Garrison Redd: Para Powerlifting’s Next Big Thing? (Podcast)

Today we’re talking to para powerlifter and motivational speaker Garrison Redd. As a high school football player, Garrison had aspirations of going pro. But when he lost the use of his legs after being shot by a stray bullet in his neighborhood at the age of 17, his life took a different course.

The 31-year-old Brooklyn native is one of the country’s strongest para powerlifters in the -56kg weight class.

We got the chance to talk with Garrison to talk about his origins in the sport, his weekly training routine, his diet and how he manages it, his competitive aspirations, and future goals in and outside of the sport.

Read more: How Garrison Redd trains to be a role model!

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

It was a LA Fitness Club and some guy comes up to me and he’s like, “Yo, you should play like wheelchair football. Do you play any like adaptive sports?” I’m like, “No, I never even heard of wheelchair football.” He’s like, “Come out.” When I came out, I met the president of the Wheelchair Sports Federation, John Hamre, and he works with the Wounded Warriors also.

 

He’s like, “I can tell you could be a Paralympic athlete one day, why you not play any sports dude?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Then he’s like, “I’m going to put you on the best wheelchair track team in the country.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today I’m talking to para powerlifter and motivational speaker, Garrison Redd. As a high school football player, Garrison had aspirations of going pro, but when he lost the use of his legs after being shot by a stray bullet in his neighborhood at age 17, his life took a very different course.

 

The 31-year-old Brooklyn native is one of the country’s strongest para powerlifters in the under 56 kg bodyweight category. We got the chance to talk with Garrison about his origins in the sport, his weekly training routine, his diet, weight cuts, competitive aspirations, and future goals in and outside of strength sports.

 

Also, I want to take a second to say, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice.

 

I’d also recommend subscribing to the “BarBend Newsletter” to stay up to date on all things strength. Just go to barbend.com/newsletter to start becoming the smartest person in your gym today. Now let’s get to it.

 

Garrison thanks so much for joining us today. You’re in New York, as am I right now and I got to ask, how has training been during the quarantine period? I’m asking a lot of people that these days?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Tell you a surprise, I have gotten a lot stronger during quarantine. I probably…

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m not super surprised because you’re…Athletes find a way, right?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah. It’s funny because my father always told me never to throw away books and weights. I had a weight set from back when I was in high school that was in the basement, just collecting dust and once quarantine happened, he brought it up for me.

 

I had about 400 lbs worth of plates and dumbbell handles, I have curl bar, military press bar. I had a ton of equipment that was collecting dust, collecting rust. I just brought it out and I’ve been doing pretty fine. I’m getting more sleep, which is aiding me with my recovery.

 

I’m eating better, I’m able to stay on top of my foods and what I’m taking and things of that nature, so it’s pretty good. I gained a little bit of weight, but I’m going to do a cut now. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s almost like a forced training camp in your own home.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 It is, it really is. You’ve got to be disciplined and if you’re disciplined, it could work out in your benefit. That’s one of the things that I really, really focused on, was staying disciplined, staying consistent. I followed my training routine, my training program each and every day and I’m doing pretty well. Now I just got to work on the nutrition side of things.

 

I spoke to my nutritionist because on Team USA, we have a nutritionist that we got to check in with at least once a month. In my case, since I gained weight, I got to check in a little more frequently, so once a week, but it’s cool.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

How much above weight are you? When you say, “a cut to get back down to your weight class,” how much above did you gain during quarantine? A lot of people have gained weight during quarantine so it’s OK, no judgment.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Typically, I’m in the 130 lbs weight class in powerlifting. Right now — and that’s like 59 kgs — I’m at like 142 lbs. I’m a little above weight but, I know where it came from, so I just got to focus on my diet.

 

I’m eating red meat. Powerlifters love red meat. I was eating tons of steaks every day, just about at one point.

David TaoDavid Tao

There’s a great…I forgot who it’s attributed to and I feel really bad that I forgot but, someone once told me a powerlifter once quoted someone and said, “Look, you don’t need to supplement creatine because if you’re serious about strength, you’re eating so much beef.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Seriously.

