In Africa there is a tradition of verbal story telling. Rich in culture, these stories are often shared to entertain, educate and guide friends and family.
This story begins on 24 May 2010…
As the world was gearing up for the soccer world cup, South Africa was inhaling air and exhaling passion, excitement and unity. We all eagerly awaited the arrival of the international teams and spectators to our country where they were greeted with warmth and joy for the weeks to come. I remember standing along Rivonia Road in Sandton, GP to join in on the celebratory parade and wishing our visitors a prosperous stay.
2010 was a big year in terms of sporting events for South Africans as it was also the year of the Commonwealth Games. For one young swimmer this was one of the events he trained to compete at and represent his country to tick the box on his check list.
24 May 2010 was just a normal day, the same as any other Monday. Being 19 years old, going to varsity, work and then off to swim practice. Little did this swimmer know that it would be the last time he ever entered the pool with a mission to be great.
Once the warm up was completed, some drill/skills work was done. This is done to increase water feel and teach correct placement of the body and its extremities to move through the water fast and efficiently. The next phase of the training was some speed work which was done with a set of zoomers (flipper like footwear except a lot shorter). The swimmers were instructed to do 20 x 25m IM (individual medley) order sprints on 30 seconds. The IM order is Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. As the swimmers approached the last 25m backstroke sprint the swimmer was pushing harder then ever. Perfect underwater work (break out at 15m), insane stroke turn over rate propelling the swimming on top of the water and before he blinked the 25m back stroke was completed in 10 seconds.
People often say, take up swimming, its a no impact sport and you cannot get hurt. What they clearly don’t realise is that you are swimming at a maximal velocity (full speed/as fast as you can) into the other side of the swimming pool wall. There are very few sports I can name where sprinting into a wall determines a winner. Imagine putting a wall at the end of the 100m sprint for Usain Bolt.
This is where the story begins, when completing that 25m sprint backstroke the swimmer hit the wall. He had done this countless times before without any issues. This time was different, this time would be the last. As the swimmer came into the wall, his arm collapsed. The next piece of your body to hit the wall is your head. With a wake following you, that you generated by a massive kick because of the zoomers the swimmer was pressed into the wall.
Hours later the swimmer woke up in the hospital, medicated and not being able to move his legs.
There was a lot of muscular tension and spasming going on. After spending the night in the emergency room, the swimmer was sent off to a physiotherapist where he was treated to release some of that tension. As the physio session was rounding up, a Neurosurgeon called the physios rooms and told them not to touch the swimmer. Too late was the response, we have just finished up the session. It turned out that there were 3 broken vertebra and slipped discs (1 broken vertebra in the neck and two in the lumbar spine). The neurosurgeon wanted to see the swimmer immediately. So he hoped back into the wheel chair and off they went for an emergency consult. The options were laid out and he was told that he needs an operation if he ever wants to walk again. The swimmer refused and followed his own method of treatment as other professionals didn’t want to work with the high risk case.
Slowly but surely the swimmer started walking again and when the bones were healed he went to the Chiropractor to work on alignment and soft tissue release. In this time exercise was the only medicine in the swimmers mind with the ideal goal of returning back to the pool asap.
Eventually towards the end of the year the swimmer was able to return to the pool. This however was short lived as the rotation through the spine was too excruciating for the swimmer to handle and thus saw the end of 2010 and the end of the swimmers dreams, identity and vision.
2011 rolled in and the once upon a time swimmer was now pissed off. With a lost identity he began to ponder. His swimming coaches were always blown away with the surreal amount of physical and mental strength this swimmer had. This then sparked the mentality of “if I can’t do something for a long time, then I’m going to go heavy and explosive for a short time”. And thats exactly what the swimmer did. He took out a gym membership at a private gym that had the heaviest dumbbells to offer, atlas balls, yolks, tyres and more. This was exciting as the swimmer was now going to identify as a Strongman. The conditioning was going well and observing other strongmen train was more motivating then even. Finally the once swimmer, was now able to identify as something, a strongman.
Unfortunately as luck would have it the ex swimmer, now strongman want to be (student/son/worker/sportsman) ended up having a stroke one night on the decline bench press at the gym. With friends rushing to his aid, they got him to the hospital where scans were done and Neurologists were consulted. The ex swimmer, now strongman was very lucky to walk away with only a stutter as a side effect.
