My details were passed on to Ken back in January 2018. His friend Lisa was currently training with me and he was looking for help with weight training. Ken had started training on a recumbent hand bike back in October 2017 and had been doing some general exercising and following a general program. He had never lifted any weights before. What Ken wanted was my help to make him break the handbike land speed record in Nevada in September 2018. He at that point was a one man band; he was self employed and living on his own.
Ken suffers from CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), a neurological condition that he has suffered with for at least 8 years. It was caused by an accident when he was a railway driver. He got out of the train for a signal change and slid down an embankment. He got his foot caught in a piece of railway track. It was dark and he snapped his leg right round 90″ to the side. He was airlifted out. Nothing was broken but there was severe nerve damage. This went up to his brain and now comes from his brain. He has suffered with it for many years with misdiagnosis, and many personal difficulties related to it all. It was hard but he kept going. He is also allergic to many medications, so there is limited pain management. It must all be done by mental pain management drills. He has hyper sensitivity in that leg and a battery pack in his stomach with probes onto his spine to stop flare ups lasting the whole day and just a few hours. He doesn’t sleep due to constant pain and will regularly stay up until he cant keep his eyes open. At around midnight to 2-3am he manages to fall asleep and then wake up 9-10. His morning routine can take 2-3hours. He is wheelchair bound but can put partial weight on his good leg. Given the progressive nature of his condition, he has said that eventually he wont be able to use both legs.
Knowing his background, I was not sure if I could train Ken but I was willing to meet for a coffee to learn more about him and his story. When I met Ken I was instantly inspired as I learnt about what he had gone through, continues to go through and what he wanted to achieve. He wanted to break the hand bike land speed record in less than a year. It was February 2018 and the record attempt was in September 2018. Ken had still not been introduced to weight training and was yet to begin a individualised program specific to his goal from Davie Lines from Expresso Coaching in Fife. He was yet to change from a casual exerciser to a man obsessed about his calorie intake and every part of his recovery.
We sought advice and help from a physiologist, Paul Smith, from the University of Wales and the lead S+C coach of Help for Heroes, JonPaul Nevin. As Ken had never lifted weights before, we worked on the basics, good movement, engagement and bracing. It was an upper body push-pull session. We ran a 12 week peaking program that started at high reps and went lower as we went on. We used the floor press, chest supported row, seated overhead press, latt pulldown, seated bicep curls and tricep extensions. We started easy with light weight dumbbells and slowly progressed to the barbell over a few weeks.
The progression was fast and the strength and size Ken put on was impressive. It was done through sticking to a program and keeping it consistent by working on basics of mechanics, bracing and careful consideration on weight. By making sure that each session was challenging, he had to go through a transformation from casual exerciser to high level elite cyclist wanting to break a world record. That attention to detail, focus, effort, dedication, willingness to suffer and keep going is one of the reasons that Ken was successful. It is also a lesson on what can be achieved in 3 months when you dial down on everything and get the most out of someone. It is what true 1-2-1 training should be; a transformational experience one that will last a lifetime.
On the 2nd of June, Ken secured his place in the ARION4 team with the University of Liverpool to attempt to break the land speed record for the Handbike. This meant he had a support crew, he would be riding in a specially designed and manufactured Handbike and got his travel covered. As he would later discover, this support would turn out to be invaluable. Without the University of Liverpool team and everyone else who supported him, breaking the world record just would not have happened.
We had the sponsorship he needed and the world record attempt confirmed for September 2018. We had 3 months and would begin a intensive program of a 4 day split of a push session then a pull session for hypertrophy for the first month then lower reps for maximal strength in the 2nd month. He would train with me in the morning and then train in his flat on his handbike in the evening. Sometimes his sprints were so intense that he would roll off his bike and be sick.
As the months rolled on he got stronger, put on more muscle and began to get more powerful. His bike sessions started to ramp up and he was well on his way to being prepared to attempt to break the world record. His goal was to beat the speed of 45mph and he had a 2.5-5mile warmup and acceleration beforehand then a .5mile timing gate to achieve this.
What inspired me most about training Ken was his cheerfulness. Despite constantly suffering with pain, lack of sleep and persevering with our difficult training sessions, he would not give up. He used his disability as a gift and without it I do not think he would have been as able to train so hard, push though and eventually break the record.
Kens had the ability to endure, suffer and keep moving forward. He was able to take such a disability, use it for something positive and to say ‘fuck you, I won’t just merely survive and try and just get by. Fuck it, I am going to go and break a world record and achieve something’. And so he did. In doing so he inspired me and many others to make more of themselves and ask more of themselves when they may simply want to give up, have a rest or feel a little tired. Because the truth of the matter is you are capable of some amazing things. With the help of a structured program, good coaching, hard work, nutrition, recovery and just generally transforming you from a casual exerciser to a focused, determined and hard working smart athlete you can achieve some amazing things.
Ken went onto break his world record in Nevada and there was more struggle and endurance in the whole week he was out in the salt planes. This included sky high desert temperatures, long days of maximum effort sprinting every day and just general hardship related and what can be expected from a world record attempt like this took their toll.
He eventually broke the record with a speed of 51.86mph. It was not without its costs; his energy was severely depleted after daily max effort sprints and his nervous system was drained. Ken came back tired and burnt out. He got a lung infection, the flu and a rotator cuff injury which he is currently rehabilitating. Nonetheless, he did it; he achieved his goal.
I learnt a lot from training Ken over the past 7 months. I saw what can be possible when you make sure you cover the basics, concentrate on the details of mechanics, correct movement, engagement, follow a specific and structured program, dial down your nutrition and work your fucking ass off.
To learn more about Ken check out his website:
If this post has struck a cord, I have limited space for 1 or 2 new 1-2-1 members at the gym and you can get in touch to discuss further through my email.
Community and culture has always been a driving force behind this gym. It brings people together to form lasting bonds through going through challenges together.