July 12, 2013

Athlete Jill Kinmont Succeeded Surmounting New Challenges After Paralyzing Accident

Flipping through Netflix recently, my family and I came across ‘The Other Side of the Mountain.’  It’s the story of Jill Kinmont, an Olympic-bound Alpine skier and her courageous struggles as a paraplegic.  We watched it, and even watched the sequel too.  Although these movies may not fit the description of blockbusters, they certainly show the life of a hero.

Aspiring Olympian Jill Kinmont was featured on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’ the week a crash in a race changed her life forever.  In Alta, Utah, Jill was speeding down the course when she lost control and careened off the mountain.  (I have to say that watching that scene in the movie was amazing!  She literally skied off a cliff, just as scary as any skiing nightmare.)  Laying in the snow, not feeling anything, she wondered if she was dead.  Instead, her neck was broken, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down.  Although at first Jill thought she could work hard enough to ski again, her injury was significant enough to confine her to a wheelchair.  She could only use her arms with effort, her hands were curled up into fists.

Faced with a complete change in direction, Jill square her shoulders and got to work.  Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she worked tirelessly to regain what mobility she could.  After considerable effort, she learned to feed herself, write and paint with the use of devices clamped to her hand.  Anyone who has had to rehabilitate through an injury knows that this takes concentrated effort.  

Jill’s parents took care of Jill, doing for her the things she couldn’t do for herself.  Jill needed help to sit up in bed and to dress.  Once dressed, she needed help getting into a wheelchair.  Without functioning fingers, many routine tasks were taken over by her parents.  With their support, Jill decided to get a college education.  She graduated from UCLA with degrees in German and English.  When she set her sights on teaching, she faced a new foe:  discrimination.

Los Angeles schools refused to hire disabled teachers.  California colleges followed suit and refused to admit disabled students into the School of Education.  Jill pressed on, moving north to Washington State where she earned her teaching certificate at the University of Washington.  She taught remedial reading at a local school there until she and her mom returned to Los Angeles a few years later.  The California school districts continued to refuse to hire her, even with teaching experience under her belt.  Finally, she got a teaching job in Beverly Hills, a city district.  Jill taught remedial reading there for several years.  Later she taught disabled students in another district, and started a scholarship fund for Native Americans. 

In spite of her disability, Jill enjoyed a full wonderful life.  She married for love and stayed married.  And she painted and participated in shows.  She never let her disability be an impediment to her happiness or her life goals. 

Jill explained, "My way of wanting to do all this stuff probably stems a lot from my competitive endeavors because I like to focus on something, I'm sort of determined."

When Jill faced a new and unconquerable challenge in her injury, she took the same energy and determination and applied it to her new challenges.  Regaining as much mobility as she could, then becoming a teacher against the ‘system’ took real effort and stamina.  She knew how to train to be an Olympian; she applied the same skills to her new future and succeeded.  We can do the same with any of our challenges.


Boxall, Bettina. "Jill Kinmont Boothe Dies at 75; Ski Champ Disabled in Crash Became Role Model." Los Angeles Times 11 February 2012: No Page. Web.

Crowe, Jerry. "Jill Kinmont Boothe is Still Going Strong More Than 50 Years After Paralyzing Skiing Accident." Los Angeles Times 22 May 2011: No Page. Web.

The Other Side of the Mountain. Dir. Larry Peerce. 1975. Film.

The Other Side of the Mountain: Part 2. Dir. Larry Peerce. 1978. Film.

My Top 5 Heroes for Starting Running

Last night as I drove through Atlanta, I noticed a sign on the interstate that read, “Dial 511 for HERO help.”  I thought of this today as I prepared to go running again.  I am trying to get fit and healthy, which is requiring changes that take effort and determination.  And running today took courage!  I needed HERO help, but not to change a tire or help in an emergency.  I needed heroes for courage.

I have been told that running is all mental—it takes more mental exertion to succeed than physical strength.  I believe that!  Today I needed a hero to help me put the ‘I think I can’ into my head.  Here are my top 5 heroes for starting a running program.

