A Wheelchair Does Not Stop This Disabled Marine … ‘Quit’ Is Not In Chris Kaag’s Vocabulary
Chris Kaag, a disabled former Marine, tells Zeke about the degenerative nerve disorder called adrenomyeloneuropathy that slowly robbed him of the use of his legs and made it impossible for him to stay in the Marine Corps. Kaag tells Zeke that he began exhibiting symptoms of adrenomyeloneuropathy in 1997. It started out affecting his gait while running but eventually interfered with walking as well.
"I spent nine weeks at Walter Reed Hospital and was diagnosed with adrenomyeloneuropathy," Kaag tells Zeke. "I was in a wheelchair in five years." Kaag tells Zeke that his Corps Fitness classes and philosophy are based on his experience in boot camp with the Marines Corps, which he joined as a 17-year-old in 1994. During a group cadence run that essentially was a 4-mile sprint, Chris’ drill instructor, Sgt. Dave Hart, uttered five words that continue to echo in Chris’ head during his most difficult times: “Don’t quit on me, Kaag.” After being diagnosed with the nerve disorder, Kaag tells Zeke that he realized that the "Marine Corps saved my life. The military gave me the ability to overcome all my challenges. I became a trainer after leaving the Marines and incorporated a military-style approach. I like being able to inspire and motivate people. When I went to boot camp, I was challenged. At Corps Fitness, we have a board that says, 'If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you."
His Corps Fitness classes are based on calisthenics, plyometric and body-weight exercises, as well as team exercises, and are held in a circuit training format. He also offers boot camp-style classes as well Crossfit and kettlebell classes. Kaag tells Zeke that he hopes to push his clients beyond their preconceived physical boundaries. Corps Fitness promotes the philosophies of respect, accountability and teamwork. Every participant in a class helps other classmates to get the job done ... from beginning fitness levels to advanced fitness levels all members works as a team to push through a workout. Everyone is accountable to one another in giving maximum effort and correctly executing exercises. "Sometimes you come in to work out; sometimes you take care of somebody else," Kaag tells Zeke. Kaag admits to Zeke that his military style approach can be a marketing challenge in attracting new clients, but he assures that "you don't need to be intimidated. It's for everyone. I just want to give everyone the opportunity to do the best they can. I want people to be able to tackle challenges outside my facility."