task, as something I needed to do in my day.”
That one small workout in 2010—a 10-minute Cindy—gave him a huge sense of accomplishment. He continued to get back into CrossFit slowly. With each workout he finished for reps, for time or for weight, he felt as if he was moving forward.
“CrossFit saved me,” he said. “It’s what it did. And it brought me back out. Brought me out of the dark.”
During his return to CrossFit, and still dealing with PTSD, Guevremont worked out alone at the base gym in Victoria, unable to deal with large crowds. Before long, people started to join him. Little by little, Guevremont started to get more involved with both the community and with coaching.
During this period, CrossFit was Guevremont’s “ray of hope.”
“(PTSD) is very hard to describe,” he said. “It’s just this incredible ball of pain inside your chest and you don’t know what to do with it. You don’t want to be around anybody because nobody understands the pain, and there’s no way for you to describe it. It’s like a baby. They cry because something’s going on—they’re hungry, they’re tired, whatever—and they can’t explain it.”
A problem solver, Guevremont usually prides himself on working things out on his own. However, in coping with his PTSD, he gives credit to CrossFit, his faith, supportive friends and to hanging around the right kind of people: “The kind of people that make you feel good.”
Still finding his day-to-day life challenging, Guevremont knew the gym was his “safe place.” He found it therapeutic to not only to complete the workouts, but also to be a part of a community. It held him accountable. Coaching helped take things one step further, forcing him to come out of the darkness and to focus on helping others.
In 2013, the same year he retired from the military, he opened CrossFit Stasis.
Now officially retired, Guevremont is dedicated to the gym and its members.
“I love all my peeps,” he said. “Everybody’s special to me. I have people who have never done CrossFit and are young. I have people who have never done CrossFit that are old. I have athletes, I have special forces guys, I have navy divers, I have police officers, I have people that work in an office, I have stay-at-home moms. I have it all.”
Knowing from his own experience competing in the Open, he said his goal now is to get members of his affiliate excited to compete.
“I tell them it’s a very incredible experience to try out the Open, just to see where you stand up in the world,” he said. “Those are great workouts, and it’s a great challenge. People are getting excited about it.”
CrossFit helped the humble Guevremont rekindle his inner fire for competition and for life. Now, with a growing community—at his box and in his life—his mission is to help ignite that same fire in others.
“That is the sole purpose of why I do what I do,” he said. “The Open is just one more tool that I can use to find that spark.”