Fitness and Fortitude: Aric Fine’s Journey with Shepherd Center’s Project WOWii
When former competitive adaptive water skier Aric Fine retired, he joined Shepherd Center's Project Workout on Wheels Internet Intervention (WOWii) to stay active and found a supportive community.
In 1983, 14-year-old Aric Fine was playing in a river near his hometown in Sulligent, Alabama, when he dove in, unaware the water was only two feet deep. After sustaining a T-4 and T-5 level spinal cord injury, Aric focused on getting back in the groove and returning to high school, working to meet his therapy goals, and participating in rehabilitation for the next four months.
After graduating from high school, he attended and graduated from the University of Alabama. Aric continued his journey at Shepherd Center, where he discovered a new passion – adaptive water skiing. The sport allowed him to maintain an active lifestyle while connecting with others who shared his determination to overcome challenges. When he retired from waterskiing, Aric missed the physical activity and camaraderie of participating in a competitive sport. That's when he learned about Shepherd Center's Project Workout on Wheels Internet Intervention (WOWii).
“Since retiring from skiing, I felt myself getting lazy for lack of a better word,” Aric laughs. “I learned about the WOWii program at Shepherd Center and knew I had to join.”
Upon joining the program, Aric discovered he could modify workouts to suit his needs.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to adapt some exercises from the fitness subscription I already had,” Aric says. “That was one of the biggest factors for me. I wanted to be open, be held accountable, and learn something new. It has really helped and energized me.”
But WOWii offered more than just a workout. Aric found a supportive network of peers and mentors, all facing similar challenges but determined to push forward together. The program became a platform for personal growth and creating a fulfilling and balanced lifestyle.
“It’s education to get stronger, reduce swelling, get cardio, negotiate priorities, and face obstacles. We work through common problems together,” Aric explains. “We’re all different ages, and we all have spinal cord injuries. We are all in the same boat.”
As Aric's WOWii journey nears its end, he reflects on the valuable lessons he has learned during this transformative experience.
“It’s not just physical, it’s mental,” he says. “It’s okay if you can’t work out one day. Just don’t let it get you down. I think the WOWii program is something everyone can learn and benefit from.”
Written by Lindsey Rieben.
The next Project WOWii group begins this October. If you are interested in signing up and learning more like Aric did, contact our clinical research coordinator, Amber Lopez, at Amber.Lopez@Shepherd.org or 404-350-7656 for more information. The deadline to sign up is September 1.
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.