Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Friend Al

WHY do you want to live a healthier, more active life?  And I don't mean to lose 10 pounds for your trip to Mexico this spring...

This sums it all up for me.  

I run and ride and push and climb and challenge my body 'because I can'.  In times of low motivation, painful workouts or mental fatigue this is what drives me onward, upward and through.  This 'pain' that my body is experiencing is a gift, not a punishment as so many see it.  Without a healthy body and legs that can climb I would never have these experiences.  Many others do not have this gift and one day I will not either.   Our health is a gift, not a given, and one that is time bound.  This is my 'WHY' - it resonates powerfully and connects with something deep inside my core.

I feel so grateful to not only have the gift of health but also the gift of this perspective.  Up until the summer of 2000 I had lived my life with the invincibility perspective.  Well, maybe that is too dramatic.  It may have been more like living in a bubble of youth and an ignorance of reality perspective;)  Which, don't get me wrong, is a powerful perspective in itself and one that is also the engine behind pushing the limits of the human experience. 

But in the summer of 2000, my reality shifted and I became sharply aware of the delicate fragility of the human body and the precious gift of health.  The following is an excerpt taken from my book, Fit & Free: Seven Steps to Achieving Fitness For Life.  I also shared this story at TedX Comox Valley in 2011 as part of my 'Human Potential' Ted Talk.  I hope that you find as much inspiration from this story as I do.  I also hope that it helps you begin to uncover your own 'WHY'.  Because once you truly know 'WHY' your want to live a healthier more active life, you will honestly be unstoppable.


If I told you “There are no obstacles in life,” would you believe me?

I truly believe that there is a way around, over, under or even through every obstacle. We may need patience and dynamic perspective but I believe we can find a way around any obstacle with determination and perseverance. Our planned journey may need to change course but we can all reach a more fit and vital lifestyle in our own way regardless of what obstacles life throws at us. This is how I live my life and I am inspired everyday by others who do the same.

I would like to share an inspiring story of determination with you about my friend Al. In 2000, while working as a British Columbia Forest Service Firefighter with Rapattack, one of my co-workers, Al Bergman, suffered a life altering injury that nearly cost him his life.

Al was based in McBride, BC with his crew and had gone out on a training run while he was on standby for work. He decided to go for a run on a trail that climbed to the top of beautiful McBride Falls.

While standing atop the Falls, Al fell 60 feet to the rocks below. He suffered a devastating spinal cord injury in his low back and was paralyzed instantly from the waist down. It took hours for his crew to find and rescue Al before he was taken to medical aid. He was lucky to survive but now faced life in a wheelchair.

Before his accident Al was a competitive cyclist who was up-and-coming in both road and mountain biking pro-elite rankings. He was 26 years of age when he lost the use of his legs.

Al worked relentlessly at the provincial rehabilitation centre to regain strength and to improve his post injury abilities. He turned up at the fire base later that summer and I will never forget it. He stood in the doorway with braces under his arms and took a few steps under his own power. Although Al never regained full use of his legs, he continued to work tirelessly on his rehabilitation and focused on his abilities rather than his disabilities. He traded his bike for a racing wheelchair and began training to compete at a national level in a new sport.

In 2004 Al represented Canada as a wheelchair athlete in the 400 meter event at the Paralympics in Athens, Greece. Just four years after his life altering accident, Al was still reaching for the stars.

And he didn’t stop there. After his accident, Al also met and married his physical therapist, went back to school to learn the trade of bike building and welding, then started his own company building custom bikes. All this after suffering an unimaginable injury just a few years prior.

I get goose bumps each and every time I share this story. Al’s courage and determination fill me with awe and inspiration. I selfishly draw on this energy in my own personal times of need. When I feel I have come to an obstacle or when life throws wild cards my way such as injury or illness I think of Al. When I remember his story I know that there are no true obstacles in life.

Al’s story also reminds me of the most important mantra in my life:
“Your health is a gift, not a given.”

Perspective is everything and when you remind yourself that your health is a gift and not a given your obstacles will not seem so great. There are no guarantees in life and we must take advantage of each and every day. You have your body and your health today but you never know what tomorrow will bring. Use your body and challenge yourself today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this Sarah. What Al is to you, my brother is to me. He is the reason I use my body...because he can't. And he lectured me at the tender age of 13 when he lay paralyzed in his hospital bed...he told me to quite feeling bad for him and to get out there and USE MY BODY. Because I could. Not doing so would dishonor him and I he is my biggest hero! I feel fortunate to have gained that perspective on health and fitness so early in life. Kim S.