Growing up I felt like I ‘should’ have been able to fit into a mould, Which through my cerebral palsy, I feel like I wasn’t able to, in many parts and I was left feeling quite isolated in many ways.
It wasn’t until years later that I realised that I am not made to fit into a pre-determined box.
You can create that mould as much as anyone else! I have the creativity and ability to carve what I would like and how I can serve and help others too!
Among many things I learned with CP, is that the way forward can take many shapes with twists and turns, but it is your own path. That path can be filled with success, love and happiness. I’m gutted in a sense it took my a while to figure this all out, and yet I’m still on a journey. But I am certainly at peace with where I am at, and that there is still some moulding to do on my path, at my pace! 💚
By all accounts the outlook wasn’t exactly all positive in my early days. Told that you wouldn’t run and have great challenges doesn’t leave you bouncing for joy.
Often thoughts of joining a gym & being able to ‘put on some muscle’ up to my early 20’s, were overshadowed by doubt from the ever present mindset of “I’m not built for that am I?”
THEN, the turn in that latter question into “or was I?” REALLY took hold when asking another – “WHAT IF”….
It’s a powerful question in itself. Full of curiosity and possibility. This creates a search for answers and helps to carve your individual path – on large and small avenues.
It does therefore, install a rather large dose of determination despite those earlier projections.
In the fitness world, there are many goals, objectives, reasons to keep pushing toward your target, underpinned by “what if”. what if it drives me, what if I could change that to make this work. What if I could use this that way?
An open mind has led to so many amazing opportunities in the world of mixed disability bodybuilding and it started with “What if?
Moreover, I love to renew a challenge, particularly in reference to my training. I always believe there’s new ground to made on programmes or phases within my exercise selection.
Finding a consistency has, I found, been hugely beneficial. Yet, making time to experiment has been the catalyst to discovering new ways I can train with/around my cerebral palsy.
The scale of equipment I thought I’d be able to manage at the start of my journey 9 years ago was fairly limited.
What I found was this, it was limited due to my experience at that stage, what I needed was time, lots of it! 😀
To test, fail over and over. I needed to find ways to develop and discover that unique routine that can be built day by day.
So, with more gym goers starting this month – I always remember where I started – I was shy, nervous & unsure. Now, with 9 years experience – you’ll get a friendly hello from me – as I feel I’ve only just begun the journey myself!
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….
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.
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.
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:
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! 😀💪🎉
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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! 💚