John, now a Flywheel Scottsdale rider, was injured in Afghanistan on May 28th, 2010. He was on a regular patrol when the enemy detonated 300 pounds of homemade bomb, sending John and four others off a cliff and into a river, leaving their truck on a dry boulder. After being in a coma for two months, suffering a traumatic brain injury, and having both legs amputated below his knees, John’s doctors explained he would never eat, walk, or talk again. But little did they know, John’s future was soon to be a miracle.
It has been a long and exhausting journey adjusting to a new normal. John has remained resilient and positive, and the local community has played a big role in John’s recovery and integration to a civilian life. Read on for how he and his wife Christina found Flywheel, and continue to ride strong, together.
1. What first brought you to Flywheel?
John: I had heard a multitude of positive things about Flywheel from my wife, Christina. Plus, I had the realization that I was out of shape. It seemed appropriate to begin my venture of self-improvement in something that I have seen bring a positive impact for her.
Christina: I had never heard of Flywheel before but I started seeing signs around my office complex. Turns out, a Flywheel was opening in the area, and I thought I’d try it out. I immediately loved it and bought a membership right away. So much appealed to me…the TechPack was great because it held me accountable and could really push myself. The instructors were so fun and pushed me to accomplish so much more than I thought I was capable of.
At first, my goal was to go two times a week, but recently I signed up for The FLY Challenge and bumped it up to three times a week. That third weekly class really has made a huge difference in my fitness. I’m hoping to ride more in the future, but for now three classes a week is perfect.
2. Tell us how your experiences shaped your ability to push through challenges, overcome obstacles, and find success?
John: My experience has taught me to place my entire trust and life in God’s hands. There is no physical way for anyone on their own to learn how to talk, walk, speak, and think as if they’re an infant at the age of twenty-five. The amputation of both feet has taught me that I still do everything anyone else can do, but I just do it differently. Change is neither good nor bad, just different. It takes having a mentally flexible attitude to have a positive outlook that’s no longer dependent on situations or circumstances for happiness.
Christina: For me, personally, it’s all about hard work and never giving up. It’s not about how many times I fail, it’s about how many times I get back up. I have watched John overcome countless battles, both internally and physically. I’ve seen how he’s been so successful, he took one little “step” at a time and never gave up. Even today, there are still so many obstacles in front of us. Watching him and following his example has changed the way I look at a goal, a dream, or a challenge. There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that really epitomizes the spirit of what we hope to live out:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
3. How has Flywheel positively impacted your fitness journey?
John: It allows me to gain some bike saddle time without the multiplicity of concerns I have about balance, coordination, and dexterity. This allows me to more fully focus on the raw fitness aspect of cycling. The Flywheel bikes have taken away fear of stopping and putting my foot down, or falling or crashing into someone. I can have more control of my bike and push myself without the other elements from riding on the road.
Christina: I work so hard at Flywheel! My heart rate is maxed out and I’m putting everything into my workout. I zone out and don’t worry about any “to-do’s”. I also feel thankful that I get to work out. I have a great life, an amazing husband who’s my hero, and wonderful friends and family that love us.
4. Why do you feel fitness is so important?
John: Fitness is important so that I don’t get a heart attack while climbing the stairs. More seriously though, I know that simple cardiovascular fitness directly impacts coordination and dexterity from gross motor skills to fine motor skills and even cognitive reasoning and judgement.
Christina: For me, it’s about better sleep, concentration, mental health, confidence, and mainly just feeling good about myself.
5. At Flywheel, we’re proud to have a strong community of riders, staff, and instructors – how has the Scottsdale FLY Fam supported you?
John: They treat me like I belong there. I’ve never felt patronized or hesitant. I was treated like any other normal guy. That means a lot to me.
Christina: My FLY Fam (or my FamBam as I call them) are amazing. They’re real people, down to earth, and genuine. I can totally be myself and have had some amazing conversations where I left the studio thinking, wow, Flywheel is not like other gyms or studios. These are the type of people you want to hang out with on the weekend and invite their families into your home.
6. What’s one thing you’d like to tell others who may be struggling in class? How would you help them reach their full potential?
John: I’d tell them to not listen to their body which tells us to quit upon exertion, but to deny our emotions, whims, and feelings, to overcome the threshold of “pain” which is actually nothing more than discomfort. To quote my wristband, “harden the fuck up” and beat your body.
Christina: Never give up and have fun. Life is hard, and getting to exercise is a privilege. Be thankful and remember you have 45 minutes to improve yourself. We are so fortunate. Make this time worth it.
7. John, can you tell us more about the charity race you are training for?
Yes, I am racing in the Mojave Death Race to raise money for Operation Hero Project. This is a 250-mile race of running, road biking and mountain biking across the Mojave Desert. That is just the activity, but the funds we raise go to injured marines and their families and first responders and their families. I personally feel that this a way for me to pay forward the vast amount that people and various charities have given for me to live this quiet, peaceful life.
John and Christina with their favorite Scottsdale instructor, Erin.