My coach…I trained at Gaglione Strength with…He’s a top strength coach, a top powerlifter coach, John Gaglione.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

He’s great, big fan.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

He trains Larry Wheels also, a whole lot of other athletes. He tells me, “Eat red meat.” So, I would just eat the red meat. I was eating ground beef for lunch, I’ll have a steak for dinner. I was doing that five days a week, which got a little out of hand.

 

Now, I’m cutting back maybe once a week I’ll do a steak and then fish…I’ve been eating a lot of fish and almonds. I’m living off of almonds a lot.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Almonds are dangerous. Any nuts when I eat them, a handful for me, that I think of as a handful, is very different than the actual nutritional guidelines and the serving size for a handful. I’m not able to follow it.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah, it’s kind of difficult. With the nutritional guidelines, it’s always in ounces or grams or whatever. You’re like, “How much is an ounce of nuts? I don’t know.”

David TaoDavid Tao

You think, “That looks like an ounce,” and it’s like, “No, that’s like six ounces.” Come on, you hear that?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, but I’m focused. I’ve been doing the fish thing a lot. On my heavy training days, I’ll have some carbs, usually white rice. I try to follow a Vertical Diet for the most part, but I’ll have white rice for my pre and post training, which has been working well. Hopefully, the weight is going to definitely go back then on.

David TaoDavid Tao

Now that I think about it, Stan Efferding, who developed the Vertical Diet, he’s probably the one who said that about, “If you’re eating enough beef, you don’t need supplemental creatine.”

 

That sounds like something he would say.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Seriously. That’s a big part of the Vertical Diet, red meat, so it is what it is. It helps with the strength, it definitely helps.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Are there any pieces of equipment or any parts of your training that you’re not able to really replicate at home with the weights you have during quarantine?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah. That’s one of the things that I’ve been exploring. I don’t have chains, because we follow a Westside Barbell type of training program with a lot of accommodating resistance. I don’t have any bands or I don’t have any chains, which I typically use a few times out of the week to help with my speed, velocity, and things of that nature.

 

Also, I don’t have the T-bar, the football bar, everybody got different name for it. I don’t have the Duffalo Bar and things of that nature. I just have a flat bench, but I’ve been making it work. I’ve been trying to do different variations of exercises. I’ll do some floor dumbbell presses instead of typical barbell floor presses.

 

Also, I do different forms of benching. One day, I’d do a regular bench day, which is pretty heavy, then some days I’d do Spoto presses. Another day, I might do three counts Spoto bench presses. I make it work.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was going to ask about Tempo Training. That’s something that a lot of people have been doing, even if maybe they don’t have weights at home, because good luck ordering kettlebells and dumbbells online right now. People are doing a lot of Tempo Training, time under tension, with body weight stuff, and weights.

 

I was going to ask about Tempo Training, but it sounds like that’s probably, if you’re doing a Westside kind of thing, already a part of your training.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

I’m programmed for a heavy day, a light day and a speed day. To speed days, when I do the Tempo stuff, which it really helps. Right before quarantine, I was training for World Championships, so I probably was at my peak already. When quarantine happened, it is what it is.

 

I’m kind of on a deload, but not a real deload. I needed the break for the nervous system. Sometimes, you just need a break from heavy lifting and the type of programs that we do as powerlifters, it gets real, real intense.

David TaoDavid Tao

That makes a lot of sense and I think is something that literally sometimes have to be, especially elite competitive lifters like yourself. You have to be forced to do that. You treat it like a profession. You don’t want to take time off because you don’t feel you’re making that forward progress, right?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 Exactly. I try not to take too much time off. Typically, for me, I would take at least four days of rest after a competition. Due to the fact that I have the opportunity to compete, I didn’t take much time off. I just lowered my weights, I did a deload. Now, I’m working back into heavier weights again.

