People in Wheelchairs Have Gotta Get Away

Reading time: 2 minutes

This is something on my mind and one of those rare occurrences where I will indict myself and say, “do as I say, not as I do.”

At the time of my writing this, there is a global pandemic. But I write for the future as well as the present, so viruses aside, here’s what I have to say this week.

Unconditionally, going outside – preferably in nature or with people around – is beneficial for your mental health.

Go outside. Go for a walk. Go downtown unless it’s closed for the virus.

Too often people aren’t going outside and unless they have a really good reason to do something, people will migrate towards the most convenient thing. It could be laying down, watch TV, social media, eat, or doing something not necessary or the best use of time.

Especially for those that are in a wheelchair or have a seeming obstacle to going outside, this is why you must do it.

When I was getting my car, I sent a message out to a group and asked for car advice. Someone in a wheelchair sent me a long message raving and praising minivans and telling me that I absolutely need to get one.

I am adamantly against minivans on the grounds that I don’t like them. I can’t be persuaded otherwise, however, the argument I was told by that person along with many others who don’t share my taste in vehicles was that it would be easy to get in and out, which does matter.

It wasn’t the minivan that people loved, but the value it can give to those in wheelchairs – reducing effort to go out.

It’s true – getting in and out of a van or some maddingly modified vehicle is about as easy as opening the front door and walking in.

If it’s such an endeavor to get in and out of your car, the likelihood of not going anywhere will increase. It’s how everyone is. Ask someone if they want to go somewhere but then tell them they need to do 50 pushups first and watch as they reason how staying home is better because they have dishes to wash anyway.

I’m giving you an order, even in the thickest snow, hardest rain, and repelling heat, go outside and remind yourself that you’re in the world.

Don’t be a hermit that stays inside all the time, too many people have told me stories of people in wheelchairs who become secluded and never leave.

Of course, there are some exceptions, such as myself with college where I do find myself inside much of the time studying, however, I’m not afraid to get out and have an adventure or fall over a few times. Even so, I should be going out for a walk by the water at least once every few days, and I’ll start doing so.


Immediate actionable items: Mark times to go outside on your calendar. The first thing in the morning is best because as the day progresses, more will come up and you’ll find an excuse to not go outside.  Write down, “I will do ____ every X days.” as a contract to your mental and physical health.

Summary: If you’re in a wheelchair or have any obstacle of any type, that is no excuse to not go outside at least once a day and go for a walk, see some people, see some trees. It’s easy to stay inside, which is why going outside is so necessary.

Overdeliver:  Marking things on your calendar make you more likely to commit to doing them. Have a friend go with you to make it more enjoyable or go alone and take time to think and be present in the world.

Having someone else makes both of you accountable for the other and it’ll become something you look forward to.  

Happy Birthday Stephen – Pictures from Life

October 2nd is my brother’s 18th birthday (2020). I think he’s pretty cool, not to be sentimental or anything.

Go give him the love he deserves. (view profile)

We have heaps of pictures from our childhood all the way through to now, but here are the ones I could find in 5 minutes since I’m going to bed soon.

Some are good, some are funny, some are explicit. And most will have context supplied below.

Press play then start scrolling:

This is from a long time ago, probably in Chicago.
He also takes after me for being a stud. (you can clearly see when this was taken).
This is in Canada right before a meeting. We kept the facial hair on.
This is him at a gymnastics meet a very long time ago.
We went to the Bahamas for a cruise and got burnt
In the Bahamas again, before we got burnt. (We’ve done 2 cruises)
We went on a trail and he literally moves a tree out of the way.
In Africa doing a mission trip (Ghana), we got tailor made shirts and look rather charming.
At EAA. Holes in the socks and a stick for defense.
The photographer
Pictured Rocks, my friend Matt took us out for a float.
This was a while ago. Obviously on a bridge.
Apple a day.
Charming and slightly rebellious. Not shown here, but we’ve done some dangerous and spontaneous things
HHAHAHHAHA, he once shaved his head. Lots of confidence, this guy
At some fort. We have matching necklaces from Africa.
It can’t be some pictures without some sleep.
At a Christmas lights garden trail, he was illogically cold and pushed me through a half mile of wet mulch.

Finally, here is what will probably be our greatest contribution to the world. Watch all of these, if you think you can handle it.

My brother is likely the best younger brother, making me the best older brother. Maybe some day I’ll let him be player 1 when we play Lego Star Wars. Until then, we’ll keep up our shenanigans and push the limits of what we can get away with.

Paraplegic Gears/Tools of the Month: Lumbar Baby

Reading time: 1 minutes

Short, simple. Gear of the month.

The Problem:

If you’re in a wheelchair, or sit down for any length of time, then you’re likely to have bad posture. It’s not your fault. Most seats aren’t designed for great posture.

