I never intended to pursue a career to help individuals with limb loss. When I first entered the personal training space in 2010, I was just a college kid working a dismal retail job looking to get a little more enjoyment out of my work. I’d been spending a good amount of free time in the gym and one of my good friends was a new personal trainer. It seemed like a pretty easy decision when my friend said, “Trev, you spend six days a week in the gym anyway, you might as well get paid for it. And people will see that you don’t have legs and they will be inspired to train with you. It will be easy!” Nearly a dozen years later, I can tell you there is nothing particularly “easy” about helping people facilitate behavioral change like eating right and getting physically active, let alone addressing those challenges as a person with amputation.
The need for fitness coaches dedicated to working with people with physical challenges became evident to me during a visit to Brook Army Medical Center in 2013. I was touring the facility, and for some reason at that time, the therapy gym was totally empty. Maybe it was not a busy time for the facility, so my wheels started turning. I thought, “Here they have this awesome space to help wounded service members get back to physical activity, and no one is using it. I’m a trainer. I work in a gym every day using the same equipment they have here and have been able to improve my quality of life through strength training and other forms of exercise, so I can help others do the same!” And so, FitBunch was created with the goal to help people with limb loss rebuild their bodies and reclaim their independence by bridging the gap left between traditional therapy programs and “real life” functionality.
In the relatively short time since then, I have coached more than a hundred of my fellow amputees through in-person and online platforms. My clients range from those that have had their amputation as short as three weeks and those who have been amputees longer than I’ve been alive to new amputees seeking pre-prosthetic training and members of the U.S. Paralympic track and field team. Thanks to the evolution of social media, I’ve been fortunate to build a following and freely share a lot of the methods and techniques I’ve used to help myself and my clients — not just in the gym, but real life as well!
I am proud to offer individual fitness and nutrition coaching for amputees in-person at my facility near St. Louis, MO, as well as via virtual settings such as Zoom, FaceTime, and other remote appbased platforms accessible at my website: fitbunch.net. I created a free Facebook group called Amputee Health and Fitness, which has grown to over 2600 members, including people with amputation and many practitioners who work with amputees. The group is designed to help people share ideas about their goals and progress, discuss challenges and find solutions. I actively share all my content on Instagram @FitBunch, and my website has several resources and videos to help make rebuilding your body and reclaiming your independence an attainable process. If you would like to get involved, please visit fitbunch.net to enroll in coaching services or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Trevor Bunch
I learned how to do yoga on a rock in the Mohave Desert when I was 23 years old; that was over 36 years ago. Over the years, my yoga practice changed with the improvement in prosthetics and yoga props. Years ago, yoga was done on a blanket, which slid all over the floor, forcing me to learn quickly how to stabilize my body and find balance. I was the only amputee in my yoga class, and many yoga teachers had no idea what to do to assist me, so I developed my own unique approach to yoga. Eventually, I became a certified yoga teacher. It was not easy. After 10–15-hours a day for 10 days, I was immersed in doing yoga, and my legs began to hurt and my prosthesis started to fall apart. I placed band aids on the bottom of my prosthesis to try to hold it all together! Yoga mats had not yet been invented, so it felt awkward to be in yoga class.
I was not accustomed to being so visible with my bare feet, but I did it, and I loved it. I did not plan on teaching yoga to amputees. Even though I was much more visible as an amputee standing at the front of a yoga class, I still had not owned my limb loss completely. The practice of yoga and learning to be present, emboldened and healed me from my feelings of separation, even from my own body. A few years into my yoga teaching, I was asked to teach a yoga program for veteran amputees. I received an email from a well-known yoga magazine that desired to write about me teaching yoga as an amputee. Then, amputees started to contact me, wanting to practice yoga. As a result, Yoga for Amputees® was created 13 years ago.
There are recurrent themes I have seen over my years of teaching yoga to amputees: feeling whole again, embracing the body you now have, pain reduction, healing depression, coping with uncertainty, building strength and balance, gaining confidence, building community, and developing peacefulness. Through yoga’s foundational principle of ahimsa (or compassion), practice of pranayama (or breathing), and asana (poses), I have found that yoga addresses many needs for amputees, giving amputees the autonomy to determine their own path of wellness.
At www.yogaforamputees.com, Yoga for Amputees® offers online yoga classes for amputees, workshops and professional development at conferences, and trainings for certified Yoga Teachers, PTs, OTs, RTs, and prosthetists working with amputees. On the website, you can also access my YouTube site offering many free yoga classes, register for a low-cost membership, and order my book Yoga for Amputees: The Essential Guide to Finding Wholeness After Limb Loss. You can also contact me on Facebook on the Yoga for Amputees Members Page.
