Disability Bodybuilding in 2023 – A year full of Opportunity!

The year ahead is building toward a 12 month period full of opportunity across the UK & beyond for the mixed disability category in bodybuilding.

Fresh off a great number of shows in 2022 which included a calendar packed with regional qualifiers, new opportunities such as The PCA Universe, The FITXPo in Liverpool in the mixed category & also an Arnold’s Sports Wheelchair category event in the UK – 2023 will provide a host of established events as well new shows to add to the mix – including a PCA World Championship to aim for in Spain in November…

I’ve included some notes below with links to federation websites to check out individual criteria and further show information….

PCA

The PCA continue their support of the category with a number of shows available into this new season. Starting with a ‘First Timers’ show on 26th March in Birmingham – a further 27 events covering the whole of the UK, take place with mixed disability entry available with all other categories leading to the World Championship opportunity for qualified athletes in November.

This, together with a number of shows in other regions globally are available.

https://www.pcaofficial.com

FITX

Fit X have announced a number of shows for their new 2023 season – 15 in total across the UK with mixed disability among their categories once again! – including the FitXpo in Manchester, finishing with their Finals in Wolverhampton in October.

https://fitxfederation.com

NFMUK / GBO

NFMUK have recently announced their GBO Pro opportunities in a mixed disability class for 2023. Athletes can compete at 5 events this year with possible pro cards available for the GBO European finals – as with the other federations here’s a link to their website:

https://www.nfmuk.com

In Conclusion

I’m beyond excited at the amount of opportunities for disabled athletes – thank you to all the federations for their support, the accessibility in the fitness industry continues to improve year on year. There are always elements that can be developed but I’ve witnessed a lot of positive changes over the last few years and a growing number of athletes on stage as the community grows and more access is provided – 2023 will be no exception with 50 shows from the 3 above combined! – bring it on! 😀💪🎉

What path will my mobility take?

I’ve long accepted the structure I have is different. The practice of testing my individual endurance and ability to mould into better shape for my health is a test that I also love to explore.

Questioning ‘can this be different/better?’ I discovered isn’t an unhealthy position I once thought it was. I’m not ashamed of my structure with CP – quite the opposite – I want to maximise my potential strength in both my right and left side. This means an incredible amount of testing on my left side to ensure lifting safely, but by exploring my potential working with my disability, could I hope, help in later life as I start to wonder about my own flexibility and mobility in years to come.

Cerebral Palsy is lifelong and as I look ahead, I can feel the need to prepare my training more to maintain my current mobility, hoping that I can sustain it for as long as possible. How long will it last? My body will tell me, but I want to battle through and also prepare it for the future.

The competitor in me wanted to prove to myself how far I could take my training through the obstacles on the way and its all part of that journey into bodybuilding. However, I am more aware than ever that as my body ages into my late 30’s / early 40’s, I can start work now that helps later in life. That hunger to develop potential grows into a mindset to protect and persevere my current structure, where I’ve worked out how to adapt but challenging myself to prepare how I might need to change if my mobility shifts further in later life.

Keep exploring my friends!💚

The Inbuilt Joy of Discovery…

One the single BEST things I love about the gym is the new discoveries. The previous hurdle thought unattainable, conquered by trial and error. The patience to keep trying even when you fall over. The repetition until you finally find the way, it’s all in the discovery.

Looking back, some expectations were low with certain things growing up, there were exceptions made quite often, but I just wanted to take part so through either through stubbornness or determination (I like the latter) over time I’d find a way to do it.

Like the time I often got upset when I was much younger as I can’t catch “two handed” but was pretty good with my right on its own. Well, with rounders you got the whole opposing team out with a one handed catch – which was the only way I could – so I was given a prime spot to take catches. I still remember that inclusion to this day.

The surpassing of low expectations evolved into an determination to prove that I often didn’t have to sit out every element, just have the opportunity. To give me a little more time to figure it out.

That discovery is a joy and it’s still very much there. I think the sheer amount of new processes to figure out is why it took me so long to get to a gym, however, once the discovery phase kicked in – this was one of the the reasons why I’m still here. There is as much joy at a new revelation in the gym as a new PB.

Here’s to continued accessibility & opportunity!

The shared passion that helped with isolation…

I didn’t meet that many people with a Disability growing up, anyone with cerebral palsy, even less so. I’m sure the services that helped me helped many but when it came to connections, that really didn’t start to build or pick up speed until my fitness journey took off.

Looking back, I really feel it could have provided me with a deeper understanding not just of my own physical structure but with some further empathy of the often isolating feelings of a growing up with an disability (that I felt).

That being said, my delight at training is building your self with others – individual goals yes – but we come together at the gym don’t we? in that pursuit. I feel it even more so with the disability bodybuilding classes.