My car, and most others, have bucket seats that really sink you in. As soon as I sit in my car, I can feel the poor posture, and for the many hours I’ve spent driving, it’s crazy to think I would ever tolerate such a seat.

The same goes for my wheelchair, I find that it sucks me in and I struggle to sit up straight. Not only do I look less cool, but I feel less awesome.

I don’t know of many backrests on wheelchairs that have lumbar support, same for most chairs, couches, and cars.

I’m definitely not a doctor. I don’t eat veggies, and that instantly disqualifies me, but at the end of this post, there will be an article to shock you with how unhealthy sitting is and if you don’t believe it still, try and find credible sources that say sitting IS healthy. You’ll probably find some because the internet has a knack for that, but then go to medical school and see if you still don’t believe sitting is bad. Or just sit for a while and see how you feel.

This issue is especially important with those in wheelchairs who sit quite literally all day. Having a straight back and good posture will go a very long way, as will adequate back exercises.

The solution:

Lumbar support for paraplegics.

Invest in your health and you’ll live longer to invest in whatever else you please.

Here are some options that I find agreeable:

For the wheelchair: The Original McKenzie Slimline Lumbar Support

Let me tell you, this is about the only suitable one I could find. In a wheelchair, you don’t need much, and a lot of them are overwhelming. This is slim enough, it shouldn’t push you so far forward and out of your chair.


For the car/office chair: Lumbar Support Pillow


For the anywhere: BraceUP Stabilizing Lumbar Lower Back Brace


Why sitting down is bad, and poor posture is worse.

If you can stand, whether in leg braces or because you’re not in a wheelchair, do it. Stand up.

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Car Cushion

Reading time: a few

Your wheelchair seat is made for long term seating, hopefully.

Other seats are not. That’s the issue.

What to do?

Specifically, what to do in a car?

I’ve done extensive research and found a good seat at a good price. It makes any drive a lot more bearable.

This is the answer.

SUNFICON Inflatable Air Seat Cushions

I don’t recommend the color black, it’ll be hot in your car in the summer. Mine is grey.


Immediate actionable items: Buy this, or something similar for a seat in your car.

Summary: A cushion for your car.

Overdeliver:  This can double as a cushion for dire times, or on other seats that aren’t cushioned.

Cautionary Summer Heat for Paraplegics

Reading time: 2.5 minutes

In the summer, the sun is a scorcher and we all know that. If you don’t live somewhere where the heat gets cranked up, then this is just a little bit of knowledge for you. If you live anywhere that the sun cooks, this is important, especially if you haven’t experienced a summer in a wheelchair.

I was in Australia during their summer and right now I’m in the US and having almost equally hot days. I was laying out on my pool deck getting sun kissed and I had my chair over my face. I had my phone hanging up under my seat playing an audiobook and I was in relax mode.

I also had a towel on the deck under my legs as well as a patio chair cushion under my hips – the towel so that my feet wouldn’t be on the hot ground and the cushion so that I would be comfortable. In moving the chair from where it was to cover my face, the towel that I had on it fell off and I didn’t know. I had brought a white towel with me to set on my chair to keep it from getting too hot.

Likely, your chair, seat, and backrest are all black. Mine are. It keeps it from looking dirty, sure. Under the sun is no place for a chair that absorbs heat. Especially for someone who might not have feeling, getting burned by sitting on a hot seat or backrest, or burning your feet on a hot metal footplate is among the top three worst things you could have happen.

I have gotten burned before. It was my footplate, hot metal and the skin on my big toe clashed, and the heat won.

When I got up after listening to a few chapters of my audiobook, I realized the white towel that I had placed on the wheelchair had fallen off. I realized too late that the towel had fallen off and saw that my seat, which is both black and air inflated, was looking juiced up. I immediately open the airflow otherwise it would’ve popped. That has happened to me before as well, my chair popped a hole after the heat. Luckily I still have the seat under warranty and that was only like four or five months after rehab.

Even while I’m in the wheelchair, any part that isn’t covered by me will get hot and I then have to be careful not to touch it. When I go outside in the heat, even if my chair never saw the light of sun, the heat still inflates it.

This is my experience and the lessons are these, when your wheelchair is in the sun, cover it up or put something on it before you go to sit in it, otherwise a burn may ensue. Pay attention to the footplate and the heat of it, maybe even paint it white or silver (mine is black). When in the heat or going through any temperature change, understand that your air inflated seat will change pressure and you’ll need to be keen on observing the change and adjust accordingly.


Immediate actionable items: Check the heat of things with the back of your hand or inside of your wrist where the temperature sensitivity is rather acute and judge for yourself whether or not it’s safe to touch, sit, or anything else. Maybe even buy some lighter color items to lay over your wheelchair seat or backrest, etc.

Summary: Instead of you learning from experience that warm weather makes an air inflated seat pop or that it can make parts of a wheelchair so hot you burn yourself, you can learn that here and take the lessons with you all the same.

