Laurie Allen tests out a hand cycle machine at the Town Lake YMCA. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

ustin triathlete Laurie Allen spent about two hours hoisting weights and trying out some specially-designed exercise equipment at the Town Lake YMCA this weekend.

“It’s like coming back home,” said Allen, who who was paralyzed in a fall last February.

Her husband Matt wheeled her chair up to a triceps machine, where she surprised even herself by doing a dozen repetitions.

“That’s just amazing. I can’t believe how well you’re doing,” he said, as a smile spread across his wife’s face.

Matt Allen and Andrea Fisher assist as Laurie Allen tries out some weight training equipment at the Town Lake YMCA. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Since she doesn’t have any hand grip, Allen uses special gloves that can be strapped to handlebars, allowing her to use the machines. She worked her way through a set of lateral pull-downs with 24 pounds on the machine.

“It’s good to know I haven’t lost all my swimmer muscles,” she said, then headed to a hand cycling machine, where Andrea Fisher, who coached Allen to 10 Ironman triathlons before the accident, helped position her legs. Fisher is aquatics director of the Town Lake YMCA.

“Oh my gosh it’s awesome. It gets my heart rate up,” Allen said as she spun away. “The thing about this one is it moves my legs so it gets my circulation going.”

Allen had surgery just before Christmas that will allow her to catheterize herself, instead of relying on friends or family. She’s working full-time, and starts driving school in two weeks. She recently learned to transfer herself from the bed to her wheelchair unassisted – something most people with her injury can’t do.

But it’s been a slow process getting back to the level of exercise she’s used to. This weekend marked an important step.

“I think I’m going to be sore tomorrow,” Laurie said, wincing a bit after one grueling set.

“That’s good. That’s why we work out,” Fisher said.

Allen wrapped up the session with some time in a standing frame, which puts her in an upright position. That’s good for her circulation and helps slow osteoporosis.

Her goals for this year? More time at the gym. Driving herself to the grocery store. Learning to swim again. Travel.

“We’re over the ‘Oh my God’ how do we survive, to working on all the skills,” Matt Allen said.

She’s about to order a racing wheelchair and a hand cycle, in hopes she’ll be able to race again – and ultimately compete in a triathlon.

“At the end of the year I’d like to be as independent as I can be, and rely less and less on others,” she says.

Laurie Allen was paralyzed in a fall last February. Photo by Pam LeBlanc