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Comeback 2.0: James Grage Tackles Another Fitness Feat

Fifteen years after the accident that nearly killed him, BPI founder James Grage continues his remarkable recovery. His latest accomplishment: racing a six-minute mile for charity.
James Grage

Last November, James Grage took a look at his success story published in Men’s Fitness and realized something was missing from his regimen, something he used to do frequently—running. Motivated to fill the void, the BPI Sports co-founderand survivor of a catastrophic car crashset out to get his body in shape for a race that would coincide with the 15-year anniversary of his accident.

After all, Grage had already defied the odds with an inspiring fitness comeback story. His accident, which crushed both of his legs, left him bound to a hospital bed for six weeks. After that, his legs were numb for several more months, and he only felt a tingly pins-and-needles sensation in them for the next couple of years. Eventually, a mess of rods, bolts, and plates were used to reconstruct Grage’s leg, hip, and knee joints. He returned to the gym as soon as he began getting movement back, bit by bit doing whatever he could manage—a few crunches here, a couple of minutes on the bike there. Eventually, he reattained the bodybuilder-caliber physique he had at 24.

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The accident’s anniversary, though, wasn’t the only thing that motivated Grage, now 39, to return to running. He also wanted to use it as a way to help others and agreed that BPI would donate $10,000 to Shriners Hospitals for Children if he ran a 7-minute mile$20,000 if he broke 6 minutes.

On April 6, Grage took on Florida’s Run, Walk & Roll 5K, a race that raises money for disabled veterans, and broke a 6-minute mile—and that's while pushing a quadriplegic friend in a wheelchair. “What’s my excuse?” he says. “There’s always someone out there who’s got it worse than you.”

As triumphant as his race day was, Grage’s return to running was a painful and difficult journey. Any seasoned athlete knows overdoing it on a new training regimen early in the process can hinder your progress, but Grage knew he would have to take an especially “patient, calculated approach” to achieve his lofty goals.

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“Even after all this time, getting out of bed for me is like the evolution of man,” he says, referring to his chronic pain. “It’s almost like I start out crawling on all fours and end up walking upright. But I’m never going to let pain stop me from doing the things I want to do.”

Grage’s race training began back in December, when he started hitting the treadmill, taking several joint supplements, seeing a physical therapist (including a trip to see a specialist in Idaho), doing plenty of stretching and foam roller work, and relying on ice baths to dull the pain. In February, he began a methodical exercise regimen with the help of Olympic sprinter Tony Dees (silver medalist in 1992) and strongman competitor Charles Brooke. (Details on this regimen are below.)

Grage powered through the ambitious training schedule, admitting that his joints had generally felt better because of it (a bit of a “use it or lose it” concept here, he says). But as mentioned, Grage encountered some challenges along the way. Shin splints are to be expected for anyone jogging after a long hiatus, but Grage’s were especially significant, as his toes still lack most of the mobility they had pre-accident.

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Other obstacles included a texting driver running into Grage when he was biking, which left him bloodied with a swollen knee, and a winter bout with bronchitis. Still, as you might expect by now, Grage took it all in stride and kept moving forward without feeling sorry for himself.

“When we feel sorry for ourselves, we tend to dwell on the past,” he says. “And that’s why it’s hard for us, because we’re anchored to the way things used to be. But if we stop focusing on the way things used to be and focus on what they are now and what you want to do or create, it helps you get past all that and live in the present.”

Grage’s 5K Training and Supplementation Plan

Monday: Treadmill Running

• Alternative running at 6 mph for 1 min. with walking at 3.5 mph for 1 min. x 12
• 15 minutes of stretching/foam roller work

Tuesday

• 4 x 15 jump lunges
• 4 x 15 jump squats (20-pound vest or use 10-pound dumbbells)
• 4 x 40 jumping jacks
• 3 x 25 burpees with a jump
• 100 m sprints with harness and tire x 8
• 15 minutes of stretching/foam roller work

Wednesday: Track Running

• 8 x 200 meters (1/2 way around) 35/40 sec. each (rest 3 min. between each)
• 5 x 35 wide-leg jumping jacks
• 15 min. of stretching/foam roller work
• Abs: 20 crunches + 20 bicycle kicks + 20 scissor kicks (3x with rest between sets)

Thursday: Cardio Interval Training for V02max

• Run 5 min. at max intensity, 2 min. medium intensity, repeat interval 3 times
• Clean to front squat with 50-pound sandbag, 3 x 15
• 15 min. of stretching/foam roller work

Friday

• 4 x 800 meters (rest 4-5 min. between each lap)
• 4 x 40 jumping jacks
• 15 minutes of stretching/foam roller work
• Abs: 20 crunches + 20 bicycle kicks + 20 scissor kicks (3x with rest between sets)
• Ice bath

Supplements

• Glucosamine & MSM for joint health
• Ginger and Turmeric for joint and muscle inflammation
• B12 and folic acid for red blood cell production (helps with VO2)
• BPI’s Gluta-Alkaline and Best BCAA for muscle recovery and strength
• BPI’s Whey-HD protein powder to help build and recover
• Multivitamin
• Vitamin E and Fish Oil for joint health

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