Tougher than his stroke – how a fitness trainer got back on track

January 3, 2019

Fitness trainer, author, blogger, motivational speaker,  YouTuber… who is this guy and what can he tell you about stroke? Meet Richard. And actually, he can tell you a lot about stroke because he’s been through it first-hand. He knows how difficult it is to recover, but he also knows that the blood, sweat, and tears that go into rehabilitation are all worth it when you start to see your effort paying off.

Richard gave up a job in the corporate world in 1998 to start a career as a personal fitness trainer. He’d been seriously into the gym community and decided it was time to follow his passion. He continued to focus on his fitness and built up his clientele to make health and sports his life. But despite his dedication to health, he experienced a stroke in April 2013.

Richard at work in his gym

Stroke can hit even the healthiest of people

His wife recognized the first signs of his stroke, and he noticed too. He couldn’t talk, but he told himself, “no, this isn’t happening.” In complete denial, he tried to go on with his day. He jumped in the shower. His wife, however, wasn’t denying anything and called the EMTs. The EMTs arrived while Richard was still in the bathroom. They were calling to him to come out, and it took him a while to listen. He remembers feeling embarrassed. How could this be happening to him? His business was “Get Fit With Rich”. This didn’t reflect the man he was.

He wasn’t going to let a stroke get the best of him

After the stroke, Richard was paralyzed on his right side; his shoulder popped out of its socket, he couldn’t speak, his arm and hand were cramped and shriveled, and his memory suffered too. Doctors told him that there was a 98% chance that he could die from this stroke and only a small percentage that he would recover. Refusing to accept this news, Richard gave himself a pep talk on day three in the hospital. He was angry that this happened to him, and he decided he wasn’t going to let it get the best of him. Willing himself to flip his leg over out of bed and stand up, he set off all the bells and whistles from his hospital room monitors. The personnel rushed in to see him standing.

One week later, he told his doctor that he was going to run a half marathon. His doctor never doubted it but told him to give himself at three months to accomplish this goal. Richard left the hospital with this goal driving him.

Getting back to work and life

Eleven days after his stroke, Richard returned to work as a personal trainer. His core clients were still more than happy to continue working with him. He describes them as kind and loyal. The programs were modified a bit, but getting back to work forced him to speak, plan, and lift weights. Richard says that getting back to work helped him far more with his recovery than his actual rehab. In fact, he felt held back by his rehab. Because of his fitness training background, he knew he could do more than what was expected from him in rehab. However, he did learn some very helpful things in rehab like how to massage and ice his hand.

He pushed himself, but also listened to his body when he needed a break. Mowing his lawn consisted of 5-10 minutes of work followed by a break. Gym workouts were intense, but Richard gave himself time to ice his hand and to take naps if he needed them.

Goals set, goals achieved!

Fast forward to seven months after his stroke. Richard achieved his goal of running a half marathon. He completed the Polar Dash in Minnesota, a 14-mile run in the dead of winter. The temperature was -10F with a wind chill factor of -20F. He needed to prove to himself that he was tougher than the stroke.

And then he set his next goal of running another half marathon. A year after his stroke, he ran in the Pittsburg Marathon, a route that would take him directly past the hospital that took care of him after the stroke. As he ran past the windows of the rehab center, he saw the staff watching the runners as they went by. He yelled to them, ‘I was here one year ago,’ and they all cheered him on.

Over five years have passed since his stroke. In that time, Richard has continued to inspire and support other stroke survivors. He has written a book detailing his experience, has a YouTube channel which highlights the things that worked for him, and he continues to motivate people through his videos and blog, and encourages other stroke survivors never to give up.

And if all that isn’t enough, of course, Rich is working on another goal. He is working on getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for the Trap Bar Lift. Given his track record, we have no doubt that he will achieve this too.

One key takeaway from Richard is in order to get better, you need to train like an athlete. Maybe your goals look different than Richard’s, but stay with them and don’t give up. Train hard every day, and every day you will get a step closer to achieving them.

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