 

Hopefully, in New York City, the gyms will open soon, where I can actually go to my local gym and train under my coach’s eyes. We’ve been doing pretty fine using Zoom. He’ll send me a program through CoachNow app, and I just follow him. We communicate through different means like Facebook Messenger and stuff like that. We make it work.

David TaoDavid Tao

Obviously, the World Championships didn’t happen on the schedule they were supposed to happen on. Did you have a particular goal heading into that? Did you have your attempts planned out that you thought you were going to be hitting in that competition?

 

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Actually, we played a field. My coach controls all of that, as far as what attempts we’re going to take, but…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

The coach is the brain. You’re just there to lift.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah, he doesn’t like his lifters to do too much thinking. You’ve got a lot of anxiety going as already, he don’t want you thinking about, “What’s my attempts?” I was going to try to hit at least 305 pounds and hopefully, qualify for the Paralympic Games. That was my goal.

 

Everything is postponed until next year, but hopefully, I’m going to be getting stronger. While the other athletes around the world, they’re sitting at home, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s your first Paralympic Games you’re trying to qualify for?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to work towards, my first Paralympic game.

David TaoDavid Tao

For folks who might not be super familiar with your career, because I want to get into some other things. You’re a powerlifter, but you’re actually known for a lot of other things. I do want to get to that in a bit. How long have you been in para powerlifting?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

It’s crazy, because I was in para…this will be going on my third year, actually.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You’re so young in the sport.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah, I’m very new. It’s funny because, you know how they say, “If you’re good, somebody will come out and find you.” I was just in my local gym one day — and some guy LA Fitness. It was a LA Fitness Club and some guy comes up to me and he’s like, “Yo, you should play like wheelchair football. Do you play any like adaptive sports?” I’m like, “No, I never even heard of wheelchair football.” He’s like, “Come out.”

 

When I came out, I met the president of the Wheelchair Sports Federation, John Hamre, and he works with the Wounded Warriors also. He’s like, “I can tell you could be a Paralympic athlete one day, why you not play any sports dude?” I’m like, “I don’t know.”

Then he’s like, “I’m going to put you on the best wheelchair track team in the country. It’s called the New Jersey Navigators. It’s a Paralympic sports club.”

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That is such a good name, by the way, the New Jersey Navs, New Jersey Navigators. This is such a good team name.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

The first thing the coach asked me was, “Did you play on any other teams before?” He’s known for having the best athletes on his teams. I’m like, “Not, it’s my first time.” He taught me how to…I trot out wheelchair track racing. It’s about like, three years ago. Then after wheelchair track racing, he was like, “Yo, you want to do field sports.”

 

He taught me how to do, shot put, Javelin, discus. I did that with them. Then there was a tri-state competition, and it’s actually want to hold a powerlifting me. With no trainer at all, I weighed 120 pounds. I was able to lift 250 pounds. Then the next day that Team USA performance manager called me. He was like, “You need to buy for a spot on Team USA.”

 

They flew me out to Colorado Springs. I stayed at the Olympic Training Facility for like a week. This is like overnight now. [laughs] It was like two-months span. That probably was in May. Then I flew out there in September, I remember it was in September. In September, when I flew out there I was able to lift 275 pounds, with probably over a month and a half worth of training.

 

It went quick. Then I competed and then I qualified to go to Kazakhstan for World Championships. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, this was back in 2019, I was unable to make that trip. That’s my story. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

There’s no such thing as overnight success in strength sports, it takes time to build strength. It takes time to build competency in the list. That’s about as close as you get as far as a timeline. Did you get a negative reaction from anyone who was just like, “This like young up-and-comer is just shooting to the top. He doesn’t have the years of arduous training under his belt.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

I had a lot of haters. That’s funny you said that. I did gather a lot of haters, because you just felt the jealousy. I know athletes that was training for all their life. They was competitively competing, like wheelchair track racing. They had the best of training, the best of equipment, and things of that nature.

