A 26.2-mile run, 112-mile bike ride, and 2.4-mile swim all combined and completed in less than 17 hours — that’s what it takes to be an Ironman. Naperville resident and physical therapist Brandon Engle knows what it takes to get through it, and more important, what it takes to start and complete a goal.
As a physical therapist at Accelerated Physical Therapy in Darien, Engle’s passion includes inspiring others to challenge themselves and successfully overcome obstacles.
Whether it’s getting through a major athletic event or simply conquering an injury, he aspires to be the catalyst of positive, healthy change.
Since Engle has never been one to shy away from challenges, be it mental or physical, inspiring others comes very natural to him.
He has found that what he learns during Ironman training easily transfers to working with patients.
“The process of an Ironman goes from physical to mental. The physical piece is the hard work of training. The mental part is race day and putting it all together. Going 8 to 17 hours without talking to anyone and fighting the thoughts of “I can’t,” fear and pain is something only Ironman athletes can understand as it is a day of just you and your thoughts.”
That same process applies to his patients. Whether his patient is simply striving to get back full mobility after hip replacement or attempting a big race, the process is not much different than training for an Ironman. First, there is the physical piece of training followed by the mental piece of transferring training to actual application.
“Completing an Ironman isn’t something that can be achieved overnight,” Engle says. “It takes time, dedication and perseverance. The same holds true from someone recovering from an injury. It takes a lot of dedication and the belief that hard work is part of the process to ultimately be successful.”
Engle believes that in all aspects of life, challenging yourself means connecting with the “I can” mentality. If you’re able to complete a successful goal in the athletic arena, it transfers in to your daily life.
“There are always a lot of inspirational stories within the world of Ironman athletes. Some are cancer survivors, others amputees, etc. Whether its an Ironman, cancer or an injury, if you believe it is possible to overcome challenges in life, than nothing is impossible.”
As for the impact on the human body, Engle knows that the body is able to do a lot more than most people think.
“Most people wouldn’t dream of swimming for over an hour, biking for five to six or more hours and then running for three-plus hours, but if you train the body properly, it is capable of much more than you’d imagine.”
As a physical therapist, Engle understands that helping others overcome challenges reinforces the importance of proper training and a positive mindset, which makes all things possible.
“Working as a physical therapist has undoubtedly helped me not only be a better athlete but a better therapist,” Engle says. “As an athlete, I’ve met great people that have opened doors to training. As a therapist, I understand more about the human body, which allows me to find new ways to push the body to its full potential.”
For those who might roll their eyes at the idea of completing an Ironman, Engle says there are plenty of ways to be challenged, even if it’s not an Ironman.
“It’s important that people find challenges in life (that) will push them both mentally and physically,” he says. “Pushing through difficulty, dreaming big and reaching goals in life changes the way people feel about themselves. For me, the Ironman pushes me, challenges me, and in the end, I am a better person because of it.”
Engle offers some great tips whether you’re toying with the idea of an Ironman or simply working to move your fitness to the next level.
Get in the mindset of an “I can” attitude as it carries over to not just your goal but in to other areas of life.
Pain is temporary. I can think of many times in the middle of an Ironman where I think “this sucks I never want to do this again.” However, crossing the finish line, seeing others who are battling so many things, I think, “OK lets sign up for next year.”
As a therapist, I tell patients a lot of the training means being smart and getting to the starting line healthy, whatever that starting line might be.
Dream big and believe that all things are possible. If you set your mind to something, put in the time and energy. As Walt Disney said “Dreams really can come true.”
Here’s to making your fitness dreams come true!