Kirstie Ennis: A True American Hero and Inspiration
So, wow, it’s September already. For many of us, time to get back to school, back to work – and just back to regular life and routines, which often involves getting back to regular physical fitness. If you’re finding that you’re dragging your butt a bit more than you’d like to be and need some extra motivation, you’ve come to the right place.
This is where we introduce you to the amazing Kirstie Ennis, a six year U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant, who lost her leg while serving our country in Afghanistan in 2012.
Fitness has always been a top priority for Kirstie, and four years after losing her leg, she’s not letting anything stop her from being the healthiest version of herself. Not only is she conquering mountains, but she’s got her sights set on representing her country in the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Along with us at Team OXiGEN, Kirstie is also participating in the 6th Annual Cycle for Heroes event raising money for The Heroes Project, a fantastic organization that supports veterans of all walks.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Kirstie a few days before the event about life after the Marines and how she goes about training for the fitness challenge of a lifetime.
OXiGEN: How did you first get involved with Cycle for Heroes?
Kirstie: I am actually one of the beneficiaries of Cycle for Heroes, which is going to help fund my next expedition to the Cartensz Pyramid in Indonesia. There has only been one other amputee with injuries like mine but if all goes to plan I will be the first amputee to ever summit and attempt it. I got involved with The Heroes Project back in April, as they also do another event called Climb for Heroes, and around that same time the founder approached me and gave me the idea for doing one of the seven summits.
OXiGEN: How do you prepare for Cycle for Heroes, which is three hours of cycling, and Carstensz?
Kirstie: Cycling, of course, is a given. It can be hard because I am an amputee but I use to do triathlons so that helped. I haven’t been on a bike in a while so I’m quite literally learning how to ride a bike all over again and get back up on my own two feet and walk. I also do have a knee that is programmed for cycling to help with it. In regards to the climb, I usually do hiking, mountaineering, a lot of rock climbing, lots of interval training, and weight training to prepare. I’m also preparing for an upcoming event that is a 62 mile hike through the jungle just to get to the base of the mountain. And then basecamp is at 14,000 feet. It usually takes people about a week to get to the top but I think it will take me about 10 days due to missing a lot of my leg.
OXiGEN: Are there any secret places you love to travel to or just enjoy in nature?
Kirstie: I love being outside, especially with being in the Marine Corp, which of course I’m not now due to my injury. I do love going out to international parks, whether it’s going out to Yellowstone, South Korea or Zion. I’m constantly on the move. I also love to snowboard and am with a Paralympic development team with the hopes of going to 2018 South Korea. So I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I get to go all over like Italy, South Korea and Finland. In terms of my favorite hiking place, I would definitely say Zion.
OXiGEN: Do you listen to music when you train?
Kirstie: I don’t really listen to any, I just try to find my rhythm. Usually I am with my trainer so I am just talking. When I do listen to music I enjoy a lot of country and a lot of rock but when I’m hiking I listen to more rock than anything.
OXiGEN: Is there anyone you look up to or anyone that inspires you?
Kirstie: I had to be in the hospital for a very long time because my helicopter went down over in Afghanistan in 2012. I was really motivated and inspired by the people around me and what they were doing. You come to realize there is always someone worse off than you. I really thrived over watching the people around me who were striving to do what they wanted to do. Two of the people who were in the hospital with me at the time are also doing Cycle for Heroes. One of them is Charlie Linville, who is a below the knee amputee who just did Everest and the other is Mark Zambon, who is a bi-lateral amputee with a disabled leg and damage to his arm and he did Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago too. I definitely look to them and pick their brains to see what works for them and to also see the adversity and the odds put in place.
OXiGEN: What’s the most helpful advice you’ve been given since your injury?
Kirstie: Honestly, the biggest thing anyone has told me was listen to my body because I’m in a very unique situation now. I know I will never be normal again, so to speak, but I need to find my own sense of normalcy. The best way I’m going to do that is by training my body to grow and not overtrain to the point where I’m causing damage. In my case right now the only real damage I can cause is damage to my residual limb. Sometimes you just have to slow down, listen to your body and let yourself heal in order to move forward.
OXiGEN: After you finish training and complete this 10-day journey, what’s next for you?
Kirstie: I will come home from Indonesia and roll right into snowboarding season. I’ll end up moving away from California for the winter and live in Colorado to train on the World Cup circuit and compete with my Paralympic team, hopefully make it to South Korea and the podium in 2018.
OXiGEN: What is one piece of advice that you could offer someone in a similar situation?
Kirstie: Don’t let your injuries define you. We’re all going through something. You control your circumstances, they don’t control you.
OXiGEN: We know you’ve been incorporating OXiGEN water and shots into your training for Cycle for Heroes, so we have to ask, how have they been working for you?
Kirstie: Yes, I have been using them for about a week now. When we first got them, my trainer and I were really curious about all of it in general. I first took one of the shots before I climbed and I was actually really surprised (by the results). I had done arms earlier in the day at the gym and then to climb (later in the day) was to use a lot of upper body, so I wasn’t very confident in how I was going to do but I ended up surprising myself. My stamina increased as well as my endurance. I then continued to use the water when I was lifting or when we were hiking and even then I would say I knew those shots worked in the sense of recovery. Normally I do not bounce back from the activities that I do that quickly and I can tell that, especially in the morning and at night, as long as I’m using them in conjunction with my routine I can definitely tell the difference.
OXiGEN: Will you continue to use OXiGEN water and shots in your training?
Kirstie: Absolutely! I am really impressed with the products when it comes to the recovery side of things. With the training I do you just become so dehydrated. And being outside there is no cloud or tree coverage and it’s just hot. It’s really hard for me to regulate my body temperature with the loss of my limb and having less blood in my body compared to what others have with their entire leg. My body is constantly in overdrive and pumping out blood and always working a lot harder with a prosthetic and having to use crutches. I am just seeing so much more energy and feel great. I’m an optimist and am sold on OXiGEN!
We want to thank Kirstie and to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country. If you want to support The Heroes Project and honor our wounded veterans, you can make a donation and even sponsor a veteran, like Kirstie Ennis, HERE.