 

Then for me to just come and rise and make Team USA and Para Powerlifting, after three months of actually playing adaptive sports, people was like, “That’s crazy. How did he do that?’ If you I backtrack a little bit, before I got injured, I got injured at 17 years old, and I played football all my life. I played football and my father…like I was saying with the weight set. I had a weight set in the basement.

 

Me and my friends used to go to the basement every day and just lift weights, until we couldn’t lift anymore. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

You got discovered at a gym.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It wasn’t like you had never touched a weight before.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

No, no.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That makes me feel slightly better about myself.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah, when I was 16, I was able to lift 315 pounds and I was a running back. I was pretty strong at 16 years old.

 

After I got injured, I just stopped lifting. I just thought about like I put all my effort into playing football and for my career to be cut short. I felt like, “You know what? I don’t want to play any sports.” It just wasn’t a thrill or a desire of mine, until that person said, “You could be a Paralympic athlete.” It woke me up. Like, “I’m going to be competing at the highest level?” [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Why para powerlifting over any of the other Paralympic sports? I mean, you were trying out a lot. Is it because you were coming in at the highest level? Or was there something about para powerlifting that just really grabbed you immediately?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

You know what it was? That’s another good question. I tell people all the time. I didn’t like doing wheelchair track racing that much, like 1,500 meters. It was just too much for me. [laughs]

 

In para powerlifting, I do one lift. It’s like six seconds, the most. I can do something at six seconds and I feel great after. Or I could do something 1,500 meters and I’m like exhausted for the next three days.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That is the most powerlifting thing I have ever heard in the world. Like, “I just don’t want to be tired. I don’t want to be out of breath I’d rather just…I could just chill between sets and take a little bit of rest.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, six seconds. I think that’s the average time of a lift, between descent and ascending back up.

David TaoDavid Tao

Like, “I could go around a track and be really exhausted. Or I could just do like one lift and then chill for a little bit and wait for the next competitor.” Oh my goodness.

 

There is something about powerlifters. It doesn’t matter what country you come from. It doesn’t matter how you got into powerlifting. There’s something about them that’s like, “Yeah, you know, I definitely prefer this.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

The short-time domain.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, exactly. It’s way better, especially me being in a lighter-weight class. I get a nice physique, as well. It all works out in my favor. I’m not exhausted, so I’m cool with it. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Where do you think your ceiling might be in the sport? Obviously you’ve made progress since you started the sport. You came in putting up 250 pounds in the bench press. Then, 275 pounds a few months later. You’re aiming for, in your body-weight class, about let’s call it, “305.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

305, 310.

David TaoDavid Tao

310.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

That’s my goal by the end of the year.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Remind me, because I’m not as familiar with the record books as I should be. Where is the American record in your body-weight category? Where’s the world record in your body-weight category?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Well, the world record in my body-weight category is actually 450 pounds.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Ooh.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Then there’s a big drop after that. Then it’s like 400 pounds, around there. The world record is this guy Sherif Othman, from Egypt. I don’t know how he lifts 450 pounds.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, Sherif. I’ve talked to him before. Yeah, he’s.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, he’s super-strong.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I didn’t realize you all were in the same…Yeah, I guess you all are in the same body-weight category, because you were talking about pounds. He talks about kilos. I should do better. I’m a strength sports journalist. I should be able to do the mental conversion better. Right? It’s embarrassing.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Point two. Just times it by…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Yeah, yeah.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

…point two. [laughs] Yeah.

 

Sherif, so he got the world record. He’s super-strong. However, in America I think the American record is somewhere around like 320 pounds, which I’m going to grab that, no time.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Well, Sherif’s been in the game for a long time.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, over 12 years.

David TaoDavid Tao

I actually did talk to him at the beginning of quarantine. We did a video together. You have a longer career in powerlifting than you do in some other strength sports because it’s more of a grind.