Overdeliver:  If you’re in a wheelchair and your backrest is a dark color and has any level of cushioning (mine has too much), then it can be both hot and cause you to sweat. Find or buy a white dry fit shirt or cloth to put over the backrest to mitigate the effects of heat.

Why You Need to Wear a Seat Belt in a Wheelchair

Reading time: 3 minutes

When I was in rehab, we were required to wear our belts and I didn’t like it. I don’t know exactly why, but I just didn’t want to wear it. I reckon it has something to do with being told I had to wear it.

When I was ordering my wheelchair, I almost didn’t get the seatbelt but I’m glad I did, I call it the adventure belt because, when I do have it on, it means that something awesome is going to happen.

I was once told about a guy who didn’t have a seatbelt or brakes for his chair, which is ridiculous, and hopefully, you don’t do that.

When I first got my chair, I strapped the belt below my seat and ignored it. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever and I was adamantly against it.

Then, I started to get into the Danger Zone, where things get exciting. Going up and downstairs, doing tricks, falling a few times, working out, doing handstands, falling some more, getting up ledges, and probably more that I can’t think of.

Imagine being in the car without a seat belt and hitting the brakes, your body moves forward. Think of speeding up quickly, you move back into the seat. Wearing a seat belt in my wheelchair keeps me locked in so that I don’t shift around while moving and gives me better control over the chair I’m in.

When I go into a door with a ledge, I do a wheelie, get my front wheels in, and then pull the rest of my chair up. Without my adventure belt locked in, I would likely pull my body out of my chair. Same for going upstairs. I haven’t made a video about how to do it yet, but it wouldn’t be possible without an adventure belt.

I’ve fallen a few times, at the time of writing, I’ve fallen six times. Each of them is a pretty good story and only a few of them I wasn’t wearing the belt. From experience, having a belt on helps big time with falling. Imagine you’re going down a fairly steep hill in the grass, you hit a soft spot and your front wheels dig in. You’re already tipping forward from going down the hill and so you fall forward. You could either catch yourself or at least keep the fall from getting too bad and use your hands to twist your chair to the side to avoid falling anymore.

If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you would’ve fallen forward and gotten dumped straight out of your chair, possibly caught yourself but more likely tumbled down the hill a bit and maybe even get knocked by your wheelchair falling after you.

When it comes to working out, the best example is doing pull ups. When I was in rehab, we tried many ways to do pull ups but never thought about keeping me in the chair. I’m here to tell you that staying in the chair is the best way to do it, and that’s accomplished only with the use of the adventure belt.

Even having the belt a little loose is all right, so long as you have it on.

There have been many times in the city where I hit a bump or crack that sticks out far too high and it brings my chair to a complete stop, I haven’t fallen yet, but I sure would’ve if I hadn’t had the adventure belt on.


Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, start using your belt. If you already do use your belt or you aren’t in a wheelchair, then I’m just preaching over here.

Summary: Wearing a seat belt in a wheelchair is important for those who want to do crazy things and avoid falling out of your chair.

Overdeliver: After a while of using your seat belt in your wheelchair, you may notice the clamp that attaches your belt to your chair moved. Mine moves all the time because of all that I do. You can easily find the right tool and loosen it, put it back to how it was, and then tighten it back up. For the chair I use, when the clamp moves out of place, it will hit the spokes of the wheel, which shouldn’t happen.

Patience and Love for Paraplegics

And Everyone Involved

Reading time: 5 minutes

Summary

If you’re in a wheelchair, or not, the purpose of this post is to help you realize that you should try to never complain and view life with patience and love.

Something I’ve seen more than I’d like is people complaining. Myself included, but I reckon I’m more careful/aware than most people.

In general, people don’t like to be around people that complain. In certain cases, people will tell me, because I’m in a wheelchair, that I’m allowed to complain. I don’t ever think that I’ve earned the right to complain or something like that, and no one should.

Everyone has problems, and for them, it could be a big deal but seem small when compared to others’ problems.

I’ve had conversations where a parent would tell me that once their kid started to complain, they told them to look at me and see that I’m not complaining and my issue is larger than theirs. The issue here is that everyone has a self-importance complex and the problems that affect them is a big deal.

The big question is how can we, in wheelchairs or anyone inconvenienced in life, stop complaining and have more patience and love?

I continually glance back at these wise words by Churchill to put me in check and stop complaining.

A man is about as big as the things that make him angry

Winston Churchill

What does it look like to live with patience and love? Here are some select stories.

Story 1

I’m meeting chatting with two guys in a wheelchair, I’m not particularly enthusiastic. Nothing to do with them in a wheelchair, but they’re just not exactly my type of people. Luckily, I have tolerance and unparalleled acting skills, so I stick around, listen and talk if a question is tossed my way.

 We’re in the US and each of us has dealt with snow, so the topic migrates to dealing with snow in a wheelchair, a task that isn’t particularly pleasant.

