Melissa Allensworth was nearing rock bottom.
Three years ago, the hard-partying 27-year-old drove out to Arizona for a weekend of partying with friends. She doesn’t remember the night before, but around 5 a.m. she drove her friend home. Allensworth was drunk.
Instead of turning into her friend’s Tucson apartment complex, Allensworth drove her white Ford F150 onto Interstate 10. They had made it 45 minutes out of town when Allensworth presumably passed out and hit a construction sign. The impact jolted her awake. She jerked the wheel hard to the left. The truck slammed into the center divider. It flipped and continued to roll down the highway. The two friends, who weren’t wearing seatbelts, flew out of the truck. The F150 landed on top of Allensworth’s friend.Next Steps
She remained trapped for about an hur before help arrived. The truck’s hood had caved in on Allensworth, crushing her neck and breaking her back. She was paralyzed instantly.
Her friend miraculously suffered only a few broken bones and some road rash.
Meanwhile, Allensworth was left with no motor function below her chest. Doctors gave her a wheelchair and told her to get used to it because she would never walk again.
She spent a couple weeks in an intensive care unit in Arizona before being airlifted to a rehabilitation facility back home in California.
“At rehab, they want to put you in a wheelchair and push you out the door after a week. I had to fight tooth and nail to stay an extra three weeks,” she said. Allensworth was scared. With her neck and back in a clamshell brace, she couldn’t look down, handle her bowel care or perform simple daily activities without the help of nurses. She felt she wasn’t ready to go home.
It took a long time before Allensworth could accept being in a wheelchair. Her first year post-injury was soaked in negativity and depression.
Then, last year, Allensworth joined NextStep Fitness.
The nonprofit fitness facility, located on Redondo Beach Boulevard across from the South Bay Galleria, brings the latest in fitness and health to those living with paralysis and other physical disabilities. NextStep was one of the first community-based facilities to utilize equipment and programs previously found exclusively in a handful of hospitals nationwide.
“It’s been a lifesaver,” Allensworth said. “Being at NextStep puts you in a better mindset — ‘We might not be in these wheelchairs for the rest of our lives.’”
While most rehab facilities focus on activating the muscles the patients can still feel and control, assuming the patient will never regain function in the paralyzed areas, NextStep focuses on strengthening the members’ weak points.
“If you’re not using something, it’s not going to get any better,” Allensworth said.
Her weakness is core strength. Without abdominal and back muscles, Allensworth falls forward if she puts both of her hands in front of her. So at NextStep the trainers focus on activating her core.
“I don’t feel disabled when I come here. When they work you out, they take you out of your chair. You’re working out your paralyzed body parts,” she said.
What makes NextStep different from other facilities, besides its affordability, she said, is that staff creates individualized programs and carefully tracks progress. The most unique benefit of the facility, she said, is Janne Kouri.
Kouri was playing beach volleyball in Manhattan Beach in August 2006 when he decided to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. As he had countless times before, he dove into a wave. This time, he hit a sandbar and was instantly paralyzed from his neck down. Floating on his back in the water, unable to move, Kouri just hoped someone would see him. An off-duty EMT spotted him and pulled him onto shore. Doctors told the 31-year-old, who had once been an All-American football player for Georgetown University, that he would never walk again.
Kouri spent two months in intensive care with a bad bout of pneumonia, while his girlfriend, now wife, Susan, researched rehab centers. They found Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, known to be at the cutting edge of spinal cord injury recovery.
At the facility, Kouri participated in the locomotor training program, which at the time could be found only in seven of the best spinal cord facilities in the country. In locomotor training, patients are lifted up on a weight-bearing harness, with trainers straightlining their hips and moving their arms and legs for them on a treadmill system to simulate walking. The program reminds your nervous system what it’s like to walk again and benefits blood pressure, circulation, bone density and muscle mass, Kouri said. Christopher Reeve was one of the first to participate in the clinical trial for the training.
After spending a year in Louisville, Kouri was ready to return to his life in Hermosa Beach.
“There was nowhere in California where I could continue my locomotor training and the other stuff I did at Frazier. That was frightening. But it also opened my eyes to see that if it wasn’t available to me, it wasn’t available to others either,” he said.
