Cody Noyes reclined in the leg press machine at the Rec Center on campus stretching and loosening up for an attempt to lift triple his body weight with only his legs.
Noyes, 23, an Integrated Studies major, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby. The disease usually limits mobility and Noyes, in earlier years, has depended on a scooter and occasionally, after surgery, a wheelchair to get from place to place.
But since he arrived at Middle Tennessee State University, Noyes has done more than study in the library . . . he’s also been a frequent visitor to the weight room.
“I started working out Sept. 5, 2010. I remember the day because I was so excited,” he said.
A month after beginning his strength conditioning program the leg braces worn to stabilize his gait came off.
“It was all due to stretching exercises from the trainers,” Noyes noted, referring to athletic trainers who work with football and basketball players, and who agreed to help him out.
“Physical Therapists will only stretch you until you feel tension,” Noyes said. “Athletic trainers will stretch you until you feel pain … I’ve never birthed a child before, but I imagine it was something similar.”
A grin is not far away as he says this.
As his strength and endurance increased, he ditched the scooter that sometimes took him on cross-campus walks. In typical Cody fashion, he noted that it’s “quite frankly, quite hard to flirt with girls when you’re in a scooter.”
Cody is well known at the Rec Center, indeed throughout campus. He is quick with a smile and if he thinks someone needs a comedic lift, he’ll break out in one of several accents, from that of a Mumbai call center operator to a Russian tycoon and his mainstay, Donald Duck.
“That’s my favorite, I’ve been doing it since I was 5,” he said.
The soon to be graduating senior wears a wide smile these days. On Dec. 13, he will cross the stage at Murphy Center to receive his diploma. But on Nov. 12, he achieved another goal, much more personal.
His journey to the leg press machine at the Rec Center, began many years ago.
“I just remember being a kid, going through physical therapy. It wasn’t going to get me very far very quickly,” Noyes noted, expressing frustration at the lack of physical therapy support available to him after he turned 18.
Tightness in his Achilles tendon ultimately led Noyes to have the thigh strength to attempt a leg press best of 478 pounds. He was on a running regimen, in addition to weight lifting. Because of the nature of his disease, most of the muscle gain went to his quadriceps.
“The first time my trainer and I, Caleb, weight-tested my quadriceps, I was doing 285 on my fourth set,” he said.
Noyes’ trainer, Caleb Paschall, works as the coordinator of the Adaptive Recreation Program at the campus Rec Center. The program specializes in exercise therapy for people with disabilities to allow them to work out at their own pace for fitness, health or therapeutic reasons.
“I knew that Cody already had a good work ethic, and I told him at the beginning, I was going to put him on a fitness program just like anyone else. We’re not going to change anything,” said Paschall said.
The trainer said Noyes has become a source of inspiration. “I think what drives Cody is that people have written him off. I think he does what he does to prove people wrong,” Paschall noted.
On Nov. 12, shortly after 10 a.m., Noyes pushed his feet hard against the leg press’s moveable platform. Paschall knelt by Noyes head.
“All right man, this is it, the moment of truth,” Paschall said to Noyes, whose face turned to steel.
The young man who some said would never walk, applied the energy of his body to his legs and the steel bars holding the weights moved, rose into the air. The five repetitions came fast. 1- 2-3-4-5. With each rise and fall of Noyes’ legs, Paschall offered encouragement.
“There we go.”
“Make it happen, Cody.”
On the fifth rep, the weight returned to its static position with a thud. Noyes looked around to see if anyone beside Paschall noticed. A group of rec center employees started clapping and cheering.
“It hurt, like most things, but it’s O.K. … It’s just weakness leaving the body,” said Noyes, who said he wanted his feat to encourage kids with cerebral palsy
Noyse also hopes it will bring attention to research he has done in exercise science that could benefit kids with cerebral palsy.
“Those kids [with cerebral palsy], when they have that spasticity along with the weak muscles, they get tight really quickly” he said. “I developed a way to isolate muscles by simulating inertia. In the isolation of those muscles, those muscles can be strengthened.”
“You just have to realize you can be anything you want to be,” Noyes said. “You’re only limited by your imagination. Knowledge is important, but you have to have imagination to come up with new knowledge, and that’s, I think, how I came up with this.”
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