September 14, 2009
Tupelo clinic offers hands-on introduction to handcycling
By Susan Christensen
Methodist Rehabilitation Center will offer a free introduction to handcycling from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at North Mississippi Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo.
One of several adaptive sports available at Methodist Rehab, handcycling is basically biking without the legwork, says Ginny Boydston, director of therapeutic recreation for the Jackson hospital.
“Riders sit in chair-style seats and pedal with their hands,” she explained. “It’s a great activity for wheelchair users who want to get some exercise and explore the outdoors.”
While Methodist Rehab has offered handcycling for several years, a lack of equipment had limited the scope of the program. But a grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation made it possible to purchase seven new handcycles and offer clinics across the state.
“We’ve wanted to get more people involved in handcycling, and clinics are a good way to accomplish that goal,” Boydston said. “When people get a chance to actually ride the cycles, they see that a disability doesn’t have to keep them from enjoying the benefits of biking.”
Randy Lavender of Tupelo took up the sport several years ago and will be one of the instructors for the clinic. Lavender, a regional coordinator for LIFE (Living Independence For Everyone), said it's important for people with disabilities to get into mainstream sports as much as possible.
"We want to prove to others that there are a lot of activities you can do even with a disability," Lavender said. "That's part of the fun of cycling. I like showing them the proof. We go snow skiing, water skiing, rock climbing. We have a ball."
Handcycling also provides a great way to stay in shape, said Wiley Clark of Moss Point, another clinic instructor. “Handcycling gives me a lot of aerobic exercise,” said Clark, a three-time Paralympian in wheelchair racing. “You can get into a cadence and push for hours. I’ve gone 83 miles on the Longleaf Trace.”
The Tupelo clinic is sponsored by Methodist Rehab and North Mississippi Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. It is funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a non-profit that supports spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation.
The free handcycling clinic is 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at North Mississippi Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, 4381 South Eason Blvd. in Tupelo. It is open to individuals with paralysis, ages 15 and older. For more information, call 662-401-9190.