One thing to point out is that a person in a wheelchair wouldn’t necessarily talk to someone not in a wheelchair about the problems in snow. The issue with this is that when 3 of us in a wheelchair got together, the other two only complained about wheelchair specific things.

So as the topic migrates to snow, the other guys talk about how annoying or how much they don’t like the slushy snow and when it sticks to the wheelchair tires and then when they get in the car, it gets all dirty.

That’s a small problem, something that most people have with their shoes. A topic that I don’t care to partake. It’s a car. Just a car and cold, muddy water. In 10 years, I won’t care or think about the little problems. Even tomorrow I won’t think about it.

This is an example of how it’s important to avoid even the smallest complaints, because those are the ones that really don’t matter and take away from a good conversation. Especially when they really don’t matter in the long term. The truth is that if you’re in a wheelchair or not, no one wants to hear about your tiny problems.

Story 2

I’m on Instagram and I looked at someone’s profile that recently followed me. I notice they’re in a wheelchair, the motorized type that tends to be bulky – more than a manual chair.

They posted a picture at Starbucks (in the US) of one of the tables that has a little handicap symbol, a table meant to be adequate for people in wheelchairs and probably follows some dimension standard based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Because of their bulky wheelchair, they actually couldn’t fit at the table, their chair had armrests with controls to move the chair and the table wasn’t high enough for them to go beneath. This person was ranting about how terrible Starbucks is and how inaccessible the table is.

As I see it, I’m just happy that Starbucks even did anything. They tried. Nothing is universal. It’s a common mistake made by people in wheelchairs to think that the world needs to accommodate them completely when it doesn’t even do so for people that aren’t disabled.

Should we not have anything high on shelves because some people are short? Should we flatten any hill because they can be steep and hard to get up? The answer is no.

Patience and love are needed. Patience because the world isn’t going to cater to you immediately and if you just make people aware (in an understanding demeanor) then all you need is patience and soon enough, that table could be raised.

Love. Have some love and appreciation for the people that tried and thought of you. Even if the table doesn’t work for you.

Story 3

Here in Australia, a country that doesn’t have ADA, I’ve come across more than a few little issues as I’ve explored. There are many buildings with a step or two to get in and no ramp or sometimes the ramp is insanely steep and not possible without a little help from my friends. In the gym, none of the water fountains are accessible.

Having patience and love is important when it comes to raising issues, because what we fail to realize is that the world is not against us. No one put those steps there to spite you. Most people are good and want to help, they just need to hear your perspective.

At Curtin Uni, here in Aussie, there was a medium sized issue. The walkways are brick and the bricks had morphed into what could be considered brail for the jolly green giant. It was so bad in fact, that I would need to go very slow and be very cautious so that I wouldn’t hit a brick and fall forward. It’s almost happened a few times.

I brought up this issue, that the pathways are a high risk point for me to fall as well as literally anyone, who could easily trip.

I didn’t complain or attack with hate. I knew that it’s only natural given the number of trees in the area and I also knew that the uni cared about me and took it seriously. I just told them about the problem in the same way a consultant would if they hired one to find issues.

Nothing happened for a few months.

Patience was inhibited.

Some construction fences come up and after a few weeks, the path is smooth.

Going along this path is what made me want to write this. The point I’m getting across (ideally) is that when there is an issue of accessibility, realize that the world won’t accommodate you entirely, but if you kindly bring the issue in light and have patience, it very well may get resolved.

Here’s another quick-ish story.

There are a lot of hills at Curtin and all over the world. While at Curtin, I would be going up a hill with some friends and they’d mention something about how bad these hills are with a kind of “how dare they” tonality. Not really with hate towards the uni but just saying how inaccessible the hills are. And they are rather steep and getting a push always helps. But my typical response is that I don’t mind.

Sometimes hills do get tiring, but that’s the same for 99% of people (probably animals as well).

I don’t expect the world to level itself for the likes of me, I’d be upset if it did so. I love the world and if there are hills, then let there be hills.

All I need is patience to get up the hills, as well as a bit of strength or an amazing friend. The latter I’ve had the great fortune of having many of in my life.


Immediate action items: The next time you have something happen that you might complain about, remember the quote and if you can’t fix the issue by bringing it up or doing something yourself, then just have patience.

Summary: Don’t complain about little problems. Bring issues to light and they will likely get solved if you have patience and don’t demonize the rest of the world. Approach people with love and understand that they’re trying to help you, but they sometimes forget – as we all do.


Overdeliver: Start looking at little problems as a challenge or something that will make for a good story. When everything goes swimmingly, the water in uninteresting.

The Paraplegic’s Guide to the First Time in the Gym

Reading time: 9 minutes

Substance:
Pre-Gym
At Gym
Post Gym


Being fit and healthy is crucial. Every single person in a wheelchair needs to workout and stay healthy. There are many reasons. Making a good first impression, being able to do what you want, having self-confidence, keeping your mind sharp, becoming more successful, being happier, living longer, and most important of all, being independent. If that’s not enough, read this.

