The Ramblings of 4WheelBob
America's premier wheelchair hiker speaks.

It's been a bit on the weird side for me lately. If I Google "4wheelbob" for example, my head starts to swell far beyond standard hat sizes for all the kind things being said in a variety of blogs, news stories, comments to the blogs...geez, a guy could get caught up in all this stuff if he weren't careful.

A long day at the office offers the opportunity to feel harried, harrassed and beleaguered by the workload, yet briefly opens windows so I can find out what new photos, videos or accounts of recent 4wheelbob encounters have appeared. There's no future in being a short term media phee - nom, of course. My future, my reality is simply an upcoming weekend, and making plans to get out and find a new trail or revisit an old favorite.

But the filthy, dirty secret of my success is that it is not achieved by happenstance and Hollywood good looks. Despite the relative ease at which I handle most trails, there's a good reason for it. No, I haven't taken to a macrobiotic, super - energizing type of diet. There are no spring greens with shiitake 'shrooms hidden in my dietary closet. No, this Energizer bunny spends 4 - 5 nights in the gym after work, hefting weights big enough to challenge my curiosity, and which provide the motor that enables me to get out by myself in wilderness or secluded trails without fear. But my regimen has gotten comfortable, a fact I'm glad to have recognized. Because the key to getting in shape and continuing to improve - to grow stronger and gain endurance - is to constantly challenge yourself. That's today's observation.

I belong to a gym in Livermore that isn't a "Spandex" gym. It is managed by our local hospital, and because of that it is frequented by a clientele of people who genuinely wish  to improve their lives, not just pose in the big window for the high school kids walking past. I was befriended by a trainer when we joined, an optimist like myself who simply refused to ever let me get comfortable. He provided a workout regimen tailored, he believed, to my needs. I doubt he'd ever interviewed a new client in a chair who'd expressed a desire to roll up 14,000' peaks, and beyond. So he started me out on a basic core / shoulders / back (everywhere!) and arm routine that initiaqlly pummeled me into blithering submission. And my program wasn't what it is today, either. My first shulder presses began at 40 lbs. These days, 2 and a half years later and because I've continued to work to bust through my limits, I start at 220 lbs. And work up a notch each set from there. Triceps? They're now my strength, once an incredibly difficult problem area. When Josh started me out, I worked at 110, then bumped it up 3 levels each night. Now I start at the 250 lb level, and by the time my tricep presses are finished I've maxed out the machine - 315 lbs. and it's relatively easy.

My point should be obvious, but I'll state it anyway. In a chair or able bodied, finding a comfort zone at the gym is counterproductive. At least weekly I recommend working to your previous best then, just before you finish, bump the weights upwards a notch. Or if your an elliptical or treadmill user, don't plod along for the same amount of time every night. Stay on the machine just one minute longer than your previous best. Slowly move the speed to a faster setting. Your endurance will improve noticably, especially if you practice this method religiously. Hills that exhausted you will appear to have been graded to a flatter state. It's easy to give in to the "I'm too tired tonight" excuses, too. My method doesn't allow for excuses - so it's easy, eh? You can change your life, improve your health, speed, endurance and strength - but not by watching Chuck Norris or some cute blonde on TV trying to sell you a machine that does little except make the promotors a little coin - although it DOES stow under the bed. Working out is not easy, nor should it be. It takes tons of hard work. But the payoff is what it's all about.

For me, that payoff was being the first in a wheelchair to summit 14,246' White Mountain in California's Mono County. I won't call it easy, because it was a grind by any definition you choose. But the day after there was no shoulder soreness, no gasping for air even at high altitude. Years of training for this hike put me in condition to give me the best shot at success.

Tonight I began anew, for my next big summit is a mile higher than White Mountain. You can't train for altitude in the Bay Area, so you've got to do all you can to become stronger and gain endurance. So that's what I'll be up to 5 nights a week this fall and winter. Dragging, lifting, handcycling, challenging...I can beat you too, Kilimanjaro. Wipe that cocky grin off your face because by the time I get there I'll be able to handle whatever you can toss at me. Bet on it. 


2007-09-28 05:21:33 GMT
Comments (1 total)
Very well said Bob...
Training and preparation is so fundamentally important; especially for older person like myself!
2007-10-02 14:06:38 GMT
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