MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
A few Marines and their coach, wearing Marine Corps red, white and blue special riding gear, speedily glide down the road making the colors blend together, as they travel on their light-weight bicycles with wheels only about an inch wide. The cyclists make it look easy.
These Marines are using cycling as part of their rehabilitation while with Wounded Warrior Battalion – East. Cycling is one of the choices Marines have under the Warrior Athlete Rehabilitation program.
The program is designed to help with the recovery process and overcome the Marines’ injuries while getting back into physical shape and building their morale. Aside from increasing muscle strength, endurance and balance, it also manages weight, improves memory and help controls behavior.
The cycling coach, Brian Grenier, was in the Marine Corps for 22 years and retired as a gunnery sergeant. His interest in cycling began early in his life then later on he became a competitive rider taking up the sport as part of triathlon training. After he retired, Grenier started cycling full time. He is now a licensed coach through the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Recently, Grenier was asked by the WAR program manager, Ginger Gold, to coach the warriors. Gold sought Grenier because he had suffered traumatic brain injury like some of the Wounded Warriors at the battalion. Because of his injury, he could better relate to and help train the Marines with the program.
“Our stated mission is to use road cycling in its many forms, to develop programs to aid in the physical, mental and spiritual recovery of wounded Marines,” said Grenier. “I found out early on that Marines are aggressive in nature and need goals and competitions to keep them focused and sharp. It has paid off with the team getting silver and gold medals thus far from races this year.”
As of now, the WAR program has 15 bikes available for the wounded warriors with 10 Marines signed up and participating in the program.
Sgt. Travis Bartlett, a Marine with the battalion, first heard about cycling when Renier gave a speech about it to the battalion. Bartlett was interested in cycling because his injury prevented him from running. Since he still needed a good cardio workout to stay in shape, he decided to give cycling a try.
“Cycling is a great activity since I can’t run,” said Bartlett. “It really helps with rehabilitation and building back my leg strength.”
Grenier is currently training with the Marines in preparation for the State Games of America, which will be held this year in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the end of this month. He says the team is eager to take home all three gold medals. The event is four days consisting of three races for cyclist to complete.
“I’m really excited about state games,” said Sgt. Daniel Greenwald, another team member. “I think it’s going to be a great time.”
Greenwald, who suffers from a TBI, said he enjoys cycling because it helps him with recovering from his injury while staying in shape. He said he recommends cycling to others and thinks more people should give it a try.
Other races and rides coming up for the team are the Tour of Utah, in mid-August, and the Memorial Day Challenge ride from the District of Columbia to Virginia Beach, Va.