Filmed by: D. Everidge
Michael Mills is a Reebok Spartan Pro… also described by the broader industry as an adaptive athlete based in the city of Newton County, in Georgia, USA.
But we choose to leave out the ‘adaptive’ and simply refer to him as an all-round incredible athlete. We do this because what he has achieved to date in his chosen areas of sport including what he has just achieved this month are not the kind of thing mere mortals can make happen without putting in the same dedication, passion and intense training as any athlete does for his or her chosen sport. And to go beyond the areas of achievements, it was a pleasure to also learn that beyond ability and talent, Michael is an all-round great human being who is determined to inspire daily and prove to everyone that nothing is impossible if you put your mind and heart to it.
Michael, or ‘Mike’ as he is known by friends and family has become one of very few people who can pull a heavy SUV weighing 4,000-plus-pounds for a distance of over 100 meters, and doing so from his wheelchair… it’s certainly defined as something deemed as impossible in theory and it is certainly no easy feat. It takes great technical ability, logistical preparation and combined with the obvious strength side for which months of training and mental preparation takes place.
The road towards achieving any greatness is surely not always smooth, but Michael certainly makes it look almost easy on execution when he completed the gruelling latest stunt that took place last week at the 2015 FESTIVUS GAMES in Woodstock, Georgia in USA.
“As you will see in the video footage, it wasn’t easy and it was quite a moment when I completed the full 100m distance! And I couldn’t have done it without the crowd support!”
As with anyone who pursues the path towards what is deemed as impossible by the majority… Mike’s journey hasn’t been short of it’s challenges.
At age 16, he was struck head-on by a drunk driver and lost the use of his legs, he didn’t think much about big stunts and breaking records then; but then a lot can change in two decades.
“Being told that I’d never walk again was one of the hardest things to swallow, but anyone who knows me knows that I love a challenge. I decided to embrace this challenge and live life to its fullest rather than feeling sorry for myself,” said Mills, who competes in the sport of obstacle course racing and is also a Reebok Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete.
“I want to show everyone how self-imposed limits can be broken. Anything can be done with willpower and strength.”
Now 38, Mills is a married father of three, full-time employee, aspiring Crossfit athlete and competitor in wheelchair racing and adventure sports.
Vin at Newsivity asked a set of questions to get Mike’s personal response following his latest stunt, and in his own words:
Firstly How do you train for such an elaborate physical attempt like this?
I started training for my event the last week of december of 2014 . I started outh with a much shorter distance to pull and a lighter vehicle. I started out with 3200lbs and only 50 feet. once, I received my 400 ft rope, I decided that i would attempt to pull the entire distance and i uppped my weight. I strength trained 5 days a week, rest one and then pulled on the 7th day of each week.
My strength training consisted of tire pulling in my wheelchair on my street in front of my home to heavy lifting in the gym. I did a lot of back rows and pulldowns. I would offset my chest with heavy lifting to so that one body part would not overpower the other.
What are the key challenges apart from the obvious challenge of the heavy weight being pulled?
The added pressure is one. The continual stress put on my body is the hardest part and the fatigue of my hands and arms is always a factor.
How do your friends and family respond to your incredible ability and natural determination to achieve?
My friends and family are super supportive and proud of me. They know me as who i am and they don’t see me any different. They see me as an athlete and they see me as someone who is giving and that wants to make a difference in the world.
What inspired the idea?
I honestly don’t know. I just was thinking of a way to raise money for berts big adventure and it hit me… I just thought: “i want to pull a heavy vehicle!”
“One thing I’ll also add is that i don’t like the word “no!” and that was all i needed when I approached the world record authorities who said there were no world record categories for single vehicle pulls. I asked them why i could not do one and they decided to create a category for it.. the rest now is history! I tell you, persistence pays off in more ways than one!”
– Is this stunt both technical and strength based, or just strength?–
“It is all in one. You have to think about each pull because you have the total distance of 330 feet/100 meters to pull. You have to have strength and also the mental aspect is key.”
– Any training tips for others?
“Just keep pushing your limits and never listen to your body, always listen to your mind; within reason of course and do make sure you consult professionals if just starting out a new regime.”
– Do you have a personal message for others around the world?
“No should never be an option. You have to really and truly believe that you can do anything and once you set that in your mind and in your heart, the body and the rest of the world will follow!”
– Tell us a little about the charity you have been raising money for, and why this charity means a lot to you personally?
“www.bertsbigadventure.org is the charity and once you see the smiling faces of these kids and to know that the children have to be brave as do their families is what inspired me. The hardest part is being sick and then having to care for your own child that is sick, that just would be heartbreaking. My own kids are healthy and i am thankful for that; so what better way to show that gratitude by helping others who are in need.”
– What is your favourite motivational quote?
“More faith than fear, more love than hate, more hope than despair, more heart than scars!” oh, and also “one life, work and train hard… or die trying!”
– Who are your personal heroes?
“Be it well known heroes, or in your life i really don’t have one hero, but the heroes that matter a-lot are the heroes that fight for our country and sacrifice their lives so i can do silly and crazy stunts like this. The people who lay their life on the line everyday just so we can breath and live daily, safely, those are my heroes.”
– Anything else you’d like to mention, or promote?
“Really and truly, this is not about me, it is about the children we raised money for, and what they are going through every day. It is about the suffering and the sacrificing day in and day out that they have to endure, and anyone else who may be inspired by my actions too. The pull is small and miniscule to what many deal with and the pull simply symbolizes the effort it takes to be strong and to honor these families and others. The pull was to raise money so the next child can go see Mickey and the rest of the characters at Disney World, and to bring a little more quality to someone else’s life.”
Engaging with Michael certainly left us inspired… his selfless actions reminded us about what is important in each of our lives… and we hope this translates to each and every individual reading this too.
Michael also embodies the spirit of the Festivus Games, and the festival co-owner David Greenwalt said in a statement:
“He shines for ‘the rest of us’ and we are thrilled that he will show everyone what being an athlete really means. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes and we are proud to have a platform to celebrate feats of strength that come from the inside out.”
A bit more about the Festivus Games
Athletic games “for the rest of us,” the first Festivus competition was held in 2011, giving novice and intermediate athletes the chance to enjoy competitions designed just for them. Growing from 70 athletes in its first year, the 3rd biannual event in 2015 is expected to feature more than 8,000 athletes in competitions hosted across the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. For more information, please visit https://festivusgames.com/.
Growing from 70 athletes in its first year, the 3rd biannual event in 2015 features more than 8,000 athletes in competitions hosted across the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Extra fly-on-the-wall moment during Mike’s SUV pull:
To show your support people can still donate directly here:
Also check out the mention from the charity themselves following Mike’s awesome achievement:
Special thanks to Mike and also Darrell for his assistance.