CrossFit adaptive athlete gives back in a big way

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- From bench pressing well over 400 pounds, to winning competitions, CrossFit trainer and amputee, Zack Ruhl is at the top of his game. While his presence in the gym is huge, others say it's his personality and heart that truly makes him stand out from the rest. Those who know him say he's a beast.

"People call me the pit bull. I've always been super active. My mom never told me no," Ruhl said.

Never telling him no, which paved his path for independence.

"I was born with a bone deficiency and it led to my legs being amputated at the age of 2-years-old," Ruhl said.

Growing up without legs, Ruhl says he's lived a pretty normal life.

"I played high school football, dated girls, I did the whole nine-yards," Ruhl explained.

A few years after high school, he found a new passion.

"I was introduced to CrossFit and it just took off," he said.

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DIGITAL EXTRA: CrossFit trainer and amputee shares his story.

Many CrossFit movements use body weight. Ruhl says he was kind of given slack in the beginning for not having legs. Some told him he had an advantage for not weighing as much.

Ruhl told us, "Strap the wheel chair to me, and we're going to even the playing fields. So I started doing muscle ups, rope climbs, hand stands everything in my wheel chair pretty much just to shut the haters up."

Today, he owns his own box: CrossFit Uncontested. Besides his passion for lifting, he's got a big sense of humor.

"I've had people walk in and they're like, we do work out legs here? I'm like no, we only do arms. Bicep curls for days. Just because I don't have them, don't mean I don't know how to work them out," Ruhl said.

But there's something different here that make's Ruhl's place stand out from others.

"I've been around a lot of people with disabilities and the one thing I feel is lacking is self-esteem and confidence," he added.

So Ruhl decided to give back in a big way.

"I wanted to give free personal training and free memberships to adaptive athletes. Anybody that has a disability comes to my gym and trains for free," Ruhl explained.

Jesus Guzman is one of the regulars.

"I was in a car accident back in 2006 that caused me to be paralyzed from the waist down. I broke my back," Guzman aid. "Once you start working out, you can be a lot more active. You can do things like I did with rope climbs, wall balls, it definitely helps a lot with your health."

Over time, many here are achieving their personal goals. While his CrossFit box may seem a little different, Ruhl says the roots are core values are the same.

"I still want to give them that comradery they get in a CrossFit gym. So I don't want to have a handicap person working out in the corner and have all the class over here. I want us to all be one big family," Ruhl added.

CrossFit Uncontested can be found right here in Houston at 792 Normandy.

If you're looking to get involved with adaptive sports or need help in other areas, there are many programs available across Houston:

* City of Houston's Adaptive Sports and Recreation Programs and Leagues
* Langham Creek Family YMCA
* Volunteer opportunities at Star Skating
* Adaptive Sports programs at TIRR Memorial Hermann
* Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Persons with Physical and Mental Disabilities
* Ability Connection
* SER Houston - Providing services and volunteer opportunities
* The Center (part of the United Way of Greater Houston)
* The VAST Academy
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