We can all use our losses to make them our greatest inspiration. My goal to create a global network of Yoga for Amputees® trained teachers and community of amputees, has been such a blessing. I have had the opportunity to train and teach people in Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Chile, Puerto Rico, Australia, Wales, India, and more. I believe there is always a way. Yoga has been my way. It could be yours too.
~ Marsha Therese Danzig
My story began on third base. I was the go ahead run in a high school varsity softball state tournament game. During the next pitch, I dove into the dirt past the catcher. I went for the win sliding into home base but caught the heel of my cleat on home plate, destroying my foot and ankle. I didn’t know it at the time, but my life was about to change. Over the next 18 years I endured over 18 limb salvage surgeries and lived with
debilitating chronic pain. Despite the challenges, I graduated with a biology and pre-medicine degree from college and attained my dream to attend medical school. However, less than a year into the medical program, I had a massive blood clot in my compromised leg that sent me home on a MedFlight and eventually led to a below the knee amputation. It was a difficult decision to make, but one that gave me my life and mobility back. My amputation was a reset button for me, allowing me to re-center, focus, and pursue a life of purpose.
I lost my leg below the knee at the age of 33, and as friends and family in my inner circle dwindled during my extended recovery, I felt alone and isolated. I vowed that when I was back on two feet again that I did not want anyone else to feel alone and isolated. I yearned to connect with young and active amputees like myself. I started googling social groups for amputees and to my surprise there weren’t any in Boston. So, I decided to start one. We started out as the social meetup group, Amp-up Your Social Life Boston, that met for monthly social events like coffee houses, bowling, cookouts, kayaking, sailing, and rock climbing. If you can think of an activity, we have done it together as a tribe. We also started a monthly support group.
Early in my journey, I had the opportunity to train in The Adaptive Training Foundation’s nine-week intensive Redefine program. It was a bootcamp for the mind, body, and soul. I rediscovered my inner athlete and confidence again and underwent the transformation of a lifetime. While in Texas I got certified as an adaptive and inclusive trainer and was eager to bring what I learned in Texas home to Boston. I decided to use my journey to help others and created my own 501©3 Adaptively Abled with a mission to provide support, social activities, education, fitness, and wellness to individuals with physical disabilities. I then launched Boston’s first comprehensive adaptive functional fitness and wellness program for individuals with physical disabilities, Adaptively Abled Fitness, which includes:
- An 8-week hands-on regimen that facilitates improved functionality and mental fortitude via holistic approaches to wellness, including diet, exercise, mindset training, and stress and pain reduction techniques
- A central hub for those living with physical disabilities to network, build relationships, and form a tribe
- An environment that promotes confidence and a renewed sense of self and purpose
- An opportunity to learn from passionate and knowledgeable professionals in wellness and rehabilitation
- A customized fitness/wellness program that can be executed at home gyms after the program’s conclusion
Our first class was a huge success, and we were ready to start our second class in May 2020. However, fate again had other plans for us as we were hit with a global pandemic. I thought about the isolation and loneliness I felt at the beginning of my journey and knew I needed to step up and provide support for the adaptive community during these challenging times. Adaptively Abled quickly pivoted to a virtual platform and started providing Zoom support, social, fitness, and wellness sessions. Since March 2020, we have run over 300 Zoom sessions, expanding our reach to over 32 states and 3 countries, keeping the adaptive community supported, connected, and active during a time of extreme isolation. The silver lining of the global pandemic is that we had an opportunity to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with other organizations across the globe to devise ways to keep our communities connected, and active. Through this process we have discovered that we are stronger through collaboration.
We have continued to expand our virtual programming and have sought ways to connect our virtual community with our local New England adaptive community through hybrid programming as we have returned to in-person programming. We partnered with the nonprofit gym, The Phoenix, which provides free gym membership, support, and social activities for the sober living community. The Phoenix recently became a CrossFit Community Center, opening their doors to several local nonprofits that each serve a community that has faced adversity. In this space, we come together to support each other in our healing process. Our second class of Adaptively Abled is underway with plans of running a third class in the spring. I am grateful to be able to share wisdom gained through my own journey, to provide enhanced support, social reintegration, fitness, and wellness programs to the adaptive community. If you are interested in getting involved in our virtual or in-person programs, please contact us via our website www.adaptivelyabled.org, or email email@example.com, or follow us on Instagram @adaptivelyabled.
~ Melissa DeChellis