Photo By Brian Kaiser

Upright. Outta Sight.

I used to ride my bike anywhere between 250 and 400 weekly miles, including commuting, evening rides, and at least one weekend “century.”

I never stretched or conditioned my strength.

I’d ride, step off, find food, and relax. My approach—coupled with janky desk-life posture—eventually led to extremely tight hip flexors, hunched shoulders, and a weak core. This led to back trouble, a ruptured disc, and a 2010 discectomy (the removal of part of a lower intervertebral disc).

Six weeks post-op, my surgeon told me I didn’t need physical therapy since I was “healed.” Great! Thing is, I never wanted to rupture another disc. Word of mouth took me to Equivita in Grandview, where owner and fitness trainer Adam Milligan set me on the glorious path to preventative maintenance.

At the outset, I was skeptical. I’d never paid anyone to help me exercise. I played sports throughout my Hoosier youth. Between junior high and my mid-20s I worked manual labor jobs, which, in essence, paid me to exercise.

But, then I thought of the money I spent on back surgery, the eight weeks living on the floor leading up the back surgery, and the time my saintly wife cared for me when I couldn’t sleep more than two hours a night.

My first visit proved my money was well spent. Milligan (an expert observer and listener) and his staff work with everyone from sedentary office workers to triathletes. The first thing we did was figure out where, based on my past and present, we needed to begin. Milligan watched me walk and sit. We talked injuries (in addition to back surgery, I’d also had five knee surgeries). We talked goals. We talked about the tight bastard hip muscle that helped my back to seize up, that I now know is my iliopsoas (“illio-so-as”).

What he didn’t do was this: give me one-size-fits-all “helpful exercises,” which routinely happened in my traditional physical therapy sessions. Instead, he began by teaching me how to achieve “neutral posture,” which involved training the muscles deep in my core (behind my non-washboard abs). Doing so set a base to train all the other players that help stave off back surgery: hamstrings, shoulders, chest, hips, etc.

Stressed to the max during every minute of every session was technique. During eight years of on and off training at Equivita, I’ve learned that the tiniest adjustments make the biggest differences. I’ve also learned that it takes years to be able to adjust yourself. Although I do most of my preventative maintenance on my own, from time to time I check in with Milligan or other Equivita trainers to ensure I’m executing the moves correctly.

Today, I hardly ride my bike as much as I once did, largely because I don’t want to dedicate the time to it. But whether I’m walking, sitting, driving, or whatever else I doing when I’m not asleep I apply what I learned through Milligan and Equivita every day. Money well spent, indeed. •