Building My Own Two Teams…

The opportunity to build and develop muscle has taken me to different places physically and mentally over the last few years.

There are literally two sides to this story…My left side and right side. Generally, many people will enter a gym aware of a dominant side perhaps. The machines and equipment are likely set up (more often than not) for a joint tandem lift from both sides of the body.

In my case, with cerebral palsy, I found myself on an interesting path, literally having one dominant side throughout my life, which presented a conundrum….if I lifted weights, would I get bigger on only one side?

More to the point, would it be safe & healthy to do so?

It was a great initial fear. That said, it became (as is often the case) a question of just having to find the answer by ‘doing’. If I hadn’t tried and faced that, how would I ever know? I concluded that “hey, my right side is far bigger now anyway, if I develop a little muscle on my left somehow, it would be an achievement so why worry” and go for it…and that’s how it started.

What I have found, in my own experience in lifting, is that the two sides will grow at the level that they have always done…My right is bigger than it was, and you can see improvements on my left but visibly still very much behind but not out of proportion of where I was before I started.

They will never be the same size, that’s my make up with my disability, however I have long documented the joy in discovering the ways around the equipment to compensate dexterity issues, with much more focus as the variables in movement through attachments rather than overthink my issues with my grip.

I think I’m more at peace with my body now too, whether that is personal or a societal change, I no longer want to hide my hand or be “ashamed” of having a smaller side….Bloody Hell this is my one and only body, I’ve grown to love it!

The gym has proven to be a test, a challenge, for both sides of my body and my mind. I’m delighted to have the daily chance to get onto a platform and prove a few things to myself overall and set myself up for another day on this incredible planet….

The long haul (eventual) benefits of the hot, sweaty splints…

Try telling that to my 6 year old self though!!

Wearing splints growing up had a huge benefit to my physical development. The doctors recommended it, my parents knew it, but try telling that to a growing little boy at the height of summer, just wanting to rip it off at every opportunity!!

The persistence of guiding my younger self and teaching me about the long term benefits must have been such an onerous task for my parents, knowing now they simply wanted me to have the best quality of life later on so having to resist or put up with my natural stubbornness towards it is something I’m still incredibly grateful for.

Sneakily taking the splint off at night only to find the bloody thing reattached as they lovingly strapped it back is amusing to look back on, baffling at the magic at the time!!

I recount these stories, partly as a healing process, part to share it with the wider world as for too long I bottled this up, thinking it was something to hide – never wanting to wear shorts, tired of answering questions as a kid.

Now, to put these together, to draw something from them when an obstacle comes my way or helping others to process in any capacity is a joy and a privilege.

I felt as if though I was on a tiny island all those years ago but I feel a sense to document and use this positive energy of socials to explain it in some ways.

I do tire perhaps more easily nowadays with the energy consumption needed but to be able to slow things down, to take stock and understand how my body reacts to gym sets or adapting at work is something I mindfully grateful to understand why and react to it moving forward.

Bringing early physio lessons with me into later life…

Cerebral Palsy Physio Appointments. They started from early but I recall them from about the age of 5/6 onwards….

So picking up around 1991/2…8am. Another appointment at The General. Missing the start of school. Month after month. Assessment after assessment.

Stretching, pulling this way & that.

Checks. Measurements.

More checks.

This was a monthly (sometimes weekly) occurrence throughout my childhood. A seemingly never-ending route through corridors to a cold basement-like physio room to check my progress. It was relentless, yet rather normal in someways, much as I’ve said before, I grew with cerebral palsy, so in some ways that helped.

As irritating as it would become, it had become a routine, something I instinctively knew I had to get use too. Practices / Exercises put into place to take home with me to work on – long before I was set anything from school – then to come back and see if things were going in the right direction, along with a host of splints on both hand and leg.

However, somewhere lessons from these were emerging, seeds planted to help me later…

This was a literal long haul pursuit of the right growth pattern. The theory being that if anything seemed out of synch, (that being my hand or leg growing in the wrong direction) it could be picked up early, corrected and set back on the right track, month after month.

I know full well, approaching mid life, that had it not been for those early practices and disciplines, there’s a strong chance I’d be in even more greater pain now had it not been for the constant requirement to hammer home the importance of stretching, discipline of wearing often painful splints day and night and ensuring I knew how to work around and with my disability. It was not going away. I had to get used to that.

