I have a great treat in store for all of you.
Last week as I was tracking my daily workouts on the fitness social site Fitocracy.com I came across one of it's members who goes by the screen name of Clumpy Oatmeal. This member had given me props on a recent workout that I had completed (Props are basically the same as Likes on facebook) I decided to check out his fitness profile and was amazed by his short bio. It simply read:
" Ex-Ultra Runner. Arnold chiari decompression surgery, bilateral Bell's palsy, Fractured neck,Life throws punches. I get back up."
I was immediately intrigued and wanted to learn more about him and his story so I reached out to him and he agreed to tell his story and complete an adaptive fitness interview as well. This is truly an amazing and inspirational story, check it out below:
|Brian Harvey aka The Apprentice-Clumpy Oatmeal|
"Growing up, I was like any other kid. I enjoyed being outdoors and had a sense of adventure. Through my teen years, I turned to skateboarding and surfing. At 17, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Arnold–Chiari malformation. I started to lose feeling in the right side of my body. The party tricks of being able to pierce myself with no sense of pain, was great, but I ended up having a decompression surgery. After the surgery, I regained about 75-80% of feeling back.
I continued on with life and proceeded to take on snowboarding, wakeboarding, and anything that got me outdoors all the while, focusing on my career. One morning, at the age of 22, I woke up and the right side of my face was not functioning. I mean, I had zero movement or control. I freaked out, woke up my wife and I was screaming. I was terrified. I went to the doctors and after ruling out a stroke, I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsey. 2 days later, my left side of my face was paralyzed. I had bi-lateral bells palsy. Drinking fluids was a chore as fluids would dribble out of my mouth. Eating was an eye sore to other people as food dribbled out and was an unsightly scene. Luckily, I have no lasting issues.
As I progressed through my 20’s, I focused mainly on snowboarding, but most exercise was nonexistent. I ate a lot and drank a lot.
As I approached my 30’s, I was overweight and approaching 250 lbs. At 5’9”, that was *not* healthy. Facing 30, I thought now was a good time to get in shape. One evening, I decided to run to a friend’s house ¼ mile away. Pushing close to 250 pounds and completely out of shape, I stopped less than 100 yards from where I started. I know running is supposed to help you lose weight, but how the hell am I going to lose weight and get fit when I can’t even make it 100 yards without the support of a cane and my lungs burning. I was mentally depleted and walked the rest of the way to my friend’s house where we shared a bottle of cheap wine and smoked cigars into the wee hours.
The following week, I decided that I would take baby steps and what better way to get motivated than to spend $30 and sign up for a local 5K. My electronic application was filled and my money, along with a“nominal service fee” was sent.
Now, I had my goal – I just needed to figure out how I was going to get there. I figured the best way was to get a subscription for Runners World magazine and visit as many websites as possible to become engulfed in the running “culture”. I had the motivation and I had a training plan. Slowly, the weight started coming off and my 5K was getting closer.
As race day arrived, I was ecstatic! The enthusiasm was overwhelming. 26 minutes and 19 seconds later, I had finished my first 5K.
Staring at my ribbon and feeling pride for running 3.1 miles, I thought “What next?”
For the next year and a half, I kept setting up the races and knocking them down one by one. Disney Inaugural Half Marathon – done. Big Sur Half – done. Big Sur Full – done
I felt unstoppable. In my mind and I’m sure ONLY in my mind, I was a pioneer. I would run on roads at 4am, 5am, or whenever I could run. No one was around. I wasn’t winning awards by any stretch of the imagination, but I was achieving the goals I set for myself and THAT felt like a million dollars.
Then, I thought to myself “What next”?
I found a website geared towards Ultrarunning. I had no clue what this was. After searching the Internet, I found that Ultrarunning was any race above and beyond a marathon. This included 50K’s, 50 milers, 100K’s, 100 milers, and so on.
I just shook my head in disbelief. “How the hell can people run that far? There’s no way I could do that! I CAN’T DO THAT!” Then, I thought to myself: Why couldn’t I? What made those people so special? Why did I limit myself on what I could accomplish?
