From Stroke Survivor to Senior Olympian

Rodger Reddish is Chasing Medals with Oxygen and a Knee Brace

Rodger Reddish is a remarkable athlete, military veteran, and stroke survivor who has inspired countless people with his resilience and dedication to sports. Despite facing significant health challenges, Rodger has competed in numerous Senior Games and earned multiple medals in cycling and tri-relay events including in both 2019 and 2022.

One of Rodger's most impressive feats is his success in recumbent trike racing, a unique and challenging discipline that requires both strength and skill. Unlike traditional bikes, recumbent trikes allow the rider to sit in a reclined position with their legs stretched out in front of them. This position offers many advantages, including increased comfort, reduced wind resistance, and improved aerodynamics.

However, recumbent trike racing also presents its own set of challenges. Riders must navigate tight turns and steep hills while maintaining balance and speed. They must also learn to use their body weight to steer the trike, which can take some getting used to. Despite these challenges, Rodger has become a leader in his category for recumbent trike racing. He has competed in numerous races across the country, earning dozens of medals and inspiring others with his dedication and perseverance.

"I spend a lot of time pedaling," says Rodger. "I try to do it every other day, but sometimes it's every fourth or fifth day. I'm always trying to add more endurance to my riding."

Adapting His Athletic Feats 

Rodger did not know that if he wanted to continue athletics and stay in shape after his stroke in 2005, he needed to take the initiative. 

“Because of the medical world, I was a couch potato after my stroke, expected to turn on and off the TV only.  At the time, they didn’t tell you that having a stroke is kind of a temporary thing for some people. For some people, you can look at them and see something happened, like a scar. Others you can’t see since they have hidden issues. My issues are hidden - my balance and coordination and speech  is messed up due to aphasia, I have to think more about what I say, and I tell the truth - I can’t always control that with my social filters.”

While legally, since May 2005, Rodger qualifies to compete in the Para-Senior Games, he chooses not to. 

“I can’t do the running and swimming of the triathlon. I have a heck of a time going to the mailbox, and I have handprints all over the house from the walls holding me up to get around, but pedaling I can do forever.”

Moving around got more difficult for Rodger after the stroke, but he also learned that he has less oxygen than most people. Added to his shifting athletic categories, he’s now competing with oxygen, which has been a unique challenge for Rodger since he needs to carry seven pounds of oxygen with him. While some have thought of using oxygen as  "doping," he has a doctor's prescription for his oxygen use and has been cleared to compete in sanctioned races by US Cycling since 2018. 

“Competing with oxygen brings me up to even par with a regular person. A sitting person has about 94 + % oxygen, and mine is normally at 85-87%.  I never noticed until 2018 when I was at the VA, and they discovered that when I stop moving, my oxygen level falls drastically low. Since then, it’s been recommended that I use oxygen so I don’t stop breathing.”  

He has also faced athletic challenges due to his spine injury, knee brace, and hearing aids, which are the result of his time serving in the military.

Despite these challenges, Rodger remains committed to sports and continues to inspire others with his dedication and perseverance. He will be competing in the National Senior Games in Pittsburgh as a recumbent rider, which is a laid-back tricycle style that is not typically allowed in the games.

As he says, "I have hidden issues, but I never let them stop me from pursuing my passion for sports. I hope to inspire others to do the same." 

Bargaining his way into a lead role in the Senior Games

Rodger stumbled into the Senior Games at 68 when he and his friend from The Achille’s Pikes Peak Chapter, Larry Seidman, both signed up in 2017 to compete in the Utah State Senior Games. 

“We didn’t know that there would be 27 nations there. There were more people there than we imagined, and many people were much more prepared than us. We didn’t have a trainer or even know that a cycling outfit was called a kit. It was very intimidating as I felt like the bargain version of an athlete,” said Rodger. 

Nevertheless, Rodger came away with the Gold Medal in the 5km age category, so bargain kit or not, his athletic skills were top-notch! 

This year at the Senior Games, Rodger will be competing in three cycling events as a recumbent rider based in Colorado. Recumbent cyclists have only been in the National Senior Games officially since the Nationals in Fort Lauderdale in 2022 due to a 1935 clause that has previously kept them excluded from these games.   

“For recumbent cyclists, I’m the leader of the pack. No other person in the nation has been to 3 Senior Games in the recumbent. For the races, I plan to gain my speed quickly and then try to maintain a high rolling speed,” says Rodger. 

Rodger always tries to medal when possible and is a card-toting USAT member, a cyclist for team relays in triathlons. He says from past events, he’s gotten about 80 gold medals, 5 or 6 silver medals, and 5 or 6 bronze medals. 

“I always try to get a medal; after all, my legs are made of titanium,” he jokes.

Thanks to GetSetUp’s partnerships with health plans and local area agencies on aging in Colorado, many older adults age 60+ can enjoy GetSetUp classes at no additional charge. GetSetUp is sponsoring GetSetUp Athletes as an initiative designed to inspire and support older athletes by providing them with sponsorship and a platform to promote their passion for sports in order to empower their peers. 

GetSetUp Athletes are sponsored by GetSetUp, and each athlete will receive a $1000 stipend to help with their training and competition expenses, along with a full GetSetUp branded kit for their sport. These athletes will be sharing their journeys and insights with the GetSetUp community as they promote healthy and active lifestyles.

Learn more about GetSetUp Athletes
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