Up for the challenged


When Jim Karanas looked around at the clients in his profession of personal fitness, he realized they were doing it all wrong. But in order to change their ways, he needed a model of people who did it right. Then he watched a challenged athletes' triathlon.

"I watched one lady swim to shore and when she got there just her head was sticking out of the water," he said. "Somebody came to help her out by picking her up and when they lifted her up she had no arms and legs. It helped me realize that challenged athletes were the ones who use fitness for the right reasons."

The term "challenged athletes" describes anyone who has lost a limb or use of a limb and still participates in athletics.

"The challenged athlete uses personal fitness in purest form to help develop mind, body and spirit," Karanas said. "I've never met so many people who are happy with their bodies, even when they are missing a leg or arm or all four. They aren't working out just for weight loss or to look good. They best represent what fitness can do for people."

As the owner of a group of fitness centers called Club One, he wanted his clients to appreciate fitness for what he believed were the right reasons.

"Not that losing a few pounds is wrong," he said. "But if you are in the gym just to look good, you're not going to be happy with yourself."

Karanas said he admired the challenged athletes from afar and wanted to find out how to learn more about their abilities.

He came in contact with the Challenged Athlete Foundation, a group that helps raise money for paraplegics' prosthetic limbs.

He combined his plan to promote physical fitness with the CAF's need for funds to create the 4,000 miles for challenged athletes, a transcontinental bike ride to Boston from San Francisco.

Karanas stopped in Craig for lunch Wednesday afternoon along with Angela Merson and Gino Golia, who had taken turns riding along with him.

Before the ride, Karanas set up a business to raise money for the trip. He raised $30,000 to fund it and now he hopes to raise $75,000 for the CAF on his ride.

"The trip is two fold," he said. "To educate others on physical training and to help raise money as well as awareness for the CAF."

On the trip, Karanas has set up several indoor spinning events on a bike and said he hopes to set up as many interviews as possible.

"We aren't exactly riding straight across the country," he said. "We are zigzagging to reach different contact points for the events."

The only rider to go the whole journey will be Karanas. He will be joined by nine other riders throughout the journey. The ride is planned to go from June 3 to July 7.

"If you get fit for the right reasons it allows you to feel OK with who you are physically and it also allows you to enjoy your favorite physical activities more."

For Karanas, his physical activity is biking and being fit has allowed him to go out and tell the country.

More information about the 4,000 miles for CAF is available at www.rideforcaf.com or www.challengedathletes.org.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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