For Soldiers with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Madigan Army Medical Center, the Adaptive Reconditioning Program offers a variety of exercise options for those on the road to recovery or transitioning from military to civilian life.
One of the more popular programs is outdoor cycling, in which service members take to the open road, while getting a workout, having fun and taking in the sights and sounds around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Lou McGranaghan, a physical therapist, and Brian Caskin, assistant therapist, lead service members on rides across JBLM every week. McGranaghan said members of the classes are in varying phases of rehabilitation, and rides can last from 6 to 15 miles or longer depending on the skill level and capabilities of the riders in a given session.
“Cycling is a great sport for all ages,” McGranaghan said. “It also provides (service members) with an activity they can share with their family. They can participate side-by-side with their kids, spouse or whoever.”
McGranaghan said WTB Soldiers are required to complete 150-minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, participating in at least two of the around 20 activities offered though the adaptive reconditioning program. Some people try everything; some stick with their favorite two, he said.
For many people, learning to ride a bike happens during childhood, but for Sgt. Amy Friedle, a WTB Soldier, that childhood experience never materialized. Now in her early 30s, joining the outdoor cycling class was the first time she’d ridden a bicycle.
Friedle said growing up in the ranching community of Westcliffe, Colo., the focus was always work and school, leaving little time for play. Her parents would have most likely answered her request for a bicycle saying, “Hey there’s a horse, get on it and go do some work,” Friedle said.
In high school, she was active in sports by playing basketball, volleyball and running track. Friedle enjoyed running and could reach up to 80 miles in a week, she said. A personal trainer prior to joining the Army, she has always kept a very active lifestyle.
That changed after Friedle had surgeries on both legs for micro-tears on both her Achilles tendons. This left her with limited mobility during her recovery process. She said that limitation triggered many of the arthritic issues she deals with currently.
“I’m a pretty firm believer that my lifestyle is what has held it at bay for so long,” Friedle said. “Activity is my best friend right now. (I’m) not trying to do high impact (exercise), but basically (I’m) staying mobile and active.”
Although she had never ridden a bicycle as a kid, she rode horses and dirt bikes, which her instructors believe made the transition for her a little easier.
During Friedle’s first week of class, she was fitted for a bike and needed to practice riding around the Keeler Sports and Fitness Center’s parking lot, an experience she called “pretty awkward.”
By her second week, she had practiced enough to join the rest of the class on active-road group rides.
Friedle said she won’t ever be able to return to her former activity level, but cycling helps to maintain her day- to-day exercise requirements and keeps her arthritic condition at bay. Her plan is to continue with the cycling class, and make riding a family event by getting a little wagon to take her two-year old daughter on rides, she said.
For Sgt. Steven Wurth, a WTB Soldier, outdoor cycling is his favorite reconditioning activity. After his mobility was slowed by reconstructive ankle surgery, he was thrilled to learn he could continue cycling at 15-weeks post-surgery on a recumbent bike.
Although getting back onto the two-wheeled bikes is the ultimate goal, the recumbent bike is a challenging workout, especially going up hills, he said.
“Recumbent bike is all arms and shoulders,” Wurth said. “It’s an awesome workout. It hits chest, arms, shoulders — you feel it all over the place. I really enjoy it, actually.”
Wurth said he enjoys the effort the instructors put into making outdoor cycling challenging and fun.
“Our instructors and trainers Lou and Brian are awesome,” he said.
Like Friedle, he plans to continue outdoor cycling because of the benefits in activity, camaraderie and aerobic workout it provides.
“If you can’t run, riding a bicycle is the next best thing,” Wurth said. “Bike riding is awesome.”