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!!

CP Awareness Month: The CP that made me…

It’s challenging enough to subconsciously work through things differently with CP, add in the numerous observations at school that confirmed the obvious that yes it’s different, no I can’t do it the ‘conventional way’, but eventually I have been able to see the positive elements that have been created that through living with cerebral palsy, which goes far beyond the barriers….

It’s shaped my whole being. It’s helped in particularly ways that, growing up, I didn’t comprehend at the time. You see, having to seek the pathway to find an alternative, to look at things differently, to perhaps ask a different question because of cerebral palsy, shaped my attitude and decision making far more differently from a path I would have taken without it.

Now in a place in my life where I’ve had experiences like driving, working out, (even how to deal with nappies with cerebral palsy now I’m dad!) all have happened because the roads I’ve travelled to down the years. If it weren’t for cerebral palsy, I would not have my current skillset.

This is why now, it goes beyond a positive attitude too – it’s shaped my creativity, given me a set of tools to work from and I’ve tried to use those as best I can to create the life I have and help others too through understanding.

I’ve learnt and grown to not feel bitter about what I’ve missed out on, but thankful for the opportunities that have been on the path I’m on now. The attitude, the fight and grit CP has given me, I now see, outweigh my physical hurdles.

CP Awareness Month – A lifetime of Flexibility Development

I didn’t know it at first, but I’ve actually been in strength training my whole life!

As you will know by now, I’m a keen fitness enthusiast, with one my primary aims is being to create an environment to strengthen my muscle development to help support my Cerebral Palsy.

I’ve trained consistently in a gym for nearly a decade now but I can actually trace my starting point 30 years ago in a basement physio room of a general hospital here in the UK.

Then, like now, there was much to learn about flexibility and movement. Whilst the greater emphasis in my younger days was to ensure the right support was there as my body grew throughout my youth, there was much focus on stretching, exercise, balance, strength building and finding ways to adapt.

I remember the long journey, often very early mornings, having exercises to practice and made aware of the importance of daily work to help shape my progress and how much it would benefit me in later life. Something that was extremely challenging to maintain and comprehend at the time but I think I understood it growing up.

As I reflect on those days, during cerebral palsy awareness month, I can only look back with a gratitude to those that helped at that hospital, a team there to slowly guide a practice in me that made me understand that although limitations were thrown at me early on (and remain), giving me options and something to work on certainly provided me with a platform to try and adapt, through working on flexibility, exercises and trying to different tools to support daily life…it’s a search and practice I still continue to this day.

The power of accessible information….

Social media is playing a huge part in delivering accessible information regarding training . Both in terms of how things can be done and achieved and celebrating and sharing ideas.

I’ve tried to be like a sponge with information – particularly with training practice and theory. This goes for nutrition and with trial and error with equipment use.

One of the major breakthroughs & successes I’ve had has been to watch, listen and learn from others, not only before I started training but to continue this as well.

The importance of representation of disabled influencers has been so key to my training. From confidence and the belief I too could give it a go, to the nuanced elements of the lifting movements with cerebral palsy. Some of the reflexes are not so easily attained and finding what’s right for you is key in this area.

That being said there are many movements that I now use in the gym that can be only attributed to many others who I’ve watched over the years and adapted it to their own unique style and given me the chance to learn & tweak it to my own style.

I almost feel I sense of responsibility that I owe to those who showed me to share it and pass on what I find works in the gym.

The battle to find the adaption…

I’m always excited to find something new to try especially when there is an apparent (particularly on my part) requirement to have to adapt to make it work.

This is a fresh post as I got the chance to try some “battle ropes” for the first time at my gym this week.

I’ve decided to document this straight away as I want to use it as a marker and challenge to go through each stage of the adaptive process. You see, I wanted to give it a go but instantly knew I would have to work at this to make it better. See the video on this in my feed but I will need to experiment to make this exercise work.

There could be a thinking of well, let’s just find something else to use that fits better but I wanted to document this process of looking at things from multiple angles. I will struggle with that left side grip but already I’m trying to think of ways to use this rope differently….what about attaching it to my wrist? what can I use for this? Should I just use my right side, how can I use the rope in a different way??

Lots of questions and it will take a few attempts to get this working but I will give it a go and report back!

Spending years not wanting to be different, now it’s integral to my journey…

Whether I liked or not I stood out. The biggest sign of my cerebral palsy was most obvious in my hand and that initiated often unwanted conversations about it growing up & at school.

Being asked questions about its origin, its look, its feel – were hard to process – I didn’t know how different it felt, I didn’t (and still don’t!) have a comparison…

It produced a yearning to just fit in, hide it, not wanting it to be part or the start of the conversation. To the point it almost became toxic, I didn’t want to be disabled, I didn’t want to identify as that.

In time, and this took years and years, the acceptance and furthermore, embracement of my disability as very much part of me, grew internally. How do I create, adapt, succeed, fail and grow?

This mindset shift was very gradual, but then a realisation…how can it not be part of me? Why shouldn’t it be part of me?

In time, reflecting back to those asking the questions to me, was it actually just as natural to ask about my difference? The difficulty I had was that these reflective questions were clouded by the bullying I suffered alongside those of genuine curiosity about my condition that I just couldn’t process early on.

It’s through all of that that I’m delighted that difference is celebrated now.

Beyond what I’ve had / still got in the eyes of society, I enter the gym with a similar purpose to huge number of people in many respects. That is to make a positive change, day by day.

We all train differently, we have different goals & different schedules. We adapt differently and find our own unique ways to get there on this journey….and that my friends is worth celebrating!

Find your way 💚

Evolving Accessible Fitness…

The conversation continues!

There are many factors that ignite the fire within me to keep the conservation going with accessibility and fitness.

I think with each event, location, gym, workout, equipment, set & even rep I’m often thinking about how things can be adapted and changed. The more that is shared, the more we can learn from each other. That’s how we lift each other up on our journey.

I love speaking with fellow competitors and gym goers in the disability community, how we can come together to support each other’s adaptive techniques, ways to change to the game and to rise issues and concerns.

It’s something that has certainly helped since I entered a gym, seeing more people in the disability community sharing tips & experiences online gave me confidence to not try out things but to speak up, to challenge and how I could do things differently.

It’s one of the reasons I wanted to complete a lot in the first two years after getting on stage. One was to gain much needed experience of stage presence and how I could adapt that but it was so good to be around fellow competitors within many categories and question after question! I learnt so much from them – thank you.

I’m taking a (probably overdue!) break from competing to build some size but I’m as active as ever, allowing myself even more time to question accessibility – what would you personally like to see more of in the industry / sport?