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Temporarily Derailed by a Bike Accident: Tricia Downing’s Inspirational Exercise Story

Guest post from Tricia Downing

Imagine a moment so dramatic that it defines you for the rest of your days; that it changes what you do, how you do it, and calls into question every dream you’ve ever dared to chase. What happens when you arrive back at square one?

From bicyclist to handcyclist, Tricia Downing

Tricia Downing

For me, that day was September 17, 2000. At the time I was a competitive cyclist and my enthusiasm for the sport could not have been greater. All I wanted to do was ride, race, and ride some more. I loved it. During the summer of 2000, I packed my car and set off across the country to compete in as many races as I could. When I returned home five weeks later I was more excited than ever to pursue the sport with everything I had.

But on a beautiful fall day, while riding with an out-of-state friend, I was hit head-on by a car. The impact sent me soaring off my bike, over the front windshield of the car, and to the ground. I was paralyzed instantly.

In the first moments, days and weeks I dealt with pain, confusion and uncertainty. But after the initial shock wore off, I was struck by the realization that a wheelchair would now be my mode of transportation and I was terrified by the thought of having to live my life on the sidelines. Fortunately, my team of rehab specialists (doctors, nurses, physical therapist, occupational therapist and recreation therapist) had different ideas for me. On one particularly difficult day in therapy, my physical therapist said, “Trish, you have a long road ahead of you, but I assure you that you’ll still be able to do all the same things you’ve ever done. You’ll just have to learn to do them in new ways.

I didn’t realize at first how I could possibly do the same things I did before my injury, but as I write this ten years later, I realize that I AM, in fact, doing the things I did before. I am working a full-time job, spending time with friends and family, owning my own home, driving all the places I need to go and competing in sports.

Exercise and paralysis

Triathlete Tricia Downing Revs Up!

Being able to get back to sports has been one of the most important things in my life. I have always been an athlete. It is my love and passion and the fact that I was able to find activities that were adaptable to my new situation was one of the greatest discoveries of my life. It wasn’t easy to build my arms and shoulders to be able to handle riding a handcycle or pushing a racing chair. And re-learning to swim was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But again, it was advice from one of my therapists that stuck with me. She told me if I worked hard, did a little more every day, stayed patient and didn’t give up, that I could build on my skills and achieve in direct correlation to my motivation.

I started small, just riding the handcycle and pushing my racing chair around the neighborhood with friends. I’d swim a few laps every week, but just as my therapist said, I did a little more each time. I remember the first time I rode ten miles on the handcycle. It was like the biggest accomplishment in the world. If you would have told me that four years after that day, I would compete in my first Ironman triathlon, I would never have believed it. But working hard and doing a little more each day paid off. In 2005, I competed in the Redman Ironman in Oklahoma City, OK. Sure enough I had worked hard enough to be able to complete 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles handcycling and 26.2 miles in the racing chair. It took me 18 hours and three minutes, but when I crossed the finish line I realized that I was much more powerful than I ever thought.

My accident had definitely derailed me but it hadn’t stopped me. It taught me to look inside myself for strength and to not give up on my dreams and goals. The thing is that life is a lot like an endurance event and it doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or not. We all have races to run and finish lines to cross. And how you do depends on your willingness to get in the game, give it all you’ve got, and follow though to the very end.

book by T Downing, Cycle of HopeReaders: You are welcome to connect with Tricia at both www.trishdowning.com and her Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/RedefiningAble. In fact, we encourage such friendly behavior!

 

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Regaining Marine Corps Physique: Erik Therwanger’s Inspirational Exercise Story

Guest post by Erik Therwanger, of ThinkGreat90.com

Saving My Wife Led to Regaining My Life!

As a former U.S. Marine, I have always led an active lifestyle and remained in great physical shape for most of my life. In 1999, after ten months of marriage, my then 27 year old wife was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. We were told that it was very aggressive and she needed to start chemotherapy immediately. The effects of her treatments were devastating. To have more time as her caregiver, I left my job and started a career in sales. One of the side effects of her treatments was a violent reaction to the smell of food. To make sure that she did not encounter such odors, I started to eat out more often, usually at fast food restaurants in between my sales appointments.

Regaining Marine Corps Physique with Exercise- Erik Therwanger

In addition to eating poorly, I had stopped exercising due to how hectic my schedule was. After months of taking care of my wife, I  realized  I had stopped taking care of myself – I had gained over forty pounds. I began a ninety day diet and exercise program. I began eating three smaller meals consisting of a protein, a fruit, and a vegetable. I drank mostly water. In between each meal, I ate about a ½ cup of granola cereal (with a glass) of water.

I started a small amount of exercise, which only included about seven minutes of cardiovascular training, three days per week. My initial goal was to lose 16 pounds. At the end of my 90 days I had lost 42 pounds. I looked great and felt even better. The goal-setting process was a huge part of my success. I identified my initial goal of losing 16 pounds and attached many powerful reasons to it: I don’t want to die early, I want to be around to watch my daughter grow, and I want to feel good about myself.

During the first week, the least fun part of my program was cutting out the junk food that I had gotten used to. But after the first week, I was starting to see results. I had lost nearly seven pounds and I knew that I would not only hit my first goal, but I would exceed it.

The top four habits that I adopted to accomplish this goal were to:

  • Stay focused on my goal – instead of being focused on my challenges
  • Eat healthy foods – instead of eating fast food/unhealthy food
  • Drink a lot of water – instead of drinking soda
  • Exercise – instead of staying stagnant

But the most rewarding part of accomplishing my goal actually had nothing to do with me. I inspired other people to lose weight also. In fact, I have been asked so many times about my weight-loss program that I started to write a book, The Goal Formula which provides a detailed account of my story and my program.

Inspirational Exercise Story - Erik Therwanger, Marine Corps

Erik Therwanger today

For me, losing weight enabled me to regain control of my life in so many ways. It also allowed me to impact the lives of other people!

Readers: If you want to contact Erik and learn more of his story (which gets even more interesting and inspiring) go to http://www.thinkgreat90.com