To The Universe & Beyond, The Continued Rise of Disability Bodybuilding 🌎🌎🌎

A stunning event at the PCA Universe this past weekend featured top class athletes from across the globe competing in many categories.

The one closet to my heart that continues to grow and showcase top level competition kicked off the day as members of Team GB & Team Finland Mixed Disability class proved once again the incredibly high standard in our category!

Congratulations to all the athletes on that stage and special mention to new PCA Mr Universe Jordan Dodd. Everyone shined and it was another great start to their Bodybuilding show…

One of the things that delights me year in and year out is that as the bar continues to be set high and barriers continued to be smashed every 12 months, more & more athletes are creating their own journeys to the stage.

The more shows that are available, the more opportunities there are and the journey to the stage becomes more accessible – which I think creates further demand on wider scale for more accessible equipment in gyms – which in turn will bring even more people into the sport.

The community that it help builds & the journeys that are created and shared can ignite a passion and determination to reach an incredible goal year after year.

The number of athletes involved in the sport is growing and Sunday was another example of this. There are new champions being crowned every year and is testament to how the rise of the category is providing a platform to so many.

Finally, Thank you again to the PCA in supporting the division 💪

Bring on the rest of year!!💚

Finding an accessible routine…

Supporting physically & mental health

I’ve tried to remind myself often over the last few months of how grateful I am to be in a position to get back to the gym. I obviously knew of the huge benefits of going prior to covid but going deeper than just lifting weights, it became all to apparent during the lockdowns that the benefits aren’t just exclusively physical.

The routine surrounding the gym that is generated as result of the set programmes I use create a purpose. A reason that can crossover to support mental health too. It helps me suspend anxiety and pressures whilst very often giving me clarity day to day.

I’m thankful for the opportunity of finding ways of using weights and supporting exercises for that purpose, drive and clarity it brings. Together, with its self confidence it builds, I don’t want to take it for granted and cherish every opportunity that it supports my physical and mental well being.

Just getting started…

Well into my 30’s now, recovery times are even more crucial with my training, HOWEVER! I still feel we’re only just getting started.

I’ve been training consistently for around 8 years, but I’m still learning every day, I think that’s why I still love it. Training and bodybuilding is a world of discovery. As is my own disability, I’ve asked questions of it my whole life. I understood I have cerebral palsy, but I’m always asking what does it mean to me!

Take the trial and error of the gym. For YEARS I didn’t have the confidence to explore it, to push it and challenge and that was ok, I wasn’t ready – but then my what ifs turned into maybe if I tried this, someone with even more confidence asked me what if you tried that…

I took that advice and I’m trying to ask myself that to this day…

And I feel like I’m just getting started! There are more possibilities for growth, for exploration & for more accessibility every day!

Learning from Show Days

I loved getting to Exeter this past weekend to take in my first bodybuilding show of 2022!

Although I’m not competing this year, there is so much to learn during these times and a feeling of just enjoying the sport plays a huge part in travelling to support the competitors hard work throughout the season.

It took me back to when I first started bodybuilding – one of the best pieces of advice I received when I expressed an an interest in competing was to go to shows, learn, watch, ask questions and get a sense of what the day entails for those in the sport.

And 6 years later I still get so much enjoyment…and lessons from even just attending.

For one, getting to catch up with friends I might not have seen in a while is fab. It’s also a great opportunity to keep my mind fresh on the posing, positioning and to also just give huge credit the dedication of the athletes on stage and celebrate their achievements.

I never come away from a show having not picked up something new or presented new questions, there is always something to learn!

I’m at the PCA Universe next in Coventry in May and that will a great event to learn even more from!

The slow reset of discovery…

The last two weeks in the gym have been ones of recovery and discovery. It was certainly time to reset some things, freshen up the routine and to almost reconnect with my set up.

Its always important to keep things moving but to also try and keep some consistency. That being said, I have to make time to discover more about my body and its adaptability to my surroundings. I developed a good habit of trying to figure what works for me around my CP, but try to remind myself to stay inquisitive as to potential new exercises.

It’s comforting for me to finally piece things together to make an item of equipment work and incorporate that. There is also something to be said about taking some time to renew what can be done – with a new stance, attachment or angle that can bring a new perspective on my exercise.

This does take its patience, can frustrate even on occasion, but over the year can broaden my variety so much.

Following other disabled athletes has given me so many ideas together with really good online tools such as Accessercise (check out their app) that give a wide number of options in the gym when putting a programme together.

News of More Opportunities within the Disability Category…

Following on the news earlier this year that 2022 was set to witness the largest number of opportunities within the disability category through the PCA & FITX , it was announced that the GPO UK federation are introducing two disability categories for their shows this year and appointed Taylor Crisp as official disability ambassador!

It’s so good to continue receiving updates of opportunities across the division. It’s growing year on year and many shows have already highlighted that increase this year.

The PCA have continued their long term support, with FITX also again supporting the category into their 2nd season and with news of an IFBB UK wheelchair division later this year, (visit Wheelchairbodybuilding_uk) progress and change is happening!

It’s a further example of the momentum that the division is experiencing and for its increased awareness and inclusion this is providing athletes in the sport.

I’m proud to be part of it and proud to support all our athletes in the category.

Good luck to everyone competing this year and beyond. 💪💚

Accountable Building Blocks…

To help build…

Phyiscally. Mentally. Creativity.

Quietly building my commitment to create a year of blogs and podcasts last year was aimed at trying to develop many components for creativity, continued development and further understanding of tech & my fitness.

To put something in place where I could commit to a new technology, putting some regular thoughts together and acknowledging that I just needed to get better at delivering some content was, somewhat scary, but in many ways this mirrors my own fitness journey – not having a clue when you first start – but after a length of time, learning the craft, you can start to develop an idea and see what works, tweak and adapt. This is reflected in the blogs and pods too…the rhythm is getting there but it can always get better!

