A couple of years after becoming an amputee I realized I was gaining a lot of weight and had developed some pretty bad habits. I got a membership at the local gym and started trying to get into better shape. But, in order to lose weight you have to get your heart rate up for an extended period of time. So I started riding the stationary bike at the gym to get my heart rate up. They had TVs in front of all of the bikes so I could easily get lost in a show and have been riding for 30 minutes before I realized it. This was great exercise. But unfortunately, the skin on the front of my legs is very fragile, and I started to develop sores from the friction. I became very discouraged and thought I was doomed to a life of being over weight and unhealthy.
Soon afterwards, I was introduced to an organization called TAASC (The Adaptive Adventure and Sports Coalition). They had lots of different adaptive sports equipment they would let members use. I asked to borrow one of their bikes and began riding with them on the weekends. Before I knew it I was getting into better shape and feeling more confident in myself. I had also made some really good friendships during these rides. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to join some of the group in a marathon.
The closer the date for the marathon got the more excited I became. I had not been this anxious about anything in a long time. The morning of the race there were so many of my friends there. We were all excited and ready to show that all of our training was not in vain. We were not amputees, paraplegics, or anything else. We were cyclists. Our goal was to complete this race the best we could, regardless of our personal challenges. During the race we were all competitors, as well as friends, inspiring and motivating each other. Along the course there were thousands of cheering spectators. It seemed like they were cheering especially hard for us. We were not only overcoming the physical demands of completing a marathon on a hand cycle, we were also pushing our bodies to struggle pass whatever physical challenges we have. At the end of the race there was a celebration like you could not believe, all of us had accomplished one of the greatest physical challenges we had ever attempted, 26.2 miles non stop!
Cycling has been a huge part of my rehabilitation. It has dramatically improved my physical and mental health. By gradually challenging myself to do a little better or go a little further each time, I have gained lots of confidence and self esteem. But most of all, it has allowed me to meet great people who have become my friends, heroes, and support network. If I hadn’t been introduced to hand cycling, my life would not be the same. Today I am happy and healthy and I owe most of it to cycling.