Hello and welcome to the If We Knew Then podcast, I’m Stephen Saux
And I’m Lori Saux and today we are joined via Skype by Chris Nikic and his parents Nik and Patty.
I am really looking forward to this interview I’ve been looking forward to it since I saw the clip on social media of him training to run the Iron Man Chris is training to run the Ironman as the first person to run the Ironman with down syndrome and it’s just so exciting and I can’t wait to hear about his training and everything that he’s been doing up until this point really a fantastic story Chris completed a Olympic distance triathlon in January and then right after basically in may he did a half Ironman that’s seventy point three miles total and he became the first person with down syndrome ever to complete half Ironman and now he’s training for the full Ironman a hundred and forty point six miles it’s almost a two and a half mile swim which probably people can’t wrap their minds around that but that is really tough in the ocean a hundred twelve mile bike I think you guys can understand that’s that’s a long way and then finish with the merits on back to back to back really unreal for any athlete and now we’re talking about someone with down syndrome doing it and it’s spectacular yeah about three years ago Chris’s parents started to push him in a way that they never question before we still talk about today at the changes that they made to their approaches and supporting Kress and three years later here you have them getting ready to run an Iron Man which is a big reminder to me to just always push them to that potential and it’s never too late you can follow Chris’s journey at W. W. W. dot C. H. R. I. S. N. I. K. I. C. dot com you can learn about us train in his speaking events and all about his one percent philosophy and I’ll put that link in the show notes I can’t wait to talk to him so let’s get into it well thank you Nick Chris and Patty for joining us today on if we knew then podcast welcome thank you it’s nice to be here you are so do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself sure our crews will close armed Storer road or larger %HESITATION %HESITATION %HESITATION do Australians so well deserved our clothes show due to poor grew up on the do you our through drug the arm or shoulder is your the other mom has heard road through our mobile Brewster posted for %HESITATION so I’m going to do to jar an internship you know what the real estate now I am happy I am a stay at home mom I have a daughter who’s thirty and out of the house she’s been out since she was eighteen I’m off to college and we have grossed ten years younger in love being a mom how did most of the hard hard work raising Chris after the first eighteen years of his life all the therapies all the things that come with that %HESITATION neck %HESITATION I own a sales consulting business I work with sales organizations to drive sales performance and the last couple years I’ve gotten a lot more involved in helping Chris to optimize his personal performance both as an athlete %HESITATION so you can be physically more capable but also intellectually so he can do more things like speak in public hold a job things are not so as a family we’ve been very involved working on helping christening gown busing B. in the last two years we’ve taken a dramatic increase in the way we approach things and we’ve seen a dramatic results based on that change approach though we talk well when I first heard your story I saw a video that you %HESITATION Nick and Chris were in and %HESITATION and you did talk about this change that you’ve seen and I want to ask what spurred that two years ago what was the change that or or what happened that that cause you to maybe rethink the way you guys were doing things what Chris you know has been active with Special Olympics in various sports over the years and the %HESITATION Special Olympics expanded into another sport or the triathlons so Chris went out and did a few of you know those strokes try off once and then you did away while you were more encouraged you sign someone up there and he was having fun he is always have a competitor spiritual whether it’s in golf or basketball or swimming but this was just a different type of sport that we thought we should give it a try yeah it was actually a lot of what we’ve learned is been by accident %HESITATION Chris came off of four major surgeries and %HESITATION started gaining some weight you know became really sanitary and out of shape and so as I said the the pilot program for Special Olympics for triathlon just gave us something to go and do and we only did it for two reasons one is the same reason we do everything special effects which is being part of a group and having people to do things more than friends and the second was to really just to give them something to do to get in shape because we were concerned about what would happen if he continued on the path he was on so we just started a little bit at a time and then about a year into it the light bulb just went off we started seeing things we’ve never seen before because the discipline of trying to do a triathlon and training for three different things apply to a different level of discipline around his training and we noticed some things that we never noticed before about his development Solomon’s learning curve which I’m happy to share with a little bit later but it was %HESITATION it was halfway through about a year and where we saw things that we’ve never seen before and we started to dig in deeper and start to kind of put the pedal down if you’re well on doing things differently than we’ve always done a what’s funny that’s something that we’re told as parents kind of right off the bat is this physical limitation with a low tone possibly %HESITATION some other health issues N. it’s funny that that we’ve now seen that you’re committing this time and you see a year with the light bulb goes off that happens in every athlete it may happen quicker for some but sometimes I don’t believe as a society where patient enough to let that happen with certain individuals and I and I think it’s fantastic that that you held on long enough to see that light bulb and then realize the potential yeah I really want is because %HESITATION society follows a certain path to learning in that path usually you know if you follow a curve a typical person in society will follow current that kind of goes up very quickly and then stabilizes over time is people achieve their potential the difference with someone