Climbing the Mountain
By Matt Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos by Geoff Schneider
“I think nobody is truly all good or all bad, and I think that we have both of it inside of us,” - Patrick Hall.
As you looked out the windows it was a typical Buffalo day during the winter. The snow was falling and the cold started creeping its way in. As you continue to notice the surrounding about you, you could see the dark and dreary day was going to stick around for a while.
You could almost say it was a perfect fitting for an interview. The person that was being interviewed went through his dark and dreary days. He hit rock bottom. He knew what it was like to see everything that he worked for blow up in his face - only to rebound and start a new.
On this day, it was kind of like the Buffalo weather. It was cold and dreary. it was a dark and miserable day. It was your typical winter day, but if you looked closely you could see the the sun trying to shine through.
For a brief moment there was hope that this day was going to turn out to be a good day. You could say that about life, sometimes. At the drop off a hat the day that looked like it would be the worse on record all of a sudden wasn’t.
Like this day that saw snow and cold, at the drop of a hat it showed promise. It showed the sun and everything that is associated with it - like warmth and hope.
Even it its worse life sometimes will show you that little glimpse that everything is ok. That everything will be better. Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom just to climb that mouton once again.
It’s easy to get to the top, it’s staying at the top that is difficult. Sometimes staying at the top means making the wrong decision at times. But, it’s how the person wants to define his or her life that’s important.
Not everyone is a saint in life. Not everyone makes the right decisions. It's how you learn from the decisions that makes you the type of person on this day.
On this day, we heard about decisions that shaped a person. Decisions that made this young man who he is today.
Pulling up to Hybrid Fitness you get the feeling that this is a man who is happy with his life. As we pulled into the parking lot the snow started to fall just a little harder. We were early for the interview, like we normally are. We like to get a sense of what is going on before we step right into the ring and get started.
As we waited, a car pulls up in the parking lot a couple spots past us. Out stepped a person that you know worked out. He was ripped, muscles everywhere. At first glanced you would think that he would be hard to get along with.
That was further front he truth. As we met up, he was nothing but nice - a gentle giant so to speak. Appearances can throw a person off, but once you were able to talk to the individual you could tell that there was a genuine niceness about him.
As he opened the door to this business, you could see that it was something that he has poured his heart and soul into. The room to the left was his office - nothing spectacular. It was a normal office with a desk, computer and a couple chairs. The window sat behind him overlooking the parking lot - and on this day the snow falling down.
To the right is where the magic was happening. It was the Ninja obstacles courses. It was where the business has led this former body builder and personal trainer. The room was just like his life clean and not to complex - something you couldn’t say about him a few years back.
The room to right was the fresh start he was looking for - but he doesn’t mind taking about his past. A past that saw him hit the depths that many people only see on television in the movies, In fact, his life could easily be turned into a television movie.
Growing up Patrick Hall was your typical jock. He played numerous sports while attending Bishop Timon High School in South Buffalo. He was the kid that when you saw in the halls you knew he was an athlete.
He had the build of an athlete. While sports was something that he did in high school, it was body building and working out that got his juices flowing. Most kids in high school try to stay away from the gym - even if they did play sports.
Hall was the opposite. He was a gym rat. He loved the gym. He loved working out. That became his passion in life. After high school his passion led him to enter competitions as a body builder. He wanted to show people what he was made off. He was proud of his body, and all the work he put into it to make it look good.
As many know body building is not an easy competition. Hall knew he looked better than most that were competing - but the results were there. The results weren’t showing up on the podium. He knew to get the results he needed to do something different.
He just didn’t know that what he was about to do was going to lead him down a path that was going to be destructive.
Everyone has heard the tales about using steroids. Using steroids helps you get the competitive edge. You see it all the time with baseball players. Players take some kind of steroid, normally HGH, and it helps the hit the ball harder and longer than those that don’t use.
There is a mental aspect to using steroids as well. Those who use feel like they are untouchable. They feel they can do nothing wrong. It’s an ego trip that might be better than using drugs in the first place.
As a body builder your body is your meal ticket. Everything on the body needs to be spot on if you are looking to win a competition. There can be zero issues with that body moving forward. Hall was doing everything the right way. He was eating right, working out right - but in the end nothing was coming off it. The wins weren’t coming - and the frustrating was starting to set in. Hall knew deep down inside he was better than most of the guys that were competing - but he would get over the hump.
So, Hall made the decision to try steroids to get his body as ripped as possible. Like everyone, Hall knew the consequences of his actions and what he was doing. But, in the moment it was about winning and being the best at the sport.
It was about the now, not about the future. Hall was looking for immediate results. Like most who use, he figured he could get off them whenever he wanted. But, drugs are lethal for a reason. They are addicting for a reason. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks it is. Once you start you need more and more and more, and you will find any way to get your hands on what you need.
“I did my first body building show in 2005 and came in the middle of the pack. I hadn’t used steroids at the time. I was upset because I knew I had workout harder than these guys who had beat me. I knew more about nutrition. I had dieted better and here I was in the middle of the pack,” stated Hall. “I learned that it was steroids that was giving these guys the advantage - so I took the I’ll show you mentality. Started using steroids and won the middleweight division of Mr. Buffalo in 2006, and from there my life just got really wacky.”
