Fellow Push Girls can always count on Chelsie Hill for a good laugh. (Photo courtesy of Greg Zook)
Written by Lisa Turner, editorial intern
With all the Olympic buzz amputee Oscar Pistorius has been getting lately, we were thrilled when we got the chance to chat with a few of the fierce, fit females that make up the Push Girls. They’re a group of women in wheelchairs who deal with life's challenges while leading pretty normal lives, despite all being paralyzed from the waist down. The ladies show their journey (everything from trying to get pregnant to hopping back in the swimming pool) in the docu-series on the Sundance Channel, which airs Mondays at 10 p.m.
Two of the show's cast members Auti Angel and Chelsie Hill are former dancers who had to get creative with their craft after car accidents left them immobile from the waist down. Read on to see how they stay motivated, including how they stay in shape, their favorite workouts and what they think about Pistorius' trip to London.
What’s it like being on PUSH GIRLS?
Chelsie: At first it was surreal, but now it's just a normal day. I'm so amazed at how it all came together, it’s really helped the people in wheelchairs. I got a letter recently from a viewer saying she just bought her first pair of high heels! Plus, it's like I got four big sisters (I'm the youngest of the bunch). I feel so lucky to have a group of women who understand what you’re going through and can teach you a ton of things.
Auti: I’ve been in my chair for 20 years, and Chelsie was born a few months after my car accident. Seeing how comfortable she is on the show and in life is a reminder to us that we are doing the right thing, and shows us how far we've come.
You must have incredible upper body strength. How do you stay in shape?
Auti: I go to the gym on occasion. I have a punching bag in my backyard to keep my core fit, and I also use free weights. Plus, dancing has always kept me fit.
Chelsie: My upper body has gotten a lot stronger because I use mine much more than the average person. I constantly have to do cardio!
What’s your favorite workout?
Chelsie: Crawling–it’s a total-body workout I can do by myself. You work your forearms, shoulders and back muscles–it’s a lot of work!
Auti: I love push-ups. I deal with chronic pain and I found that push-ups help my natural endorphins kick in and help me sleep at night. Like crawling, it works your core, back, and shoulders. I do fifty and just push through the pain.
Auti: Just start off with five. Then do one more the next day. Keep adding a little bit each time. You don’t just walk out your door and run a marathon, you start by walking down the block.
You are all so positive on the show. What would you tell someone who is constantly focusing on the negative?
Auti: Always remember that there’s someone who has it harder than you. Yeah, I’m in a wheelchair but my best friend Angela is a quadriplegic and the things she faces blow my mind. Do the things that you can do. Focus on your strengths. For me, all the pain and suffering I went through I put into dancing. It gave me a form of expression to be free.
Chelsie: A few people have said to me, “I’d kill myself if I were in a wheelchair.” To me, it means that someone thinks life isn’t worth living. I try to show them that you can overcome any obstacle. Life is always worth living, you just have to figure out what your path is. I’m really hopeful that I’ll walk again. I’ve accepted who I am but I’m always going to fight to walk again. I know I may never dance the way I used to, but if I can get up and stand up and look someone eye to eye I’ll be the happiest girl in the world.
What do you think of amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius and some of the flack he’s getting for an unfair advantage during the Olympics?
Auti: I’m honored and proud of him because he’s one of my heroes, so I’ve been rooting for him all the way. I understand the criticism, but he also has so many other disadvantages that an able-bodied person doesn’t have. We all should be focusing on the challenges that he’s overcoming.
For more information on PUSH GIRLS, visit sundancechannel.com/push-girls.