For the next 2 years, things ran relatively smoothly considering the last 12 months. Training resumed to normal, the strongman now competed in a couple of fun events hosted by some of the gyms. Life was good and he was grateful for each day.
Time went by and the strongman was now a qualified professional trainer and wanted to help people never get into the situations he found himself in. He wanted to share his experiences as well as educate people on safe/effective training.
One day, a client of the once swimmer, strongman and now professional trainer, had a bad result in the enduro race he was competing in. He went in with expectations too high for his current reality. Being a trainer that didn’t compete in the same discipline as the client, the client responded quite simply and said, “How would you know, you don’t even race”. To be 100% honest, it didn’t matter what experience and knowledge the trainer had up until that point. The client felt he couldn’t relate to his trainer, he needed someone to step up and be able to relate to him. That was Tuesday 25 March 2014… Saturday 29 March 2014 was the ex swimmer/strongman now trainers first ever Motocross race. This is becoming a tongue twister.
The trainer had a fascination for motorcycles since birth, rumour has it his first word was actually motorbike (however you say that in a baby voice). So the sport of motocross complimented with the love and gift of strength conditioning suited this young mans lifestyle like a glove. All the puzzle pieces were coming together. This man was began to specialise in now not only sports specific conditioning for swimmers, but off the bike conditioning for motocross and enduro athletes too, whilst competing in motocross at regional level.
Life couldn’t have been better and more fulfilling at this point.
With the constant mindset of progression and always pushing the limits due to personality, this young man saw a professional motocross rider do something extra ordinary. So he went up to the MX1 (premier class) rider and asked him how he just did that. The response was priceless. “Bru, I just hit it wide open”. Sounded simple enough, just twist the throttle wide open in the right gear and the trainer can do it. OR SO HE THOUGHT.
25 October 2014, the trainer who was told to just hold the throttle wicked, did just that. After 6 months of riding, he tried to execute a hop on, double, double jump at high speed. Phase one went according to plan, phase 2 was the perfect height and perfect distance. All that had to happen was land phase 2 smoothly and jump out of the rhythm section completing phase 3. Unfortunately the trainer now motocross racer landed on a square edge with his front wheel after the first double and as he landed he lost control of his motorcycle, slamming him into the floor. Knocked unconscious, members at the track got him to his feet, packed up his car and took him to the hospital. Upon arrival the trainers heart stopped due to a loss of blood from internal bleeding. Luckily, he was able to be resuscitated, had a splenectomy and required 2.1L of blood. He went in to the hospital at 108kg and walked out 8 days later at 91kg. This accident nearly got the better of him.
He was told never to ride again. This is not advice that was well received.
16 December 2014 the young man returned to the same track that he crashed and almost died on to ride his dirt bike again.
He completed the 2015 season in the open support class and won it convincingly.
In 2016 he decided to enter the professional MX1 class at national level which he competed in. Although 2016 saw no physical injuries the non stop years of physical exertion finally caught up and the trainer/mx racer and he would now battle with EBV/CFS/AFS for the better part of 18 months. Feeling weak was the worst thing the trainer experienced. He felt like life was pinning kryptonite on him and disabling him the same way it disabled superman.
After a massive lifestyle change, a serious practical education experiment and a ton of learning though experiences the trainer felt better then ever.
Life again ran smoothly until the 29 September 2018 where once again the trainer lost control of his motorcycle over a jump managing to brake 5 ribs, puncture both lungs, lacerate his liver and break his scapular (shoulder blade) in three places.
As the theme stands, he used exercise and movement to rehabilitate himself as he believes exercise is medicine for some things.
The trainer made a full recovery, still lifts heavy in the gym and races dirt bikes on the weekends.
The people in the trainers life, friends, family and acquaintances have used a number of phrases or nick names to describe the young man who has gone through so much.
Some call him a cat, because he has 9 lives. Some call him a cockroach because he never dies or stops.
Some call him Nqobile, which he receives well as a nickname
NQOBILE – Victorious and courageous, of African origin!
This is my story and what I have been through in the last decade (10 years).
The book on me is still being written!
PS- If you know me, you may call me Nqobi for short hahaha.
This story was based on the last 33% of my life. If you want to know more, which there is a lot, I’m always open to telling my story!
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