by: Nerissa Cannon
One of the original Freedom Chair Trailblazers, Nerissa, now works full time with GRIT! Her own journey with chronic illness has made her very passionate about helping other people get the most out of life in spite of a disabling condition. In her new series, IT'S A GRIT LIFE, she shares how the GRIT Freedom Chair helps her engage in her favorite activities and live a life of adventure.
Today I want to talk about my absolute favorite activity to do with the Freedom Chair, which is - HIKING! Hiking is one of the things I loved to do before I got sick. I would often wake up at 5am and hike for 3 hours before work. Anytime I was struggling, just setting foot in nature helped me feel at peace.
Even though I need special equipment to hike now, I can still get the same satisfaction of being out in nature, you know, just feeling my heart pump as I work up a good hill, or, getting over an obstacle. Some different places you can hike besides just a standard trail are:
1. ATV Trails
2. Gravel Service Roads
3. Grassy Fields
4. Accessible Trails
If you do want to start experimenting with more technically challenging trails, I do recommend practicing small skills when you see the opportunity instead of setting out on a huge trail that's ALL technically challenging. I found this great rock pile when I was out hiking a service road one day so I ducked off the trail and just crawled around the rocks.
Above all, and I know for many this is going to be the hardest thing (and it most certainly was for me) - do not be afraid to ask for help. Get a push, a lift, or even just have a spotter if you are trying more challenging terrain. I am still learning to be okay with it, but I have learned that by working together with my trail buddies I'm able to have a much better time than if I had remained 100% stubbornly independent. And after all, on the downhill sections, they'll have trouble keeping up with me, so it all evens out!
While you can add push handles to the Freedom Chair, there is a discreet push bar on the back. It's been great to have that so that my partner can help give me a quick lift or a little push just to get over that section but then I don't have the handles always there begging for somebody to help me.
The main thing that allows hiking to be possible in the Freedom Chair is the levers. Not only do they give you that extra torque to go over hard obstacles, but the brake system (the cross bar) acts as a hill hold! What's wonderful about this is that if you're going up a steep incline and your muscles just need a little bit of a break, a little bit of a shake out, you can let that bar rest against the tire. Then when you're ready to go you just start pushing again without having lost any ground or without having to hold the tires while you let go of the parking brakes.
The large front tire is great about going over obstacles especially rocks and roots. There's very few things that this tire hasn't been able to get over.
One of the things you don't see very often in the photos and videos of the Freedom Chair that makes these types of climbs and descents possible is the seat belt. On every GRIT Chair there is a seat belt that is included. Without this seat belt, on some of these descents I would be sliding forward out of my seat.
Hiking can mean different things to different people. Hiking doesn't always have to mean going straight up a mountain. It's about finding what brings you the most joy when you go out.