Aaron Pike competes in the Men's 1500m - T54 heats on day 5 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium on September 3, 2012.
Aaron Pike was in Sweden preparing to compete in a biathlon world cup when everything changed. As the world quickly shutdown due to the rising threat of the coronavirus, Pike got a message from his coach that they would need to get home as soon as possible.
“It was saying we're going to have to be leaving the very next morning back to the U.S.,” he said. “It was pretty unexpected since we had already traveled over there, and competition was supposed to start that morning. It flipped on a dime and we ended up having to leave the very next day.”
Sweden was the last stop before Pike planned to come home and switch gears to wheelchair racing to train for the Boston and London marathons in April.
When those were cancelled, Pike returned to his home training site in Champaign, Illinois, but had to overhaul his usual training routine.
The U.S. Paralympics Track & Field wheelchair racing team had a regular regimen of group training, but the pandemic has forced Pike to work out on his own, which has been a big adjustment for the four time-Paralympian.
“It was the biggest positive of being here, having a ton of athletes around you to train with and having somebody to push you all the time,” he said. “But that’s changed to leaving from my garage and going out in the country roads training on my own.”
Pike said the last few months in quarantine have been a test in self-motivation, but he doesn’t take for granted that he’s been able get most of his training done during the lockdown.
“I felt lucky, because I knew there were a lot of other sports that were affected more than I was,” he said. “I was still able to get my racing chair and go train where a lot of sports like wrestling and team sports, they just weren't able to do anything really.
“You’ve got to be a little bit more self-motivated. It’s more like when you have in-class to switching to an online class becomes something where it's all self-paced and sort of all up to you.”
Besides switching to isolated road training, Pike had to adjust his strength training as gyms closed. For the first few months, coaches sent routines with body weight exercises and training with whatever he had around the house.
After a few months, he began converting his basement into a full-fledged gym, equipped with a bench press, medicine balls and dumbbells.
“It took a while, because everything was sold out,” he said. “It was super hard. Just to get dumbbells is impossible, which seemed crazy to me.”
Pike said he’s eager to get back to training and working out with the team as soon as it’s safe to do so. Not only because of the state-of-the-art adaptive equipment, but also because he enjoys the community.
"I think there's benefits to that,” he said. “[There are] things you can't mimic and just pushing yourself with somebody pushing right next to you is hard to replicate on your own.”
The training in the last few months is another display of the flexibility Pike has had since his accident at age 13 that led him to adaptive sports. From starting with wheelchair basketball to competing in both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, he’s working diligently to make adaptive sports more visible.