 

As you get older, you slow down. You lose maybe a little bit of your “fast-twitch potential.” Your movements in powerlifitng, you can continue building strength for a much longer time.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Definitely. I know people that still build their strength and they’re competing in their 50s. I also compete amongst able bodies also in the bench press. I competed against competitors that was in their 50s before in powerlifting.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

In able-bodied powerlifting, David Ricks is one of my favorite to watch. His most recent world record, he said when he was 57 or 58 years old in the squat. That makes me feel bad about…I wake up and I’m 30 and also creaky some mornings. I have no excuse because this guy’s out there with tree trunk quads, setting world records in his late 50s.

I got to get on something, right? It’s never too late. I got to get on my training. I got to get on my nutrition. It’s never too late in the sport of powerlifting to make an impact.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

That’s what my coach always was telling me even though I came in a little later because now I’m 31. He’s like, “You’re young in the sport still.” I’m like, “For real?” In basketball, I’ll be retiring soon. [laughs] It’s definitely true. With the proper training, proper diet, and proper sleep, you could still gain strength all the way to your late 50s if you do everything right.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Is this a bodyweight category you see yourself staying in long term, or would you consider going up a weight class?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

I might go down a weight class.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Oh, wow.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

My best lift was in 54 kgs, which is 120 lbs. I lifted 290 lbs in that weight class in competition. I lifted more in the lighter weight class than 59.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That’s a more intense kind. You’re going to be pretty leaned out by that point.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah. I’ve done it before so it’s not something I can’t do. I went from 132 to 120 a few times. The thing with me is I like eating junk food sometimes.

I live in New York City. There’s a pizza shop on every block, a Chinese restaurant everywhere. Sometimes I just get ahead of myself. These last few weeks been good so I’ve been very focused eating my vegetables, my fruits, the things that I’m supposed to be eating. Not the donuts and stuff like that.

David TaoDavid Tao

I always joke. This is completely anecdotal, but I’m just pulling this out of nowhere. I always joke that there’s some bodybuilders in New York City like high green lives in the New York area. One of the greatest of all to ever do it obviously.

 

There are definitely great bodybuilders in New York City, but in my mind, so many bodybuilders live out West. They live in Arizona. They live in Las Vegas. They have houses with big kitchens, and they’re doing their meal prep.

 

It’s tough to do meal prep in New York City. Your kitchens are small. Also, it’s like, “How am I doing meal prep where I have this world-class pizza joint down the block, and there’s another one two blocks down?” The temptation is there.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Then my girlfriend sometimes, she want to go on a date and be like, “You really going to eat salad on this?” [laughs] Things like that. It’s a lot of pressures out here for us in New York City, but I’ve been meal prepping. Everything’s been working well. I already know I’m going to get this weight off in no time.

 

Honestly, before I started powerlifting, I probably weighed 117 for five years straight type of thing.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Got you. This is definitely a bulk of sport for you?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, yeah. It’s a little above right now, but I’m going to get back. I’m definitely going to be focused. That’s my goal. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What are some of the…I just want to change direction a little bit and talk about the sport of powerlifting itself. It’s obviously an interesting time. We’re recording this in 2020. We’re recording this what should have been two months out from the Paralympic Games, right?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

But obviously, it was moved to 2021 as it was for the Olympic Games. What impact do you think the year change in the Games is going to have on the competition field? You mentioned that you’re going to come out of stronger. You’ve been training. You’ve had access to equipment.

 

Have you talked to other athletes who have lost strength? Do you think this is going to throw a wrench in people’s training, or do you think the field is going to be just as competitive next year?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

The field should be just as competitive. New athletes always emerge. They always come out being more successful — some because in some parts of the world, they still have access to the gym.

 

I know I got teammates who, unfortunately, due to the fact we live in America, we’re under quarantine, they haven’t been in the gym, haven’t touched a barbell in probably a month, a month and a half.

 

For them, they have a longer journey because they have to start over. I’m sure that’s the same throughout other places in the world. It depends on who take advantage of what at the end of the day.

 

Me, I took advantage of this time where I’m able to train in my house. I have the necessary equipment that I needed. Now, I’m actually now focused on my nutrition. My recovery have been great. Thank God I haven’t had any injuries or anything of that nature, which is always important.

