By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 13, 2017) — It’s the Friday before school returns for the spring semester at Tarleton State University. Most students are dreading packing their clothes and other belongings for the the return trip to school.
But in the Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior deep in the bowels of Wisdom Gym, ‘Team Kinesiology’ is already hard at work. And before 9 a.m. – while many of their peers are enjoying one of their last days to sleep in – they are gathered with some of their favorite people – their clients.
What Dr. Joe Priest and staff – mostly students – have brought to their clients – he says while he’s a doctor he is not an MD, so he refers to them as clients rather than patients – is an opportunity the world has refused them, the opportunity to get well again, to be healthy. It’s an opportunity taken for granted by millions, but cherished daily in a small lab that has become one of the growing university’s greatest treasures.
If Priest has his way, the accomplishments of clients inside the Tarleton Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior will soon be a secret outside the Stephenville area no longer. His book, ‘After Everybody Else Gave Up,’ goes on sale February 1 at the Champions Club at Tarleton, and will be marketed globally through retail giants like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Priest says the book also will be converted to a digital format for those who prefer eBooks, and he is planning a book signing tour that will include a stop in New York City.
But Priest is more concerned with the spread of his team therapy concepts than any personal accolades or attention.
“Don’t make this about me, the book isn’t about me,” Priest said. “It’s about these guys, our clients, they are the ones putting in the work to stay healthy. This is all about them.
“It features 14 out of the hundreds of clients we’ve had, and it’s inspirational stories told from the clients’ and trainers’ perspectives,” he added.
Priest uses baseball analogies to describe just about anything and everything, and even the book cover features artwork that recalls a famous World Series comeback in 1929.
“The Phillies were down 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning and they had a rally and came back and won in one of the biggest comebacks in baseball history,” said Priest. “I’m using the metaphor in here because these clients are looking for a rally. They are trying to come back from helpless, hopeless conditions. They are suicidal sometimes. I tell them, ‘Let’s start a rally in your health that is going to turn you back to wellness.’”
And it works. He’s proven it. Time and again. He’s had a client win the 200 meter dash in the Paralympics, and he has another who is likely the healthiest man in the world suffering from Cerebral Palsy.
Except Jerry Thornton isn’t suffering. Thanks to the Psycle, a lightweight fly-wheel driven exercise bike, Thornton turned in his 2,634th cardiovascular workout Friday in his 22nd year of exercising under Priest’s guidance. Friday also happened to be the one-year anniversary of Thornton’s 2,500th workout.
“Jerry has Cerebral Palsy but he’s the healthiest person I know because he’s done (more than) 2,500 cardiovascular workouts. He has no no medical expenses,” exclaims Priest. “I ask Jerry when’s the last time he went to the doctor and he says he doesn’t go to the doctor because he doesn’t get sick…he doesn’t sneeze…he doesn’t cough…he doesn’t have allergies. That’s all because Jerry gets regular cardiovascular exercise.”
(See a feature on Thornton’s journey, chronicled by The Flash following his 2,500th cardiovascular workout one year ago today in the Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior, here on The Flash.)
Per the ‘Team Kinesiology’ methodology, such physical rehab isn’t done one-on-one with a physical therapist – or often, as Priest has heard from his clients regarding their prior attempts at rehab, a physical therapist assistant – clients at the Tarleton lab rehab with a whole team of trainers present.
“It’s teamwork, it’s common sense. We do our best when we work together,” said Priest, who noted the lab will work with 50 clients from the campus, community and surrounding area this spring semester.
Clients like Thornton, who have been told by the traditional medical world that nothing can be done, that there is no hope.
Except at Tarleton, hope abounds.
“I am totally convinced of the connection between mind and body. We stay healthy because we want to stay healthy. We deny disease,” said Priest. “I said to one of them this morning, ‘You will get well this semester.’ Do I have the authority to say that, I don’t know, but I said it, and many of them do get well.”
Now, Priest is setting out to share his team training concepts with the world.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my career helping people realize that rehab should be done as a team,” says Priest, whose student trainers all have ‘Team Kinesiology’ jerseys. “This is bigger than Tarleton. I want to blow this up, and if any other universities want this, I have students here (one working on a PhD) I can send them because they are the only ones who know how to run it.”