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Tiphany and Mia of 'Push Girls' stay fit with and without the wheelchair

The Sundance Channel's "Push Girls" follows five women who face down everyday challenges — and each uses a wheelchair. The women find ways to do their favorite activities, date and live their lives to the utmost. Tiphany Adams and Mia Schaikewitz, two of the show's stars, talk about how they stay fit and healthy.

What do you do to stay fit?

Tiphany: What do I not do to stay fit? ... I want to make sure I'm getting at least 30 minutes of cardio. I do a class called SALT: sculpting, aerobics, lengthening and technique. I try to do that twice a week, depending on my schedule. It's aerobic as well as strength training. I can get in and out of my chair — no one is fully glued to it — and I get out of my wheelchair when I'm in the class.

Mia: Mine starts with the mind-set. If I have a positive mind-set to start off my day with introspection or relaxation, I tend to feel more excited about taking care of my body. Generally, I just try to be active in some way during the day, no matter what it is. Being able to get out at lunch and rolling around the block a few times, that will get you to do more, or that's enough for that day.

Is it difficult to get enough exercise while having to utilize the wheelchair?

Tiphany: Everyone's level of movement depends on their level of injury. And even if you have the same level of injury, it depends whether you can feel as much as they can do. Some of my muscles atrophied, so for me it does take a few seconds longer to get on the ground or on my yoga mat. I have to alter some of the moves that I do that are not as exact as the instructor does. But when they are doing push-ups, I'm doing push-ups too — my knees are lying on the ground. I think it inspires people when they see me do it.

You were both injured in high school. How did you find the motivation to start being fit and active?

Tiphany: I was always pretty active. I spent a lot of time in the water, water-skiing, I grew up camping and very active in that sense. I loved working out. After my accident, I think one of the things that scared me was they told me, "We are going to measure you [for your chair] bigger because you are going to gain weight." And I'm, like, that's not going to be OK with me. It was as if they were telling me that was what my future was going to be. ... That alone was motivation to me.

Mia: I was paralyzed at 15. ... I was more into a love of athletics than being physically fit, but I never thought about working on it. Same as Tiphany, though, people were saying, "Make sure you stay active." When you first get paralyzed, you have to learn to use your strength in different ways. If you don't have strength, you are not going to be mobile.

Has being on the show made you more looks-conscious?

Tiphany: We've always been conscious of it, even before the show. We worked out before the show, and that isn't going to change. People comment on the fact that we look fit a lot, and sometimes we get some backlash about people thinking that it's not realistic, that we are spoiled, so that's very interesting.

What's your nutrition program like?

Mia: Food-avoidance diets definitely don't work for me. If you tell me I can't have something, I'm going to want it more, so for me it really is about listening to my body. After I eat something unhealthy, I don't feel good. Being in tune with my body and knowing it, listening to it, I feel better. It's a matter of getting in touch with yourself, and your body tells you a lot of things.


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