 

However, I think that the field would just be as competitive. When you’re a world class athlete, you find a way to make it happen at the end of the day, so I think it’s going to be just as competitive. It might be a few other athletes that emerge out of this quarantine process.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Yeah, people who might be a little newer in the sport have a little more time to build that strength because it’s just an extra year. They got an extra year of training under their belt.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

All extra year, yeah. Exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk a little bit about the…you live a very multifaceted life, right? When I was first introduced to you, it was, “OK, here’s Garrison, up and coming American para powerlifter. And also…”

 

There are a lot of “and” things that came after the “and also,” and something that I think you might even be better known for in the New York area might be as a speaker, as a presenter, as someone who talks to crowds. Talk about how you got into that.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

All right, it’s funny. Everybody’s going to laugh, but I used to work for the Internal Revenue Service for six years.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

All your friends must have loved you for that.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, they asked me a million questions. I always used to be like, “I’m not at work right now.”

When I worked there, I had an epiphany one day. I was, “I’m way too cold to be behind a desk for the rest of my life. I’m looking at my co workers, and they’re all in their late 50s, early 60s.” I’m, “I cannot be here. I cannot be here for the next 30 years, and I will not be here.”

When I said that, I ran into a friend of mine that owned this company called Milfdad that is a streetwear brand. He’s, “Bro, you could be a model.” I’m, “A model? Oh, well, I’ll be a model.” I started modeling for his clothing line, and we will post pictures, and it will go viral. Now, other people wanted me to model for them.

After that, I met this lady out of nowhere, and she’s, “Let’s have a meet in Starbucks.” I’m, “All right.” The random lady [inaudible 25:08] , I’ll never forget her. When I met her, she said, “You should start…do you like your job?” I’m, “No, I was just thinking about how terrible my job was and how I need to leave.”

She’s, “You should start an organization.” I started a nonprofit organization called The Garrison Redd Project to help individuals with disabilities acquire the necessary equipment in order for them to be fully independent, to achieve success.

Then from there, she’s, “Ever heard of TED talks?” I’m, “Ted Talks? I don’t know what a TED talk is.” She’s, “Go research it.” I did my research. When I researched it, I was, “You know what, it can be very impactful if I was able to speak on a stage of this magnitude.”

This was right around the time I started competing with the New Jersey Navigators in wheelchair racing.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It’s been a very busy…let’s call it past three years for you.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Very busy. I’m, “All right.” I’ll apply for a TED talk. They selected me. Two months later, I get an email, “You have been selected to speak at TEDxDeerPark or whatever. I’m, “All right.” Now, I’m going to do a talk on this magnitude.”

 

I never spoke in front of people before, maybe a few people at the gym, but I’m going to lie, I never really spoke to hundreds of people or more.

 

I’m, “All right.” I was, “I don’t know what it is about, so I’m just going to go in it with a clear mind, and I’m going to do this.” I titled my TED Talk “Life is like lemonade, how life could throw you lemons and then you got to make lemonade out of it.”

 

One of the things I did was I manifested everything I wanted to do. I’m going to be a Paralympic gold medalist one day. I’m going to be mayor of New York City one day. I’m going to speak around the world and win a Nobel Peace Prize. I’m going to help so many individuals, and that’s how I’ve started speaking.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I gotta stop you there because one of your dreams is to become mayor of New York City. As a New York resident, highly reconsider, Garrison. That’s not a way to popularity in people’s hearts. People always hate the mayor.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah. I think if they have a mayor that’s from where they’re from, and been where they’ve been, they’ll love me because of the fact that I’m so New York City. I’ve been living in Brooklyn all my life.

 

There’s nothing you could tell me about New York City that I won’t know about it. I’ll be the perfect people person. That’s why I am a people person.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You just got to make sure you don’t eat your pizza with a knife and fork.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Seriously, how could you do that? All you got to come out.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Not to get too political. Of all the things in New York that have been controversial since I’ve lived here for about 10 years, when it came out that our current mayor ate his pizza like that, all my friends who grew up in New York were just, “I’m sick of this. I got to leave the city. We can’t have this.”