Somewhere to go
Kouri, instead of harboring resentment over his situation, came up with a business plan. He wanted to open a community facility that would offer locomotor and other activity-based training for those with disabilities, preventing them from spending their days in a hospital or rehab. He pitched his plan to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in 2006. With donations from friends and family, Kouri raised $1 million in startup capital. Staff from the hospital in Louisville flew out to L.A. to train Kouri’s staff at NextStep for two months, with disabled community members volunteering to be the guinea pigs.
The doors to NextStep opened on June 5, 2008.
From day one, Kouri’s goal was to make NextStep’s offerings affordable.
“For a lot of people, insurance will drop them three weeks after their injury,” he said. “A lot of people who come to NextStep were in rehab for only three weeks and then were stuck at home with nowhere to go.”
Now, they go to NextStep. The facility is filled with state-of-the-art fitness equipment easily accessible for those in wheelchairs and is typically staffed with eight trainers at all times.
Although locomotor training is the core program, the facility also offers electrical stimulation; arm and leg cycling; strength training, stretching and cardiovascular exercise with trainers; monthly peer groups; free classes on nutrition, travel, sex and employment; and free one-on-one life coaching sessions. Aside from those with paralysis and physical disabilities, NextStep accepts members dealing with stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson’s disease.
Kouri said he was fortunate. He was surrounded with support after his injury; Susan and her sister moved to Kentucky with him. But he saw a lot of patients in Louisville who never had visitors. Kouri had plenty.
“I realized the impact of having that type of support group around you. I tried to bring that idea into NextStep. It’s not just a place to come exercise, it’s a place to hang out with people going through the same thing you’re dealing with,” he said.
His members have become his friends, he said.
And the trainers have become family.
“You do become a counselor, a life coach at times. We call it family in here,” said Christel Mitrovich, NextStep’s director.
Lead trainer John Gomez, who has been a personal trainer for 19 years, came to NextStep before it opened because he wanted to work with people who actually needed his help, not wanted it, he said.
“You can’t help but be humbled by what these people go through on a daily basis,” he said. “You or I complain about having to go out and buy dog food at a certain time and in the amount of time it takes us to get it and return, they’re still trying to get in and out of their car.”
Gomez said many members improve psychologically.
“That’s a huge improvement. To go from being depressed, shy, unable to carry on a conversation to being friendly, laughing, talking about dinner or a movie they’ve seen,” he said. “You know you’re helping their quality of life.”
And the fitness program has helped every single member, including Kouri, improve physically — whether it’s a change in skin condition, blood circulation or muscle strength. When Kouri was injured, he had no function below his neck. After a few months, he could wiggle his left toe.
“From there it’s been a constant progression forward. First my toe, then another muscle in my leg, then my core, my glutes…” he said.
Last year, he took his first steps with a walker.
“You never know. One day something starts working that never worked before,” he said.
Amanda Timm had one of those days on Monday.
“Today, I just felt my groin flexing,” she said, smiling. “The first day!”
Timm, the daughter and niece of professional skiers, competed in an alpine ski contest in her native Calgary in February. She was the only girl to pop a 360-degree turn off the base at the competition, her father, Gordon, said. The next day, she asked her dad if she should do more jumps. He told her to just ski a strong line, no tricks. She listened.
“But she came down, hooked an edge, slammed into a tree and here we are,” Gordon said. “It was a freak accident.”
Timm suffered a T5 paralysis and has no motor function from her chest down.
Gordon said they had an experience many other spinal cord injury patients share.
“You’re at the hospital, the quote unquote neurologist and rehab doctors say, ‘Here’s your wheelchair and you’re going to enjoy it because that’s what you’re stuck with,’” he said.
There are no facilities like NextStep in Calgary, and there are only two other spinal cord injury patients in the province, Gordon said. But Amanda, a lifelong athlete and Canadian soccer standout, was determined to find a progressive facility that could help her walk again. Two months ago, they flew down to Los Angeles. She spends her afternoons at NextStep. Gordon and his wife take rotations; one in Canada working, the other always by Amanda’s side.
Seeing Kouri and other NextStep members has given Amanda hope. She continues to improve physiologically every time, Gordon said.
“She’s not allowing it to drag her down. It’s just another hurdle,” he said. “She’s just an athlete who had some bad luck. This is just a setback, it’s not a stop.”
Many members don’t come in with Amanda’s spirit, especially if they’re newly injured.
“They’re kind of at the darkest place in their life,” Mitrovich said. “Immediately you see your peers doing something you didn’t think was possible and trainers that don’t treat you like you’re disabled. It can be very eye-opening and reassuring.”
The members look to Kouri.