with down syndrome that we’ve noticed is the learning curve is flat longer and so what most parents and everybody else around them does they give up because they interpret the the slower learning curve and a flat learning curve as something that is impossible as opposed to for what it really is which is that it’s just not delayed learning her because then when I end up happy with Chris just so to use the example of the triathlon the other seven or eight people in the triathlon for special effects Florida every one of them was faster than Chris when they first started and the ones in first second and third place were twice as fast so when Chris did his sprint triathlon in a hundred fifty minutes the winners were in the sixty five to seventy minute range twice as fast as Chris are your later Chris accelerated so rapidly once his curve started to kick in he wiped out within a few months after the first year to where he went from a sprint to the Olympic which is thirty three miles and then four months later he went from thirty three miles to seventy miles everybody else couldn’t even begin to touch that distance without speed anymore but when you first met Chris and all the others because they were much more accelerated physically than Chris Wyles but after a year and and then after his learning curve check then Chris was able to certain surpass all of them and be able to do things that are just unimaginable and so the lesson we would love to be able to translate to other parents like us it is you have to understand there’s a different learning curve and be patient don’t give up expect to build a really strong foundation but if you build a strong foundation then your kids are going to shock you by what they’re capable of doing but you’ve got to be patient and give them that extra year two years whatever it takes to build a foundation and their current will kick off and Chris could not compete with other kids who don’t have down syndrome special needs and he can be out there competing with them in all the sports %HESITATION I think when you were talking about society and their learning curve I think there’s also something to be said about just giving everybody the chance giving them the opportunity and and I love that even though the opportunity wasn’t set there for you you made the opportunity because we do forget you know from birth there are delays in our kids milestones and it’s easy like once we get to a place where we see that growth and see where we’re going maybe there’s a part of us that needs to remember when we’re starting something new that just like the other milestones there may be delays as well as we approach and introduce something new and how that translates not even not only physically but cognitively too right absolutely and that’s all we know is with Chris too as a result of him doing those sprint triathlon and getting some attention I am not getting him out a six minute keynote speech in front of a thousand people to talk about his one percent philosophy and then he practiced for a month to deliver a six minute speech that he he read off a teleprompter and he nailed it and then we noticed after that he started doing more we got to a point where his intellectual capacity started to increase to where he could actually learn and remember the speech as and so it got to where we got the speech in twenty minutes where he could actually learn the entire speech and delivered from memory and we noticed that his intellectual capacity was delayed when we started but the more you work on it the batters memory got the bettors retention the more he connects things and so well he can’t think as quickly on the spot if you get to know Chris and have a conversation one can understand them you realize that everything is connected and and he’s capable of doing just about anything and now you know we applied it to triathlon but then the appliances speaking and now he’s reading and working and so to your point you know every time you try something new expect that there’s also a delay in the learning curve but then if you’re patient enough that learning curve will check out and they’ll be able to do amazing facts Chris when you first started your dad said that people were so far ahead of you in time what kept you from giving up because that’s hard that’s hard for anybody to go into something where they’re behind everybody to just keep pushing and persevering sure are you through those two drones are drilling will small ball doughs zero here is our store call hello Raj name of the house the car and what we wanted to help you through everything like I mean you want you’ll have everything like made up okay that’s why he’s doing it that’s what makes them not quit and why shouldn’t he want that right so Chris can I ask you because I just for me I know sometimes I go out there and I and I’m going to go on my daily run and it can be Dante in or hot or maybe I’m running with my husband who runs faster than me and sometimes leads me in the dust when you’re there and you’re facing the challenges of whatever that day brings how does that feel for learning shoot Rother is for courage to Sharm is run your failures no L. added students turn okay so when you experienced a pain what do you do what do you say sure okay and what does that mean do you do when you hear experience affecting good wrote you got it out of your head and then you just do what you’re really doing it that’s how Christmas when when the fake pain gets into his hand he gets it out of his head and he just keeps on is that a a meditation or focus that you’ve helped Chris develop yes it is it something that you know whatever you work out hard there’s a pain that comes from working out hard but it’s it’s not real pain is temporary it’s just your brain your sub conscious mind telling you to quit but if you tell your subconscious mind is fake can you get it out of your head and you just focus on your goals and we’re trying to accomplish then that goes away so you overcome the sub conscious mind trying to derail you from achieving your goals and you recognize it when it comes and you just take get out of your head and you keep moving forward the only way to overcome that as he said is you just keep moving forward you don’t quit when and how did you introduce that to Chris what are you hearing to it when things started to get tougher and so we started talking about it because I could sense he was experiencing some so we always come up with things that he can understand and so I explained that fun and make