From acceptance to empowerment…

I couldn’t control the restrictive movement, but although I was far removed from this for years, I control how I feel about my movement in my cerebral palsy on my left side.

It’s too strong to say I hated my disability, but just saying that I had one was challenging for a long time. I didn’t want to stick out, have to answer questions with every new discussion – I didn’t want it to be a topic.

That’s changed over years – a transition that felt differently internally about I viewed myself and the structure that has grown with me. From annoyance at what I couldn’t do to accepting that help that could just make things easier, or at the very least, provide more options for me.

My new thinking of controlling how I feel from a negative to positive of what IS possible – with help along the way being part of that – brings empowerment. A sense that I can succeed, with how I can contribute with my body (not despite it).

I’m thankful to be able to control getting up, deciding how and when to train – and now have a platform of equipment to choose how to shape my body & the fact I can mould elements of this through bodybuilding is possibly one of the most powerful.

Having the power to create a structure for the stage is so empowering – that’s why I try to bring my energy to the stage if you’ve ever seen my routines – high energy music, a big smile and getting some reaction from the audience – because, well, we can!

It’s a joy and I’m grateful.

Sharing the Support…

I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had without people sharing their stories of their own journeys of opening doors & breaking down barriers.

It’s in part why I do this here. That I owe to those who helped me build that confidence to pay things forward and shine a light either on my own past experiences or share someone else’s current story to shout loudly what they’ve done (if they would like to) to show what access there is & also what further access which should be there also.

I’ve made some wonderful friends through listening to their stories – some in a common direction toward a goal but each one different. In the disability community I’ve found a way to express my feelings like never before. I didn’t have the confidence 15 years or so ago to do that – I didn’t feel I had access to a community to share the challenges, the hurdles but also the ways forward and the help and sharing the successes too.

When I look back on the these past few years, they really have provided me with wonderful opportunities to meet new friends, go for competitions and take on challenges with bodybuilding I wouldn’t thought possible a little over a decade previously.

I’m very grateful.💚

It’s sometimes just about balance and practice…

There was a regular exercise I was given in my younger days during physiotherapy that was all about balance. How long could I stand unaided on my left side (compared to my right) the muscle tone has always been lower in my left and with other factors it remains a tricky discipline to carry out.

That being said I enjoyed (around the frustrations) the challenge – could I find a technique to help – could I use a distraction to move my thoughts away from movement issues and focus away enough to beat my previous time.

Now this was one of many a task to aid my overall left side function, one that isn’t lost on me to this day. There are still moments of frustration around my left sided alternative paths that do pop on occasions – but I quickly have to remember the practice!

The recent moment in question was earlier this week when attempting legs splits off a bench in my gym. I just couldn’t push my weight off on my left side which equated to me dangling for some time.

However, unlike what would be seen as so awkward and embarrassing say, 15 years ago, I recalled I’m in my gym to practice not to just add the weights, everyone who there is trying something new, something they maybe haven’t done before and it’s the practice and the persistence & support that aids this – I want to keep trying the balance and practice to take the smaller steps to something bigger down the line and I’m just the same as the young lad in the hospital physiotherapy room all those years ago that needs to put his frustration to practice and keep going 😀💚

Focusing on what can be done…

I’ve tried to keep things simple this week – a lot of recent trials with attachments and new exercises have had relative successes – however it’s not lost on me to keep things simple with my workouts, keeping in what works well for me and whilst taking in new ideas, keeping a solid base to work and improve on.

Something that I heard Dorian Yates mention about getting in the gym, taking 45/60 minutes and having complete focus on the sets struck a chord.

I do enjoy experimenting but to keep my focus & just getting in the gym with a plan, knowing what works for me and focus intensely on what I can do more than experimenting is optimal for me this week!

Whether it’s the heat or just wanting to reduce the volume of different equipment I’m using this week the structure has been effective. I’ve tried to work more on planning the exact type of exercise with exact equipment.

I love experimenting and make a lot of time for it – but also having the action plan to test myself with what I know works well too

Competitions, Talks & Much More – The Weekend of FitXpo

This past weekend in Liverpool was incredible.

The FitXpo was something that had been on my calendar for months and there was much anticipation for a number of reasons.

Right up the top was to the chance to reconnect with friends and learn from industry experts but to also once again witness and support the opportunity for a mixed disability class to take to the stage in the Strom Classic during the weekend.

The event had everything – lots of opportunities to learn, with excellent talks throughout – meet great brands (with samples aplenty!) – There was that buzz – from competition, to reuniting with friends and personally exploring a new City in Liverpool.

Major highlights were witnessing competitors Taylor & Lindy taking part in the disability class which continues to grow and both are doing incredible work highlighting awareness of disability, accessibility and the expansion of the category across the sector.

