"Her scaling and guidance gave me the confidence to not give up hope. If it was not for the coaching, I am sure I wouldn't have lasted ..."
An ophthalmologist and CrossFitter, Dr. Walid Rada is Colombian by birth, raised Panamanian and of devoted Lebanese heritage.
Ralid was not always active. He began exercising in 2008, and before that he never liked weight training. After three years of running a daily 9K, Rada was introduced to Reebok-sponsored affiliate CrossFit PTY in September 2010. His life quickly changed.
He scaled the movements at first, but quickly progressed to doing workouts as prescribed. He says he had more athleticism than he thought.
Sixteen months after Rada began CrossFit, he found himself pumped full of adrenaline during and end-of-the-year throwdown at CrossFit PTY. He quickly surpassed his PR on a deadlift ladder event. His coach, Ani Wieselmann advised him not to go for 295, but he didn’t listen.
“I felt pain and a pull on my lower back, but paid little attention to it the following days and began masking the pain with anti-inflammatory medication,” Rada admits. “I sort of forgot about it — it is even hard to pinpoint that the injury occurred right then and there.”
In May 2012, he took his family to Lebanon. In order to stay active with no box nearby, he took up running through steep trails and slopes.
“After 12 days of running every day in rough terrain, I felt my sciatic nerves suddenly fire up and down both legs,” he says. “I felt I was done.”
Upon his return to Panama, a neurosurgeon advised him to stop CrossFit.
“I would have to say I became depressed, it wasn’t any other feeling, I was devastated. I didn’t want to stop,” he says.
Uneasy with the persistent pain and eager to begin moving again, he flew to the Florida Spine Institute in Clearwater, Fla. There, he had the good fortune of running into Dr. Francisco Torres, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
“He told me it wasn’t that I couldn’t continue CrossFit, but more like … I shouldn´t stop,” Rada says. “I burst out of the room toward my wife with a huge smile.
“Looking for motivation, I decided to perform the stretches the doctor prescribed to me back at my box. As I began doing my exercises — especially those prescribed for the core — coach Adriana Roquer walked over and took my paper,” he says. “She noticed as I was doing the dead-bug, that all my prescribed exercises were known and used commonly at the box.”
Roquer suggested he return to the group classes. Anything he could not do she scaled for him and/or traded with exercises from his list.
“To recover from the injuries, you must never avoid human movement. You have to regain your range of motion through functional movement. You know your limits, just listen to you body,” Roquer told him.
Rada began his slow path to recovery through scaling.
“I knew I had to go back to zero … so I had to survive two months of only PVC every time the group was using barbells. Luckily, I could do rows, pull-ups, push-ups, squats and GHD sit-ups, and back extensions without pain,” he says. “The pain usually manifested itself when running or jumping.”
After two months, Rada slowly began introducing weight, first with the bare 25-lb. barbell and then gradually scaling up until he could perform the workouts as prescribed. He was back to his previous PRs by December of 2012.
“I can again do 135-lb. thrusters and can press 145 lb. times eight, although I am still very frightened to deadlift. I don’t want to find out what a wrong move would feel like. I’m not ready for that lift just yet,” Rada says.
“Perhaps the most important factor in my recovery was the fact that CrossFit helped me win the mental game. I was quickly reminded that, in CrossFit, everything is scalable … so my depression and mental barrier was quickly defeated within a month,” Rada says. “Even so, most of the exercises they told me to do where very similar to those I had already been doing, so when I noticed I could still do my new, scaled version of CrossFit, I regained the motivation.”
Rada says his coach took him “practically by the hand” for two months.
“Her scaling and guidance gave me the confidence to not give up hope. If it was not for the coaching, I am sure I wouldn’t have lasted, I would have gotten bored,” he says. “The personal attention is what you need to go through the slump.
“I always think like a doctor, so anybody that goes through any injury has first to define the problem, and then has to come up with how to remain active regardless,” Rada adds. “CrossFit is broad enough, there are tons of exercises and once you define your problem and what you can still do, you choose a bias and you keep going.”
A motivating factor contributing to Rada’s recovery and relentless motivation is that only a few months after he began CrossFit, his wife Katia, their two boys and four girls, also joined. All eight have been attending CrossFit PTY as a family ever since.
“CrossFit was already a family activity, so I could not stand the idea that due to an injury, I could no longer be part of it,” Rada recalls.
“I always knew Walid wouldn’t stop CrossFit because he is a very persistent person,” Katia says. “So, scaling became his only option and I knew he could make it work. A few times I was a little scared he would become bored without the weight and the intensity he had experienced before, but with his will to teach himself and the help he received at the box, it was enough to slowly, but surely scale him through the process.”