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Terrible because I’m so used to getting dollar pizza at 3:00 in the morning after the club, things like that. We just eat it with our dirty hands and stuff, not caring. That’s New York for me. That’s New York. Go to 2 Bros. Pizza and just grab a slice and eat it.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s an institution at this point. The thing about New York is when people visit…I have family visit. They’re like, “Oh, what’s your favorite pizza place?”

 

Look, the beautiful thing about New York, there is the pizza places that are super-high rated. They’re on the Food Network, but the beauty of New York is that the dollar-slice pizza, it’s better than the pizza you’ll get in most other cities.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Seriously. The thing with the dollar pizza, I had pizza from Artichoke. I think Artichoke Pizza and…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Which is good. It’s good. It’s got its own thing. It’s good.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

It’s good, but I would rather the dollar slice which tastes just as good, in my opinion, than Artichoke.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It’s literally a dollar. You’re paying the minimum price for a food product, and it’s good. Is it the best pizza you’ll ever have? You can probably go find better pizza…

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Of course.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

…but the intersection of value and what…

Yeah. You get a good meal with some change in your pocket. Come on.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

I think 2.25 will give you two slices and a soda, or 2.75 will give you two slices and a soda there. It’s 24 hours in a lot of cases, so it’s like can’t go…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It is the biggest triumph of New York City ingenuity to make that work. It’s my opinion.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Yeah, I agree with you also.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

After that first TEDx Talk, you tend to speak about evolve after that?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

Yeah. After that, people started requesting me to speak on different topics that I mentioned in a TEDx Talk, but they felt that I was knowledgeable about.

 

What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t so much individuals with disabilities that wanted to hear me speak. It was a lot of able-body individuals that wanted to hear me speak due to the fact that they wanted to become more comfortable with speaking to other individuals with disabilities.

 

That’s one of the things that I really took a lot of pride in, to educate others. A lot of times, people feel it’s unethical to ask certain questions about disability. I know it can be unethical. You could be a little afraid or hesitant because you don’t know how someone will react based on the question that they asked.

 

I’m there to tell them individuals with disabilities have the ability to adapt because we have to find other ways. At the end of the day, the wheelchair for me isn’t a restriction. The restriction is what society places on the wheelchair, so building facilities with stairs and no elevator. Those are restrictions that it’s unfortunate that we have to adapt to and find other ways around.

 

Then I’ll speak to children about overcoming adversity. A lot of times, kids feel like something goes wrong, and they take a step backwards. They get in a funk, get in a depression.

 

At the end of the day, sometimes when you take a step back, you could take three steps forward. You sometimes need that step back. You need adversity to build resiliency. Once you build that resiliency, life is yours.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Garrison, where is the best place for people or the best places for people to keep up to date with the work you’re doing, the work your foundation is doing, and also just so happens to be your elite powerlifting training?

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

You can find me anywhere. I’m on social media under all my accounts. My name is Garrison Redd. I try to post something on Instagram at least once a day. I also try to do YouTube at least once a week. I try to do how-to videos just to educate others on living with a disability, on things that we go through, also showing random stuff, like how to drive and how to get a…

 

I got a trike, so I do a lot of handcycling. I like to showcase those things. Also, you can search for me on Google under Garrison Redd. There’s tons of links that will come up.

 

Also, visit my organization. It’s the garrisonreddproject.org. There, you’ll learn about the work that I’m doing. We’re always looking for volunteers and things of that nature to come out when we have community events.

 

I try to do inclusive adaptive sporting events as well. That way, if it’s wheelchair basketball, I have able-body individuals playing amongst disabled individuals as well so they could learn how to play basketball the way we play basketball, things of that nature.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Very cool. Garrison, thank you so much for your time. It’s a pleasure chatting with you. I’m really excited to see where your work in sports and athletics and beyond goes over the next few years. Really appreciate it.

Garrison ReddGarrison Redd

 

Going to the sky. [laughs]

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