And that there skipper is where I made the commitment to run 100 miles. Because I thought I couldn’t, I wanted to prove that I could. Not to anyone around me, but to myself. I wanted to prove to myself that you know what, you CAN!
I bought every book and subscribed to every e-mail list I could find about ultrarunning. I read Ultramarathon Man, Running through the wall, and race reports online from people who completed these longer races. People wrote about finding themselves, completing something they never thought possible, and hallucinations caused by complete exhaustion. HOLY CRAP, this is for me! I HAVE TO DO THIS!
But, it’s not like I could go out and spend thousands of dollars on equipment and then *bam*, there I was! No, I had to put together a training plan that included ramping up for these races.
I scoured the Internet and put together training program that consisted of a modified marathon training plan with an emphasis on Long Runs.
As I started completing ultras, my confidence in myself and running was growing. I was enjoying the time out on the trails and road. I began to feel rejuvenated and to a certain extent juvenile! Being out on the trails reminded me what it was like being a kid, playing in the creeks of the city I grew up in, running through the strawberry fields, and feeling like an explorer. Sure, thousands of footsteps have fallen before me on the trails that I ran on, but there are times when I feel like I’m the only one; a nomad; an adventurer.
During all this, the fabled 100 mile trail run continued to beckon me.
I figured what the hell; I’ve been running for 3 years, why not? So, I signed up for the Angeles Crest 100. Mainly because it’s a relatively difficult course and there didn’t seem to be many hoops or lotteries for me to enter to get in.
I ended up finishing 2 100’s, paced roughly 80 miles of Badwater, and had goals of doing Badwater myself.
2 weeks before my 2nd100 miler of 2010, I was experiencing some weird pains. Training was going fine, but something was wrong. Things just weren’t right after a nasty wakeboarding accident.
I went into the Doctors to find out what was wrong and an MRI and X-Ray later, I was diagnosed with a fractured C2, Degenerative Disc Disease, kyphosis, and pressure on my spinal chord by one of my discs.
The doctors told me to stop everything. 2 Neurosurgeron suggestions later, I was in the hospital having a fusion. Trying to cut this long story short, the first Anterior Cervical Fusion failed, so I had to have a 2nd surgery which consisted of a posterior cervical laminectomy. 2 months later, my left arm went numb. Most of my cervical structure was nonexistent. I had prodded, poked, tested. Bone density was fine and I was able to digest nutrients. I had my 3rd cervical surgery within a 6 month span, the last being a replacement of my c3, c4, and c5 with a fibula. To be honest, this time of my life was filled with pain, misery, and depression. A lot of the things that were happening/said were in one ear and out the other. I met with 4 different neurosurgeons and a committee of doctors. Nobody knew what was going on. The best thing they could come up with was that the original Arnold Chiari Decompression surgery I had set a series of events in place and with my active lifestyle, It made things worse.
Thankfully during all of this, I had a family support system. The pain? I could handle. It was the mental holes that I desperately tried to get out of. I felt like a vegetable. All I could do was eat, sleep, and watch TV. Walking hurt. Riding in a car hurt. I needed to be outside. It’s where I felt ALIVE. The simple task of my wife taking me on a car ride was the glimmer of hope for my day. I was a dog. Window down and my hair blowing. My tongue was probably sticking out like a dog too, but that was probably due to the pain meds.
After a year of recovery and having no issues, I took up road biking and light weight lifting. Since I started weight lifting, I’m happy to report that I had I’ve been increasing my lifts and hitting PRs. I started back up in surfing to capture the meditative spirit of being in the water. I can’t run anymore, but that’s ok. I’m experiencing life in a different way. My focus now is a healthy body, mind, and soul. I get that by lifting, surfing, and most importantly, spending time with the people that mean the most to me. Life is so beautiful and I’m incredibly happy to share how beautiful with anyone that is willing to listen."
