The Grueling Training Schedule of a Paralympian Isn’t For Everyone

About the author: Travis Gaertner was born without a left leg and with only half of his right leg. Being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped him from being extremely active. Gaertner has won two Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair basketball and is training for a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in handcycling. Find out more about Gaertner’s quest.


Travis Gaertner Using a PRO1

As a two-time Paralympic gold medalist who retired from competitive sport to focus on career and having a family, I’m often asked what daily life looks like now that I’m attempting to compete again in a new sport at the international level. How do I balance training, my day job, and the importance of quality family time?


It comes down to discipline and following a daily schedule that allows the right focus at the right times. I never used to be an early riser, but I realized even before getting back into competitive sport that if I was going to remain active, it had to happen first thing in the morning. That meant early to bed every night. It took some time but eventually it became a way of life.


I get up each morning between 4 and 5 a.m. (depending on the length of workout scheduled for that morning). I start with a light breakfast and time reading. By 4:30 or 5:30 I’m on my SCIFIT PRO1 or bike to get my first workout in. Some mornings are easier than others (for many reasons) but more difficult in the winter when I’m forcing myself to get outdoors, often in freezing rain, once a week on the bike. A winter of training indoors everyday can get quite monotonous and I need to stay mentally engaged. I’m home by 7:30 to take some natural anti-inflammatory supplements and eat a full breakfast. From there it’s off to work, or a time to help with the kids on the weekends. While at my desk working, I go through a 45-minute recovery routine to keep this old body in the game.


I have to work efficiently so that three days a week, after another snack, I can go to the gym in the late afternoon for strength training. After another quick snack I finish my work day with another hour or two of work at my home office, combined with a second recovery session. From there, it’s family time. I head upstairs to help clean up for the day (dishes are my thing) and spend time with the kids. We eat dinner as a family, and try to spend time reading together or rough housing in the living room.


What makes this work is consistency. With all the travel I do for work and upcoming international racing season, I can’t afford to let my body get so weak I’m prone to sickness. If I stay up until 10 or 11 one night, it throws the entire week off as I need to be up early the next day and don’t get enough rest for my body to recovery adequately. I have to watch my nutrition as well very carefully to make sure I’m getting the right nutrients at the right time. Without this my training will suffer but more importantly I won’t be present with my family when I want to be.