Kyle Stewart and His Overhead Wheelchair – ‘It is amazing how far hard work will get you’

Q: Hi, Kyle Stewart. Thanks so much for taking time to talk with me today on A News

You and I became acquainted through Matthew Lister at Align Private Training. But I really don't know much about you outside of our workouts, because, well, Matthew is a taskmaster, and he keeps us busy working. Can you tell a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Redding.  I have lived in a couple of different places, but ended up here after I married my wife Mikyla.  We have two kids, ages 4 and 2.  Any free time I have goes to hanging out with them.

Kyle Stewart and family.

Kyle Stewart and family.

Q: You have a beautiful family, Kyle. And you're a busy guy, for sure. But I also know you spend a lot of time working out at Align. How many hours a week are you at Align, on average?

I work out four days a week, so about four to five hours a week.

Q: Kyle, I have been working out with Matthew Lister since December. I found my way to Align by stalking Diane B. Hill on Facebook, and was inspired by her weight-loss transformation. What led you to Align, and what were you looking for?

I had been wanting to find a personal trainer to help with my workout.  I have always gone to the gym and worked out, but with work and kids it had become sporadic at best.  I need someone to help motivate me and keep me accountable.  I actually found Align by driving by the gym and seeing that it was a private training gym. It piqued my interest.

Q: What's a typical workout session like for you at Align, and how has it changed over the months?

When I first started it was a lot of Matthew assessing my abilities and weaknesses and making a plan from there.  I did a lot of floor work in the beginning:  taking care of posture, back pain and strengthening muscles that hadn't been used in years.  Now that I am stronger he has me up out of my chair, walking and working on my body as a whole, and not just where my body was weak.

Q: So this begs the question, if you're open to talking about it. How long have you been in a wheelchair, and what led to this becoming part of your life's reality?

I broke my C5-C6 vertebrae 14 years ago while surfing north of Huntington Beach Pier.

Q: I can't even begin to imagine how devastating that must have been for you. What was the before-and-after Kyle like, and how did you cope?

Before my accident I was very active surfing, biking, racing motocross, skateboarding and snowboarding.  After I was hurt my world totally changed.

In the beginning my focus was relearning how to do basic things, like brushing my teeth and and holding utensils.  After some time I got more movement back and I had to work to get my wheelchair in and out of the car and be independent.  Emotionally, in the beginning I started feeling sorry for myself, but came to realize that I actually am fortunate with the mobility I do have.  I would feel selfish for pitying myself when I know a lot of people have it way worse than me.

I am independent; able to work, take care of myself and my children.  My independence is so important to me, and that is one thing that I have been able to maintain between pre-accident and post-accident Kyle.  That is not to say I haven't had tremendous support from my family and friends right after the accident, and up until today.

Q: So you literally rolled into Align. Do you remember what you said, and Matthew's reaction?

I found Align almost a year ago, 13 years after my accident.  I had called and told Matthew my situation, and what I was looking for from a trainer.  I wanted something personalized to my needs, and not just a standard gym with weight and cardio machines.  Matthew said he didn't have a ton of experience with someone in my situation, but he loves a challenge.  So do I.

Q: I'd say that's an understatement. And it sure seems you and Matthew have met your match in each other.

Kyle, I don't know if you're aware of this, but at Align, you're considered a rock star. I've watched you go from doing floor exercises with straps and blocks, to lying on your back and putting your feet against the wall, to doing bicep pull-downs from a chair, to standing.

I hope it doesn't embarrass you to know that the first time I entered the room and saw you doing standing bicep curls I was so overcome with disbelief and joy that I stepped into the alcove and cried. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen.

And you keep improving!  A few weeks ago I was shocked to see you walk from one end of the room to the other with a cane. Walk! And just when I thought you couldn't blow my mind any more, there's that insane video you made last week (that has nearly 16,000 views, btw) that shows you standing and holding your wheelchair OVER your head!

Kyle! Seriously! How did this happen? How did you go from sitting in a wheelchair to holding it over your head?

I work out consistently, even the days I really do not feel like going to the gym.  In fact, I've found that those days - when I don't feel like working out - are when I feel I make the biggest strides. Knowing that not just Matthew is expecting me, but those who work out around me, keeps me motivated to show up each day.

Q: I know what you mean. It's interesting how the other people at the gym start to become part of the experience.

Kyle, you've made such huge improvements in the last year. What's your reaction -- and your family and friends' -- to your transformation?

Everybody is amazed at what I have accomplished, especially is such a short time with Align.  I think people are so used to me being a wheelchair that it's hard to wrap their heads around me being out of it, even for a short time.

Kyle Stewart loves a challenge, which might explain why he lifted his wheelchair over his head for this photo.

Kyle Stewart loves a challenge, which might explain why he lifted his wheelchair over his head for this photo.

Q: Matthew jokes that his goal for you is to eventually hang your wheelchair from the ceiling, like some sort of art installation.

But never mind Matthew. What are your goals?

To maintain my health, mobility and independence.

Q: Those are great goals, and it looks like you're well on your way to achieving them. Kyle, do you have words for those who struggle with challenges similar to yours?

Just keep fighting and don't give up.  It is amazing how far hard work will get you.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say?

Just thank you for all the words of encouragement that people have given me personally, and through social media.  I hope I can inspire someone else who may need to be encouraged.

Q: Kyle, no doubt about it: You've inspired not just me, but thousands of people. Thank you! 

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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5 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    This is one of those inspirational, “awwww” columns.  Who knew, when you started at Align, that you would find so many wonderful stories to share with your fans.  Way to go, Kyle!

  2. Thanks for sharing Kyle’s story. I had seen his video and wondered about the rest of the story. Good news – hard work and determination make miracle happen. It sure looks like you all have a dynamite support system at Align. Congratulations, Kyle!

  3. A. Jacoby says:

    There, that is the magic that is Matthew Lister and Align . . . . everything is tailored to the individual needs of each person. Matthew is willing to “take on” whatever issues each person brings with them when they walk through his door. I don’t know HOW he does it, but Matthew seems to be able to zero in on each client’s needs each and every time they walk through his door.  And what Matthew says is that  “what you  need when you walk through the door today, may not be what you needed yesterday or need tomorrow.” THAT is personal training. THAT is magic. And Kyle is proof positive that there is still magic in the world . . .. well, magic and hard work! GO KYLE, GO MATTHEW!!!

  4. Abigail Lucas says:

    Congratulations Kyle!! Rick and I are so happy to see the amazing strides you’ve made!

  5. Pretty amazing – Blessings on him and his family –


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