(PRs= Personal Records)
Check out pics of his MRI and Post surgical pics here:
The Following is my adaptive fitness interview with Brian Harvey...a fitocracy superhero by the name of The Apprentice-Clumpy Oatmeal on the fitness social site: www.fitocracy.com
How did you begin an Adaptive Fitness program?When I first started to lift, I was lost. I didn’t know what to do, so I started Stronglifts 5x5. From there, I progressed to Wendlers 5/3/1. I feel that the volume and slower ramp up allows me to have energy for my other passions in life.
Brian adds that now his PR's have improved to the following:
Overhead press: 180
Where do you train?
I converted a space in my garage for weight lifting. I have a power rack and 600lbs worth of plates. I ride my road bike in the country side. I don’t train for speed. For me, bike riding is an outlet and meditative. I don’t get consumed by others around me and what weights they lift or how fast/far they ride. What people do around me means nothing. What I did this week compared to last week is my measure of success.
What limitations do you encounter at the gym and how do you work around them?I listen to my body very closely. There’s a BIG difference between pain and discomfort. I learned this during my Ultra days. I embrace discomfort, but if there’s a glimmer of pain, I back off. If today isn’t a PR day, I don’t go for it. The potential damage caused by not being focused isn’t worth it. I’m in this for the long haul.
What does your routine consist of?I wake up at 4:30am. For lifting, it’s Wendler 5/3/1:
Monday – AM: Squats with Squat Accessory work PM: Pull-ups
Tuesday – Bench with incline bench accessory work
Wednesday – AM: Off PM: Pull-ups
Thursday – Deadlifts with lots of deadlift volume
Friday – AM: Overhead Press with lots of press volume PM: Pull-ups
(I give myself 1 “me time” workout)
Saturday – Surf for 2-3+ hours, depending on how the swell is hitting or road bike.
Sunday - Surf for 2-3+ hours, depending on how the swell is hitting or road bike.
How do you stay motivated to workout?
What is your favorite exercise?Not weight related, it’s surfing. Floating in the water between sets, it’s so relaxing. Seeing the sunrise as you’re out in the water – it’s the closest I’ve felt to God since running Ultras. When you catch the wave, nothing exists. You don’t have time to think about anything that’s happening in the world. Your focus is on the wave and what the wave is doing. It’s a dance. A give and take between you and the ocean. No matter what kind of week you had, when you’re heading down the face and shoulder, nothing exists but that time. Its freedom.
Weight lifting, it’s definitely Deadlifts. I’ve come to embrace it. I love how mentally and physically exhausting it feels.
How do you measure progress?Numbers don’t lie. I track everything that I’ve done in lifting. If I lifted more than the previous week, I progressed. If I did 1 more rep, it’s progress. If I rode my bike for even a ½ a mile more than the previous week, it’s progress. Even the slightest step forward should be considered progress. That fuels me for the next week.
What are you most proud of?Not giving up and always finding a way past my obstacles, either through, over or around my obstacles.
I always stress consistency to all of my clients, what advice would you give to someone living with a disability to stay consistent?Find the fun or pleasure in everything that you’re doing. Don’t feel like going for that walk? Lie to yourself. Just say that you’re only going to lace up your shoes. Done that? Say that you’re “just” going to go outside to the mailbox. By that time, you’ve probably fooled yourself enough to actually go for that walk, run, or bike ride.
Disabilities are what you make of it. Physical disabilities are just that. Physical. Choose to not allow it to impact your mental wellbeing. There’s ALWAYS something that you can do to better your situation. Don’t give up and become stagnant. Nothing good comes from stagnant water. I feel that the body is the same. Move your body. Move your mind. Move your soul. Being doing that, you’ll quickly feel alive.
Check out Brian's Fitocracy profile page here:
Thanks again Brian for sharing your story you are a true inspiration and a great example for Team Never Give UP! you said it best, Life throws punches....you keep getting back up!
ps. I decided to include a link here for those of you that are unfamiliar with Chiari Malformations and why I found Brian's story so inspiring before even learning about his trials and tribulations....
check it out here----> http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/detail_chiari.htm
Keep Fighting, Never Give Up!