Kevin Ogar is the Owner and Head Coach of CrossFit WatchTower. Kevin is a Level-3 Certified CrossFit Trainer, and is a member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff. Kevin has accomplished the incredible feat of qualifying for the CrossFit Regionals four times, finishing as high as 6th in 2012. Outside of CrossFit, Kevin serves as Vice President of the Reveille Project, which aims to ease veteran's transition to civilian life by instilling holistic lifestyles into their routines post-active duty. In January of 2014, Kevin suffered a life changing spinal cord injury during a fitness competition and has overcome great odds to get to where he is today.
Kevin's accident occurred while performing a 3 rep max hang snatch during a fitness competition. Being one of the better snatchers in the sport of CrossFit at the time, this was nothing new or out of the ordinary for Kevin. Kevin opened up the snatch event at 235 lbs, which was a weight that he could hit consistently under normal circumstances. During this episode, Kevin takes us though the moments that led up to his injury. Specifically, he discusses how the slant in the lifting platform caused him to not stick the catching of the weight overhead. Upon trying to bail out from underneath the unstable weight, the bar hit Kevin's left shoulder, which caused the bar the hit the weights stacked behind him, ultimately causing the bar to then bounce off the weight stack like a rocket right back at him severing his spine between T-11 and T-12.
Kevin describes the intense pain he felt immediately after the bar hit him in the back. He said it felt like every inch of his body felt like it was on fire. After being transported to a near-by local hospital, doctors later told him that the injury caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. Kev opens up about the wave of emotions that understandably ensued after this moment. Although lucky to have survived the initial impact from the bar, Kevin wasn't completely in the clear once he got to the hospital.
Kevin's injury required an extremely risky surgery called a thoracotomy because any more trauma to the spine would have killed him due to the onset of shock. He was given a 15-18% chance of surviving this first surgery. Most people die from lack of oxygen or blood loss in this surgery, but Kevin believes the only thing that kept him alive was his fitness level before the injury because his body was so efficient at processing oxygen. After surviving the surgery, Kev then only had a 25-35% chance of surviving the complications from that surgery. Kevin obviously overcame these odds and described how a lot of things on the day of his injury actually worked in his favor rather than against him. For example, the doctor who performed the surgery wasn’t even supposed to be working that today and he just happened to be the second best spinal surgeon in the US. In addition, Kevin grew up with the Vice President of Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado is a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital that exclusively specializes in the neuro-rehabilitation and research of patients with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury (Kevin Pearce from episode 57 also did his rehab at Craig).
While at Craig, Kevin wasn't satisfied with just surviving because he wanted to be thriving. Kevin has never been someone who was okay with not being able to do something or excel at it. The toughest thing to cope with at Craig was realizing how much he had lost after doctors performed the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor/sensory exam which aims to take stock of the extent of paralysis. This was difficult for Kev because it pointed out everything that he had lost after the injury. Luckily, this injury wasn't the only adversity he had ever faced in his life. During our conversation, Kevin talked about how despite getting kicked out of college twice, there was something positive that came out of each of those negative situations. One of those positives were meeting his fiancé who he has been with for 10 years. Figuring his spinal cord injury was probably the worst thing that will ever happen to him, he is determined to generate the best outcome possible.
Below are some of the other topics we touch on throughout our conversation:
The importance of maintaining a sense of humor.
The similarities between athletes and veterans based on what he has seen with the Reveille Project.
Both groups are coming from a background of purpose, a situation of structure, a brotherhood/community.
All of which are usually lost in the transition to civilian life and can be forged through CrossFit.
Barbell Shrugged Interview from a few years back (6 months post injury)
Mark Bell's recent podcast interview with Kev:
How Kevin got kicked out of college twice and what/who turned him around.
The multiple sports Kevin played growing up.
Basketball (main sport)
Safe tackling tactics in Rugby.
What got Kevin into CrossFit.
“Man I really suck at this, maybe I should give it another shot."
Kevin's current aspirations of qualifying for the Paralympics in bench press.
430-440 lbs (touch-and-go)
395-405 lbs (competition)
How Kevin avoids overtraining.
Good at listening to his body.
Changing planes, intensities, etc.
The challenges Kevin faced on his quest to getting on the CrossFit level 1 seminar staff.
Difficulties in learning how to coach from a chair.
Why Kevin sometimes allows himself to have a bad day, but he doesn’t ever let is affect the next day.