As we prepare for Thanksgiving holidays, we had a moment to catch up with our September C-Leg Heroes Photo Contest Winner, Anthony Phillips, and ask a couple of questions about the 5K charity run he participated in.
Q: Which 5K charity did you run for?
The picture was taken at the Thanksgiving Day 5K for Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego. Father Joe’s includes multiple developments providing housing and comprehensive services to homeless individuals and families. I worked for Father Joe in the late 1990s and I remain connected to the organization’s work to this day. Father Joe Carroll is a San Diego Institution, instantly recognizable as the face of philanthropy and good works. He himself lost a leg and part of his remaining foot to diabetes earlier this year. He’s adjusting to life as an amputee.
Q: How did you prepare for the run?
The run was almost two years to the day after my amputation, following which I underwent six months of chemotherapy and a very slow recovery. I began running in ten-second intervals. It was an ordeal, but over several weeks I was able to sustain a respectable trot for maybe a quarter-mile. Within two months I was running a couple of miles at a time and prior to running the 5K I was up to running five miles on my once-weekly long days. I have since run several other 5Ks, with a personal best time of just over 32 minutes. I am planning a half-marathon next summer. I cross train on a spin bike and I do extensive leg strength exercises on my sound side. I use balance work to keep the muscles on the amputation side engaged, relying on hip flexors, glutes and core primarily. I have completed a para-triathlon training camp and I ride and swim to compliment run training.
Q: Do you recommend any fitness training for people with lower limb prosthesis?
The very best thing any lower limb amputee can do is walk. Walking upright is fundamental to human fitness. It’s what we’re designed to do and our overall fitness comes from using our body as it is designed. For above-knee amputees, walking is tiring. We expend vastly more energy just getting around than is required for people with two legs. It is absolutely imperative, in every way conceivable, that lower limb amputees find a way to move about upright in order to maintain their overall functioning. It all starts with walking. It takes everyone their first year of life to learn to walk the first time and while doing so, they fall down several times a day. it’s just as hard learning it all over again with a new limb that isn’t wired into your brain. And whereas a toddler falls a few inches, an adult amputee falls a few feet. It’s scary, but it’s worth it.
Aside from daily walking, I strongly recommend strength training, especially from the abdomen down. Everything you do as a lower limb prosthetic user engages your core and relies on muscles that can be fairly passive for the able-bodied. Leg amputees have to develop functional strength to maximize the output of the prosthesis, and that requires power ans stamina that two-legged people can do without.
Q: What are you thankful for?
I am thankful for the support and patience of my wife and family, the encouragement of my friends and associates, the benefit of technology and advanced prosthetics and the gift or a rich life after cancer. I am a better person after coming through my experience and not because I’m strong, not because I’m brave and not because my struggle was any harder than most people’s. I’m a better person because I learned to rely on and accept the genuine warmth and kindness of my fellow human beings. I am thankful to everyone, countless hundreds, who have helped me to live my life, which is so enriched by those who’ve come to be a part of it.