“His dedication to the program has been unwavering since the day I met him,” Mitrovich said. “After his injury he and his wife realized, ‘Yes, we are very fortunate and so many others are not.’ They felt they were lucky. But it shouldn’t be that way. Everyone should have access to something like this.”
The cost to survive
But for most rehab programs, the price is too steep.
Kouri’s costs for the one-year stint in Louisville hit eight figures. Most insurance companies give patients $2,500 toward equipment. Kouri’s wheelchair alone cost $35,000.
According to a Reeve Foundation survey, expenses in the first year after a spinal cord injury range from $220,000 to $775,000. The estimated lifetime costs due to a spinal cord injury can range from $681,000 to more than $3 million for a 25-year-old. For most, if they have health insurance, it runs out within a few weeks. But many don’t have it.
NextStep offers different levels of membership to cater to every budget and ability level. Some clients need four trainers to help them sit up or roll over. Other clients just want to lose weight. Some clients pay $1,600 a month, others pay $75 a month, and some pay nothing. With the help of grants and donations, NextStep started a scholarship program for low-income members. Allensworth, who is on disability, said without the scholarship program, she couldn’t afford to be there.
“We want to make sure clients come in here and stay here, and don’t break the bank doing it,” Mitrovich said. “At many other facilities, the clients spend all of their savings and it’s a short-term thing.”
Mitrovich said essentially the whole NextStep program is a scholarship program since they charge a fraction of what it really costs annually to operate the facility — $400,000.
“We eat those costs so our clients can get a program that makes sense. If you’re a quadriplegic and have no use of your arms or legs, you’re going to get that assistance,” she said. “We feel this is a basic necessity (for the members).”
Life on four wheels
Allensworth’s life since her accident is a process.
Before the injury, she was an executive assistant for a property management company. She was known for being quick on her feet, able to run around and multitask.
Now, a shower takes Allensworth a few hours.
Any mundane task an able-bodied person can do in seconds or a few minutes takes Allensworth 15 or 20 minutes.
She also has to set aside time before she leaves her house for outings to take care of things like bowel function.
“Not being able to walk is the least of our concerns,” she said. “Living with this injury is like a full-time job.”
Allensworth said she’s able to live with this because she did it to herself.
“I don’t think I could have lived with myself if there had been another car in the accident or if my friend had gotten more seriously hurt … I was a stubborn person. I needed something drastic to happen before I could wake up and realize what I was doing wasn’t the right way of living.”
Kouri found the irony in his situation. In the months before his injury he had told Susan that he wanted to form a nonprofit, but he couldn’t find a cause that felt like the right fit.
“After my injury, it just slapped me in the face and said, ‘Here you go, here’s your cause. You better do something about this,’” he said.
Next Step will host its “Help Make a Difference” benefit Tuesday, July 26, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 12 and Highland, located at 304 12th Street in Manhattan Beach. The event will feature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a raffle by The Charity Angels. Tickets are $80 pre-sale and $100 at the door. For more information and to get tickets, visit www.nextstepfitness.org.
Janne Kouri is a lifelong athlete who played football at Georgetown University. In 2006, during a break in play from a beach volleyball game with friends in Hermosa Beach, CA, he dove into the waves to cool off, hit his head on a sandbar and was instantly paralyzed. After being rescued by an off-duty EMT who was nearby, Janne was transported first to a local hospital, then to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, where he would spend the next two months battling a life-threatening case of pneumonia, nearly dying multiple times. After regaining enough fitness to endure the trip, he was transported to the Frazier Rehab Institute at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, where he would do intensive inpatient treatment and a special type of rehab called Locomotor training for six months under the care of Dr. Susie Harkema. After a further six month outpatient treatment regimen, Janne and his wife Susan moved back to Southern California.
In Janne Kouri's native Finland, there is a word - sisu - that he says means "determination and perseverance and never giving up in the face of adversity and most of all not complaining." That special word, along with the friendships he formed and the strength he built as a football player at Georgetown, helped Janne persevere after suffering a serious spinal-cord injury in 2006. He not only has learned to walk with assistance since then, but he also has created a nonprofit corporation called NextStep Fitness so that others can do the same.