At one point during his use Hall knew he was in deep. He knew what he was doing to his body wasn’t right - but it’s a drug. It’s an addiction. You could almost say at one point it’s what made him tick.
“Everything came about getting money for steroids. It became about selling steroids. It became about pushing everything to the side and everyone a way to fill my own self identity as the body builder,” stated Hall. “That led me to some legal problems, some financial problems. It just wreck my life and I couldn’t see it. It took the birth of my daughter in late 2005. It wasn’t immediately, but after about year that I realized I needed to turn my life around.”
American Ninja Warrior
At the time when he was looking for a ray of light, American Ninja Warrior started taking shape in American. American Ninja Warrior is an American sports entertainment competition that is a spin-off of the Japanese television series Sasuke. To win the event, you need to get through a series of obstacles in a certain amount of time. It is a grueling event that even sees some of the best men and women fail.
For Hall this could have not come at a better time in his life. He had just gotten clean and had a little girl in his life. Everything was starting to come back together. This was something that he wanted to try and do - but do it clean. No steroids just good old hard work in the gym.
You could say he went old school. Going hard in the gym and building obstacles so he could practice to get ready to get on the show. For Hall though he knew to make it on the show he would need to tell his story - a story not many people knew about it.
He needed to come clean about the use and about hitting rock bottom. This was his chance to start to climb up that mountain again one step at a time. His story was going to be big news back in South Buffalo, but it was a story that needed to be told.
“Brian said to me Pat I think you have to tell your story. These shows are very human interest type of shows and if you tell them who were, who you are and where you’ve been, I think that’s your best shot to casted,” said Hall. “I had to watch it twice right away, because the first time I watched it I was numb. It was magical what he did with this video.”
It’s competition day. Hall is ready to prove to himself that he can get through this grueling challenge On this day the victory is going to be different. Of course he wants to win, he’s a competitor.
“It didn’t matter to me how I did. To me it was about representing the natural athlete,” stated Hall. “Don’t get me wrong, I would rather win clean than fall clean. But, I would rather fall clean than win dirty.”
This day, however, is about just competing clean. He wants to prove to himself that he can get the job done. As he is getting ready to start the challenge he notices a guy in the crowd. He also can pick out someone who is jacked up on steroids. His mind starts wondering as he wonders why this guy is starring him down. It’s a fascinating take as only Hall can explain.
“I remember there was guy to the left of me that looked like a steroid user, and it was like he was looking to see what I could to do,” stated Hall. “It was weird, but I remember that guy looking at me. I didn’t know it was like already buddy lets see if you can do this clean, or if it was haha you can’t do this clean.”
As we talked about what was next for Hall, it was fitting that the snow had stopped and the sun was trying to force its way through the clouds. The ray of hope that was this snowy day was kind of like the life that Patrick Hall has lived.
He saw the good, the bad and the ugly. Now he was moving onto something better. He saw that little ray of hope one day just like the sun trying to peak through the clouds. Even in his darkest days there was something there for him.
That something was Hybrid Fitness - his baby you could say. He now brings this new philosophy and passion for healthy, clean, positive living to Western New York through Hybrid Fitness Ninja Academy.
His academy has grown and it allows kids to be themselves. Like any business, there are different levels. You can compete on a national stage or you can build your confidence and just do the obstacles.
This venture has given Hall a new lease on life. He is giving back to a community that has not lost faith in him when he was at his lowest point in life. A community that could have turned its back on one of its own didn't - and now he is going about things the right way.
“Someone asked me one time would you do Ninja stuff with kids, and I hadn’t really thought about it,” stated Hall. “Then I said sure why not. So they brought their child in and it was so cool. I had so much fun. When I realized how much I had working with the kids I decided to market that.”
But, there is still a trust factor. People know is past. They know all the crap he did when he was younger. Now, Hall is asking parents to trust him with their children. You would have thought it was a hard sell, but it wasn’t.
The sell was easier than one would think.
“I’m very transparent and that was a concern was mind when I went into the kids business,” stated Hall. “Most parent’s come in and shake my hand. They say it’s great what you are doing. It’s interesting, when you tell the truth it disarms people. I think when they come in and they get to know me they realize it’s a good place. When they see my daughter here working with me they know it’s a comfortable place.”
Patrick Hall knows he has a story to tell He knows he can get through to kids in high school who are thinking about dipping their toe in the world of steroids. That’s why he wrote about his life entitled: "Falling Clean: From Addict to Inspiration: The Rise of a Ninja Warrior.”
It’s also why he goes on speaking tours throughout the Northeast. In fact he also has stopped by his alma mater at Bishop Timon High School to talk to the students about the dangers off using.
“To me I know had a bigger agenda to represent the natural athlete. So, I wrote my book where I talk about my use and my past,” stated Hall. “I speak a lot now in the Northeast. I talk about everything from motivating young kids with my ABC program (All Be Confident), to middle school where I do self esteem work, to all the way in high school where I try and scare the shit out of kids.”