1.  Gail Devers.  As a runner, she fought back from a cancer that nearly killed her.  While sick she could only crawl, so she had to work really hard to run fast again.  She eventually won gold in two Olympic games.  Anyone who can walk can run.  Read about Gail here: Gail Devers

2.  Dick Hoyt.  Another runner, he’s an old man by most standards (age 73) but still competes in Triathlons while pushing his disabled son!  Yes, he shows that old bodies can still perform well.  Read about Dick here:  Dick Hoyt

3.  Glenn Cunningham.  After suffering terrible burns over most of his body as a child, he taught himself how to walk, then run again.  As a runner, he went on to win silver in Olympic games.  If you don’t have any serious problems with your legs like Glenn did, you can run again.  Read about Glenn here: Glenn Cunningham

4.  Oksana Chusovitina.  As an aging gymnast, she continued to compete in her sport well beyond the age of retirement to help her son.  If she can do those difficult moves in her late thirties, one can certainly teach a body how to run again.  Read about Oksana here:  Oksana Chusovitina

5.  Don Magee.  As a middle aged man, he began slowly to do push-ups in support of his wife’s exercise regime.  Now he can do 4000 in a day at nearly 80 years old.  He shows us that a little bit every day adds up to a lot over time.  Read about Don here:  Don Magee 
I can train this body again to run because I know others have done harder things than this.  There are many more heroes we can look to, but these are my top 5 for today.  I ran 2 miles and walked 1.5 miles over hilly terrain today and I felt great.  I’ll get to be running all of it as I continue to train myself for health and fitness.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com

July 3, 2013

Don Magee Pushes LImits With 4000 Push-Ups

Don Magee just set an amazing record:  he did 4000 push-ups in one day.  That is not a typo.  He did four thousand push-ups in one day.  For most people, doing 40 in one day would be a challenge.  For elite athletes, doing 400 in one day would be remarkable.  But Don did multiple times that.  

The kicker is that Don is almost 80 years old!  

Don wasn’t always a super-push-up athlete.  He didn’t really begin doing lots of push-ups until he was in his fifties, when his wife Florence was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  Doctors advised her to fight it through exercise, which she did.  Don and Florence began visiting a gym early each morning to work out.  Florence didn’t realize that when Don joined her in exercising, he would become obsessed with performing push-ups.  He does at least 1000 daily, dropping for 20 between golf rounds and while standing in line during errands.  

When Don started doing pushups, it hurt to do just 25.  He added 5 each time he tried and just kept adding them.  He likes doing push-ups because they don’t require any special equipment, and they really helped him get in shape.  After several months, Don could do 100 without stopping and his obsession flamed.  He set goals which propelled him to this latest milestone.  In 2007, he topped 3,000 at the age of 74.  It was then that he set his sights on the number 4,000.  It wasn’t until recently that he realized he was rattling off more than his usual number of push-ups and this goal was reachable.  

To reach 4,000, Don did sets of 250 with just a few minutes rest in between sets.  When he had exhausted himself, he took a nap!  Refreshed, he started anew and reached 4,000.  For good measure, he threw in 50 more.   

He wants to show people, particularly the elderly, that everyone can exercise and improve their fitness levels.  “I wanted to make a statement that just because you’re old, it doesn’t mean you can’t do things.  You can stay active.” 

Now that he’s reached this goal, what will he do?  He said, “I’m still going to continue doing my 1,000 a day.  That’s what is keeping me in condition.  But it doesn’t make any difference how many you can do.  If you can do three, do three as many times as you can, and then add two to it.”  

Don is doing a terrific job showing this with this new record.  His training plan is applicable to most endeavors; start small and keep adding.  Slow and steady work can pay off big.  Like Don, we can set goals and reach them with hard work and determination. 

Works Cited

Cline, Todd. "New Record for Push-Up King." Gwinnett Daily Post 3 July 2013: 8A. Print.
Sugiura, Ken. "3010 Push-ups at 74 Years Old." Atlanta Journal Constitution 8 Nov 2007. Print.
Need Inspiritation? Read This. BodyBuilding.com. 14 Jan 2008. Web. 3 July 2013.

Photo courtesy of Mathnexus.com