The San Francisco native, Frank Alioto can contest to the unlikelihood of such irony. Frank's story was featured on "Breakthrough with Tony Robbins," on NBC July 27, 2010. Click here to watch the episode on NBC.com. "Frank the Tank" a nickname that was inherited and has stuck with him since, is due to the parallel between him and the character played by Will Ferrell in the 2003 box office hit "Old School". Both guys always tinkering with their old red camaro's and hangin' with the fellas. The sarcastic, dry humored mechanical engineer tells his story with a smirk; as if he has some of the answers we are all searching for as we travel down the mysterious road of life. His silence is kept, his secret remains unrevealed as he goes through the events of a day that will always be remembered as the day he had a true understanding of the famous words, "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health".
Frank and Kristen had been good friends for years before they started dating. The active couple was always on the go. Their travel itineraries included several road trips in their RV, 4-wheeling, motor sports, mountain biking, hiking, camping.... and the list goes on, and on. His passion for automobiles produced and altered several vehicles over the years. He describes his garage as a child would describe a toy chest, filled with jeeps, trucks, dune buggies, and scrap motor-parts that would soon have a life of their own. He showed me a picture of his jeep that he modified; it's quite impressive, custom suspension, custom roll-cage, after market seats and beadlock wheels. Frank and Kristen could be characterized as that rare couple that continues their own interests, but yet their experiences are heightened by their unique qualities. Like true puzzle pieces that belong attached, Frank and Kristen had a good thing and knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, sharing all adventures that would come their way. They were engaged for about a year and a half and ready to tie the knot on December 6th 2008 in Puerto Vallarta.
Preparing for the day that would unite the two in marriage was no different from any other couple than it was for Frank and Kristen. The planning went smoothly with the help of their strategic, organized, wedding planner with no kinks in sight for the big day. However, there was no way to prepare for the heartbeat of a moment that would occur later that evening.
The week had been jam packed with adventures shared with friends and family. By the time Saturday rolled around Frank and others were ready to relax and fully enjoy the celebration they had all traveled to attend.
He goes on describing the moment his fiancÃ©e walked down the aisle to meet him at the alter. Kristen, an independent, successful woman and soon to be wife of a true "Man's Man", was less than amused as she approached him at the alter. She was not lit up with smiles like most brides, but rather annoyed by Frank's actions. The attention of the guests was focused on the "Snap Happy" groom rather than the beautiful bride. Camera in hand, he thought it would be fun to document this particular moment from his view, taking over from the photographer that had been hired. He chuckles as he re-lives the moment in his mind, and then shows me some photos of the ceremony that had been saved to his iPhone.
I have come to know Frank as the funny sarcastic member here at NextStep Fitness. Although I'm back in the office most of the time and have little interaction with the clients, I always catch a glimpse of conversation on the floor and can't help but smile at Frank's contributions. His loyalty, generosity and thoughtfulness are also very apparent from the desk where I sit. He always brings others into the loop of entertaining dialog, no matter what the topic may be on that particular day. Willing to clown at himself and always making sure not to joke at someone else's expense.... wellâ€¦at least making sure they can handle it if he does. Personally speaking, best of all are his generous avocado offerings from his avocado tree. I have become quite popular with my friends due to my amazing guacamole, Thank You Frank!!
So, back to the story, Kristen is clearly well aware and in loving acceptance of Frank's humor, Kristen's annoyance quickly passed and the wedding ceremony was even more beautiful than expected. The reception was magnificent, over looking the ocean, dancing by the pool and sharing the love and happiness that was so evidently present.
By the time the sun started to set, the entire wedding party was in the pool dancing, wedding clothes and all. Yes, the bride was wearing her dress and her bridesmaids were wearing matching. They were all singing, dancing, and having the time of their lives. What a blast! Wanting to be a part of the "Water Wedding Party", Frank dove in the pool headfirst.
His head forcefully plunged into the concrete floor and within a heartbeat of a moment his C5 & C6 vertebrae were completely shattered -- leaving him with a sever case of paralysis. Memory is lost of the actual dive as well as the contact he had at the bottom. Like a nightmare, but unable to awake, he found himself in a pool of water unable to float. At that moment, Frank knew there was something terribly wrong, the feeling in his legs was completely gone and he was unable to move. He was rushed to a clinic on a backboard where he was confined all night. "That was the first time I heard the word quadriplegic in association to my condition". He goes on to explain the panic and anxiety he lived, while painfully and helplessly spending his "Golden Hour" in that Mexican Clinic. That was night "Team Tank" was born. His friends and family showed their support immediately, making Team Tank hospital bracelets.