As you should know, I’ve only been in a wheelchair for a small fraction of my life. When I was a kid, I was super into skateboarding, then I moved to basketball, after that I got into boxing. Included in the boxing phase came weight lifting. I started getting more and more into it and the next thing I remember is somehow finding myself on stage competing as a bodybuilder, winning my division and best abs, going home with a sticky coating of spray tan and then turning 15 the next week.

Since then, I’ve been working out with a substantial amount of competitions tossed in the mix. I proudly have this website bookmarked.

Although I’m not certified by any means, through experience in the gym, self education and getting plenty of unsolicited advice, I know enough to merit giving advice on going to the gym for the first time in a wheelchair or otherwise.

My first workouts after getting injured were in rehab and more functional than to build muscle, though that’s also an aim. We did a lot of shoulder exercises and lots of reps with lower weight. With my reliable tenacity, I refused to use any weight lower than 9lbs and mostly used 10lbs, which were the highest the weights went. The strength and function that I gained over those 4 weeks in rehab lead to my rapid recovery.

Since I was a little more strength oriented, I was able to muscle my way through most things and figure out how to do it with grace later.

I loved doing any type of workout, most of the time I’d just smile from how great it feels to be working out and sweating. The feeling of progress and growth.

Sadly, when I left rehab, all that bravado and eagerness for the iron had taken an unannounced vacation. I didn’t go to the gym for a while. I didn’t even know how I would do it. I kept telling myself that I would go when I wasn’t as busy. To be honest, and that’s what I always aim to be, I was fucking scared.

I used to be king of the gym. I leg pressed 1000lbs+ when I was in highschool. People used to be amazed that I was 15 when I talked to them at the gym. When I was 17, they thought I was a college student. I grew into it and it became less unique and now I was about to go back in less than agreeable circumstances.

Going to the gym for the first time is a bit intimidating for anyone, but when you’re in a wheelchair it’s a little more so. Since I didn’t feel confident to go back to the gym, the inertia became a vicious cycle. It was’t easy the first few times, feeling like the king that had fallen off.

Even the man was scared to go back to his own kingdom!

I obviously did go to the gym, I adjusted rapidly because I planned out and used the basic tactic that I’ll be describing below.

If you find yourself getting worried or scared about going to the gym, then you’re in the same place I was. I did have a lot of prior knowledge, but all you need to do is watch a few hours of credible videos and you’ll know the fundamentals. Just remember that even me, the guy who was the guy in the gym was scared to go back.


For and before your first time at the gym, there are checklists. They’re pretty much mandatory. Unless you don’t want to make rapid progress, in that case you can just stop reading this.

Before we even get to the gym, we have to wax on and wax off.

We have to do our research.
We have to prepare.
We have to have a plan.
We’re going to cover all that first and then we’ll talk about exactly what to do during our first time in the gym.

Pre-gym:

Before we begin going to the gym, we need to have a clear goal. Having goals for the gym will motivate you, keep you on track, keep you focused and give you a purpose in the gym.

As a former bodybuilder, I know more than ever that having goals/desired outcomes and a plan is the way to be successful in the gym. If you go in without a plan, you’ll come out without progress.

Here’s what we need to do BEFORE going to the gym:

First, assess what you can do.

  • What muscle groups can you work out? Any muscles that you have control over can, should, and will be exercised.

Split these muscles into groups

  • For me, this is Chest, Back, Arms, Shoulders/Traps, and Abs.

Have a clear vision

  • Next, take a look at yourself and envision what you want to become. Do you want to be stronger? Leaner? More muscular? You have an ideal body image, that’s your goal, and you will reach it.

Write out your goals for each muscle group or workout

  • Over time, you’ll be raising your goals as you get closer. I like to always keep my goals out of reach so that I keep moving forward. For me, I chose specific workouts for each muscle group and created a weight and rep goal with a timeline.
  • An example would be to do 50 dips. I started around 25 and every other chest day I would do dips until I dropped and wrote that number down to see how close I was. I reached 50 after about a month.

Find a gym

  • Now you need to do your homework, find a few gyms nearby, call them and ask them how accessible their facility is.
  • If you’re deciding between gyms, some important factors are: the weights/machines they have, the entrance/parking lot accessibility, the locker room, and how helpful the staff are (probably the most important).

Do your homework

  • Once you have a gym to go to, you want to make sure that you show up with some knowledge.
  • Study the basics of the muscular system. Watch some videos explaining how each of your muscle groups function

You really need to know this because in the gym, we have to get creative and that means using some machinery in an innovative way. The best way I’ve found to be innovative in the gym is to master the fundamentals and after that, I can find unique ways to use anything in the gym to help me in working out a certain muscle group or doing a certain workout.

