This blog provides encouragement to people who are beginning training, returning to training, going through physical therapy, or recovering from injury. I'm not selling anything here, I just like giving, and getting, encouragement!

Training like a wheelchair athlete


Over the past few years I've had to come to grips with my limitations. No, I'm not in a wheelchair anymore, and haven't been in one for many years, but my ability to walk and run has been severely and permanently limited. I've spent a long time wishing that it hadn't happened, but it did. So I've been looking for inspiration, and have found it in in wheelchair athletes.

If you've never been in a wheelchair, except maybe for a few minutes rolling out of a hospital, I can't blame you if you can't imagine it. I wish it hadn't happened to me. I was so anxious to get out of the wheelchair, which I did. I've made great progress, more than anyone, including myself, ever imagined. I have compensated so well that most people who meet me casually would have no idea how challenged I am.

Using your legs is such a basic part of fitness that most people have no idea how to train without them. I have legs, and they work, but they hurt a lot, and if I ask too much of them, they will protest by making even simple things very difficult, sometimes for many days in a row. So I train my legs, but I can't get the same work out of them that I got before my accident. And I certainly don't take them for granted. Every day I consider that I have a "budget" of movement for my legs, and I use it wisely.

So no, I don't skip leg day (it's every Friday) but I can't really use my legs the way that most people do for cardio, etc. I've had to learn some tricks from wheelchair athletes. It does take a different mindset. Here are some of the tricks I use:

• Sit. A lot of exercises that most people do standing up can be done sitting. Not all of them, and it takes some experimenting. I like using the cable machine at my Fitness Center, and I sit on one of the boxes that are usually used for jumping on. It makes me self-conscious to sit on the floor, and the little bench just makes it seem more official-looking. But really, I'm just sitting.

• Use your arms. If you've never used your arms to get your heart rate up, it's an amazing feeling. You can do it anytime you're lifting, you just lower the weight you're using, and increase the reps. And keep going. And going. It's an awesome arm pump, by the way. You can do the same thing with your chest, and your back. I like to close my eyes and go into a kind of "zen" thing. You don't count reps anymore than you would count your steps running around a track. Just go. And go. And go.

Being injured can lead to some dark days, I know. And while miracles do happen, sometimes they're not all we would wish. Some things you can't change, and you just have to live with them. The things that you can change is where your attention should be focused, and you might be surprised.
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