Frank is now confined to a wheelchair and spends 3 days a week at NextStep Fitness. A facility that was established in 2008 by Janne Kouri, a man that has also been stripped from independence. Determined to make a difference NextStep Fitness partnered with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network to bring cutting edge training methods, procedures, and technologies to rehabilitation for people suffering from paralysis. NextStep Fitness' mission is to provide community-based, state-of-the-art ï¬tness facilities for individuals suffering from paralysis at an affordable cost. Along with other members, NextStep Fitness has become Frank's second home.
Frank joined NextStep Fitness in May 2009, after Kristen vigorously searched for recovery options for her new husband. When he joined, he had very little upper-body movement. Christel Mitrovich, the Director of Locomotor Training here at NextStep has expressed his amazingly positive outlook, realistic personal goals and willingness to try something new. He has worked very hard on his arm movement, which was non-existent when he arrived, now able to raise both arms over his head. He is still working very hard on core strength and better arm control and looks forward to traveling more and becoming more independent in the future. The desire to get back to work was mentioned several times in our conversation as well as completing projects that were started before the wedding but now lay unfinished in his garage.
I asked Frank how this injury has changed him the most beyond the physical limitations. "Patience, I've never had patience," he said. Frank explains that you cannot be impatient in his situation, it would be impossible. Waiting for others to help with simple tasks is very difficult for someone who is used to doing everything themselves. Before he was more caught up in his own life with work and other things that he now finds to be quite insignificant. The time with friends and family is a commodity that has become Frank's first priority.
Just when you think these newlyweds have endured enough trauma, another obstacle lies in their path. This last February Kristin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Doctors took her under the knife immediately finding a tumor the size of an orange. Only being able to remove half of the tumor, they went in a second time in May to recover the remains. Miraculously Kristen was back working full time in June shocking doctors with her speedy recovery.
Frank and Kristen Alioto's story is a compelling one to say the very least. It has captured the attention of many including, Tony Robbins who has done a special on Frank and his wife. The Tony Robbins crew followed Frank for two months including a trip to Fiji, which was his first big trip after the accident. His trip to Fiji opened his mind to the possibility to continue his travel adventures as he has come so accustomed to. They showed him the luxury was still available to him and his family, through different arrangements.
As far as "Team Tank" goes Kristen continues to stand strong by Frank's side and family support is solid as ever. There is no slowing down "Team Tank"; the newlyweds will finally go to Hawaii for their honeymoon in November, and plan to fill their calendar with new itineraries in 2011.
Written By, Kathleen Dougherty of NextStep Fitness
Every year, 11,000 people hear "you may never walk again," and the majority of them are in the prime of their lives. One young paraplegic who's defying the odds is helping others do the same, not through a new drug or a new surgery, but through exercise.
When Jothy Rosenberg was told after losing a leg and part of a lung to cancer that he would not survive, the teenager went to Utah and skied for 100 days straight.
It was followed by swimming, white water rafting, water skiing, and biking.
Now 36 years later, Rosenberg who is healthy and thriving, has founded six start-up tech companies, earned a PhD and become a grandfather.
In the fitness world Janne Kouri is what they call an animal... a regular gym rat. He's got an ironman work ethic and a routine so relentless it puts many a serious athlete to shame. Kouri's not just training, though. He's recovering. Before: total paralysis. Now: walking with a walker.
LT is a difficult, sometimes fuzzy-edged scientific adventure, not a predictable task like learning to play Wii dodge ball with the kids.
When I first dropped by the Next Step Fitness Center, situated in a nondescript mini-mall in the Los Angeles suburb of Lawndale, Janne Kouri had been walking, or more precisely, stepping, with a walker for about two weeks. Three years ago Kouri, now 34, was playing volleyball on the beach and decided to dive into the ocean, hitting a sandbar and ending up a with a C5-6 incomplete SCI. In that stark nanosecond many paralyzed people have experienced, Kouri went from a former 280-pound defensive lineman at Georgetown to an immobile tetraplegic.
The Christopher Reeve Foundation explores revolutionary spinal cord therapies.
Hermosa Beach, CA - March 30, 2009- NextStep, a non-profit rehabilitative fitness facility (www.nextstepfitness.org), announces its First Annual Hermosa Beach Fundraiser. This event will be held on April 30, 2009 at 7:30pm at Sangria Restaurant in Hermosa Beach. The event will kick off with an action packed live BMX Show by Team Soil, a group of elite BMX professionals. The show is free to the public and will take place behind Fat Face Fenner's Fishshack at 7:00pm.
