Man now CrossFit coach years after being told he’d never walk again

IRWIN, Pa. — Twelve years ago, Rick Fox was told he’d never walk again. Now, he’s a CrossFit coach and is working to change the world of competitive fitness.

“Dove into the pool, hit my head off the bottom. Broke the C7 vertebra in my neck. Blew it apart in a bunch of different pieces,” Fox said.

In July 2008, Fox’s world changed. He was injured, and confined to a wheelchair. But that’s not how his story ends.

“I’ve always been active. I was a very big skier. I was into martial arts. I’ve been active my whole life,” he said.

After he got hurt, now using a wheelchair, things started taking a downward turn.

“I started gaining weight. I started to feel very tired, run down. Just a normal day of work, all of a sudden I’m exhausted,” Fox said.

That’s when Fox decided he needed a change.

“I had known about CrossFit. I had seen some of the CrossFit games and saw it on the news and messaged a bunch of gyms and said ‘Hey, I’m in a wheelchair. I’m interested. Can I come check it out?’,” he said. “First workout, he has me on the ground doing pushups. I said ‘I haven’t voluntarily gotten out of my chair in 12 years.’”

“I never worked with anybody with those types of limitations, but we’ve had people with minor injuries that we can adapt things for. So when Rick came, it was just magnified,” said gym owner Nate Kozma.

Fox dove into the CrossFit life, eventually becoming a coach and competing at the highest levels of the sport.

“I’m actually one of the first quadriplegics to compete within CrossFit,” he said. “Within the adaptive community, those people who run it are still learning to see what’s possible and not possible with my type of injury.”

He said he hopes his story inspires others who have disabilities to work to improve their lives.