Tag Archives: SCI

Basic Principles of Staying Active While in a Wheelchair

By Chris Miller, The Mobility Resource

Anyone that has recently experienced a spinal cord injury may understandably find themselves discouraged or lethargic. But it’s important to remain as active as possible despite limitations.

The question is, of course, what sort of activity can properly be done from a wheelchair? There are certain activities that can be performed depending on your disability and advisement from your doctors or, if you are working with one, a physical therapist.

What Exercise Can I Do?


These exercises help with heart rate and endurance. Rowing machines are especially popular among people in wheelchairs, as they provide a great cardiovascular workout while also conditioning the upper body.

Depending on your location, you may find that your local gym not only has rowing machines, but tracks or studios that are designed for wheelchair sprinting. This is a great way to for those recently placed into a wheelchair to get accustomed to using it while also getting a nice workout.

If your doctor allows it, you may also want to look into swimming or, once you’ve gotten comfortable with the wheelchair, some form of wheelchair sport. There are variations of games such as basketball and badminton that are very popular among individuals in wheelchairs.

Muscle Strengthening

Proper strengthening of your muscles is crucial because sitting in a wheelchair can cause excessive atrophy. In terms of muscle toning, it’s suggested that you should work on the muscle groups that are constantly being asked to push your wheelchair forward. Proper training makes these muscle groups less prone to injury.

Strengthening your shoulders and back is key if you want to stay in shape while in a wheelchair. These types of exercises can be done from home using a series of resistance bands. You can also check with your local gyms to see if they have any wheelchair accessible equipment. While at the gym, ask if they know of any local programs or organizations for those with disabilities that are looking to stay active.

Other Activities

As mentioned above, there are various competitive sports you can participate in once you are comfortable with your wheelchair. From fast-paced basketball to leisurely strolls around wheelchair accessible nature trails, there is no end to the physical activities you can partake in.

As you can see, a wheelchair does not have to hinder you at all when it comes to staying active. As long as you can stay within your comfort zone and follow your doctor’s orders, you should have enough physical activities to keep your hands full.

Read More at The Mobility Resource: 7 Surprising (And Odd) Facts About Spinal Cord Injuries

About the author: Chris Miller is the director of interactive marketing for The Mobility Resource, an online adaptive driving marketplace. His team helps people with disabilities regain driving freedom through vocational rehab, veteran affairs and several non-profit and private organizations.

A graduate of The University of Akron, Chris holds a bachelor of arts in public relations and consumer marketing. Prior to his time at The Mobility Resource, he was an account director at a Cleveland-based marketing communications firm. It was there he serviced accounts for major brands including; the Cleveland Wheelchair Cavaliers, Chevrolet, Reebok, ESPN and the U.S. Army. Chris has been published on disability.govADAP.org and blog.NCPAD.org, to name a few.

Born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of muscular dystrophy, he is passionate about all things disability. In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his daughter while they dish up amazing meals for friends and family. Say hello to him on twitter @SweetMobility.

SCI Superstar: Ricky James

One word has been driving Ricky James since he broke his back – perseverance (and he has the entire thing tattooed up his left leg in huge cursive font).

If you know motocross, you probably know who Ricky James is (and maybe knew about him before injury). He was a rising 15 year old star in the motocross world who started racing at the age of 2 (they called him a “prodigy on two wheels”). He was even home-schooled so he could keep up with his crazy schedule.

Motocross is in Ricky’s blood and always will be. That is why after his accident (he hit a dirt embankment racing Amateurs Nationals in Lake Whitney, Texas), he was the last guy to ever think of wiping his hands clean of the sport he grew up sleeping and breathing. Are you kidding? “Motocrossers are a different breed,” says Ricky.

Why he’s fearless

Ricky became paralyzed after breaking his spine in half (check out this insane x-ray of his injury on his site under “What is SCI?”) at the T6-7 level, but that didn’t stop him. Thanks to a family friend who was also paralyzed, after only five weeks after his injury Ricky was back out at the track with friends. He is still so alive, still so strong (both physically and mentally) and has energy that just won‘t quit. I love that Ricky refuses to let his injury stop him from doing what he loves. In layman’s speak? He’s on the same bike.

Ricky uses a steering stabilizer for more balance, electronic shifting and an electronic start to make up for the use of his legs; and those mods are NOT cheap. Thanks to his sponsors, including SoCal Trucks, Colours Wheelchairs and SHOEI, he has the coolest set-up any adrenaline-addict paraplegic could dream of (and also thanks to help from the paralyzed motocross experts @ Para Pros Racing).

Ricky was back racing within months of his injury, and is doing a lot more on top of straight motocross. He also races motokarts (“adaptive motox;” a new sport created by the X-Games, which he was in in 2008) and off-road trucks. “I don’t want to be known as the wheelchair guy that races,” he says. “I want to be known as that really fast guy who happens to be in a wheelchair.”

What’s next

Finally healed up after two riding injuries (yep they still happen. He took a several month break after dislocating his shoulder), Ricky did something that always impresses me whenever I hear of a wheeler doing it – completing an Ironman triathlon. He went to Lake Placid, NY on July 20th to complete in his second (yup second) Ironman triathlon.

His first Ironman was in 2008 in Kona, Hawaii. Ironman triathlons are insane acts of endurance, requiring entrants to run/push a marathon (26.4 miles), swim 2.4 miles and bicycle/hand-bicycle 112 miles. Ricky is rocking his still-there abilities to their core.

As a representative for Life Rolls On, racing any way he can still get it (including NASCAR trucks) and living the beautiful life in Oceanside, Cali (a tad jealous of that one), at 23, Ricky has made his way through the wilderness of his youth in a beautifully refined piece (I‘m sure to many people‘s surprise). He just refuses to quit, and I, and the motocross world, love him for it.

Watch the videos!

NBC Sports profiles Ricky James (great interview with his parents, beautiful clip)
Fun interview with Ricky James (with an Aussie reporter) about Ironman (and see his multiple leg tattoos)
Ricky James talks about his accident and how he can still ride (from Transworldmx)
Cool clip of Ricky James in a PSA from Life Rolls On