Chris Kaag—Doing what he can, Because He Can!
As with each of Your Inspiring Stories I share, I’m excited to bring you this one. If we’re friends on Facebook, you might have seen me comment that I’d tried working out at gyms in the past, but never liked it, but now I’m going to a gym about once a week and I like it!
Chris Kaag, the person whose story I’m sharing today, is the man behind that craziness. Chris contacted me after hearing that I did a marathon on the 8th anniversary of my accident, because my philosophy of doing what I can, because I can is similar to his life philosophy.
Never forget to appreciate what you CAN do and GET UP AND MOVE!
- Chris Kaag
Janet: Tell us when and how your world changed.
Chris: At the age of 21 while in the Marine Corps, I was admitted to the hospital as doctors tried to determine why I was experiencing tingling and numbness in my feet. After 9 weeks, I was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve condition that became the turning point of my life.
At first I had to use a cane to steady myself, then 2 canes and within 5 years, I began using a wheelchair the majority of the time.
I was faced with a decision to dig deep and push on or give up and let my condition take over my life.
The 3 months I had spent in boot camp in the summer of 1994 gave me the knowledge and strength I needed to dig deep and push on, even when faced with obstacles.
I now live by three simple words that I learned as an 18 year old Marine recruit:
IMPROVISE, ADAPT, AND OVERCOME.
How does this affect your daily life now?
In one way my life is like everyone else’s, but in another way every aspect of my life is affected. We live in a ranch house with some modifications. I can stand on my legs to transfer, but I use the wheelchair to be mobile.
What do you miss about your life before this condition affected you?
I miss being able to workout like I did before, but I’m happy about many of the other things that have happened since. I’ve met many amazing people and done some incredible things.
What obstacles have you overcome that you or others didn’t know if you could?
In 2004, I started Corps Fitness, a boot camp gym where we combine a tough workout with trainers who encourage and motivate you to help you reach your fitness goals.
We have many people working out here who need no modifications or adaptive equipment, but just need a kick in the butt to stay motivated. We also have others working out here who need adaptive equipment or exercises and who work just as hard (or even harder) to be as fit as they can be.
What dreams and goals have you reached since being affected physically?
Starting the IM ABLE Foundation in 2007…
The mission of the IM ABLE Foundation is to remove obstacles that prevent people affected by disabilities from being physically active by providing grants, resources, fitness opportunities and motivation. We change attitudes about the potential of disabled individuals by redefining what is possible.
IM ABLE provides resources for both adults and kids, but it was started because of kids. When I was a kid, I was fully mobile and active. While in the hospital, I saw kids affected by disabilities from birth and I wanted to give them a chance to be as active as they can be.
And if you or someone you know has obstacles that prevent you/them from being as active as you/they would like to be… look into applying for a grant from IM ABLE.
What dreams and goals do you have for yourself in the future?
My wife Gretchen and I are expecting our first child in April!
And I’d like to travel more, one place on my list is the Finger Lakes area.
Plus I want to continue to empower and motivate others.
What does a well-lived day look like to you… or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?
Hang out with Gretchen and do something active, like mountain bike, ski or kayak.
Now you know why this guy motivates me and why I said YES when he asked me to represent IM ABLE at the NYC marathon in November.
As you make choices about how to live your life, think about Chris’s explanation of the three words he lives by…
Improvise; find a way to do things differently.
Adapt; implement this change into your daily life.
Overcome; get on with your life with no excuses.
You know the drill, leave encouraging notes or questions in the comments for Chris or about Corps Fitness and IM ABLE.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~More of Your Inspiring Stories
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can! Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can
Running Truly is for all Ages Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did! Roni Noone does Fitbloggin’—Because She Can! Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing… Because She Can!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can!