AK Mackellar follows the example of his body

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AK MacKellar told their story to producer Ann Marie Awad for an episode of The daily rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I remember having that moment and thinking to myself, if I don’t go now, I’m going to be too scared and I won’t go. So start cycling.

I am in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I’m the founder of an inclusive body movement platform specifically for LGBTQ+ people, and I do it full time, running an online fitness community, getting out there and being active.

In 2019 I had an ATV accident and had a head trauma that completely changed my life. I had started riding maybe four or five years earlier and was really excited to explore Sedona, Arizona. This weekend was just about exploring the sport and being around people who love it as much as I do.

You pedal to the top of this plateau, then descend. This is that remarkable trail in Sedona and has some challenging features. I was pushing myself a bit outside of my comfort zone to do it, but in a way that encouraged me and I had to go out there and challenge myself.

We had stopped on a part of this trail which was a bit technical, a big roll of rocks where you couldn’t really see the bottom. A few people had preceded me and they were fine. But I didn’t know you couldn’t just run your bike all the way and be fine. You had to lift the front wheel, otherwise the front wheel would be too vertical, and with the momentum you would go over your handlebars. It is therefore interesting to reflect on this moment of wanting to overcome fear, but without all the information.

I feel my body weight moving forward, I feel myself getting off the bike, and I see the rock in front of my head, but knowing that, I can’t stop, I can’t do anything. You just see the thing in slow motion, but it really is the fastest movement. Everything happens in seconds or less: hitting the rock, dropping the bike on me and lying on the ground for a second. At that time, I didn’t know anything was wrong. I just thought, Whoa, OK. It didn’t go as planned. And it wasn’t until I got up that I realized my body wasn’t okay.

I’m nauseous, I’m dizzy. I had played competitive hockey as a child, so concussions are very common in this sport. And acknowledging that feeling that had happened before, and knowing that my body wasn’t okay, but not knowing at all at that time the extent of it.

Once I got home, I realized how badly I was. In high school, I had a friend who had had very serious concussions. So I sent him a message saying, “What should I do?” And she gave me the contact of a sports doctor who specializes in traumatic brain injury. I remember calling them and needing a lot of help. They were like, “Oh, we only have one appointment with a physio. Do you want this now? Or do you want to wait for the doctor? And I remember saying, I can’t make that decision. I don’t know. Cognitively, my functioning was so low.

For three to four months as I tried to get back to my desk job in real estate, my body just wouldn’t tolerate it. I began to recognize that forcing myself back to that desk job I was no longer passionate about was not the path I needed to take.

Although it was terrifying, I decided to quit my job and start my own personal training business. And the funny thing is that the next day a bunch of my symptoms disappeared. The stress and forcing myself to do something that wasn’t good for me, having a real physical effect on my body, opened my eyes, and something you almost can’t recognize until this great moment does not happen.

At the time, I was working with a coach, someone who believed in me and who told me: “Jump, jump. You can do it.” At the same time, I had a very supportive partner who said the same thing, “Why not try my luck?” My parents thought I was crazy. They didn’t support this at all. decision. And I said to them, “I really don’t want to hear it anymore.”

I think the biggest lesson for me is that my body and the signals it sends are really important to listen to. Whether it’s a headache, jaw pain, your eyes not working or your brain not working, these are signals that you need to slow down, that you need to rest, that you need to take care of yourself or prioritize it.

And it’s frustrating, and it doesn’t mesh well with the realities of our daily lives with work, socializing, responsibilities, childcare, any of those things. But it’s really the only way.

AK MacKellar is a certified personal trainer and fitness coach and the founder of Free To Move, an inclusive online platform offering movement classes and a community for all kinds of people.

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