Johnny Agar wasn’t destined to be an athlete: He was born with cerebral palsy, but that didn’t stop him from deciding at an early age that he was going to be a racer. He did what doctors never thought he would: First he survived. Then, he spoke. Then, he took his first steps. And now, the 23 year old and his dad race triathlons together — and, this year, Johnny trained like the athlete he is to walk a mile.
The racing started when Jeff Agar, Johnny’s father, wanted Johnny to have the experience of crossing a finish line. He took him to a running race and pushed him in a wheelchair to the finish line. Since then, the duo has raced 5Ks, 10Ks, a few 25Ks, half-marathons, marathons, triathlons and even a Ironman.
THE MOTIVATING FACTOR
Next, Johnny decided he wanted to walk part of a race himself. “I really wanted to show [my dad] how much I appreciated that he went the extra mile to make sure that I could cross the finish line and have that athlete experience — that’s what drives me,” he says. “I decided to take it upon myself to make sure I gave him a little bit of a break — to do part of the job and cross the finish line. He’s been my major driving force.”
It’s not just his father keeping Johnny motivated and moving forward. Johnny’s also supported by his mother and sisters who are all part of #TeamAgar. “He’s always wanted to be an athlete,” his mother says. “To be able to see him participate in a sport is a great thing for me. I know what it took to get to that point for him.
“We never told him that he couldn’t do something,” she adds.
“The doctor said to my parents when I was born that they could treat me as a son with a disability or as a son,” Johnny says. “They always treated me as a normal person and never closed any doors to me, and that let me accomplish anything that I set my mind to.”
In that sense, the toughest workouts are the most fun, because you learn the most.
While Johnny’s training may not look exactly like that of a professional triathlete, it’s not dissimilar. Quite frankly, plenty of pros could stand to listen to his advice about getting through those brutal workouts, whatever a brutal workout means to you. “I know that not every workout is fun, but you can learn something from everything you do,” he muses. “In that sense, the toughest workouts are the most fun, because you learn the most.”
“I use MapMyRun — I just started using it to keep track of my distance and it’s been wonderful for me,” he says. “Having a disability, I’ve told people that you can accomplish things you never thought you could if you just put your mind to something. To have the validation of my training being enough to accomplish walking half a mile drove me to accomplish more.”
THE SPIRIT OF A PRO
For Agar, repetition is key to training. Three days a week, he does various workouts, including speedwork and one minute on, one minute off intervals; endurance training with longer, slower distances and a lot of strength training. Of course, his training plan looks different due to his cerebral palsy, but that regimen is actually a great blueprint for almost any endurance athlete.
When it comes to racing, Agar has an amazing attitude many pro athletes should probably emulate. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” he says. “Athletes are always focused on winning or losing, but I say that there’s no such thing as losing if you can learn something from each loss. You don’t have to take failure for what it is: It’s just a stepping stone.”
The Agar duo knows this to be true: They didn’t finish Ironman World Championships in Kona because they missed the time cutoff. “That was the first race that we didn’t finish,” Johnny says. “But I think that was a good motivating factor for me to say, ‘OK, this is what true competition is.’ I didn’t let it bog me down.
“No matter what life throws at you, that’s your chance to either let the challenge bog you down, or use it to show others that you can accomplish things,” Johnny adds. “Disability can give you the ability to do great things.”
But it’s not just him. Everyone has to overcome something, Johnny says — from himself to top-level athletes like Michael Phelps, who Johnny does an amazing job of imitating in an Under Armour commercial homage.
ONE SIMPLE TIP
Feeling inspired yet? Johnny has one simple tip for someone looking to start running or racing who finds signing up for that 5K, marathon or Ironman is simply overwhelming: Get out the door.
“People say that doing triathlons and running races are very difficult, but in reality, the hardest part is finding the ability to get out of the door and take that first step,” he says. “But you take it one step at a time.
Get out the door.
“Finding the motivation to get out the door, to take that one step, to know that you might not be the best but that you’re taking a step forward, that’s key.”
(via MyFitnessPal Blog)