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! 💚
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 💚
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 🎉
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.
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!
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.
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 😀💚