When life takes an unexpected turn, fight back!

Life can change in a heartbeat. The universe has a habit of throwing something totally unexpected at us at least a couple of times in our lives. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. How would you cope if the worst happened? We happen to know of a very inspiring woman, an avid cyclist, strong of heart and stubborn of will. This is her story.

Sigr - Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Maria. I'm 44 years old and live in a little village in the north of Sweden. I'm married to Fredrik and have 3 children. We are all super interested in cycling in one way or another. We mostly particpate in MTB competitions in Sweden these days but used to go abroad to cycle in our younger days - Scotland and Czeckoslovakia are two of the places we've visited. I competed in XCO as a veteran and also in Enduro. In fact last year, my son and I both competed in the Enduro Sweden events. This year though, my husband had to take him.

Sigr - We follow you on Instagram and are captivated by your story and your love of life. For those that don't know you, how do you usually explain what you've been through?

I usually just tell the story. On the 2nd of January 2018, I suffered an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by mycoplasma pneumonia. This resulted in the surrounding nerve system being damaged and from then on I was paralysed from the chest down. The condition is called Encephalomyelitis. The doctors are hopeful that I may make some sort of recovery within 1 to 3 years although some nerve function may never recover fully leaving me with some residual numbness. Happily the inflammation has gone now and I can getting on with fighting my way back to rehabilitation.

Sigr - It's clear that cycling is still a part of your life, but in a different way now. Can you explain what motivated you through this?

I guess I've never been one to give up easily. I'm very competitive and when life threw this at me, my first instinct was survival, to get myself through this. When I reached a more stable state, my thoughts went wild, I had good days, I had bad days. Rehab Station Stockholm (RSS) in Solna was where I got my first spark of happiness. Being able to work out again, being able to set myself goals and to reach them gave me the energy to carry on. As I've said, cycling was a huge part of my life before so I wanted to explore ways to get it back into my life again.

...when life threw this at me, my first instinct was survival

I got some information through RSS about special bikes that attached to a wheelchair. There are a lot of different models and they are all expensive. But I was lucky. Sörmlands council are the only council in Sweden that gives out "Stricker" handbikes as aid. A handbike that you attach to your wheelchair. Other councils view it as a leisure activty. I view it more as a way to get and keep people fit and healthy again. A healthier person also costs society less. Simple. I hope other councils follow Sörmlands example.

I use my Stricker to commute to work, for errands in town and to take my youngest daughter to MTB training.

I've actually got another handbike - an "Invacare Handcycle" which I haven't really managed to use yet. It's pretty low and I'm not great att that type of movement yet. But, of course this is one of my goals which I'm working towards at the moment. A long term goal is to ride a race with it, maybe next year, who knows?

Sigr - Clothing when you bike, any thought there now that it's autumn?

Autumn is my fave season. Sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's tipping with rain, sometimes cold and sometimes windy. I usually wear quite a thin jacket which means I can regulate warmth by layering clothing underneath. If it's quite warm then just a jersey under the cycling jacket is enough. If it's a bit more chilly, the next level is a wool base layer underneath the jacket. A gilet can also be good for those days that are somewhere in between, keeping your core warm by keeping the wind at bay when you're riding on the road or on gravel.

Sigr - Autumn is here and many are wondering how to program their training through the off season. Have you got any top-tips on how to stay away from the sofa?!

Getting the training to work in autumn can be challenging. Cycling together with others is something I definitely recommend. Having a fixed time when you meet can make things easier. If you've got some mates to ride with, it does make it more fun, you can cheer each other on and have a laugh. The weekend is good for longer rides when you can get out during the day to take advantage of the light. During the week in the evenings, good lights and reflective gear are a must. I also try to plan the week, writing down what I'm going to do on which day. Strength training, cycling or motomed (a machine that cycles my legs for me.)

Another thing, don't underestimate everyday exercise. Ditching the car and cycling to work will give you more than you think. I actually can't take the car at the moment because we haven't adapted it so I am forced to take my Stricker to work.

It's great!


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