Dave Earle is a boxer, personal trainer and mental health mentor, and also a member of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. He was invited to join our trust by an acquaintance who thought he might have the interest in helping to shape local mental health services.
Dave founded the Spit & Sawdust gym in Banbury in 2003, and teaches boxing and boxercise, an exercise format based on the training methods used by boxers. Running his own gym came quite naturally as a career choice.
“My dad was a boxer and my hero. I grew up with him,” Dave says. “I had done twelve years of boxing and five of boxercise, competing or teaching. I didn’t have many qualifications and it was the only job I had ever really enjoyed,” he explains.
However, every Monday at 11am Spit & Sawdust runs a session that combines an hour of fitness and another of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) coaching. Participants can do both or just one – and it’s free.
“Anyone with a mental health problem is welcome. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Dave says on his Anxiety Talk online.
How this combination of fitness and counselling came about is a longer story.
“It really started when teachers in Banbury asked if I’d work with teenagers who were struggling. There was a lad who had threatened someone. He did work experience with me, and I was able to give him a good character reference. He is now doing okay in his life. Then primary school teachers asked if could work with children who were struggling, and another school asked if I’d work with children with learning and physical disabilities. It just grew from there,” Dave tells.
Next he was invited to work with people with addictions by someone who worked in the rehabilitation services.
“That was close to me because my mother was an alcoholic and died in her 40s. So I trained as peer mentor with Turning Point and Aspire.”
“Then people started giving me awards!” he exclaims. He was voted the Cherwell Sports Person of the Year and was invited to Downing Street on the World Mental Health Day October 10th last year, where he received a Points of Light award from the then Chancellor Sajid Javid. The daily Points of Light award, recognised by the Prime Minister, acknowledges outstanding individual volunteers – people who are making a change in their community.
As more and more people got to know him, requests to get involved became more frequent and people also offered to help – for free! – hence the Monday CBT sessions. The counselling is provided by therapist Laura Buckingham.
Dave’s motivation is quite simple: he knows it is possible to turn people’s lives around by listening, by being kind, by building up confidence in those who feel they have none.
“I couldn’t believe I’m in this position where people actually listen to me,” he says. “As a child no one listened to me. I didn’t do great at school.”
“But then I’ve gone and done all these things no one expected me to do; things I myself didn’t expect to do. I’ve met the Queen, I’ve carried the Olympic torch, I was invited to Number 10 Downing Street. I can tell other people it is possible to turn your life around – and I really have been able to turn some people’s lives around.”
In his personal life and amongst people he knows Dave has seen how life choices and mental health problems impact on people’s lives and those close to them. Couple of years ago he gave a powerful TEDx talk about this in Banbury. In it he tells about a man who wanted to make Dave the beneficiary of his will – someone he barely knew.
“He said it was because I had a cup of tea and chat with him when he was thinking of killing himself, and because of that he was alive,” Dave tells.
“It showed me I can make a difference. We all can. We just have to catch people before they get to that point. In my gym I have a sign that says you need something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. I tell that to most people who come to see me, and I see them stopping to think if they have it. And then I work with them so that they’ll realise they do.”
Tribus boxercise + CBT coaching sessions
The class consists of:
60 minutes of Boxercise
60 minutes of CBT coaching and/or a reflection hour
The class is free for anyone to join. You can join only one of the hours if you prefer.
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