I recently had the privilege of working with an amazingly inspiring individual. Tristan walked into Invictus two months ago with the desire to change up his workout routine. This is a normal request from our new members, but Tristan is in a unique position, he lost one of his legs in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now has a prosthesis. Shane and I had the opportunity to work with Tristan for his introductory sessions. With a few movement modifications and clever progressions, we had Tristan doing things he never thought he would be able to do again! It has been an absolute thrill to see Tristan progress and push the limits beyond what he thought possible. Not only has it been motivating to see him progress in the gym, but he has also taught me some valuable lessons, like allowing your mind to transcend the limits we place on ourselves.
Tristan was kind enough to let me interview him. If you haven’t met him yet then let this interview be a sneak peak into one of our newest members!
What brought you to Invictus?
I had been lifting weights at the gym, but I felt colossally out of shape. Even though I was lifting, I knew I needed to change the type of training I was doing.
How did you hear about Invictus?
I live around the corner from Invictus. I had walked by a few times and saw crazy people working out. I decided I wanted to join them!
Did you play any sports in high school or college?
I didn’t play anything in college, but I did play football and baseball in high school.
I know that you lost your leg in the initial invasion in Iraq. Can you tell us what happened?
Yeah, absolutely. We got into a gun fight with insurgents and I was shot in the knee with a rocket. It was crazy because you would think that this would be the most painful experience but it wasn’t. I actually didn’t realize my leg was blown off for a bit, I just thought I was badly wounded.
Oh wow. It is crazy what a high dose of adrenaline and shock will do to your senses. So how long was your recovery?
I was hurt in August 2003. I didn’t end up stateside until late September. I had almost died and I literally needed to be put back together. It was a big bummer and a rough time in my life. We had to hang out in Iraq and Germany until I was stable enough to travel. It took us a week to get out of there.
What was your rehab like?
At first it was just elementary stuff. I had lost so much blood that my lungs had collapsed and my organs weren’t functioning correctly. I literally had to be re-taught how to sit up. My lungs needed to be built back up so part of my rehab was blowing into a straw to build my lungs back up. I had over 10 surgeries during rehab. Once I was sewn back up, then I started rehab. I was in the hospital for a year and a half. It was a military hospital so it was nice to be around everybody in a similar situation, which made it easier.
How was the process of learning how to walk?
The device for my leg is pretty easy to use. Getting the fit right is the hardest portion because your body constantly changes. The first year is when you experience the most fluctuation with your body so the fit was hard. But the device is easy to use and technology has come such a long way. Once I got the right fit, I was up and walking around.
How has it been since joining Invictus?
It has been great! I feel like I have gone to the next level. It helps with my day to day routine with normal stuff like picking things up off the floor or putting things away. The workouts are totally functional, which is what I like. You probably don’t bench press stuff a lot every day, so the conditioning is nice.
What are some of the things you enjoy about Invictus?
The initial interaction between the trainers and the members is really nice. There is a great community feel to Invictus and it is so nice to do something different for training.
Also, because of what you and Shane have done, it has helped me maintain my motivation. You guys helped so much with giving me modifications, etc. It has been such a positive experience for me.
What challenges have you had to overcome with training?
The biggest challenge is the mental one. It is easy, in my situation, to say “oh, I can’t do that.” So it is a challenge to just push yourself to do something that you aren’t totally comfortable with. My philosophy is to be open to everything and give it all a fair shot. Getting outside of your comfort level is so good for individuals.
What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about starting at Invictus or starting CrossFit?
I think the best piece of advice would be to just show up. The first week I started group coaching sessions, there was another guy who had just started with me and we were both tentative. We worked together and it was great. Just show up and you will be taken care of. Just don’t over-think it, show up and be open to doing new things.
If you could have a theme song play when you walk down the street, what would that song be?
I hate to say this because it is ridiculous but I heard it this morning. It still pumps you up after 20 years! ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns N Roses. It is still such a good song.
If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?
I would probably be some sort of large, flying predatory bird. It just sounds like it would be cool and the prospect of flying would be interesting.