Overcoming Obstacles and Getting Started with Fitness

Fitness has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Despite being born with no left leg and only half my right leg, I was involved in sports at a very early age. That included both wheelchair sports and abled-bodied sports. At first, it was just easier to get involved quickly by participating in an able-bodied swim team and in gymnastics at my local YMCA using a prosthetic leg. I’m grateful that my parents didn’t simply think that without any legs and no local disabled sports program that they knew of, that I shouldn’t participate in athletic activities. Those early years really set the hook for me to adopt an athletic mindset. I was moving! I was working! And most of all, I was having a lot of fun!

If you are just getting started, you don’t need the perfect gym or sports program to begin realizing the benefits of exercise. Start slow, and set attainable goals, then just START. That may mean going out for a run, cycle, or simply walking three times a week. Sit down and intentionally plan out your typical week and decide how much you can realistically do. Then commit to it no matter what happens. Don’t tell yourself you have a good excuse to skip or not start. You’ll want to start slow to let your body adapt at the right pace and avoid injuries that could put you right back on the couch. If you do have access to a gym with some nicer equipment, I highly suggest becoming a member. The right equipment and having people around you trying to do the same thing you are will help keep you motivated.

Injuries do happen though, whether from overdoing it or from other circumstances in life. It’s very easy during these times to tell yourself it’s time for a break. It’s rare to really need a full break from all exercise. Sometimes we have to just turn down the intensity and find a creative way to stay active. When I was training for the 2000 Paralympic Games, I had elbow surgery on my right arm. Part of me wanted to say, with no legs, and a right arm in a cast for four weeks that I should just rest. Instead, I found a willing friend to join me at the gym and rebound for me as I taught myself to shoot with my left arm. More recently, I had another procedure done on my right elbow while handcycle training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and was told to stay off the bike for four weeks. During those four weeks I did one-arm work on my SCIFIT Pro1 Upper Body Exerciser, swam laps in a lap pool, and strapped weights above my elbow to keep up my strength.

It’s all mental, and there is always a way to do it. Look to others who have paved the way, get creative, and just START!

What Health and Exercise Mean to a Paralympian

About the author: Travis Gaertner was born without a left leg and with only half of his right leg. Being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped him from being extremely active. Gaertner has won two Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair basketball and is training for a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in handcycling. Find out more about Gaertner’s quest.

Travis Gaertner on a selectorized chest press

Health and exercise mean a more enjoyable lifestyle in many ways. It’s not just for the elite athletes who have a need to feed their competitive drive, but for the doubter who feels they don’t have enough time or energy to get it done. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum in my life.

As a disabled elite athlete, activity gives me an outlet to fuel my competitive nature day in and day out. I love the challenge of trying to achieve measurable gains every week. This is a high objective for me and doesn’t change during family vacations, business travel, or at times when life is in its busiest phase.

But it goes much further than that, given I was born without my left leg and half of my right leg. At the age of almost 40, I could likely get away with avoiding exercise all together for a while. But what happens if I injure one of my three remaining limbs? Or, what does life look like as I age and simply have less strength? I’ve never let anybody push me in my wheelchair or pick up my bags at the baggage carousel. I enjoy an independent lifestyle and I really don’t want to lose that. I have control now, to stay healthy and help minimize any losses in my lifestyle later in life due to events I may not have control over. I have three beautiful young children who want me to pick them up, wrestle, and play with them. I want them to have a father who can remain very active with them 20 or more years from now as a 60-year-old in a wheelchair.

One doesn’t need to maintain a world-class training schedule to reap these benefits. Some basic and limited strength and conditioning goes a long way to increase your energy levels overall. It allows you to enjoy the ability to do more things for longer.

In periods of my life where I felt I didn’t have the energy to either get up to exercise or do it at the end of a long day when my body is tired, I’ve felt less energetic in general as I went about life’s day-to-day activities. It can feel counterintuitive when your body tells you it’s tired at the end of the day. Your perception is often that rest is the best thing. While rest is very important, without combining it with an active lifestyle, we are able to do much less while feeling more tired.

This new year, find a way to get active in a way that is sustainable with your schedule. Don’t jump from nothing to two-a-days, or even to working out six days a week. Sit down and figure out what fits best into your lifestyle and be honest with yourself about your ability to remain consistent. I promise the extra time and effort will eventually result in somebody who can get more done at a higher level of energy.


How to Train with One Limb – UBE

As I continue through a 6 week period of not being able to train with my right arm, creativity is required to avoid losing last year’s gains – today I did upper body ergometer training with one arm! I was able to get my heart rate up to threshold levels which really surprised me. It’s amazing what you can do even with only one limb!

#TsRoadto2020 #training #blogging #tokyo2020 #paracycling #paralympics #olympics #cycling #teamusa #follow #like4like #fitness #health #SCIFIT

How to Train with One Limb – Swimming

I am continuing to blog my 6 week recovery period after having a procedure on my right elbow. I last posted about ways to keep strength training which continues to go fairly well. The doctor told me I could swim as well! I’m not a swimmer by any means but I will take what I can get to stay active during this period and protect as many of last year’s gains that I can. Take a look:

#TsRoadto2020 #training #blogging #tokyo2020 #paracycling #paralympics #olympics #cycling #teamusa #follow #like4like #fitness #health #SCIFIT