Here are the fundamentals, though I highly encourage getting more detail from another source.

  • Chest is a pushing forward motion
  • Back is a pulling in motion, squeezing your shoulder blades together
  • Biceps are a curling in motion
  • Triceps are a pushing out motion
  • Shoulders are any motion with stiff arms
  • Traps are a shrugging motion
  • Abs are a crunching motion
  • Lower back is a curling of the lower back to lift your torso up

Know your wheelchair

It’s good to know about how your wheelchair reacts to movements as well. An example of when its good to know is the case of doing overhead extensions – having a substantial amount of weight above and behind your head will cause you to tip backwards and fall if you’re not quick to react. The solution is to back up against something so that you can’t tip over.

Knowing how the muscles are exercised means that you can look at anything in the gym and visualize new ways to use it for different muscles. This is absolutely crucial for success in the gym. I’ve been complimented many times for my innovations in the gym.

Learn about the basic workouts

  • There are going to be at least 10 workouts you can find for each muscle, after seeing those, you’ll be able to sieve through and find the one’s you’ll be capable of doing. It helps to know which workouts exist so you can avoid wasting time discovering them on your own (or never discovering them).
  • Knowing what machines the gym has will be helpful in figuring out what workouts you can do. I have a list on my phone of all the workouts I can do for each muscle, half of them are unconventional and definitely not the intended purpose.

Build up strength to workout

  • Once you’ve learned about how the body works, you should really do home workouts. Before going into the gym, you need enough strength to lift the weights, re-rack them, transfer to the machines or benches, and have enough strength to use the machines and weights.
  • It’s also about safety, you’ll end up hurting yourself if you try to do too much weight, and if you can’t do a lot of weight, you’ll probably do too much just to keep your ego intact.
    • All you need to do is search for home workouts (normal ones) and then go through them and see which ones you can do or get close to doing. Knee push-ups, crunches, planks, etc.

Pay close attention to form

  • Once you’ve built up strength, search up the basic workouts such as bench press and learn about proper form. Having proper form is another very important aspect of going to the gym. If your form is bad, you’ll hurt yourself, which could have catastrophic results if you have issues with your back or injure your shoulders.

Don’t go alone

  • Find a gym partner(s). Ask a friend to come to the gym with you, or if you know someone who goes to the gym, ask to have them join you or if you can join them.
  • You can go to the gym alone, but it’s much more helpful to go with friends and have people you know at the gym. My first time back at the gym, I went with friends and it really helped me. Correction, *they* really helped me.

This looks like a lot, and it is, but don’t be afraid to choose only the ones that you want to do and add things you think will help. This list is all-inclusive and is meant to help you build up the momentum so that you can smoothly and confidently transition into the gym, if you have gym buddies already or have a favorite gym, then obviously you don’t need to figure that out.

First time at the gym:

This part is important. All of this is important, but when it comes to the first time at the gym, you’ll want to make sure to follow this.

Your first time at the gym, you won’t be working out.
Cosmo, you’re crazy!
Yes, I believe I am, but for your first time back in the gym, don’t plan on having a full work out.

This is possibly a new gym and even if it isn’t, the circumstances are new.

You will do some exercises, but not a complete workout. Your first time at the gym will be to scope out some potential workouts you can do and learn the lay of the land.

When I first went to the gym, I did a tour of the whole gym, twice. I looked at every machine, then quickly went through each muscle group in my head, and then analyzed what possible workouts I could do.
This is why you need to know the basic mechanics of how your muscles work and what workouts exist.

After tour de iron, you and your friends will loop back around to a few promising workouts, maybe the bench press or some machines. Having your friends with you, or a staff member, will not only give you confidence to try some new things, but they’ll help you with transfers or other things.
Trying out as much as you can is crucial for you to build up your list of “known-to-work” workouts.

While at the gym, go through your list of muscles that you can (and will) workout. Try to find 1 or 2 workouts for each muscle group. Give each one a try and then move on to the next.

It’s also a good thing to tell your friends about this process before they come with you so that they know that this isn’t going to be a real workout. Having your friends or staff members help you will also add to the creativity, with everyone pitching in ideas.

Take note of what workouts you discovered and for what muscle groups.

Post gym:

Now that you’ve gone through the gym, and you know what workouts you can do, we plan.

Write down each of the muscle groups and the workouts below. This is the foundation for your gym plan.

For each day that you go in, you can now take these workouts, mix them up, and add how many sets and reps of each workout you want to do. It’s much easier to do this when you have an objective.

Remember we talked about goals? For each of these workouts, you need to set a weight, rep, and timeline goal. I prefer using workouts as the goal because they’re very measurable, body weight likewise.

Keep a separate list of those goals and track where you are at least once a week so you can measure your progress.

This is how you’ll motivate yourself in the gym and to keep going back. I like to have end of month goals. I track where I’m at right now and then I’ll have about 3 weeks to reach the next goal.

