In 1997, Chris Stoutenburg fell from a balcony and was labeled as a high paraplegic. But he has defied all expectations since his accident, and has helped others to do the same through WheelWod.
WheelWod’s website officially launched in 2015. It’s the platform Stoutenburg uses to provide daily programming, seminars and one-on-one coaching to adaptive athletes.
He said the idea started with his own fitness. Stoutenburg had a career in wheelchair basketball, playing in three different Olympics and a couple world championships. So, when he retired, he began looking for something else to do.
Stoutenburg’s cousin introduced him to CrossFit, as well as Scott Thornton, the owner of CrossFit Indestri in Collingwood, Ontario, at the time. Finding little information about what other seated athletes were doing, Thornton helped Stoutenburg adapt CrossFit workouts for his disability.
Stoutenburg would post what he was doing, and he soon grew a following. Then, when he did his first Open, CrossFit HQ began reposting his workouts and more people reached out to find out about Stoutenburg’s programming. “I needed to find a platform where I could bring in ideas other people had and put out the ideas I had and evolve from there,” he explained.
Now, as the owner of CrossFit Indestri, Stoutenburg produces daily programming and videos through WheelWod. He also hosts seminars and meets one-on-one with both Coaches looking to teach adaptive athletes and adaptive athletes themselves. Each year, Stoutenburg is continually building the competitive offerings out there for adaptive athletes.
As for the workouts themselves, Stoutenburg tests and works through movements himself before ever releasing an adaptive workout for seated athletes. “I pretty much play the test dummy to see what will work and what won’t. I don’t put anything out until it’s tried, tested and true,” he said.
Affiliates can get involved as well. Stoutenburg said nearly every community has an organization or outlet where adaptive athletes can be reached. He explained they might just be intimated by the idea of a CrossFit Box. Sending an email saying an Affiliate has an interest in working and learning with adaptive athletes is one of the best ways to extend a hand.
Mostly, Stoutenburg said he wants to give people an opportunity that they might not have had before. Especially with seated athletes, they are probably stronger than they think. And Stoutenburg simply wants them to realize it. “That’s the main reason that we do [WheelWod], is to help spread awareness and give people with disabilities an opportunity to be a part of something cool,” he said.
Images by Travis Baugess