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Park North Patient Feature: Q&A with Ironman World Champion Qualifier & Wheelchair Athlete, Minda Dentler 

Minda Dentler is an Ironman World Champion Qualifier and Wheelchair athlete, who was also a former patient at Park North Physical Therapy in Harlem. Minda describes how the skills she learned in PT helped her train and recover from injury. In addition to her athletic career, Minda is also a TEDX speaker and children's book author. Check out our interview with her to learn more about her incredible life experience.

Q: Can you share some of the early challenges you faced, especially related to your disability, and how you overcame them?

Minda: Growing up with my legs paralyzed from polio presented its own set of obstacles. Learning to walk was a major challenge, requiring multiple surgeries and the use of leg braces and crutches. Additionally, societal attitudes towards my disability often left me feeling excluded and underestimated. Despite these setbacks, I was determined to prove myself capable.

Over the years, I achieved many milestones, from excelling academically to traveling the world, moving to New York City, and starting a family. However, it wasn't until adulthood that I found my true passion as an athlete. These early challenges fueled my perseverance and taught me the value of resilience. Each obstacle I faced only strengthened my resolve to push forward and prove that my disability did not define me. 

Q: What sparked your interest in handcycling and subsequently in triathlon, and how did these sports transform your perspective on your abilities and your disability?

Minda: Discovering handcycling and later triathlon was a turning point in my life. At 28, I was introduced to handcycle racing through Achilles International. I transitioned from being a spectator to an athlete and did marathons.  After witnessing another wheelchair athlete complete a triathlon, I was inspired to do the same. 

Despite lacking swim skills or experience pushing a racing wheelchair, I signed up for the NYC triathlon. With swimming lessons, determination, and a lot of practice, I completed my first triathlon.  Sports reshaped my perspective on my abilities and disability. It showed me that I could achieve ambitious goals and break barriers.  

Q: What brought you to Park North? Could you describe your experience with Park North Physical Therapy? How did it compare with your other PT experiences?

Minda: In the Fall of 2012, I was diagnosed with a partial tear in my left rotator cuff after completing Ironman Louisville. I received a PRP injection in January 2013, mandating an 8-week workout hiatus. Living in Harlem, I found Park North Physical Therapy in Harlem, conveniently located just down the street, and began weekly sessions to rehabilitate my shoulder in March 2013. 

My experience with Park North Physical Therapy, especially with Sam, was positive and transformative. Sam's background in working with athletes, combined with his expertise in techniques like ART (active release therapy), immediately stood out. 

He wasted no time in analyzing the affected muscles and devising a personalized plan for my recovery. What truly set Sam apart was his unwavering belief in my ability to regain full capacity and resume training at my previous level. As a disabled athlete, I had often felt underestimated and overlooked in other PT clinics, but Sam treated me with the utmost respect and took my goals seriously.

Q: What kind of changes did you notice after starting physical therapy with Park North? How did our approach contribute to your preparation and success in becoming an Ironman World Championship finisher?

Minda: Starting physical therapy with Park North was a game-changer for me as an Ironman athlete. Continuing my sessions with Sam after qualifying for the Ironman World Championship allowed me to address the aches and pains I experienced during intense training. 

Sam's personalized approach and expertise helped me rebuild and maintain my strength and endurance. His treatments, including low-level laser therapy and active release therapy, targeted the root cause of my issues, while the exercises he provided ensured my rehabilitation progressed smoothly. 

Sam was instrumental in my journey to becoming an Ironman World Championship finisher. His comprehensive approach not only helped me overcome injuries but also optimized my preparation for the race.  

Q: What does your training regimen look like and how did Park North Physical Therapy help you adapt this regimen to meet your goals?

Minda: As a wheelchair athlete training for the Ironman World Championship, I swim, bike, and run solely with my upper body, pushing my limits in each discipline. Leading up to the race, I trained intensely—swimming and running twice a week, and cycling three times a week, totaling up to 15 hours weekly. 

This rigorous training often led to muscle tightness and fatigue, requiring effective recovery strategies. I would come to Park North weekly, and Sam addressed any muscle tightness, ensuring I could push myself without risking injury. His expertise in identifying areas of tightness and prescribing targeted exercises was invaluable. 

Q: What are your next big goals, and what will you take with you from your time with Park North?

Minda: Looking ahead, my journey as a triathlete continues with a focus on enjoying the sport and maintaining my fitness level. While I may not compete at the same high level as I did in 2013, I still find fulfillment in training and participating in half Ironman distance triathlons. 

I've completed over 40 triathlons so far, including four Ironman triathlons and a half Ironman on six continents. Reflecting on my time with Park North Physical Therapy, I have a deep appreciation for the power of physical therapy. I value the knowledge and dedication demonstrated by Sam, whose expertise and curiosity in treating patients like me contributed significantly to my recovery and training process.  

Additionally, the supportive environment and camaraderie among fellow patients at Park North created a positive and motivating atmosphere during my sessions.  


Thank you to Minda Dentler for sharing her story with us. Her story is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and the transformative role of dedicated physical therapy support. To learn more about Minda's remarkable journey, visiting her website Minda Dentler | Athlete, Speaker & Author. Also, check out her new children's book, "The Girl Who Figured It Out”, the true story of how Minda became the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the world’s toughest triathlon: The Ironman World Championship.