I was always a tiny guy. When I was growing up I was the quintessential “Cross country runner” build, super skinny. However, between age and injury that all changed a lot, and as I got into CrossFit I didn't really notice for quite awhile.
I eventually realized I was packing on the weight. Sure, some of it was muscle and size, but with that was coming quite a bit of inflammation. The tough part was I wasn't just struggling with extra weight affecting my performances in workouts, but it was also having a great influence on my range of motion and recovery. The extra inflammation was keeping things tight and restricting blood flow and movement, which was increasing my chances for injury. And frankly I just wasn't happy with my appearance and the extra “fluff”.
So I did start to play with some different diet ideas, they didn't really work. So I hired a Nutritionist, who honestly was really general in guidance and just kept adjusting my calories and macros, hoping to hit the right combo. But there was no specific food guidance or true understanding of what to do in order to get the desired results.
I finally decided to take matters into my own hands, like anything worth pursuing it was going to be work. No other way around it, just work on my part. So with a kind of base line Macros and calories from the nutritionist before I left, I just started playing with foods. I would eat certain foods for a while and really pay attention to how I felt, energy levels, sleep, appearance, etc. I started taking stock of what foods specifically worked for me. And then I started playing with when I was eating those foods. It made a difference to eat rice for lunch, but not dinner, and while Brown rice may have more nutrients I discovered I couldn't digest it. After about a year of really figuring what foods was best for me I started seeing results.
I then worked with a second nutritionist, Makenzie Ellsworth at The Diet Doc. While I knew what foods worked now, I just felt like I needed some fine tuning to dial me in. And while Mak is a great nutritionist in general, I had more faith in her because we shared a common bond in both being paralyzed. I felt with this knowledge she would be able to understand me and my digestion better to dial me in. I’m happy to say I was right, she quickly made major adjustments to my macros and when and how I ate them. The good news was this was easier to adjust, now that I had figured out what food worked best for me to plug into the equation. Mak would give me a hard time that I was one of her easiest clients because I didn't communicate with her much. The fact was I just needed some adjustments because I had already done the work, and with the combo of the two I have finally gotten the results I was seeking the past few months. I look better, feel better, recover better, and move better.
Through this whole experience I’ve had two major takeaways. One is there is no magic bullet. We are all different, made up differently, affected by outside influences differently, and respond differently to things in our lives. So while we may seek some outside help for further knowledge, there is no set general plan that will work for all. If we want change we have to find out what works for us. Which led me to my second point I learned, because there is no general plan or magic bullet, there is no substitution for hard work. Anything worth succeeding at will require work. There are no shortcuts in life, we just have to commit to the goal, roll up our sleeves and put in the work and time with perseverance and patience. Don't settle, be willing to work for what's worth having and then you will find true success that makes you satisfied.
In January of 2014, my story took a plot twist. A day that started out like any at the track, left me paralyzed from the waist down, among several other injuries. Little did I know at that time, my life would be completely turned upside down. The extent of my injuries was a dislocated and shattered T12 vertebrae damaging my spinal cord, fractured ribs and sternum, punctured lung, dislocated left shoulder and hip, and sheared the head off my femur. After 3 months in the hospital and rehab, I was finally able to return home. During those 3 months, I had to relearn how to get dressed, move around in a wheelchair, relearn my body and how it works, relearn how to drive and get in and out of the car. Once I got home, life didn't get any easier. My family had to move and remodel a house and life at home was a major adjustment for the entire family.
Although the first year after my crash came at a huge learning curve, I am proud to say that by the grace of God and my faith in my path to recovery was guided by him. I believed there was a larger purpose for my life and where it was to lead me. I want my story to be one that read of perspective and inspiration, regardless of where my recovery and physical condition would leave me.
