Overcoming obstacles: Past injuries, surgeries aren't holding Fittest Loser contestants back

  • Contestants Bob Sinclair and Rick Meyers use foam rollers after a Saturday morning boot camp.

    Contestants Bob Sinclair and Rick Meyers use foam rollers after a Saturday morning boot camp. Photo by Kat Polomsky

  • Contestant Bob Sinclair and columnist Kat Polomsky roll out their quadriceps.

    Contestant Bob Sinclair and columnist Kat Polomsky roll out their quadriceps. Photo by Nicole Caliva

  • Push Fitness owner Josh Steckler demonstrates correct form for a squat.

    Push Fitness owner Josh Steckler demonstrates correct form for a squat. FIle photo

By N.A. House
Daily Herald Correspondent

This year's Fittest Loser contestants are all facing obstacles to living their healthiest life.

One issue plaguing some competitors?

Past injuries that they're learning to train around.

Rick Meyers knows all too well how injuries and surgeries can put fitness plans on hold. Over the last 10 years he's had back and foot surgery due to injuries, and neck surgery to correct a birth defect that he learned was causing intense migraines.

Each procedure came with its own recovery time. His most recent surgery kept him off his feet for six months.

"It's been frustrating," Meyers said. "Once I start getting my health on track, something else comes up. I'm hoping that won't happen again."

Recovering from injury wasn't just a physical battle for Meyers; it was a mental one as well.

Worry about re-injuring his foot or back has plagued him in the past and is something he's learning to work through during Fittest Loser.

When Meyers first began training with Patrick Stille at Push Fitness, he was very nervous to try exercises that could strain his back, especially squats or step-ups onto a high block.

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Stille takes Meyers' concerns into consideration and makes sure his fitness routine is challenging, but doesn't aggravate old injuries. From Stille's perspective, Meyers' foot and back issues haven't hindered his progress.

"He's been reluctant on a few things, but I just took extra time to show him proper form and make sure he understands how to move properly and avoid injury," Stille said.

An emphasis on proper technique is something all the trainers at Push Fitness focus on and is much appreciated by the competitors, whether they're training around old injuries or trying to avoid any future injuries.

"I'm impressed, most of all, that the trainers are very concerned about how you do an exercise," said contestant Bob Sinclair, who is training with Steve Amsden.


To avoid injury in the first place, Amsden said it's important to be aware of your own abilities and limitations concerning exercise and learn how to do exercises correctly.

"The best way to deal with injuries is to prevent them from happening," Amsden said. "Most injuries can be averted by using common sense, and knowing your own abilities. Put the time and effort into developing proper form, and if you're unsure about an exercise, choose a different one."

As Meyers and others have discovered, once you've had an injury or surgery, incorporating exercise back into your daily routine can be a challenge.

Amsden said no one wants to start from square one, which can prevent people from starting at all. Although it may be difficult to begin working out again, putting in the work to recover properly the first time can prevent someone from having a nagging injury for years.


"Remember that everything can be overcome, it's just a matter of putting in the effort," Amasden said. "Believe me, anything you do will feel exponentially better than doing nothing at all."

Amsden and fellow Push Fitness trainer Nicole Caliva, who is training Melissa Hood, cautioned those looking to hit the gym post-injury to start slow and be mindful of their current abilities.

This is something Meyers can attest to. In the past, he would try to do too much too soon. But Stille has taught him how to take things slow and maintain proper form to get more out of his workouts.

A few weeks into Fittest Loser, Meyers is much more willing to try new exercises and less concerned about getting injured. He said he used to have a fear that he wouldn't be able to do something, but it's lessening as the competition goes on.

"The worst thing that can happen is you fail," said Meyers. "Be open to trying new things. Try it and you'll feel elated that you tried it and you did it."

Training Tips:

• Get up and move. Injuries should be evaluated by a trainer and physician, but once you've been cleared to exercise, make sure you incorporate movement back into your life. It may be uncomfortable at first, but eventually you'll fall back into a routine. "Nothing cures soreness like continuing to move," said Caliva.

• Use proper form when exercising. Practicing a squat or deadlift with correct form will help you avoid aggravating an old injury. Consider meeting with a trainer who can show you how to do exercises properly.

• Start slowly. Don't start exercising at the same intensity you were training at pre-injury right away. Take it slow and proceed with caution to avoid re-injuring yourself. "Those looking to get back into working out post-injury should make sure to take their time. They don't need to start going to the gym for a full hour or pick up the heaviest weights," Caliva said. "To me, starting easy would be a handful of reps (6-10) of bodyweight only exercise, such as squats, pushups, lunges, and situps."

• Know the difference between pain and soreness. "Pain is normally equivalent to an injury," Caliva said. "Soreness, to me, is associated with discomfort." To help clients determine the difference, she asks them if they are just experiencing discomfort and can get through the workout or if the pain is too intense to continue.

• To see the Fittest Loser contestants' latest weight stats, visit pushfitnesstraining.com/fittest-loser/

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