Couples of LoLo: Paul and Michele McKenzie [Victoria BC CrossFit Gym]
We are two weeks into LoLo Love Month and all the feels of love and gratitude are still holding strong! For this week’s Couples of LoLo feature, we sat down with high school sweethearts Paul and Michele who have been together for 40 years. Getting to know this lovely pair and the bravery and infectious enthusiasm they emanate will no doubt leave a smile lingering on your face.
Tell us about your fitness journey!
Paul: “My fitness journey has been a lifetime of sport and fitness, balanced with raising a family and developing my profession. I was introduced to CrossFit three years ago when we lived in London, Ontario. My initial interest was peaked from it’s social media presence. I liked how it was instructed, the intention, the continued learning, and the community it fostered. That is what we noticed right away at LoLo. We stumbled in one afternoon and five minutes later we decided that it was were we wanted to be. As an aside, I’m a former hockey player, and I still play old fart hockey!”
Michele: “I love to look after myself and stay in shape. Honestly, CrossFit in Ontario was intimidating and it wasn’t the same vibe that I feel [at LoLo]. When you walk into Lolo, it’s like coming home to your dog – everyone is happy to see you and they know your name. Personal training with Renée has helped me get stronger and she is helping me work towards my goal of being able to do a pull-up. I was watching Mary [McAlister] train the other day and I was inspired. It made me think, I can do that, too!”
P: “She’s pretty impressive, she really is.”
What was the happiest moment of your life?
M: “There are so many! Anything to do with my family brings me the most happiness. [Paul and I] been very fortunate in our story – we’ve been together since high school!”
P: “Actually, we’ve both only ever been on one date – with each other!” (both laugh)
M: “I was in grade 9 and Paul was in grade 11 when we started dating, and we’ve been together for 40 years. We have two beautiful children and two grandchildren. They are the reason for us moving to Victoria [from Ontario].”
P: “My happiest moments are similar to Michele’s – anything to do with family. I think of the happy moments I had as a kid with my family. Meeting Michele and the amazing journey of getting to know her. Our wedding and when our girls were born. Those memories are crystallized in my mind. And recently, when our grandchildren were born. Twins born 7 min apart.”
M: “Making the leap to leave our entire lives in Ontario and moving to a new city was scary! I mean, we left well-established careers and friends.”
P: “Yes, it was difficult at times, but therein lies the beauty of it. It’s been awesome so far! We’ve been really intentional about finding the things that give us joy. We are here for the kids but we also see it as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. My educational profession is about putting yourself into new learning environments, which is what we intend to do. To push ourselves and to grow as a couple. CrossFit is a big part of that for us. It provides a constant state of learning and non-stop discovery.”
What was the saddest moment of your life?
M: I lost my mom was I was 19 and it was difficult at the time. Paul and his family helped me through that. It was a car accident so there wasn’t the time to say the things you wish you could say.”
What would you have said?
M: “Just that I loved her. Since I was 19, I feel that perhaps I didn’t say it enough.”
P: “My saddest time was when our youngest daughter was struggling with some personal barriers and her challenges with an eating disorder. In that period I had the role of being the enforcer to keep her nourished. It catapulted our relationship into a difficult phase. That was a sad period for me and there was no real roadmap on how to navigate through it easily. We have an amazing relationship now, but that was tough.”
Who is the most influential person in your life?
M: “Is it hokey if I say you?”
P: “I was going to say you!”
M: “You’re just my go-to and I trust your opinion.”
P: “That’s the first time you’ve ever said that (they both laugh). I feel the same way about Michele. One of the most important things in a relationship is to make them “your person” who can call you out on your BS and who really knows you. I think that’s the nature of a good relationship. Keep it honest, keep it real, and support each other no matter what. Also, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a father from my father and brother. But Michele is my person.
What are you most excited for and what are you most afraid of?
M: “I’m very excited about our new life [in Victoria], but I’m very afraid of it too because I miss the security of having my close friends and family close by. I am more introverted out of the two of us, if you haven’t figured that out already (Paul laughs), but again LoLo helps with that and I’m meeting people all the time. Also, you can’t hide in there and not talk to people so that’s a good thing [for me].”
P: “I’m excited all the time about a lot of things! To choose one, I am excited about this new chapter in our lives. It is kind of like tapping into an undiscovered country. I like going into the unknown and I like to go on trips where I don’t have a clear destination, which is the opposite of Michele (Michele laughs). I want to keep growing and learning. My biggest fear is the thought of ever losing that desire. Maybe it’s less of a fear and more of a caution since I can’t imaging a world where I’m not curious. Embracing it is probably good. It means something awesome is about to happen.”
Acknowledge yourself! What are you most proud of?
M: “I am brave. Moving here was a huge step for us and it took a lot of bravery.”
P: “I really do have an eternal optimism, which is my super power. It’s not an act. It’s truly my resting pulse and it’s not just for myself, but for other people too.”