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Adaptive CrossFit helps change Council Bluffs man’s life for the better

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 7:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In 2017, Chad Arnold was living in Rapid City, South Dakota.

He, admittedly, made some poor life choices and an argument with a former friend led to Arnold being shot.

Arnold was standing on his driveway at 9 p.m. when he saw a car go by.

The gun fired and he fell to the ground. He was immediately paralyzed from his ribcage down.

Arnold knows if he had stayed in his home just a minute longer, he may have never been shot.

“Yeah, I think about that frequently, the timing of it all. I used to think the more negative side of it. Like ’Why me?,’” Arnold said.

Arnold moved back to his home of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The 1993 St. Albert grad first moved into his mom’s basement, and eventually got his own apartment in town.

He started rehabbing at QLI, a rehabilitation campus in Omaha.

Not long after, he became part of a pilot program called GRIT, or guts, resilience, intensity, and tenacity.

The program was designed to be an adaptive fitness program that keeps folks connected to QLI after they’re discharged from therapy.

“It was just figuring out how can we propel this forward? How can we make this work? How can we make it the best program and have the biggest impact that we could possibly have?,” GRIT’s program director Stephani Roob said.

Through grants and donations, QLI started GRIT and partnered with CrossFit Omaha to begin Adaptive CrossFit training.

Adaptive CrossFit is just like regular CrossFit, but it adapts to what the athlete is capable of.

Chad Arnold was one of the original participants and he fell in love with it despite having never done CrossFit before or even working out on a regular basis.

Arnold said if he went to a gym before his injury, he’d want to compete with those around him.

Adaptive CrossFit gave him a different kind of challenge.

“Because it was an adaptive situation, I realized we all had different capacity levels and so the competition became inward right away and I was competing against myself and that was so attractive to me,” Arnold said.

He started building up strength and it made moving around his apartment and doing daily things easier.

Arnold started to have more energy and didn’t need naps after normal daily activities.

He was considering competing in Adaptive CrossFit.

A months-long hospitalization changed that.

By the time Arnold got back to training, he was solely focused on his health while not pushing himself too hard.

Again, he started building strength when another setback came: the coronavirus pandemic.

QLI shut its doors to non-essential visitors. That left Chad stuck in his apartment, unable to get in a gym.

His mental health was deteriorating.

Luckily, QLI started “teleGRIT” classes on Zoom.

“At first, I was like ‘this is not going to be the same. I don’t want to do this,’ Within a couple of weeks I realized the number one thing that moved my mental health marker in a positive direction, every single time I did it, was the teleGRIT classes,” Arnold said.

With only two dumbbells, a few stretch bands, and two vinegar bottles Chad filled with water to use as weights, he started attacking his workouts.

Doing his modified burpees, jumping jacks, shoulder raises, and plenty more at home, Arnold made the absolute most of it.

“Oh, Chad’s just always a hard worker, never complaining, He’s super positive and supportive of the other people in class. Everyone always has a great day with Chad if Chad’s on Zoom or in the gym,” coordinator of GRIT services Addi Kahrs said.

Kahrs, who got into CrossFit back in 2007 and started training people a few years later, said teaching the teleGRIT classes is the embodiment of adaptive sports because everyone has had to adapt to the current situation.

Arnold isn’t sure if he’ll pursue competing in Adaptive CrossFit again, but that won’t stop him from working out like he’ll be competing.

Everything he’s been through has brought him to the people at QLI and GRIT.

He wouldn’t change a thing, even becoming paralyzed.

“There have been so many amazing things that have happened that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for me getting shot and paralyzed. So, yeah, It’s an ironic twist of fate,” Arnold said.

That type of progress shows that the program Roob and others started a few years back is working.

“The fitness, to me, to start this up was always secondary,” Roob said. “The main thing was always a healthy outlet with a sense of community, I don’t think I was ready for the stories people would tell like Chad did on what a difference it’s made.”

It’s given Arnold the inspirations to keep fighting his daily struggle.

A struggle that includes living life in a wheelchair and finding ways to have a positive and healthy mind and body.

His favorite saying, which he constantly reminds himself, is that he is worth it.

He has handwritten signs all over his apartment that say “I am enough.”

“I’m enough. I’m worth it, and I want to keep going. I don’t see the end here. I used to want to get to a baseline where I could function and now I’m like I want to take this as far as I can take it, you know, with CrossFit, but with my life,” Arnold said.

He hopes to be back at QLI working out soon.

Roob says they hope health protocols will allow Arnold and many others to return to the campus sooner rather than later.

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