Additional highlights were the excellent talks from Mr Olympia, Dorian Yates, Worlds Strongest – The Stoltman Brothers, and (as approach my late 30’s) a really insightful talk from Tom Blackman with “Gains begin at 40” on Sunday.

A huge thanks to the FitX team for creating a memorable weekend, sourcing high quality speakers and great competitions that were great to witness and to learn from and no doubt excellent to take part in (one for me to think about in 2023 I think!).

It was great to take it all in, to do something new and come away with some fantastic knowledge from the various talks too.

Shaping the conversation…

This blog, pod & content has documented my thoughts, findings, challenges & and positive angles when training & beyond.

What I’ve found really powerful is to take the time to schedule writing and transforming those into pods to try and make them as accessible as I can. This has helped me delve into areas that I’ve previously found challenging to express feelings around when going back over some hurdles growing up with CP. That being said it’s allowed me to make more sense of exercises done to help my growth and reasons behind it.

So, I’m asking this week – what do you want to hear / read more of? The weekly challenges with training (positive & difficulties) / prep stories / more of how it’s helped me outside of the gym??

I’d be interested to read / hear some thoughts to help more as we go along this journey in life…

😀👍

Smash Barriers!Break New Ground!Every day! At my own speed…

I’m always on the lookout for something new or a tweak / improvement to make in many areas of my life and that starts with the springboard to my day that is the gym.

At first, the new adventure had lots of new ground to explore. Many weeks and months were spent going through many pieces of equipment – some were used as they were presented when I got there, others had to be figured out as time went by.

As the years passed I learned to approach every day as a learning curve. Even down to smaller details and also learning to…slow down. Certain things are better at a slower pace and in doing so, knowing when to dial it down. This is how I’ve continued a path of development which helps build a longer term plan which breaks new ground further in the future – I continue to learn new things about my body and how my CP reacts to such exercises – but I want to enjoy that in the long term too and slowing things down allows me to appreciate that even more when looking at the bigger picture.

Grateful for the movement I have….

I remain incredibly grateful for the movement have in this life, no matter any frustrations that comes along the path which at first glance may seem restrictive, but I’m often reminding myself that while I do have muscle limitation in structure, it could have been even more challenging had things not been as quick when I was born.

That drives the journey in many areas in my life and I’m faced with choices on a daily basis between frustration and upset and finding the adaptions and the way forward.

It is frustrating not many able to do something straight away as intended – at every turn – but as upsetting as it was in my younger days, it’s through those experiences and getting older that enables me to look at situations with a different perspective.

I’m learning every day to find a new way or to look at something differently with a more open mind. I find that in itself requires lots of patience and effort but it also reflects a deeper level with lots of other things in my life too. It shapes my approach with relationships, work, unexpected challenges and day to day tasks. This can throw barriers in the way, but that experience at least provides the tools to attempt to lift those barriers.

The long road from frustration to alternative workouts…

I first entered a gym full of thoughts of the limitations, of what I couldn’t do. I would go around and take machines & even whole areas off my list of things, never thinking I would be able to use them.It was a long page! free weights, Barbell Cable cross with both handles. You name it, it was a long list But I could do a few things and even if I could work my right side for some of it I’d give it a try.

Something gradually changed. I think there was fear of judgement that I couldn’t achieve things, but in my experience gyms are very welcoming and I’ve been fortunate to have great support too.

Over time, confidence building, patience and discovery periods enabled lots of testing, of how to use different attachments as we’ve discussed before, but crucially allowing the teaching and give my body time to adapt and learn. This has enabled me to set challenges and work with different pieces of gym equipment. There is no rush, no advantage to going for really heavy weights from the start. Allowing myself to keep an open mind and to new movements with a great variety keeps things fresh throughout 👍

Attaching an alternative to the push…

Something I realised of late is how extra careful I need to be with the extent of the volume of my sets involving pressing a bar that includes my left hand within the lift.

I’ve long advocated the joy in finding different ways to adapt and seeing attachments around the gym to compliment my workouts have evolved into more of a need.

I’m experiencing more challenges with press exercises through my dexterity, which, does cause some frustration thinking of what I could do without that change – but it’s what I’ve got to work with – the key I’ve found is to gain further knowledge of the sets I can do and mix that volume up.

A good example here was my continued frustration at not being able to execute a dumbbell shoulder press with my left side. I found I can’t safely lift it freely – but here’s the thing – my mission in there isn’t to use the shoulder press, but rather to work my delts….The mission was more to do with what can I use to work that muscle group? Answer…(after lots of trial and error) to use ankle straps attached to my arms to lift in front of me, taking any wrist movement out but still targeting my delts.

Finding those little breakthroughs are as much a joy as any PB as it continues to be a world of discovery!

The challenges continue, but the discovery will too!