Whether people like to socialise, discuss ideas or feel it helps to talk & shares their individual experiences at their own pace, I have never encountered more connections than in the last 3/4 years than I have with my friends in the wider bodybuilding community be that at live events or indeed on social platforms. I have learnt so much, feel incredibly valued as an athlete and competitor and have built some amazing friendships through this all.

Embracing Difference with a Disability…

Every time I use an adaption to make something work, there’s still a small part of me that has a thought process of asking what would this look like from someone seeing this for the first time?

That mindset is still present all these years later – but the emotion is far far different than the previous long term anxiety of not wanting to look “too different”. The purpose now is to ignite my own creativity to make something happen that would serve myself and others well, no matter what it looks like.

The key difference these days is that I’m more likely to encounter a mature adult that is is largely intrigued, respectful and more often viewing it as a learning opportunity rather than sneering & insecurity at anything that doesn’t fit the “norm” that I experienced growing up.

Once again this brings me the sheer joy of training at a gym. Everyone is discovering their own methods to reach their own goals. I’ve found there’s an overwhelming dignified respect among the fitness community in regards to the discipline and hard work put in to achieving your goals, including the various different hurdles & barriers you face in getting there…

Let’s embrace difference! 💚

Driving with adaptions…

Making my impossible possible…

For years I had a mindset that I was unable to drive. Difficulties with the use of a manual transmission dented self belief to the point that I thought it’ll never be fit me.

Until that is, I was given guidance that I should try adaptions…again, my willingness wasn’t there to be different than other road users, so for years I refused.

This gradually changed over time, as my mindset with not wanting to be different transitioned into not only accepting my disability but embracing it. I started making changes that helped work with the obstacles rather than seeing them as immovable blocks.

I found could drive, with practice and adaptions. What had held me back wasn’t my ability, the help was there, but to actually embrace what structure I had – I wish I had developed this thinking this sooner! However, it’s a continued part of my development to work with the obstacles on my path – this can be applied, I’ve discovered, in the gym too!

There just could be a way 💚

My disability is not my weakness, it was built into a strength…

For a number of years growing up, lots of reactions to my disability painfully made me feel weak. Not through my own doing, which looking back, actually brought sadness. But what I didn’t realise at the time, those emotions would be later channelled into a positive….

A positive emotion because from the obstacles presented, the comments directed at the difference in my left sided cerebral palsy – highlighted the individual paths I found to make things happen along the way. Yes the ability to grow muscle fibres is very different from left to right but…

Resilience built from a determination in not being excluded from activities by finding a way forward…that has lasted a lifetime in many pursuits!

It’s ended up turning that into a positive effect as I’m sure it’s had an influence on the joy I find in training – I feel like I’m trying to solve a slightly different puzzle with a disability but I’m grateful to able to try and give it a go! 💚

Disability and Fitness… Finding the right path for you….

Trying to create my fitness programme that works with my cerebral palsy can take some time. Allowing the time to put together the right methods to challenge me but to also allow it work with my dexterity can take a while to figure out but I’ve seen it as part of my journey more than an immovable obstacle.

Entering a gym with a “standard” set up was one of the most daunting steps I’ve taken. I realised very quickly that everyone is on a unique journey and the more open I was to experimenting with attachments, the less anxious I became in those early days.

Throughout the journey, one thing has always been apparent, everyone will have their own set up, their preferences in the training & what suits them best.

For example, I never thought in a million years that I’d get to where I am using ankle straps for chest & delt exercises but they are one of the most effective ways I train those areas, taking my dexterity challenges aside.

It’s also what has kept my training so vibrant and fresh all these years to remain open minded to different solutions & as a result my love for fitness continues to flourish 💚

Every day can be a reset…

There are challenges every day.

A new one to start, to continue or finish, but there is always an opportunity at a fresh platform upon waking.

I’ve had a number of hurdles as everyone does, I’m still trying to figure things out into my 30’s but I love the feeling of a new page to wake to.

This past week had required a slow down in pace due to some joint pain but still maintaining the thinking of a new day seems to always bring that spark about what can be done (if it has to be adapted) to make the morning ignite 🎉

Keep going my friends…

Recognising Rest….

I’m terrible at it. I want to push through, keep going (somewhere in the never give up range) but it’s not good to ignore.

I need to face it and recognise when my body is telling to readapt.

This is part of the territory I have come to learn in later years with cerebral palsy, it explain a lot from my younger days too when it may have been pinned on something else when fatigue wasn’t fully appreciated.

I’ve reached the point where I need to adapt my workouts over the coming days through pains both on my left and right – my left tightness – through my muscle structure and fatigue – and my right through over compensating occasionally as a natural lean to that side.

I’m all too aware of the need to take steps to adapt my workouts or rest but sometimes it does catch up with me & to slowly recognise that I need to listen to what my body is telling me. Even more this year in my building phase, which will help with how I can adapt as I get older.

No alarms bells, but just sone warnings signs I need to to aware of to get the best from a programme going forward.