Well now I have been to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) gym three times and it has been an eye opening and positive experience. I know of many people who look at going to the gym as a dreaded but necessary action needed to stave off excess weight, help promote good health or any of a number of other reasons.
As we know I have always enjoyed going to the gym, working out, and feeling good about having done so. The obstacles that many of the RIC gym patrons must overcome just to get to the facility speaks volumes about their conviction toward working out.
I had some misgivings about going to the RIC gym, not the least of which a myriad of excuses as to why it was so difficult. With the encouragement of my friend, Bruce, I finally decided enough with the excuses, bit the bullet, and went.
I will admit that RIC gym does not have all of the equipment or machines I am accustomed to having at Cheetah Gym, however, the equipment they do have is adapted for use for by people with special circumstances. Things like swing out seats that allow you to perform exercises while seated in a wheelchair.
It will take some time before I learn all of the necessary adaptations I need to utilize the equipment to my best advantage. I am confident that over time I will adapt and this gym will be an even more rewarding experience that it has already proved to be.
It is a truly inspiring place with patrons suffering from a wide array of various disabilities. There are people who are morbidly obese, stroke victims, multiple wheelchair users, a blind man, and those who appear to have suffered traumatic head injuries.
One gentleman I will call Jake, is truly inspiring, he is in a motorized wheelchair and has little control over the movement of his head, unable to look directly at you and his speech is somewhat distorted. This guy exercises five days a week, his main exercise is lifting a ten pound ball with handles on it, over his head, ostensibly to prevent his upper torso muscles from becoming atrophied.
Jake knows every one's name and is a real joy to be around, always happy and welcoming. I look at him and feel invited into his world as he jokes, talks and spreads good positive vibrations throughout the entire gym, a true example of triumph over tragedy.
There is an older lady, perhaps sixty five or so, whom I believe has suffered a stroke, and I watch her out of the corner of my eye as she tries to lift a five pound bar above her head. Even though her "form" isn't great, it does not matter, she is trying with all that she has to lift the bar. A testament to human resilience and dedicated determination.
I was in the locker room getting ready to leave when a gentleman was seated on a bench across from me began digging in earnest into his gym bag, searching for something. He asked me if I could see his socks anywhere, it was then I realized that he was blind. After giving him his socks which had fallen a couple of feet away from him, I asked if there was anything else I could do for him. He politely said no. I said between the two of us, we make up one complete person. He asked me what I meant, I told him I was missing both of my legs, and with my eyes and his legs we would be a complete person.
He laughed and said at least you have not lost your sense of humor. I told him we have to keep our sense of humor, because sometimes the situations in which we find ourselves, despite our losses, are in fact, funny. He agreed and I left the gym with a smile on my face, happier than ever that I finally decided to go to the RIC gym.
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