There will be a VIP event at Bo Bridges photography gallery and an evening of live music, dancing, food, raffles and fun with friends and family at Sangria Restaurant. Special performances by Wayward Sons, Hollywood's infamous "Arena Rock" cover band and other entertaining activities will create a truly exciting evening.
The event is designed to unite the South Bay around a wonderful and needed cause, increasing awareness of disabled members of the area and raising funds that will enable NextStep to continue delivering essential fitness services to the disabled citizens of the local communities. NextStep is a state-of-the-art outpatient fitness center that brings the most cutting edge training methods, procedures, and technologies to rehabilitation for spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and traumatic brain injury victims in the greater Los Angeles County. NextStep's clients come from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds; therefore NextStep offers its services at a fraction of what it costs to have the clients at the facility. This is the reason NextStep relies on charitable donations to operate.
NextStep Fitness was established by Hermosa local, Janne Kouri in June 2008 through a partnership with the Neurorecovery Network (NRN) and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Janne Kouri, fractured his C5 & C6 vertebrae when diving into the ocean from the Manhattan Beach shoreline in August 2006 and in an instant was paralyzed from the neck down. After two months in ICU at Cedars-Sinai, Janne and his wife Susan traveled to Louisville, KY to participate in Locomotor Training, a cutting edge rehabilitation therapy for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury. Locomotor Training is an activity-based therapy that attempts to retrain the spinal cord to "remember" the pattern of walking again. NextStep continues in operation today as the only community-based fitness facility specifically designed to enhance the recovery, wellness, and function of individuals in a cost effective manner. It is the only Locomotor Training Center west of Houston.
"The South Bay should take pride in having such a facility within this region and being the unique national beacon from which similar efforts can be established throughout the nation." says Reggie Edgerton, a Co-Chair and Professor of Physiological Science and a member of the Brain Research Institute at UCLA.
Janne Kouri adds, "I am truly thankful for the support we have received from the community and look forward to working together with the local businesses, city officials, community leaders & citizens, to help the disabled in the South Bay get the care they need."
NextStep Fitness is a registered 501(c)(3) organization (tax ID # 26-0678238)
After an accident left Hermosa Beach resident Janne Kouri paralyzed from the neck down, he realized there was a dearth of local facilities to help him cope with his debilitating condition.
So he founded NextStep Fitness, a nonprofit fitness center for people who are dealing with physical disabilities.
NextStep Fitness, a California non-profit that provides fully accessible and adaptive equipment for physically challenged adults, will celebrate the opening of its new 3600 sq/ft. facility on June 5, 2008.
NextStep was created to deliver essential fitness services to the underserved community of para- and tetraplegics, as well as others with neurological impairments, in greater Los Angeles County. NextStep strives to improve levels of independence and quality of life through personalized fitness and wellness programs -- designed by both the client and trained staff.
In addition to activity-based exercise regiments, NextStep will be the first community-based fitness facility to offer the cutting-edge Locomotor Training to clients through a partnership with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Locomotor Training, an innovative intervention that helps individuals with gait impairments, has been proven to contribute to improved cardiovascular and pulmonary function, boosts the healing potential of the skin, helps increase bone density, and may improve bladder function.
NextStep president Janne Kouri suffered a paralyzing diving injury in August 2006, fracturing C5 and C6 vertabrae. He used Locomotor Training and activity-based exercise programs at a Kentucky-based facility to regain muscle strength, movement and general better health post his injury.
"Being the first in-patient to ever participate in the program, I was obviously slightly anxious and nervous," Mr. Kouri said. "But before I knew it, my toes started to wiggle and with each week I experienced more and more movement in my legs. Within a month I was able to step for an hour at a time with the assistance of my trainers. My health dramatically improved; my blood pressure, my overall strength and muscle tone, my cardio endurance, as well as my mental strength. Simply put, it felt great to stand up and "walk" again."
Upon returning home, Kouri was surprised at the lack of advanced fitness training options in California for individuals with disabilities. Janne and his wife Susan decided to create NextStep Fitness with the goal of affordable, client-focused fitness programs and researched-based training techniques.
NextStep will also offer Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bicycles for its members. RT300 FES cycles have been proven to relax muscle spasms, prevent or retard disuse atrophy, increase local blood circulation, and maintain or even increase range of motion.
The public is invited to NextStep's grand opening on June 5th.