U Can Gym provides opportunities for those with mobility restrictions

Jordan Schantz, 31, knows what it’s like to rebuild a life.

Two years ago, Jordan was on life support in the intensive care unit after a heroin overdose caused him to stop breathing for 12 minutes. When he woke, he couldn’t walk, talk or go to the bathroom independently.

“I did not think I would ever walk on my own again,” he says. “Or go to the bathroom or shower on my own. For so long, I had to have people do that for me.”

The accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and put him in a nursing facility for three months. A year of physical, occupational and speech therapy at the hospital gave him enough skills to manage in a wheelchair but still needing significant support.

That’s when he found the Y’s U Can Gym.

The adaptive wellness program at the Eugene Family YMCA is for anyone with mobility restrictions. The class helps participants navigate obstacles, improve sensory perception, gain range of motion and build strength. Coordinator Jenny Adams offers one-on-one training and creates workout plans for participants.

“My skills have increased so much,” he says. “There is no plateau, no limit. I am going to keep improving for the rest of my life.”

When Jordan started coming to the Y regularly, he practiced walking—a lot. He needed a walker and a Y staff member to hold him securely with a gait belt. For nine months, he did laps around the basketball gym—willing his legs to not buckle under him.

“My walking didn’t really improve until I got to the Y,” he says. “That was a huge breakthrough for me and that happened here. I made that breakthrough at the YMCA.”

Jordan’s perseverance and determination are what has boosted his improvement the most. He spends more than an hour three times a week focused on building his skills.

“It’s all about repetition,” he says. “I’ve had to do these movements over and over again.”

Jordan works out on a stationary bike for more than a half-hour now. He could only bike for a few minutes when he first started—until his legs would buckle and his knees would gravitate toward each other. He couldn’t keep them straight.

The work on the stationary bike means that he can now ride outside on a three-wheeled bike. His new ability has earned him access to a bike group where he has met more people.

It’s those social interactions that have kept Jordan grounded and motivated.

“My exercise regimen is my biggest weapon against depression and anxiety,” he says. “Once I started socializing, I built up my self-esteem and confidence.”

The Y is an integral part of his social connections. Jordan visits with Laura at the Y Welcome Center when he comes in. He chats with Jenny, the U Can Gym coordinator, and other U Can Gym participants.

“I like these interactions because the people are really kind,” Jordan says. “It’s really good for my brain because I spend a lot of time alone. Being at the Y is an outlet for me physically and psychologically.”