The time needed for it and to feed the creativity doesn’t come easy but I wanted to map the journey of my fitness with something which will help outside of the gym too.

There have been times where ideas will flow & some more slowly than others!) that arise from my training. With stories from the past and current challenges with cerebral palsy I wanted to share and barriers that somehow needed to be navigated, to try and make sense of it all as well!

It’s created a need for me to find time & space to write, to explore and gather my thoughts, so in many ways has helped with mental health too. In order to bring some of this together I’ve had to try & find some calm during the week to piece it together. It’s helping me to stop and really reflect whilst also looking forward to exciting new projects.

I hope to speak with more people on this great journey to get some different perspectives on disability and fitness through the coming weeks and months and see where this leads to!

Here’s to another 12 months!

Playing to my strengths to build up my structure on both sides…

I’m still not comfortable in describing my left side as the ‘weaker’ of the two. Yes my right is the dominant area muscle wise but this is mostly down to working with a different structure.

Something that has played into my development with training is the question of symmetry. How do I train two separate sides of my body? Not wanting to risk injury to my left (CP side) but wanting to push higher with my right? It’s always proved to be a bit of a conundrum.

Here’s some of my thoughts. There has been a question of do I desire to try and achieve symmetry in my look? not only for presentation at shows but there is also a question of would it prevent injury when I’m older?

My take is that my right side has always been larger, and when any weight is on a bar my right tends to take the weight I feel but is greatly supported by my left – could I go heavier had I not HAD CP? most possibly, but then this is my structure and there’s been a desire to a) be sensible and prevent injury b) safely explore the boundaries of what I think I can achieve.

So I try to develop both sides and naturally try to build both and allow them to create the muscle at the rate it will develop.

One thing I can always ultimately control is the consistency I can bring within training.

If I can develop enough patience to explore, to test and try, it will give me enough hours to discover the tools I can use around the gym to work on specific muscle areas, left and right. This year is as much about allowing that time to have that discovery period to thinking of new ways to train and to share that journey too.

This goes for my left side with adaptions and also single side work on my right also.

CP Awareness: Working with, around and through CP in fitness

The reality is, I’m getting older! There’s an acknowledgement on my part that my muscles on both sides will need more attention, but in different ways for different outcomes.

I’ve become aware of greater emphasis on looking after my joints throughout my life but to also continue to protect my muscle development too.

Throughout my childhood, a huge focus was given to stretching my muscle reach and provide the greatest chance of a deeper flexibility as I grew.

Nowadays, I’m more aware of the fatigue that is induced from day to day life and the impact the gym has on that too.

Thinking of this, it’s actually the source of my preference to train early in the morning.

I’ve attempted numerous sessions at either end of the day and given the choice, the mornings have won time and time again.

Daily stretching was a mammoth chore in my youth, I just wanted to play, it hurt like hell but I understood it’s need even though it’s harder at a young age to see the bigger picture.

I’m thankful for the persistence of many around me to encourage that stretching, as with age, particularly in my 20’s where I perhaps slacked a little with the practice, I knew in later days I needed to put more time to it to aid my fatiguing muscle.

Now I my 30’s I feel the requirement to start my day with a stretch. It’s deeply connected with my CP, but as a daily practice I feel it’s a good way to start my day, in light of my training schedule too.

It helps with my disability, but also as a discipline, something that I can use as a springboard to launch my day from, no matter the level of activity. It becomes a form of mediation almost, assisting mentally too, as I try to clear my mind as much as possible. It’s not perfect, but I certainly know when I haven’t done it which makes this even more pressing the following day.

I think as I grown, I’ve tried as best I can to make my CP my own path rather than see it as an immovable obstacle. It’s tough to move but we try! Times were bloody tough growing up, it’s the challenge of not understanding where this is suppose to fit when you have to remould areas of your life and carve out something. ultimately, I’ve found out years later, everyone is trying their best to create their own design and start from their own different platforms.

Thank you for reading x

CP Awareness: Long term thinking with CP

Into adulthood, I have developed a long term acceptance of the certain barriers I have to face day in day out. To the extent of having long term planning in place to ensure I’m aware of as many circumstances I may face down the line that I may need either help or assistance with.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’ve given up totally or I haven’t become frustrated that I can’t do something, but it’s taken decades to try and have mindset of looking more widely at adaptions and what is currently available. Questioning what is out there and how I can help, along with others to make that potential change happen. That’s a good investment of my time.

That said, I know from experience, it can be exhausting becoming frustrated by something longer term – but that’s not about me giving up, it’s learning to pivot to try and make something work for the circumstance I’m in…

A classic example of this was driving. Until I researched it, I didn’t quite know just how incredible it was that so much of one car can be adapted, in so many ways, for so many people. I want to thank those that fought for this or campaigned for changes, as I was left tired at the difficulties I faced with a manual car in my late teens.

Fast forward a decade, a conversation with an amazingly skilled, patient and connected driving instructor, I had a window on the possibilities of car adaptions. After a year of lessons, a connectable hand brake lever, a steering ball, I proudly drive an automatic.

This was long after thinking driving was out of reach. It has subsequently given me freedoms that I couldn’t imagine 15 years ago. Painfully, looking back it had been out there but I had taken years to turn my mindset and frustration because of the challenges of a manual.

That’s why social media is so good at connection. It can be incredible at idea sharing, connecting and making things more accessible than ever before. I’ve learnt so much about others experiences and journey, more about my own condition and giving me more hope of change, acceptance and inclusion in the years to come.

Long may that continue!!