That is how I have ended up here today. I've always had a competitive gene and once you have it you always have it. I knew to be healthy mentally I had to find something to channel in to right away. My original goal was to get into downhill mtn bike racing. I knew I needed to get my fitness back in order to get into it, so I quickly started building a fitness routine and looking for options for a paraplegic. I found some CrossFit stuff online and started to use it to improve my fitness. I then found Wheelwod and discovered in the meantime I could do some competing there. As I got into competing in CrossFit I found myself hooked. That drive has led me to build a career in Adaptive CrossFit and competing on a global level. My fitness has allowed my independence to soar, despite being in a wheelchair. I can do so many things on my own and have been allowed to be apart of so many activities others wouldn't expect. God has opened so many doors and despite the challenges I face on a daily basis, I have been able to show others that we can be so much more than the limits that are put on us.
ATTACK WEAKNESS EXPLANATION-
Attack Weakness is my mantra. I believe we tend to measure adversity and look at some challenges to be more difficult than others. As someone who has experienced what is thought to be an extreme tragedy I can tell you their not. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, emotional, financial, relational, whatever, all adversity is equally challenging to the beholder going through it.
But then how do we handle that adversity successfully? We all have strengths and weaknesses, and adversity tends to show are weaknesses more clearly. I think if we put our attention to working on our weaknesses, attacking them, that’s how we become stronger and overcome adversity. Just little by little, day by day, attack and improve on our weaknesses and we will eventually overcome.
I said to them “I just need a place to do the Open workouts, I’m not looking to workout here. I have my own gym at home. I just needed someone to be affiliated with to do the Open”.
I thought about this the other day. If I was trying to explain to someone what competing in CrossFit is like compared to other sports. It was something I had to figure out for myself early on with coming from Motocross, where I used to race continually almost every weekend.
I think the sport I relate being a full time CrossFit Competitor to the most was Professional Golf. What?! Just in terms of competition style with local/regional events here and there, but then you have your Majors as your big key competitions. Especially when you have to qualify just to compete in those competitions (or Majors).
So just Finishing up Wodapalooza a week and a half ago I just finished my sixth major. However, what I want to share with you isn’t really about the competition itself, but more so after I competed.
I have noticed the last couple years after one of these majors I get somewhat sad or depressed for a bit. And it usually takes me a week or so to get my head back on straight to start to focus forward. So, this time when it happened again after Wodapalooza I really took some time to think about why it happened instead of just experiencing it and just getting through it.
At first, I thought perhaps it was just an emotional reaction to a physical result. After three days of 2-3 Adrenaline spikes a day, high physical excretion, and incredible emotion sways perhaps its just a result of my body completely being run down. That didn’t feel like it was it though. Sure, it might feed into it, but it’s the not direct cause.
And then I started thinking about past competitions and results. My goal in CrossFit has always been to remain consistent and “in the mix”, to always be there (qualify) and be a contender. Check! I would say I’ve accomplished this with tremendous success as I’ve qualified for 6 out of 6 and podium-ed 5 of 6.
So, I should be pumped reflecting on my success, right?! it’s not like I had a bad result and that’s what’s getting me down?! Then it hit me. That thought is what triggered what I was experiencing. What gets me down is a fear that my success has peaked. The idea that that was the best to come and now its over. Every time I realize the sport is growing, which I love, and it makes me question my place in it. There are more competitors, younger competitors. And more talented showing up each Major. I know that as I come close to 40 years of age with 20 years of high-level competition on my body I have less ahead of me than behind me.
I was glad I took the time to identify these feelings though. I think acknowledging what was really going on and what I was feeling makes it quicker and easier to live through so that I can move on to the next…
I don’t think my time is over yet and it just reminds me I can’t wait any days, because they are short lived. I need to enjoy the process and continue to push myself to progress so I can hang on as long as possible (who knows, maybe I’ll finally get that win?) and then when its truly done I can look back with no regret or angst about “should have” or “given more”.
I think we often feel things and go through them without really trying to identify why. I think we go through the motions and never really gain perspective, which is a missed opportunity to shape and grow. Don’t be afraid of your feelings or emotions, take time to have a therapy session with yourself and continue to pursue why it is you do what you do. This helps us build self control and a resolve to handle our future with a greater awareness.