Now you’re ready to go and dominate at the gym.

And if you want to see some workouts, tips, and trick in action, check out this amazing playlist I found on YouTube. (more will be added).


Immediate action items: Pick the steps you presume you’ll find most helpful, and go through them.

Summary: Lots of things to do before, during, and after your first time at the gym.

Overdeliver: Look at other people in the gym for ideas. Some of my best workouts are from seeing other people doing a workout.

Remember to stretch!!!!!

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Going for Speed

The Best Bearings for Your Wheelchair

Reading time: 4 minutes

Alright. Another month has passed and here we are with more life improving gear. for my favorite month – July – we’ll be looking at my favorite mindset. Going faster.

The problem we solve here is going slow. I really don’t like going slow. Another way to frame it is reducing the friction, so you use less energy and go faster and further.

I really don’t like working against friction. Right now, as I’m writing this in Australia, my bearings are completely shot. Rusted and broken. I’ll be heading home in 18 days, so I’m just camping out in the slow grounds until I get back home and address this monumental issue.

When my bearing are either broken or just the standard ones that I got with the chair, I feel like I’m pushing against some force. I actually am. Even when going downhill, I’ve noticed that I hardly pick up any speed if at all.

Having the least amount of friction allows you to exert less energy to go faster. It means that one push takes you further and you’re more agile. You’ll be surprised at the difference from the gear below.

Solutions:

  • Front wheel bearings
  • Back wheel bearings

The bearings that came with my chair, when I had them in the air and gave them a spin,they spun for only a few seconds. Once I upgraded, they spun for minutes.

Front Wheel Bearings

Front wheels in a wheelchair, I believe they’re called caster wheels, typically will be compatible with your everyday skateboard bearings. A very good thing because there’s a big market for skate bearings. The technical bearing size is 608.

You can either go all out if you’re serious about having the best or go decent if you want the minimum best.

One thing to note is that most skateboard bearing packs come with 8 total bearings, 2 for each wheel. Wheelchairs only have 2 front wheels, so this is like buying double.

Starting at the minimum end. Probably the best bearings you could get at the lowest price. Anything less than these shouldn’t be considered.

The recognized standard bearing. Reds. These will give you what you need and might be good enough if you want to go fast.

Pros

Cons

  • Will rust over time
  • Not the absolute best you can get
  • Other Bones Bearings have cooler stickers, but that’s an opinion.

Before we get to the top two bearings. Here’s a good in between option that I found.

Pros

Cons

  • Not widely known, not by me at least
  • Will also rust over time
  • Might not come with a sticker

For those that live in the fast lane, these two bearings are for you. On the expensive side, but commonly known as the fastest bearings around.

First up:  Bones Swiss Ceramic

Pros

  • Literally the very best
  • Super fast
  • Bragging rights
  • Super cool sticker to brag about
  • Ceramic doesn’t rust
  • The best

Cons

  • Only the balls are ceramic and the casing could rust
  • Expensive
  • Made out of toilet

Second up: VXB Full Ceramic

Pros

  • Individually sold bearings (can buy 4 instead of the pre-packaged 8)
  • Full ceramic to go even faster (less friction)
  • Not so expensive
  • Uses black ceramic balls

Cons

  • A ceramic case can crack, which will ruin the whole thing
  • Not skate rated like Bones
  • I couldn’t even find an ABEC rating
  • No sticker

Back wheel bearings

The bigger wheels on wheelchairs are much like (if not exactly like) bike tires. Luckily, bike (bicycle) bearings are also an existing market that we can dip into, and the water is warm. I’m back after eating dinner and doing more research, the water is luke-warm but erring on cool.

Bike bearings are few and far and they vary. I recommend taking off your wheel and checking what bearing you have. This is what mine looks like:

Cosmo’s wheel bearing

As you will struggle to see, it says “R8 2RS.” I also struggled. After some searching, I found that this bearing is 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 5/16 (inches), which is also, 12.7 x 28 x 8 (millimetres). Also called an R8ZZ or a 6001 bearing.
The measurements are Inner diameter x Outer diameter x Width

There aren’t any big players that make Swiss bearings of this size, or anything of distinct caliber like Bones.
I’ve found generic or ceramic.
Generic will get you medium results – probably better than the bearings that came with your chair but nothing mind blowing.
Ceramic (with a metal casing) will get you the results that come with ceramic, faster and better.

Here’s what we got. Keep in mind these are both individual bearings, so you’ll have to buy four.

If you want to look for another size bearing and you figure out the metric size or the name (6001, etc.) filter through this page to find a good bearing.

To make this process much more efficient, here are some amazing tools

Bearings are as hard to take out as

Bones Bearings Press Puller

To take off your caster wheels, you’ll need some hex keys (also used for bike maintenance)

Texas Best Folding Metric and SAE Hex Keys


Overdeliver? Absolutely.

