• Mon September 08 2008
  • Posted Sep 8, 2008
By Tim Gallagher, Journal staff writer CASTANA, Iowa -- A quote from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is pinned to the bulletin board at the entrance of Doug Thelander's home in the Loess Hills east of Castana. "That which does not kill makes us stronger," it reads. Thelander can read the sign hanging upside down. Actually, he can read or watch lots of things hanging upside down. It's the way he starts most days. It's the way he conducts this interview. "This is an inverted traction device," says Thelander, an avid cyclist born and raised in Monona County. "I've had it eight years." Thelander struggled with chronic back pain for years more than a decade ago. It got to the point where it adversely affected his lifestyle. He couldn't do some of the things he enjoys. "I had a lot of lower back problems and there weren't any solutions," he says. "I was on a lot of pain medications. Finally, I told myself that this isn't me. This is no way to live." Thelander's self-perception had changed. The small business owner (he has Thelander Heating & Cooling in Onawa) no longer could see himself keeping active outside work. Then, he read about an inverted traction device in a health magazine. He visited with friends, but couldn't find anyone who had one. He took a chance and ordered one, using a form out of the magazine. Thelander figured if the device helped ease his pain he could pay for it with money saved on prescriptions. It worked. What does he do? Thelander rises early each morning and hangs upside-down on the inverted traction device, the type of apparatus one can now find at sporting goods stores like Scheels. The unit extends and strengthens the lower back muscles. "I do this five days per week for 10 minutes," he says. "I turn on the TV and watch the morning show while I'm hanging upside down." He also does sit-ups from this position. "I wish I would have known about this earlier," Thelander says, adding that the practice could have saved him hundreds of dollars and lots of frustration through the years. He has since convinced two of his brothers and a couple of friends to make inverted traction a part of their daily workout regimen. Thelander starts there and moves to cycling. This RAGBRAI veteran spent most of the summer on a stationary bike indoors thanks to a broken collarbone he suffered during a ride in Crawford County in June. "This is how I rode throughout July," said Thelander, whose summer of 2008 snapped his consecutive RAGBRAI streak at 17. "I was doing 20 miles per day on this (stationery) as my collarbone healed." The bike is hooked to a computer screen that shows a Nintendo bike route. Resistance on the pedals changes the computer-generated grade and wind speeds alter. With a better back, Thelander is able to huff and puff his way to better health. Once the collarbone fully healed, he expected to continue his weight-lifting workout as well. Nietzsche would be proud. Video See video of Doug Thelander showing how he works out on his inverted traction device. Go to

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