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Nothing is Possible, Until You Do It - Cole Bernier - Athlete of the Month

Nothing is Possible, Until You Do It - Cole Bernier - Athlete of the Month

Cole's journey can be aptly summarized by his own words, "Nothing is possible until you do it." His story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, from his days in motocross racing and competing at CrossFit Regionals to a life-altering work accident that broke his spine and ultimately led him to adaptive mountain biking.

Cole's passion for sports ignited at a young age, filling his days with activities like mountain biking, team sports, and later, motocross racing. However, an ankle injury in a motocross accident prompted a shift in his athletic journey, as he delved into CrossFit.

"At that point, CrossFit was pretty new. I didn't really know much about it," Cole reminisced. "The gentleman that owned the gym was an ex-motocross racer and totally fired up on everybody—just being healthy and getting in the gym and the community side of things. My dad was always really heavy into the gym, and I got into it as well, but never really loved it that much until I got into CrossFit."

With newfound dedication, Cole set a lofty goal: “I wanted to qualify for the West region, which at that point was the top 20 from Western Canada and the top 20 from the West of the US.” For a whole year his life revolved around training - work, gym, sleep, no parties, and no meals outside the plan. He made it to Regionals and placed 21st out of 40.

Then, in September 2015, everything changed dramatically. Cole described the life-threatening accident: “I don’t think I’d be here if I wasn't training CrossFit and in the shape that I was in. I had 12,000 pounds of plywood and lumber fall on top of me but luckily I survived. I don't know how. I had seven broken ribs, two punctures in one of my lungs, both my lungs collapsed, a bruised heart and two broken vertebrae. One of them dislocated. Where I broke was L1 and T12. This is the point where I was folded in half. I was spitting up blood and thinking - is this it? Am I going to keep living? Am I going to keep breathing?" 

Reflecting on the harrowing moment, he recalled, "I didn't really think I was going to keep going. So I just held my breath for a bit to try and go peacefully but for whatever reason, I didn't go to sleep… and I'm pretty freaking grateful that I didn't because life works out pretty crazy sometimes." 

The accident introduced Cole to a new world he would not have encountered otherwise—adaptive mountain biking, Bowhead, and a supportive community.

In the aftermath, Cole grappled with the challenge of expressing himself, having grown up immersed in sports and physical pursuits. He found it difficult to reconcile with his new reality in a wheelchair. He explained, "You have to really dig around and find out what your true values are and what really makes you happy in life. And for me, I got back to the roots of what I really appreciated growing up, and I was just riding bikes with my friends."

Five years ago, Cole discovered Bowhead at the BC Bike Show. Meeting Christian, the owner of Bowhead, was a turning point. Cole shared, "It opened my eyes to being like, okay, I can live a semi-normal life in a chair. I saw the bike, met Christian, and pulled the trigger right away and ordered my Bowhead."

While it took Cole a couple of seasons to fully explore the bike's capabilities, he knew from day one that it was a life-changer. Not only did it differ from anything he had ridden before, but it also provided him with a means to express himself as he had before the accident. He said, “It was just a continuous progression and I think I really didn't realize how much I missed that in my life and how much of that was my identity and motivation to get up every morning. It sounds pretty dark to say it that way, but when you don't have a way to express yourself and what you feel your full potential is, you feel pretty low and lonely. Not that you have to prove anything to anybody, but for me, life is about living to my full potential and doing the things that make me happy.”

“I think after my accident, I realized later on, after I got my Bowhead, that I really missed out on a lot of just expression and having that athletic ambition in my life of something to train for, something to eat healthy for, something to just look forward to after your day of work, even just waking up in the morning.”

Cole now works for Bowhead - he’s permanently on the road, doing bike demos for potential clients and representing Bowhead at the biggest bike events all over the world, constantly pushing to find his and his bike’s new limits - “I get to travel and do demos and I get to wake up and just look forward to bikes every day all day and it's pretty cool. Not many people get to do that in a normal body, but I'm pretty lucky that I kind of got a second chance and I think it's allowed me to live a life that I probably wouldn't have before.”

Getting back to his athletic routine also meant clean eating and proper supplementation. Like most athletes, Cole usually has a protein shake after training to improve recovery. Proper hydration is more challenging for adaptive athletes because of bladder restrictions so hydration products like Hydra+ are really helpful when you can’t put a huge volume of liquids in your body. 

When I asked Cole about his athletic ambition, he said:

“It’s a need for progression. And I think when you're aware that you're not living to your full potential and expressing yourself to what you fully feel like you can, then you kind of feel like what's the point? In my opinion, it sounds kind of weird, but what's the point in being here if you're not gonna be pushing yourself and what your capabilities are in life?

Yeah, nothing's ever possible until you do it.”


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