By: Larry Indiviglia, Director of Todd Durkin Mastermind Programs
It’s Tuesday October 2nd, 2012 at the 3rd Annual ESPN Women and Sports Summit at the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dove Mountain, Tucson, Arizona. I am getting ready to assist Todd Durkin and the Under Armour TEAM with Todd’s SWEAT class for about 40 motivated and inspired exercisers, 99% women. Todd, always has a rockin class ready to go with BOSUs, sportcords and just plain old bodyweight, and the ladies were checking in and ready to get after it. I noticed one woman in particular at the side entrance to the ballroom, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on, and not sure if she wanted to participate. She asked Todd, who was walking by, what the format was and he answered in a positive and welcoming way; “come on in you can do it,” and with that she entered and wheeled herself in, yea, she was in a wheelchair. She introduced herself as Alana; young, brunette, athletic looking with a bright and energetic disposition.
Todd kicked off the class with some great music and his trademark dynamic warmup and there was an infectious energy in the room that screamed, FUN! After 15 minutes Todd instructed the class to “partner-up” and 19 groups of 2 were formed, but there was one woman who did not have a partner, Alana in the wheelchair. Without hesitating I stepped in and told Alana that I would partner with her, and she was totally cool with it. I have been a fitness professional for more the 22 years and have worked with a variety of people in different training environments, but I have to say my next 45 minutes working out with Alana as my partner was special. As Todd demonstrated his challenging, and movement-based exercisers I had to adapt (with some assistance from Alana herself) Todd’s exercises to Alana’s capabilities as a handicapped person taking the class. And ADAPT we did, the BOSU, the core moves, the sport cord progressions, the agility work, the pushes, the pulls…and then some. There were teaching moments, there were learning moments, and there were many connecting moments using “exercise” and our love for it as our common thread. What I did was perform the exercises just as Alana was doing them, without any lower body assist. I put myself in her space and quickly realized how difficult it is to workout with that handicap. I adapted and Alana INSPIRED, not only me but everyone in the room. She actively participated and that was empowering; I had a blast and I think Alana did too.
After the final “relay race” and stretching, and Alana participated in both, Todd gifted two of his books to the most inspirational class participants. Alana Nichols was one of those athletes who received Todd’s book and the other was Jessica Long, who had no legs from the knees down, and was agile as can be, even with her handicap.
I was able to talk to Alana for a few minutes after class and we traded some contact information. I found out that she was a Paralympic athlete in basketball and alpine skiing and the first American woman to win a GOLD medal in the SUMMER and WINTER games. (see the below abstract for more detail on Alana’s career). We gave each other a big hug, and she was as thankful and appreciative as can be, world class in all respects.
As I share this short experience with you, I can honestly say it was a TEAM effort, that created some special moments: Todd provided his great energy and masterful teaching, Under Armour made it possible, I adapted and Alana INSPIRED.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|March 21, 1983 (age 29)
|Wheelchair basketball, Alpine skiing
Competitor for United States
While growing up in Farmington in northern New Mexico, Nichols would spend winters snowboarding in Colorado. During one such snowboarding trip in 2000, she attempted a back flip but over-rotated and landed back-first on a rock. The subsequent injury left her paralyzed from the waist down.
In 2002, Nichols was introduced to wheelchair basketball and quickly excelled at the sport. She received a scholarship to play with the University of Arizona, where she studied education. After serving as an alternate for the U.S. women’s team at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, was named to the national team in 2005, and helped the team win a silver medal in the 2006 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship. She later attended graduate school at the University of Alabama, eventually graduating with a master’s degree in kinesiology. Her Paralympic debut came in 2008 when, as part of the U.S. women’s team, she won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball at the Beijing games.
One month after the Beijing Paralympics, Nichols moved from Alabama to Colorado to begin training in alpine skiing. She had tried adaptive skiing in 2002, but at the time had chosen to focus on basketball instead. After watching the skiing events at the 2006 Winter Paralympics and learning of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, Colorado, she decided to pursue the sport as soon as the 2008 Summer Paralympics were completed. She began practicing with the NSCD program and showed quick improvement. Her first win came in February 2009 when she beat Paralympic gold medalist Laurie Stephens to take first in the super-G at a North American Cup event in Kimberley, British Columbia. She won the downhill event and placed third in the super combined at the U.S. Adaptive Nationals later that year. In March 2010, she completed her first IPC Alpine World Cup season with a first place in the downhill, second in super combined, and third in super-G. Later in March, she competed in the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver, BC, Canada where she won two gold medals, a silver medal and a bronze medal. She placed first in the downhill and the giant slalom, second in the super-G, and third in the super combined. Nichols is the first American woman with gold medals in the summer and winter games