Guest post written by: Nadia Boctor
Most people now prioritize physical fitness as a central component to their health and wellbeing. For decades we have signed up for gym memberships, fitness classes, nutrition seminars and more, searching for that right mix of ingredients that allows us to look good, feel our best, and achieve more. But for the 1 in 5 Americans with a disabling or chronic condition (U.S. Census) finding an environment that provides that mix is more challenging than it should be.
Enter Aaron Baker and his mission to provide a safe and encouraging space for those who may not otherwise be able to participate in fitness programs aimed for the general public. In 2010 he launched the Center for Restorative Exercise (C.O.R.E.) to bridge the gap between physical therapy and fitness for those with a disabling or chronic injury.
C.O.R.E. was inspired by Aaron’s personal experience. As a professional motocross racer who became a complete quadriplegic after a training accident in 1999, he was thrust into the world of the disability. Regardless of his doctor’s prognosis – that he had a one-in-a-million chance of ever feeding himself again—he knew he had to at least try to reclaim whatever movement he could. And so he began the uphill battle, the years of physical therapy, and the mental commitment to ignore whatever obstacles were in his way.
One of the largest obstacles was lack of access to proper resources for improved health and physical fitness. After only a single year in therapy, Aaron’s time in rehab was cut off. The insurance caps had reached their maximum and he was being forced out of the only available programs where he could “work out”. He was still a long way from standing on his own, but he was showing promising signs of movement in all four limbs.
Eventually his mother Laquita Conway found their way to a Northridge California based Clinical Exercise Therapist named Taylor Isaacs. With Isaacs, Aaron was able to continue his progress over the years, going on to ride a tricycle not just round the block, but across the United States.
With an incredible commitment to his rehabilitation, and the partnerships of his mother and Isaacs, Aaron went on to create a place where other special-needs individuals could receive support and have the same opportunity for recovery as he did. “Working out at Gold’s gym was not an option for me.” Baker says. “And even for those who are far more advanced in their recovery, regular gyms and fitness programs just aren’t designed for those that live with limited mobility”.
At the center of C.O.R.E.’s beliefs is that when exercise becomes a part of the individual’s daily routine in the medium and long term, secondary complications and degenerative changes that typically follow an injury or disability may be prevented and/or significantly reduced.
“Too many people with a disabling condition accept their grim diagnosis, stop pushing for their health, and measure their success or failure by the passage of time instead of by the progress made in their recovery. While physical inactivity can cause the body to break down and degenerate further, an active lifestyle can energize, maintain, and return function to the body. Exercise is medicine,” said Issacs.
The story of Baker and C.O.R.E. is the subject of a new documentary in the works by Encompass Films, which will help bring the complexities of life after spinal cord injury to mainstream audiences. Titled Coming to My Senses, the film will document Baker’s 15-year struggle to reclaim movement, share the effects of sudden trauma on his family, and introduce a new paradigm for rehabilitation in the spinal cord injury community.
Director Dominic Gill shared, “The story of Baker and C.O.R.E. can serve as an inspiration for people who perceive that certain obstacles are keeping them down. It is also a tool for us to build awareness about ensuring that all people have access to necessary fitness resources. We want people to know what can be possible if the injured have greater access to resources and most importantly, a team that believes in their long-term recovery.”
To find out more about the film and their fundraising efforts please visit their Kickstarter page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/89498558/coming-to-my-senses