By: Josh Sarten, Veteran Ambassador of Project Echelon
This past year I made a decision to change my life for the better. I decided to get out and become active in cycling. I was looking for a Veteran cycling group to join, and form a bond with, while out on the bike. As a Veteran Ambassador of the Project Echelon Cycling team I have found a team that helps me stay mentally and physically healthy through cycling.
I have always been active from running multiple marathons and adventure races, but after I was medically retired from military service I fell into a dark place. I wasn’t was being very physically active, and I was pulling away from family and friends. I knew that I needed a change. So I contacted Project Echelon, and with a little push from the Eric Hill and Evan Hartig I started my journey to recovery. Since I started on my cycling journey, I have regained my love of the outdoor lifestyle, started to heal mentally and physically from my injuries, and have become more active and involved with my wife and daughters.
As a member of Project Echelon I have been able to receive assistance and support from this great organization. Veterans receive support from members of the cycling team who are willing to coach and mentor us to become better cyclists and achieve our goals. They do that by taking the time to personally set up training plans and nutrition plans for us to follow. They have also become part of my support group that I can turn to and have deep discussions with and talk about issues in my life. Whether that be problems in my training or real life, such depression or my PTSD. The organization also provides me with the same discounts that the team riders receive. I have been fortunate to receive a lot of high-quality gear such as a bike, rims and an H3 smart trainer from Saris.
Having an H3 smart trainer has been a game changer for me. I live up in Alaska where there is snow and below freezing temperatures for up to 6 months a year. I was able to continue my training rides that were planned for me by my coaches and improve my cycling fitness. I have a fat tire bike that I would ride for around 70-85 miles a week outside. Now with the support from Project Echelon and Saris I am able to complete over 130 miles of cycling while staying warm and having a good time sweating in my garage.
The trainer has also become part of the healing process for me. If I am having a tough day or just not feeling good due to the PTSD or depression, I am able to go into the pain cave (my garage) and get on the bike and just ride. I am able to relax and just focus and ride the trainer to help clear out my head. This helps me get into a better place so that I can spend quality time with my family. We are able to get outside and enjoy each other company skiing, hiking and other winter activities I am more focused and relaxed with my family thanks in part to being able to ride anytime. I am truly great full to be part of the Project Echelon family and very great full for their supporters like Saris.
ABOUT PROJECT ECHELON
Project Echelon educates and empowers veterans through cycling as a form of therapy. Through their work, Project Echelon is telling veterans’ stories and giving them a voice to share their stories and recovery. Their riders are based throughout the Midwest, training on Saris smart trainers, and racing across the country. Follow Project Echelon on Facebook, Instagram and at projectechelon.org.