Brian Riley: Learning to Walk Again

Brian Riley: Learning to Walk Again


(music) I’m Brian Riley, I’m a coach at CrossFit Del Mar. I joined the Marines in 2008, going for a reconnaissance point-man position and th at was actually when I was introduced to CrossFit. A lot of the instructors there would use the CrossFit wor kouts to destroy us in between lunch, breakfast, after-class sessions, we’d come out and do Fran or something like that. I got stationed in Okinawa and from Okinawa deployed to Afghanistan and that’s where I was injured. I was shot by a medium machine gun and it eventually led to a below-the-knee amputation on my left side. So after my injury one of the things that got me pursuing coaching is I just had to look at all the mechanics of the human body, I had to learn how to walk again, I had to get used to running again, learning how to back squat and deadlift, I had to relearn everything. It was kind of an eye-opening experience on how much the bio-mechanics change when you don’t have an ankle and then how much also stays the same. And so I learned a lot about myself and just movement. CrossFit Del Mar was putting on CrossFit classes every Wednesday for wounded warriors and it’d be a free hour, hour-and-a-half they’d come down here, they’d do some mobilizing, a CrossFit workout, maybe a strength session, and that’s how I got introduced to CrossFit Del Mar. Because I was used to learning how to move and I was able to demonstrate that to other adaptive athletes, they wanted to get me on the coaching staff so they offered me the Level 1. So when the opportunity came for the Level 2, I jumped on that. Not only because I wanted to go through the process of learning how to coach again but I also wanted to expand my repertoire. There’s going to be a lot of coaches here who have experience, there’s a guy who has 10-plus years coaching and it’s great to talk to those guys and get their feedback, get their understanding of how CrossFit works as well. Definitely starting off in CrossFit I had to get an ego check. I had to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to move the weight as effectively as I did before my injury. I mean I had to really take an ego check and start off with just the bar when I was doing overhead movements, just the PVC pipe when I was learning how to squat again, and then it just kind of naturally built on itself. The struggles as an amputee for coaching sometimes is just a matter of being able to show the movements properly. Today when I was showing the complex movement, going down into that squatting position, because I was already getting sore spots on the back of my leg from the Level 2 this weekend, it hurt just to go down into that squatting position because my leg was already starting to bite into my skin in back. And also going into a squat fast, like if I’m trying to demonstrate a squat snatch or something, it’s a lot about those stabilizing muscles and just building awareness. I went to Coach Burgener’s gym the other day and he had us do a stagnant workout with the PVC pipe where you go mid-shin, go up an inch, go below the knee, and the first time I did it, going from mid-thigh to sitting back, it took me about 10 seconds just t do that transition because of my stabilizing muscles. I was so used to powering through it and yeah that would be my challenge, being aware of what my weaknesses are physically to show the technique. After my Level 2, I’m definitely going to continue my education for coaching. There’s a lot of courses that CrossFit has available, there’s just so many courses that I’m interested in as well that can help other people, especially people at the gym. We can add another spectrum to how we’re coaching and how we’re programming. And with more adaptive athletes coming into CrossFit, I do think that’s a great opportunity to raise awareness for what they’re still capable of, and they realize that, once they find the modifications, that in a lot of workouts they’ll be able to keep up with able-bodied guys, they’ll start getting a lot more confidence and they’ll raise awareness across the nation that adaptive athletes can still perform.

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