Programs for disabled athletes

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 17-23, 1996
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Programs for disabled athletes
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First Mount Washington. Next, the Alps!

Programs for disabled athletes
Question: I was hit by a drunk driver two months ago and badly injured. I am in a wheelchair, unable to walk. I will be recovering slowly and am wondering if there are any locations where I might look for intensive exercise for periods of one month or more. I expect to walk again but don't know when and with how much difficulty. Before the hit and run I was active in many sports: NYC '94 marathon, swimming, and tennis. As I am getting very wasted physically, I have been thinking it might be a good idea to enroll into a camp-like environment like an Ironman camp, or an intensive tennis camp, or just plain swimming.

Name not given
Ithaca, NY
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: There are plenty of outlets for shorter, sport-specific courses that can accommodate, but aren't limited to, athletes in wheelchairs. Vic Braden's five-day intensive tennis college in Coto de Caza, California, will group you with up to six players of similar tennis abilities--both able-bodied and disabled--for six hours of on-court instruction per day, plus off-court video analysis. Their facilities are wheelchair accessible, but you'll find that the emphasis here is very much on stamina-building and competitive tennis, not on how you get around the court. Five-day clinics generally run every week, year-round, from Wednesday through Sunday, and the $1,050 per person, all-inclusive rate will also grant you access to the adjacent country club and its weight room, fitness center, and spa. For more information, call Vic Braden at 800-422-6878.

Another option is Outward Bound's 12-day Puget Sound sailing course. This is open to people of all abilities, with a focus on seamanship and marine ecology of Washington's San Juan Islands. Courses run from May through September and will set you back $2,495 per person. Call them at 800-547-3312.

Well-regarded in the field of backcountry trips for all abilities is Minneapolis-based Wilderness Inquiry. Unlike the previous two companies, they focus on disabled or recovering individuals and run integrated multiday trips all over the upper Midwest, Rocky Mountains, and Canada. Their two longest are a 16-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon (about $2,550 per person) and a 16-day canoe along the Yukon's Big Salmon River, but you can also choose from a 12-day sea kayaking outing in Alaska's Queen Charlotte Islands ($1,595), a nine-day paddle on Utah's Green River ($795), or a nine-day canoe trip through Yellowstone National Park ($725). The focus of all of these programs is on teamwork, environmental appreciation, skill development, and just plain fun. Trips run at different times throughout the year; call WI at 612-379-3858 for more details.

For a long-term, general fitness program, I'd recommend working one-on-one or by correspondence with an exercise physiologist or personal trainer. A good place to start, if you haven't already checked in with them, is Cornell Athletics and Wellness Program (607-255-5133). You may also want to consider talking to Kevin Hansen, an Oregon-based trainer and coach of the U.S. Paralympic Track Team who works with a slew of able-bodied, injured, and disabled athletes--including Paralympic skiing champion Chris Waddell--via weekly fax and phone correspondence. He'll tailor an intensive training program to meet your needs and then chart your progress and make revisions where necessary. For more details, all Kevin at 541-485-1860.

Good luck!

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