Some clouds
75°
Some clouds
Hi 78° | Lo 53°

Greenfield

Enjoying the ride

GREENFIELD: Crotched Mountain Rehabiliation Center’s adaptive cycling program is not just good therapy, it’s good fun

  • Billy Buyck of Londonderry practices using a recumbent three-wheel bicycle in the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center gym, in anticipation of joining Crotched Mountain's Accessible Recreation and Sports program in their outdoor bike rides.
  • Wendy Appleton of Bartlett practices using a recumbent three-wheel bicycle in the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center gym, in anticipation of joining Crotched Mountain's Accessible Recreation and Sports program in their outdoor bike rides.
  • Crotched Mountian Rehabilitation Center patients Wendy Appleton of Bartlett and Billy Buyck of Londonderry try out recumbent trikes during a adaptive recreation session.
  • Kristin Harris, a recreation specialist at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, demonstrates a hand-powered bicycle.
  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center's accessible biking program took to the Peterborough bike trail on Friday, despite rainy weather.
  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center's accessible biking program took to the Peterborough bike trail on Friday, despite rainy weather.
  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center's accessible biking program took to the Peterborough bike trail on Friday, despite rainy weather.
  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center's accessible biking program took to the Peterborough bike trail on Friday, despite rainy weather.
  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center's accessible biking program took to the Peterborough bike trail on Friday, despite rainy weather.

“Happy, joyous and free.”

Those are the words that Billy Buyck uses to describe how cycling makes him feel. Buyck, a Londonderry resident, has been receiving rehabilitation at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center since he had a stroke three months ago. As part of his therapy, he’s taken advantage of some of the adaptive recreational programs available at Crotched Mountain, including their adaptive bicycling program. On Wednesday of last week, he was able to experience riding a bike for the first time since his stroke, seated in a recumbent pedal-powered trike.

“Whoever invented the wheel is my hero,” Buyck said. “It makes me feel awesome. It gets me out of my element. And it’s good for my ego...except when Wendy beats me.”

Wendy is Wendy Appleton of Bartlett, who joined Buyck on Wednesday in getting back on a bike for the first time since a spinal injury. Originally, Appleton said, she experienced complete paralysis of her legs, and thought that she would never be able to ride a bicycle with her children again. Yet, after therapy, on Wednesday she was able to move her own recumbent bike under her own power.

“It’s been great to get back on a bike again and just feel normal,” said Appleton.

Adaptive bicycling is a relatively new addition to Crotched Mountain’s Accessible Recreation and Sports program, or CMARS. The program uses adaptive recreation equipment to bring together both members of the Crotched Mountain campus and hospital and the larger community to participate in outdoor activities such as skiing, target shooting, hiking and kayaking. Biking only joined the list last year, after the center received grants that allowed the purchase of adaptive equipment. But it’s already garnered between 30 and 40 regular participants, about half as many as Crotched Mountain’s longest-running and most popular accessible recreation program, adapted skiing.

Among the bikes are those that can be powered with hand pedals, recumbent trikes like those used by Appleton and Buyck, bikes designed for rehabilitation, whose pedals move if the bike is being pushed or pulled, and bikes that allow for tandem biking, so that clients with a reduced ability to judge safely can pedal and be involved in the process, while a staff member is in control of elements like steering and braking, or can take over the majority of the work if the client becomes fatigued during a long ride. It’s a feature that has allowed some of the students who attend the school attached to Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, which specializes in students between the ages of eight and 21 with physical or cognitive disabilities, to join in and ride.

“Some families here were nervous about having their child be a part of the program,” said Kristin Harris, a recreation specialist at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center. “Being able to link the bikes took some of their safety concerns away. Knowing that someone else is in control of steering and braking has made them feel much more comfortable, so they can allow their child to participate.”

The different types of cycles also mean that the program can accommodate just about anyone, commented Jeff Burnett, the assistant director of CMARS. “It’s always a challenge, because everyone that comes is a little different. But part of the reward of this job is to put the pieces together and make it work.”

For those who do participate, there are both physical and mental benefits, said Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center’s Medical Director Fredrick Bruch.

“They get the same physical benefits everyone gets — increased strength, flexibility, balance, improved fine and gross motor control. But as far as mentally, there’s also a benefit in just being able to get out and do normal activities, whether they’re activities they’re returning to after an injury or trying for the first time.”

Geoff Garfinkle, the director of recreation at Crotched Mountain agreed that just sitting on a bike and riding the trails can be enormously beneficial to the mental health of those who join the program.

“Any activity, whether it’s riding a bike or kayaking or hiking, can help with someone’s identity,” he said. “While they’re doing that, they’re not someone with a disability or an illness. They’re a person riding a bike or paddling a kayak. It becomes a very normative thing.”

Though the rehabilitation center has a few outdoor loops ranging from half a mile to three miles long, they also take trips farther abroad. On Friday, a group of bikers were gathered at Summer Street in Peterborough, ready to take on the bike path there.

“We’re always scheming to come up with new ideas to keep it lively,” said Garfinkle, who added that they’d also like to extend into a bike path in Hollis and to bike the rail trail in Nashua.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.