Kinesiology major pursues fitness career after nearly fatal accident

The+Cerritos+College+student+hopes+to+transfer+in+Fall+2022.+He+is+ready+for+Cerritos+College+courses+to+return+to+campus+when+the+time+comes.+Mar.+18+2021.+

Emily Melgar

The Cerritos College student hopes to transfer in Fall 2022. He is ready for Cerritos College courses to return to campus when the time comes. Mar. 18 2021.

Emily Melgar, Opinion Editor

After surviving a life-changing car accident in 2017, Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez re-enrolled at Cerritos College and aspires for a career in physical therapy.

Inspired by his battle in a two-month coma and living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Rincon believes fitness was key for his mental and physical recovery.

The 31-year-old says he is grateful to still be alive.

“I have a second chance at life,” Rincon said, “and through the process of my recovery, I became very motivated about kinesiology, physical fitness and physical aptitude.”

Rincon first attended Cerritos College from 2007 to 2011 and decided to take a break to pursue comedy and an acting career.

“It was fun, but eventually I realized that education was definitely a priority for me,” Rincon said, noting that his decision to go back to school started with his accident.

On Dec. 17, 2017, Rincon was driving on the 91 freeway and tragically fell asleep at the wheel. He was unfortunately not wearing a seatbelt and was thus ejected out of his car’s windshield.

As a result, Rincon was in a coma for two months and suffered a TBI. He was admitted to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center for his recovery.

On Dec. 17, 2017 Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez was in a nearly fatal accident after falling asleep at the wheel. Rincon was in a coma for two months and suffered a TBI.
On Dec. 17, 2017 Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez was in a nearly fatal accident after falling asleep at the wheel. Rincon was in a coma for two months and suffered a TBI. Photo credit: Courtesy of Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez

Rincon was eager to make progress during his recovery process.

“I remember when I first started [my recovery], I instantaneously wanted to run a mile,” he said.

“It was the first thing I asked the nurse”, Rincon added.

One week after being released from Rancho Los Amigos, the fitness enthusiast was able to run his first mile since the accident.

Today, he is on his way to graduating from Cerritos College with an Associate Degree in Kinesiology and says if he stays on track, he hopes to transfer to a university in Fall 2022.

“Cerritos College has given me a tremendous amount of support,” Rincon explained, “Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at Cerritos has been very accommodating and very helpful when I returned after my accident.”

He added that SAS helped with things like priority registration and has also had positive experiences with his professors.

“They have been nothing but helpful, encouraging and motivating,” and added that the experience has inspired and helped keep himself leveled with his educational ambitions.

Rincon’s long-term goal is to transfer to California State University, Northridge because he is interested in their Adaptive Fitness Trainer Program.

The future Cerritos graduate says he wants to be an adaptive fitness trainer so that he’ll “be able to help and motivate individuals that have mobility issues or that have gone through situations like [his].”

In addition to returning to school, Rincon maintains a strict fitness regimen to keep himself fit.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic closing up most gyms in Southern California, Rincon decided to build his own gym at home.

Rincon works out on Mar. 12 at his home gym. His shirt represents his belief that physical fitness can help with mental health and strength.
Rincon works out on Mar. 12 at his home gym. His shirt represents his belief that physical fitness can help with mental health and strength. Photo credit: Courtesy of Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez

“I would like to keep building on myself and bulk up a little more than I currently am.” Rincon currently works out six to seven days a week for one to three hours a day.

His routine includes one-hour workouts of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), followed by two hours of weight-lifting training.

The former cross-country athlete says he has also kept running incorporated in his fitness routine, as it has always been a passion of his.

In recent weeks, as gyms have begun reopening with the number of COVID-19 cases declining in the state, Rincon has also started working out at Orangetheory Fitness in Long Beach.

The local gym focuses on HIIT-based workouts, one of Rincon’s main fitness routines.

“For example, you do 20 pushups and right after you do 20 high-kicks, and after that, you do 20 diamond pushups, and that accounts for one set”, he explained.

In addition to pursuing a kinesiology major and a career in AFT, Rincon also plans to obtain his personal trainer certification soon.

Rincon stretches before a run Nov 13., 2020 at Liberty Park in Lakewood, CA. Although he enjoys HIT-based workouts and weightlifting, he also runs regularly to stay in shape.
Rincon stretches before a run Nov 13., 2020 at Liberty Park in Lakewood, CA. Although he enjoys HIIT-based workouts and weightlifting, he also runs regularly to stay in shape. Photo credit: Courtesy of Rafael Ricky Rincon-Alvidrez

The aspiring fitness trainer says there are times he gets caught up in his routine, and often loses sight of everything he has been through.

When he does take time to reflect on everything, it creates a sense of humility, stating “I did all of this, but there is still so much for me left to do.”

“Being able to help someone accomplish what I have been able to would mean everything,” Rincon said.

Rincon also explained that he has had to make lifestyle changes as a result of living with a TBI which includes completely giving up alcohol.

One of the main concerns of his condition is the possibility of Alzheimer’s, and therefore, the goal of these changes is to prevent him from getting the disease later in life.

“The miraculous thing about fitness,” Rincon said, “is that it’s correlated to not just physical health, it goes deeper than that.”

The coma survivor says that physical fitness helped him heal after his accident, both physically and mentally.

“What I’m doing now, what I aspire to do, it is larger than I am. I want to motivate,” he said.

“My main sentiment is to imagine a person who went through a similar experience as I did, I would like them to look at me and say, ‘I can do that too.’”