a fun explains and the concept of take pain versus real pain real pain as you break something and it’s %HESITATION it’s for a month or two take pain is is that pain that’s in your head that goes away the moment you stop doing what you’re doing that’s how you know it’s fake because the brain is trying to fake you out into quitting well that’s the method and strategy of elite athletes and that’s something that I would venture to say has rarely been presented to someone with down syndrome L. and there’s a lot of different reasons why possibly thinking that they couldn’t conceptualize that message or maybe we just don’t push people down set him far enough we have a son is ten years younger than Chris and I’m like I need to incorporate these things in his life just like hopefully listeners can start incorporating this from toddler age not maybe the the fake pain part but the pushing you know well that’s part of it if you understand how the human the sub conscious brain works it’s designed to protect you against any including anything that’s painful anything else no and so if you don’t overcome your natural tendency your subconscious mind’s tendency to protect you then you never overcome the obstacles that make you great and so the way we help Chris do that is with this one percent philosophy so we accelerate has grown a little bit at a time we try not to introduce too much pain because it’ll just overwhelm your cell by the one percent philosophy is if I did one push up one set up once once today if I just do one in two days if I increased by one to two and then two days later I go to three the amount of pain I’m experiencing is so little that I can tell my brain it’s fake pain and I can just fight through but if I try to go from one to twenty the pain it goes from fake paying right which is temporary to real pain which lasts a week because your muscles are sore for a week after that so we try not to introduce anything into his routine that has residual pain so we teach them how to fight through the immediate pain through this one percent loss rate without introducing anything that has long term pain the then will derail him from his object and that’s why the one percent last week it is a little he’s going to go from zero to one hundred forty mile Ironman three years improving one percent a day for three years and one is the the Ironman that is the goal wins the Ironman happening is currently low Travers Shelburne and coming on soon Florida yep your former %HESITATION laron arm during this is true because really wrong which you saw your car there or your to do without losing or eat as you sure are your browser I was thrown in there yeah those songs into roster %HESITATION how’s your shows your car with used to have a retard go okay so you wanna you wanna inspired their sons to do the Iron Man yeah and you stand so he starts like you started we are in three or four years he’s gonna be doing Ironman there are a lot I think I love you Chris your amazing Sir Gordon man you I I I love you and I love your hard work and I think this philosophy of fake pain is when you were talking to me about it I feel like it’s such a it’s such a metaphor for what our journey has been with our son as far as people telling us that things can’t be done and putting up obstacles for our son that we advocate through and you know you get to the we start at the table where we want our son to be in an inclusive classroom I were told no we’re we’re told he’ll never read he we’re told that it’s impossible for him to be held to the the same bar that a typical child is and you know you push through even though what they’re telling you they’re so confident in and I do I think not only our philosophy to push Chris as far as physically which is amazing and it breaks so many barriers as what we are told as parents of children with down syndrome you’ve just taken one math and you shattered that perception and proven them wrong and just pave the way for so many people behind you and I love it and not only that is that on the matters of society and education you’ve you’ve also taken that to say these are not real words these are words that I don’t know where they came from a very archaic belief but they’re not real and this is what we’re doing and I have I love it and I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me because I know that because what you’re doing and what you’re saying and what you’re proving is changing my son’s life and the opportunities that are there for him so I absolutely love you and I thank you so much for my mom just been Liam’s mom I thank you I want to hear from you as well Chris what your experience has been because I’m sure that you and your family had challenges that we didn’t have and that have changed hopefully I know it’s a gradual change but I’m sure you experience things I can’t imagine what you experienced twenty years ago and and I think that’s important to document where we’ve come from and the change that’s happening and why so much more change is needed well if you’re asking about education my experience with Kronos was the same type of thing with IT peas every year in a public school and I was you know said that those meetings where farm in Africa who knew the laws and I would you know without a shadow of a doubt that no matter how hard we fought in the end Chris wasn’t going to be successful in that classroom with typical yours unless the teacher in braced it unless the principal interest they think they know what they’re doing because that’s the way they get on their trains they’re they’re trying to have these exceptional student classrooms and try to log everybody together if they have any type of learning differences so our experience is popping around to various schools we actually %HESITATION christening out of several different schools before we ended up finding the school that we think he will best succeed in and that’s where he is graduated from last year all for students with learning differences and the whole staff you know they love on the children they get that there’s a different type of way to reach kids since Rick wise and it’s you know it’s it’s a struggle that anybody with a child with was a cognitive delay your physical delay you know we have to look at things differently than anybody with a typical students while we are working towards a more inclusive world and it will be so wonderful when it is and different isn’t such a big deal you know well I agree with the fact that that this is how administration sometime this is Todd