My Physical and Mental Fitness “Improvements Season”

I like the term “improvements season” – the transition from a pre-contest to post (physical) fitness contest or ‘off season’ is not always as straight forward as I think it will be sometimes…

To elaborate, so much time and energy around the gym is allotted to the season ending finale with often a single focus on that last bodybuilding show, whilst perhaps being beneficial for that event, it brings with it an almost inevitable void thereafter which is not always easy to replace.

Having finished 3rd in my disability category at the PCA British Finals in October, I’ve settled on an improvement year in 2022, before stepping back onto the competition stage in 2023. That being said, whilst initially stating that the focus on a physical level is to improve strength in the gym, it’s good to also turn attention to my mental fitness too.

With ambitions to do some talks on strength and wellbeing in the disability bodybuilding space (be that on stage, podcasts or video) throughout 2022, this will help with personal and professional development too, reassessing my processes for focus, confidence and clarity.

How do I deal with this situation? How can my reactions be better? How do I tackle a challenging environment? A difficult conversation? All good thoughts to open and be open about..

They will aid my mental AND physical fitness, all year round!

I love to study smart thinking, the stoics with Ryan Holiday, I’m also looking to expand my knowledge in economics, business development, more reading on leadership with Jocko Willink, biographies and nutrition, the list goes on…

This great mix will help in so many disciplines over the coming year, be that improvements in the gym, my career, the seminar stage or how I react to challenges – I feel it’s important for me to work on both aspects going forward and to be open about it too, they both matter so much in so many areas. In all seasons, throughout the year.

D for Daddy…D for Disability

Tackling potential challenges with being a Daddy with a Disability much like other hurdles in life!

Discussion One:

How will I hold them?

Starting a family was something I had looked forward to for a significant time & finding out I was going to be a parent was a wonderful moment but looking back there were also some previous long held worries about adapting to life as a Father with a disability (cerebral palsy in my case).

With babies, my perception was that the looking after of one came with lots of multi-tasking, involving hands and that brought concerns with how I would cope, potentially on my own times – with feeding, nappies, seat belts, clips or harnesses. In addition to help they would need growing up with hair, clothing, climbing and fixing things.

Saying that, above all else I wanted to be a Dad, to grow a family and to bring along all that experience growing up, together with my amazing wife’s help, we have adapted around my disability with everything else in our lives.

The crucial thing I learnt in the early days is to remain calm and adapt to each situation as you would in any other challenge in your life around you. Each challenge my disability has presented me is an opportunity to fashion a unique solution in life.

Having a baby brings added pressure admittedly. This bundle of joy you’ve created is dependant on you yes, but in my experience, this dependence is about bringing your best adaptions with you that have helped so much so far.

For example, there was learning to keep my right hand (my most mobile side) free for potential trickier functions such as using a bottle feed whilst my left side is stable to provide support for my resting baby. There were no sudden movements in those early days from my daughters, so I found it comforting knowing they were secure in my left arm.

I can only go from my experience but I learnt beforehand that many people with a disability find their own way with parenting so that helped so much as I went on this incredible journey myself. Yes it can be tricky at times but so rewarding. I’ll be recalling more of these unique factors as I go but if there any questions you have or stories to share please get in touch!

Motivation Mountains – Breaking down goals into mini movements

We have big goals and dreams. Some will be in touching distance, others maybe so far away that they barely seem reachable….for now.

I try to work and improve on my thinking a little more every year when attempting new goals – from my gym work, my career and wider changes. It’s always a learning process.

One of the reasons for this is the fear of becoming stuck in a place where I would feel something would be such a mountain to climb, that it’ll be “impossible”. I had often got into a trap of looking too far in front and not being able break down what was needed.

Books and podcasts on mindset have helped so much with this over the years. What I’ve learnt is that there is no one particular ‘fix’ – for me it’s a continual series of phases to smaller improvements in sometimes multiple areas over a stretch of time that have the biggest difference and I’m STILL learning how to improve that!

Breaking down manageable actions really help. I found it also allows scope for change and adjustments over time too.

A method I’ve found to be particularly useful is to map out and then then review one week (to start) and then build from there. Assess what changes you’ve made, how you felt at particular points and reactions to it. This has helped me make the smaller movements forward possible when faced with big challenges that may take some time. It was also a great help when I first started at the gym.

It also assisted when trying understand the hurdles across multiple areas – from the gym, personal development and career wise. Even if you know it’s a long term commitment, by building week on week, you can always look back and see how far you’ve come.

Disability bodybuilding: Growing Opportunities in 2022

From Exeter to Motherwell, Birmingham to Tampa!

If you’ve followed my feed for a while you’ll know there is a joy in reviewing the expansion of events that have included a disability category.

The PCA, being a longtime partner of the class has seen a significant rise in athletes bringing their best to the stage and that continues to shine through in 2022…

28 events are scheduled for the coming year with the federation, including more first timer shows, the upcoming PCA Universe and the annual British Championships at the end.

