A Long Overdue Update: Wellness Champ

The last time I posted on this blog, my future was unclear. I was technically disabled, dealing with excruciating pain, and praying for a surgery that would ease my pain. It was a long road, and after all the fighting, I received a new hip in December of 2015.

The recovery was remarkably swift. I was back on my feet within a couple of weeks, walking on my own shortly thereafter, off the pain pills quickly (could not get rid of that junk quick enough!), and back to work soon. I was working remotely within a couple weeks, and back in the office within a month. Recovery continued to progress. Even with limitations, I worked to take off some of the weight I had gained during the injury process, and to stay healthy despite my physical limitations.

My surgeon had approved riding a bike, but not like before. I have not ridden a bike since. Whether I will in the future is up in the air, but I feel that I could do easy rides — nothing like what has been written about on this blog.

This site remains popular and I’ve kept it going. A couple of people offered to buy it, and while I didn’t say no outright, I wanted to make sure it would be in the right hands and did not let go.

In 2016 I had another life change, and that’s really what promoted this update. I changed jobs. It wasn’t something I was looking for. My employer was terrific and incredibly supportive and patient with my injury, but this was an opportunity too good to pass up. It was a great position working with a Fortune 500 company. I love working here, and I have managed to fit in quickly.

Just recently they published an article about me as a “Wellness Champion” on the corporate intranet. This is a pretty big deal, and as it is on the home page of thousands employees including all of my peers. I’ve heard from some that have been inspired by my story, and that’s all I can ask. Here is the text with some of the company specifics removed.

Wellness Champion: Aaron West

Aaron West has quite the list of accomplishments when it comes to fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.

He successfully finished the Assault on Mount Mitchell three years in a row, rode the highest paved road in North America up to 14,000 feet, and biked 237 miles from Spartanburg to Charleston, South Carolina, in the same day — to name a few.

However, during the height of his fitness, Aaron suffered a mysterious and severe hip injury that required two years to completely diagnose, including an attempt at microfracture surgery and labral repair.

The expectation was a year recovery time with gradual progression and an eventual return to sport without any setbacks. The recovery didn’t go well, and the injury progressively got worse. Underlying problems were never addressed and what was once an injury had become a disability.

Thanks to the American’s with Disabilities Act and the help of Human Resources, Aaron was able to work from home for 8 months. This was the case until he was forced to undergo a total hip replacement — a procedure for which he was nearly 20 years below the average age.

“It required a drastic shift in my mindset and workout routine,” Aaron said. “I transformed from a hardcore athlete to a guy trying to stay fit while dealing with physical limitations.”

As a result of the procedure, he’s no longer allowed to run, can’t bike the way he used to and is limited to low-impact exercises. Despite these setbacks, Aaron hasn’t lost sight of the importance of being healthy.

“My mindset now is to stay within a weight limit, keep my numbers within range and to live a healthy lifestyle without making sacrifices,” he said. “We’re on the verge of opening a new gym on my campus, and I’ve already made it a personal goal to commit to three days per week there, and another two days of some other activity.”

In addition to focusing on his own health, Aaron also serves on the wellbeing committee, where he now hopes to help and inspire others. In this role, he encourages others to start small, do what they enjoy and find an accountability partner to keep each other focused on your goals.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity the company has provided me to share my journey with others,” he said. “It’s truly a blessing to work for a company that understands disability and promotes the value of a healthy lifestyle.”

The article ended with a photo that longtime readers will probably recognize. My triumphant celebration of climbing Independence Pass.

Independence Pass triumphant!

9 responses to “A Long Overdue Update: Wellness Champ

  • Gerry

    Glad to see you are ‘well’, Aaron, and especially blogging again! Would love to see you test that hip out on some steep hills again, too, but at your own speed of course. All the best.

  • bgddyjim

    I’ve missed you, broski. I just remembered your blog sitting here at the mall sitting on a bench while my wife tries on clothes… Glad you’re healing and you’ve found some peace. Congratulations on the new job and well wishes for you and yours. It was nice to read the update.

    I’m still riding a lot, formed a B Group on Tuesday night and we’re holding a 23-mph average for the 30 mile loop.

    Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, brother.

    • aaronwest

      Hey man, it’s good to hear from you! Since I wrote this post we bought a house downtown and we move in next week so I’ll be getting the bikes back out.

      23 mph is solid. Can’t imagine what the A group is at.

      • bgddyjim

        Great news, brother! I’ve got a buddy with a bad ticker – same deal, he can ride but he has to dial it way back. I’d take that over nothing any day!

        The A guys are at a 25 average on open roads. They’re consistently at 28-30. It’s crazy, man.

  • George D Bussey

    I was just referred to your blog by a fellow biker at a transcontinental biking FB page, stimulated by my comment that I wanted to ride the highest paved road in every state where it was worthwhile (figured I could skip FL and a couple of other states). In any event – glad you have kept your blog open so I could see your accomplishments. I used to live in Denver so recognize many of your Colorado rides. Thinking you might have done the Triple Bypass and Copper Triangle to get some of those passes in. :-). In any event – words of encouragement – I’m 69 and have done all those Colorado rides since my 65th birthday. There are some great gearing setups now with smaller (even oval) front rings and big (36t) back cassettes, so hopefully you can find some gearing that lets you keep on trucking. I now live in Hawaii and rode Haleakala last summer and plan to attack either Mauna Loa or Mauna Kea this coming summer. Aloha and keep on pedaling. 🙂

    • aaronwest

      Hello George, thanks for stopping by! Glad you are finding some use out of the site. We’ll keep it going as long as the info remains current. I did Copper Triangle and gave myself some extra time to tackle the other climbs, but have not done Triple Bypass.

      We just bought a home downtown that will allow for more riding opportunities but the climbs out here are a lot less forgiving than the ones out west. My memory of Colorado climbs and elsewhere (including Hawaii) is that the gradients are mild but the roads are lengthy. Here having a forgiving gearing setup can help, but sometimes it’s good to just have gears to hit climbs with speed and grunt up.

      Still a ways from any mountain climbs but who knows what the future holds? Enjoy riding in Hawaii!

      • George

        Great 🚴🏽🚴🏽 You are biking again. Maybe I missed it what what city/part of the country are you in now? Colorado climbs def less steep because of the winter weather concerns but here in Hawaii we have short (1-5 miles) climbs that can have extended double digit grades with short stretches of even 20% plus sections. Be well and keep pedaling 🚴🏽🚴🏽

  • Matt Pantsari

    Aaron- so glad to hear you are well. I have thought tod you often and cannot believe, but am ultimately thankful, for your hip replacement. You have had a long road indeed.

    This site is still so great, serving as a great source of information but even more as a sweet memory/ reminder of those days exploring roads and climbs for the first time. You were my window into so many of them.

    Stay well and keep writing!!

    Matt Pantsari

    • aaronwest

      Matt, good to hear from you! Appreciate the thoughts and glad you can make use of the site. Some of it is getting outdated. For instance I hear that Howard Gap broke, but not many complaining about skipping that bad boy.

      My bikes are near the door and the weather has been cooperating. I’ll be back on the road soon. Hope you are doing well too!

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