and it’s kind of at ground zero in your home you may see things and say well I see if I do this that we’re getting some place for to translate to the classroom is a whole nother level of teaching the teachers that’s going to work and now you have Chriss twenty and year or around eighteen you you saw that there were things that you could do at home that would open up doors for his success Ironmen number one is an incredible achievement and just doing the half Ironman is amazing Chris do you ever have fear in your training or fear in in in where you’re going or the the challenges that are ahead of you %HESITATION produced Charles Rosa Roger form we’re all first do your corners sharp form through your are there are there are four other men is shown this is your right and our crews to do though is show restore Utah groups argued during this is dog run aground during regard your I’m not talking to the wrong order absolute you’re proven wrong by bridges Charles is your body for dark water job arms because rebels should go by you’re logged sounds good should cute song well I’m bag of charm where are god chooses you this reduces him to arrive the number one she is dreaming we’re all done I’m terrified form and then after I do that all right my dog died go to a hotel resort your drugs to mark those shades out is wrong wrong I was born we’re going to route corona well not because she does have arbitrarily real hard work call %HESITATION %HESITATION knees well tarred roads and storage Chris you train so hard you deserve the tacos and extra rice Nick what particularly have you learned incorporating the one percent philosophy which I’m assuming you’ve probably corporate that your life in the past but just watching Chris’s training and his progression sure a couple things we learn we as parents were treating Christopher like so the question then I would have is if we’re treating him differently why do we expect anybody else there are you know not to treat him differently our daughter ten years old %HESITATION as Patty southern crest was gifted right when I say gifted I’m sure you all instantly think of something right you thank all they’re going to accomplish great things so so what do we do as parents when we have a gifted child well we’ve got some really good coaches we put them on travel teams we put him in gifted classes we make them study harder and long before we actually help them achieve their giftedness by the way we manage well when Chris was born everybody told us he was special one word change our entire approach to the way we manage and help Chris special means protect him keep him from getting hurt I do you know do things that are different than gift so for eighteen years one lesson we learned that’s a major lesson on life is is we treat our daughter is gifted we treated our son is special and we got what we were expecting two years ago we started treating her so we said look we’ve got to stop treating him a special we got to start treating him as gifted so we started looking at Christopher Lee we start treating him the same way we treated our daughter and in two years he has far exceeded any expectations any of us ever imagine because he is not proving that he’s gifted he’s doing things that are thought impossible not just by him but anybody who’s ever had down syndrome before and so %HESITATION we approach it differently and guess what happened when we started treating him as gifted everybody else around them started treating it as a gift his coaches I first was treating special in protecting him and then we basically held them to a higher standard to say stop treating our son is special and start treating him like any other person start treating him as gifted and they all did and the more we pushed him and the more we treated him as gifted the more he came through and the more you accomplished and we applied a couple of simple philosophies lighter one percent better to take pain but also the learning curve we we also realize that Chris likes routine he likes repetition there’s a certain suiting us or I know what the word is to to repetition and doing things the same thing over and over again comforting and so what we did is we adopted and applied what is comforting to him as part of his routine to help him achieve his greatness and so we do something simple with Chris right for instance when we go for a bike ride we’re gonna go for a bike ride tomorrow your typical person talks about a bike right about how far they’re going to gold for the day and how long it’s gonna take with Chris we’re gonna get up at seven the morning and he’s gonna do six rounds of bike rides he’s gonna do six rounds of twelve our neighborhood is a mile around so he’s gonna go and do six rounds of twelve and then when he’s done with it take a two minute break he’s gonna have as Giles and his hydration now we’re gonna go to a second round as well the third round as well I want to do that six times when we’re done for five hours will pass and he will have done sixty five to seventy miles of bike right it’s just a different mindset instead of specials gifted instead of seventy miles it’s six rounds of twelve and everything’s fine everything’s easy and you can count down and so in his brain it’s one at a time and so it’s easier for him to get into that rhythm and achieve some part of it is learning how people learn and applying it to their strings staying away from their weaknesses and ultimately getting to the same point and that’s one of the biggest lessons that in I’ve learned through this journey it’s a great parental lesson thanks and Chris I would venture to just jump off of that one to say your gift is influencing not just people with down syndrome but I think anyone who hears your story can help be an inspired just to face their own challenges in life or to take on something that they fear or that they don’t think that they can do you’re proving to them you can you’re not only facing the physical challenges of an Iron Man your face scene perception and our P. and archaic perception that society has about down syndrome so your courage is what’s inspiring and how could anybody not take that and apply that to their own life it’s been so wonderful talking to you and thank you Patty for sharing your experience and Chris and Nick just it’s so great to hear from people who’ve been there and thanks for paving the way for my son you’re very very welcome it was our pleasure you’ll have a good evening your children are we will.
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