By Lisa Shrewsberry
He wasn’t about to let his disability become inability.
Army veteran Clay Jones may not have taken hits from gunfire during his active duty tours in Afghanistan and Bosnia, but the multiple physical injuries he sustained at a young age as part of a light infantry unit were hits both progressive and debilitating. Jones found himself at 33 with the mobility of an old man.
“If you combine Michael J. Fox with Mohammed Ali, that would be my situation,” says the combat medic-turned-personal trainer and businessman.
His injuries included extensive cervical, thoracic and lumber disc and nerve damage from regular combat loads with heavy rucksacks compounded by a military vehicular accident.
After 16 months in rehab and seven years serving his country, Jones received a medical honorable discharge for an 80 percent disability.
Following his discharge, the civilian battle began — pain pill regimens and epidurals, steroids injected directly into the spine as a measure for pain control. Jones endured multiple back surgeries, including two for his lower back and one neck surgery, and following each was an extensive and painful rehabilitation.
After an incident where a disc ruptured and severely compromised his nerves, he had to re-learn how to write and use a keyboard.
“It took me three years to get back to lifting a weight,” he says.
“It got to the point that the long-term medications were taking hold of my system,” says the man who had held nutrition and health as a high standard for as far back as he could remember.
He began resisting the medications prescribed to him; narcotics were easy to acquire by someone in his condition. There were anti-inflammatory medications he had to take to be at all functional, but to him, each pill equated more poison entering his system.
“I was never addicted, but I began feeling the effects. I started fighting back with nutrition and fitness.”
As strange as it may seem to some for a disabled person to recommend hitting the gym, that’s exactly what Jones did and it’s his standing recommendation to others today.
“Getting a membership to a gym and getting a personal trainer will expose you to people who are in those environments. They will inspire you and create for you a sense of community and peer support. When you are around only others who are disabled, they aren’t likely to head in that direction.”
Through a greater-than-average dose of personal determination, Jones forced himself to move, to workout and to begin his customary weight training again, this time from scratch.
His personal life began to follow suit. He went back to school, ultimately obtaining his bachelor’s degree in health science management.
“I was in so much pain, I couldn’t carry my books to class,” he admits.
While he still has pain today, he has found his relief and his support system in maintaining a consistently healthy lifestyle. His resolve to keep moving has kept him valid in the workplace. As a self-employed, self-sustaining man, his customization of his own recovery has paid off.
Jones acted as athletic trainer for the Beckley semi-pro soccer team, King’s Warriors this 2013 season. He uses Bodyworks’ Beckley facility to further his established career in conditioning athletes. He privately trained 12 members of the West Virginia Miners baseball team there and filled in when needed as a substitute athletic trainer for the team. He is presently engaged in pre-season strength conditioning with members of the Liberty High School basketball and cross country teams.
Jones has also channeled his passion for nutrition and healthy lifestyles by adding a customized nutrition supplement line to his company, Muscle Architecture.
I’ve been making my own natural supplements since I was 14. I used to make them for soldiers. They’re all-natural and all-herbal.”
Using pharmaceutical grade natural and herbal components, he compounds supplements to suit his clients’ needs.
“The products stay whole, preservative-free and fresh. It’s no different than making a cake.”
Currently pitching his products to different wholesalers, Jones is hoping to break into the retail market. His goal, he says, is to create a complete system of supplements for moms, dads, office workers or athletes.
“I want to work with people who want to make a difference in their lives,” he says. “You have to be dedicated, but weight-training and nutrition can get you sizable benefits over medications. Pain is manageable.”
Although Jones has been successful building up enough strength to maintain a semi-normal daily lifestyle in spite of his disability, there’s no day that’s entirely pain-free.
“There are still bad ones, but it’s not like it was years ago — five minutes of standing, five minutes of sitting, five minutes of laying down.”
His resounding message for anyone with a disability? “You need to fight, because there’s a way.”
For more information about Muscle Architecture, e-mail clayjones @musclearchitecture.com
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