There is a next level of speed, not the drug, and it involves some sauce. Don’t get lost in the sauce, you can actually use too much.

Bones Speed Cream Skate Bearing Lubricant

How to Ask Paraplegics About Their Injury

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

Talking to someone with an accent. We all hear it, but should we ignore it or mention it?

If you’ve been somewhere that considers the way you talk as having an accent (obviously its normal where you’re from), then you’ll have experienced that the first thing almost everyone says is something about your accent.

How do I know this?

I was in a coffee shop and saw someone wearing a hoodie with my – our – uni logo. I went up and said hi, we talked for a while and now we’re the best of friends (based on my analysis). We were having lunch or something and were talking about the first time we met and she mentioned that in her mind, she thought, “he didn’t mention my accent, YESS!!”

I definitely noticed it. I just didn’t think about bringing it up. But of course I was curious, and after talking for a while, I learned that she’s from Joburg (South Africa), not from asking about her accent, but in casual conversation about whatever and anything else.

With a name like Cosmo Socrates, rivaling names as unique as Elon, throughout my childhood I’ve gotten praise and jokes. I’m acclimated to being asked about my name and where it’s from (Greek), most people can’t refrain from vocalizing some observation about it. Seinfeld.

These two seemingly irrelevant examples – accent and names – are all to put in perspective the question of how do you talk to a paraplegic? How to strike a conversation with someone in a wheelchair, properly.

Some people have mentioned that someone once said “so, you don’t look like you need to be in a wheelchair,” and that can invoke some anger (it did), but really, I see it as someone who just doesn’t know what to say, wants to be nice (a failed compliment), and are interested.

In my experience, the best way to begin asking about someone’s injury is always with “If you don’t mind me asking,” and then followed by “how did you get injured?” or something in that discourse locale. Even though I personally never do mind, it’s polite and shows that you understand it could be a sensitive topic – respect.

It may have been a traumatic experience, and by definition, won’t be pleasant to recite and relive every time someone is curious. So that’s where the “if you don’t mind” part becomes important.

The environmental context is probably second only to trauma – that is, is it even appropriate to ask given the longitude latitude?

If I’m in the gym, I probably don’t want to tell you all about how I got injured, the details and my life thereafter, I just wanted you to spot me and then tell me I look good. Similar for being in the store or parking lot and about to get into my car.
I don’t mind the interest, but similar to someone with an accent, it becomes trite, sometimes inconvenient, and irritating to a point – having to explain how I got injured to everyone and their mother. This is one of those arguments of my time isn’t more valuable than yours, but equal and I just don’t want to say this story again.

The story doesn’t always have to be long. I have my one word explanation – “skiing.” Which leaves a lot to the imagination but resolves the curiosity. Likewise, I just say, “Greek.” if someone asks about the name. If you get a one word answer, that’s probably code for, I told you and let’s leave it there.

If you do find yourself post-mortem of saying something that pluck a nerve, you can always save yourself and say, “sorry if that’s rude/the wrong approach, I’m just interested.” People love when other people are interested in them.

Mystery isn’t a dreadful thing either, after all, satisfaction is the death of desire. If the probability of seeing someone again is likely, then leave the story for the second, third, or never time you see them. It will come up in conversation at some point and you’ll be able to focus on the most important exchange – learning about who they are as a person. You might think of it as dialing a wrong number, but not awkwardly. Just talking and learning, you have no face for that voice – no body either.

If you get to know the person first, they may be similar to me and have a website and YouTube where you can read/watch/listen to the story and relieve the mystery itch on your own.

Short answer: The best way to ask or bring up the topic is to just get straight to it. One thing you can be sure of is that it’s not the first or last time they’ll be telling the “what happened” story (results may vary).

Personally, I’ve never has anyone ask me about my injury in a rude way.

For those reading who are in wheelchairs, though there are rude and creepy people, most people who ask about your injury, whether it’s an elegant or off-putting performance, at its core it’s just someone who’s interested in you. It may well be the first time they’ve talked to anyone in a wheelchair or asked someone. Don’t mistake ignorance for belligerence.

There it is. My two cents. A while ago you could get a ride on a horse while your mom checked out at the market. Now, it’ll get you much more. (results may vary)


Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to have the short, medium, and long version of your story or a scripted way of saying “no” when asked. If you’re not in a wheelchair, maybe practice with leaving some open loops in your conversation, give mystery a chance.

Summary: When it comes to talking to someone in a wheelchair, there are best practices and considerations. Starting with “if you dont mind me asking,” is always great, being aware of the fact that your curiosity is not more important than the other persons time and it may be best not to ask depending on where you are (in the gym and places like that).

Overdeliver: I can’t think of anything. Usually I leave something out and put it here if it doesn’t fit like clockwork. I suppose it’s also important to know that people in wheelchairs are just people sitting down and you should take some interest in them before their injury, otherwise it’s quite one-sided – your interest and just their trite story.