July 29, 2022

Adaptive fitness fair offers opportunities to keep healthy and thrive

Madison, Wis. – Prior to the loss of a portion of his right leg above the knee in 2015, Jeremy Zielke was an active individual, and he wanted to return to that lifestyle, but getting there was a challenge.

Many of the things he loved to do, like golfing, skiing and traveling, would require an adaptive device. He has a sophisticated prosthetic leg, which has given him mobility, but to ski, for example, Zielke needed to learn how to ski on one leg and use two guide skis that replace the typical ski poles.

“Half of the battle is mental and emotional,” he said. “Just standing up and going out and grabbing those golf clubs is a victory in itself.”

Zielke sought out ways to find adaptive means to do sports, but it took a lot of time and planning, and many don’t know how to find these avenues, according to Katherine Lamprey, physical therapist, UW Health, who works with many amputees.

To do something about this, in 2019, she started a group, now called Madison Area Network of Amputees (MANA), to bring people with adaptive needs together to learn from each other and connect to others who have common life experiences in an effort to improve their quality of life.

“One thing I’ve learned as a physical therapist, is that my information and knowledge can only go so far,” Lamprey said. “People really do learn best from those who have experienced the same situation they are currently experiencing, and I wanted to provide this opportunity through MANA.”

Zielke worked with her initially to help guide the offerings the new group could bring to its members, and over time the group which started virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic has incorporated guest speakers, social gatherings, group sporting activities and more.

Physical activity is a primary focus of the new group, and this year it is hosting its second Fitness Fair, supported by the UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aug. 14, at Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona (1079 American Way), so more people can learn about the sports and activities available in the area. It is free and open to anyone who has adaptive needs or helps support someone who does, according to Lamprey.

The fair is a collection of vendors and informational booths offering a wide variety of sporting and physical activities that can be done using adaptive devices.

Fitness is so much more than a workout or way to stay healthy, Lamprey said.

“Physical activity is important when recovering from any injury as it provides physical, social, emotional and mental well-being, which we all need in life,” she said.

Zielke, who took up rock climbing at Boulders Climbing Gym after his injury following some prodding from his friends, was only able to do so with a special prosthetic leg and teaching from his friends. He also participated in Boulders’ adaptive climbing group an opportunity he wants others to have.

So, Zielke will be at the fair sharing his experience on the rock wall, he said.

“I feel like I’m setting an example by showing people that bad things can happen, but you can push through and deal with things in positive ways,” Zielke said.