By JASON ELLIOTT
For years as a competitive wheelchair racer, Craig Blanchette focused on speed and how to get even faster. Sometimes, that came at the expense of his own personal nutritional health and well-being.
“I’d been racing for years and focused on whatever I could to go even faster,” Blanchette said. “I wasn’t trying to be healthy, and just trying to focus on being as fast as I could.”
Then after his competitive racing career ended, his weight began to climb, gaining 50 pounds after his retirement.
“My focus kind of waned and having alternate responsibilities, including starting a family and getting a job in sales, I put on some weight,” Blanchette said. “I had a hard time fitting into my wheelchair and racing chair.”
Since his retirement from racing, Blanchette became a C.O.P.E certified health coach, focusing on helping people achieve a healthy weight, optimal health and personal success.
“Through a series of different circumstances, I was looking for employment and found a health coach and a way to burn body fat,” Blanchette said. “I just started getting back to focusing on my health and dropped 50 pounds.”
He felt so good, he returned to competing at Bloomsday in 2009.
“Seeing the results, it wasn’t simple or easy,” Blanchette said. “But once I had a plan, it was easy to follow. I started to get the results I wanted and started to make a career of it and been doing it for seven years.”
“Dr. (Joseph) Abate has been working with Craig for a couple of years,” Heritage Health dietitian Jennifer Ramsrud said. “Craig was born with shorter legs and he’s been able to overcome a lot of different obstacles in his life and is just a great motivational speaker.”
Blanchette, an eight-time World Champion as well as Bloomsday road race champion, will talk about his struggle with weight after his professional racing career ended. The presentation will be at North Idaho College on May 5, starting at 7 p.m. at the Lake Coeur d’Alene Room in the Student Union Building.
“I love to come back and meet with people and do seminars,” Blanchette said. “Through a ministry I worked with, I got connected to the Kroc and Dr. Abate and started to do some online seminars and they’ve had me speak and do video chats with the classes.”
Heritage Health, as part of a nutrition education program, has its patients meet with Blanchette virtually through a streaming service at least once during the length of classes that span from eight to 12 weeks and are held at the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene.
“Having him be available has just been awesome,” Ramsrud said. “What I’ve learned from him is the ‘can’t’ attitude, and the conditions he can’t do is because of his pain. It’s something that I’ve learned, but not to use it as an excuse. At his wedding, he had a vision of carrying his wife to the beach, but since he’s in a wheelchair, how could he? He had a plan, and put it in place. He’s just inspired me to put the excuses behind me. Now, I think of the image of that person of how to take that person and get to that image.”
Blanchette won the bronze medal in the wheelchair 1,500-meter during the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Tickets for the NIC event are $10 and available at the Kroc Center, Heritage Health and North Idaho College.