This year I had the chance to compete at my relatively local seaside town of Bournemouth with the newly formed FITX Federation which pleasingly also featured a mixed disability category, which proved to also be a great show. Once again FITX will be on the road in 2022 with a total of 12 events across the UK.

Also, with news from across the Atlantic that the PCA USA will again be hosting a number of shows (15) already published in the planning with more set to be announced!

Together with this, news has been published from IFBB last week that the Wheelchair Division is now part of the 2022 Olympia Qualification System…so fantastic to read that much is developing with the category & going in a good direction.

There can be improvements with access & diversity across the foundations of fitness to help more into the sport but I’m so happy to report news like this and thank everyone for striving to bring further diversity to this sport – it helps people bring their best and the support is tremendous!!

Now, I’ll be around as much as I can with the scene in the next year, more than likely not on the stage as I grow further (TBC) but I’ll be there as much as I can to cheer everyone in the category as a growing number of athletes take their place on stage!

Cerebral Palsy – What have I Iost?

My two little girls have, at various times asked me in that direct, curious way they would with anything that fascinates them “Daddy, what’s it like having one smaller hand?”….

In some ways it’s easy to answer as I don’t know any different. You could argue that a different path has been forged for me having CP from birth as opposed to an accident during my life, as I’ve grown into the condition. It has always been and will always be part of me, so I tell them I haven’t lost anything really, have I? I don’t think I have.

The challenge for me is not worrying about the size of my hand but more so how to grow into a life that is not designed around the way my body is structured…and I believe it is this very issue that so many (myself included) fight to rebalance and for society to take better notice of.

There is structure, a standard that is created that caters for many but not all and more voices need to be heard / understood to break through this.

So while yes, I gratefully state to my little girls, that I feel grateful to have not “lost” anything, I don’t want to miss things either. Opportunity in front of me, for them and for everybody – We need to find our path to get there.

My challenges I’m looking to explore in this world is how to make those opportunities even more accessible, even just by a little.

There are competing priorities in this world for sure, but its a valuable mission I can undertake to help make choices to ensure many I can help be heard. Through highlighting issues, celebrating progress or pain / challenges…one movement at a time.

There are a number of “Whys”…

There a number of factors that often make up our “why”

Why do I want to do bodybuilding?

To prove something to myself?

For Current me?

For Past me?

Or Future me?

The current me wants to keep improving, to know that I have built a foundation, but not yet finished with lots more to learn and grow from…

The past why often wondered if I could do anything in the gym with limitations, often lacking self belief, too scared to further break down a untried and tested body. Too worried about what people thought and left hurt…

I owe it to future me to keep going, to further explore, to break down barriers I might even know exist yet. To ensure the path is bright and even more accessible for others, in fact future me is far less about self and more about leaving places a little better for others than they once were.

The are so many whys which make up the decisions taken to train, keep myself fit and continue to explore the possibilities and opportunities that sometimes right in front of us…

Here’s to the 2022 season!!

Sitting on a wave of an elastic band….

I’ve often referred to contest prep as stretching an elastic band, experimenting how far it can be pulled without snapping. Extending it a little, holding it steady, maybe relaxing the tension now and again – but being in control of energy around it.

It’s been a good way to explain how feel during a prep season and much like when it’s finished, I’m careful not to just let it go quickly, they sting if its not controlled!

I rather like to ease off slowly from the build up of the excitement and adrenaline after a show, I’ve often felt a sense of loss of structure at the end of the season & that feeling did briefly return this week so I’m careful to place some planned routines in…even if that that plan involved some flexibility for 4/5 days.

Time to recharge the batteries is crucial, I’ve not been great in previous years of recognising that, but as I get older and gain further experience, planning for the release of tension has been a key in setting up the next plan…

Preparing for Another Day One…

It was the very end of the World Chanpionships in 2018 and the emotion came at me like a wave, I wasn’t expecting to be sat in the foyer in the Birmingham Repertory Theatre that day tearful the journey was over. I’d done a number of bodybuilding shows that year, to prove to myself I could get better, to help the exposure of the disability class and learn much from the events themselves, but then it was over, now what?

Revisiting now, it’s easier to say focus on improvements, stronger points to take forward into the following year but it was still a feeling I couldn’t escape for a while.

I’ve read many recounts since of people being a similar position after competing across a range of disciplines, particularly involving a structured routine who faced the challenge of now what, tackling future endeavours and learning how to “turn the page” on this great journey of ours.

Moving forward, this week I’ve mapped out as much as I can to bring the best package at the weekend for the British Finals – but with a glance at what the aftermath will now feel like in the knowledge it’s a long term ambition – to certainly develop continuous improvements together, bringing more help and access to the sport I love..and that never ends.

The chance will come to reflect, take stock and gradually build into a fresh routine and new challenges. One thing I do love is to discover the many roads that can be taken to further support our platform or learn even more about sport while figuring out where and what to personally achieve.

But first, The PCA British Finals awaits!