Looking back, a daily practice had been installed so early, that it built an internal resilience strong enough to withstand my adolescent stubbornness and gift me some lessons to take into adulthood.

So when I get asked questions about the “madness” of my early get ups, or fitness routines & habits, its helped me push on knowing a tweak here and there, to pick up and correct a path I want and need to be on, knowing that it’s a marathon not a sprint and making those corrections to ensure you’re as ready as you can be for what life will throw your way, one that may not give you everything you want straight away, but that pursuit will develop you as a person and provide strength

At some point, I will delve deeper in those early days as writing has helped bring some of those memories bring further meaning in how that set some courses in my life at the time.

Keep tweaking, keep stretching and take care.

Harnessing Day One…Every Day

That new programme, the fresh start, the comeback? The leap, the drive, the impetus….The Springboard.

Whatever the reason for your Day One, it just feels good, right?

I love a Day One, but I’m aware of the importance of trying to attach the right approach to it, a plan to enable that feeling to thrive, and for it not to become surppressed after a few days or weeks.

I’ve been in a position where that initial bubble gets burst or it gets sent off track and I craved for that start up feeling once more.

The trap I fell into, and this was particularly evident at the gym was sticking to EXACTLY the same thing week after week after week with NO CHANGES. Now I’m not saying you should just quit – but even if you smaller tweaks throughout to keep it fresh, I’ve found has helped in a fantastic way.

I’ve recently started a new Day One with a plan to deliver small changes in various areas in the gym, personal development and mindset, trying a few tweaks with a number of weeks planned out with an end goal set toward the end of year. Compounding these has helped, the great Darren Hardy talked those changes in his best selling book, The Compound Effect.

If some of those smaller changes don’t not quite work, these can be switched quite readily and changed in the plan going forward.

I’ll document the good and the challenges over the next few weeks, trying to take positives from the pitfalls and failures that may come with it too and lessons from it all!

Learning Through Adversity or Difference?

As I grew, I found it a great challenge to explain my ‘difference’. Cerebral Palsy is difficult to hide even if you want to, and pull attention away from it.

Turning back, I can now sense why it was of interest, but at the time, I simply did things to get around the hurdles I had in front of me, sometimes without thinking. Sometimes it required great practice, sometimes it brought great frustration. ALL of it, a long, unique path that everyone carves out for themselves.

I’m thankful now for the understanding that those very actions I took were “out of the box” thinking & creative ways to channel my efforts to get things done.

Things that I can now articulate and understand the different approach taken…

Doing things differently, I’ve found, fascinates.

I wish (and I know it doesn’t help to turn back often) that I had the knowledge that in time you can develop a mindset to be in a happy place with it all (it continues to evolve my mental health too as time goes by) knowing that the challenges I faced, were admittedly quite different (before the dawn of social media that has facilitated meeting an amazing number of people from the disabled community) would actually help set up my growth mindset into adulthood.

Like I have, some people with a disability may attest, that while the act of doing something which is perfectly normal for them, because that’s how they do it, has sometimes astounded, amazed and inspired those without a disability. It gives a deeper understanding of the hurdles and therefore the resilience that I’ve used through life, which in turn, has helped create the life I now experience.

There is a sense that the use of an “inspiration” term is sometimes a challenging one when it comes to disability. I like the discussion because it brings out different and interesting responses. To me, to be inspired by success with a disability, isn’t necessarily because of an “in spite of” narrative like a disability is a large block, but rather an appreciation of the work ethic, the creativity around the discipline that a disabled athlete has crafted through practice, repetition and will. Those attributes are celebrated globally in any format in terms of success, but as a disabled athlete, I’m personally appreciative of the acknowledgement that I’ve tried a slightly different route to get to that destination.

What If…My Fitness Journey with a Disability…

What if…

…I Break Something?

…I hurt myself?

…I make things worse?

…I stay as I am?

…I realise there is a way?

…I try something different?

…It made a difference?

….We use something that is unique to each of us?

….We experiment to see what’s possible?

….We do something that’s never been done?

….We Break Something…?

Break Barriers!

#Disability #Bodybuilding #Stonger #Together

I’ve been through all of the above “What If…” moments!

I’ve learnt from so many, I’ve tried because of so many…

Thank You!

“Wait until you feel that roar of support….”

Togetherness. That was my overriding memory of those first few moments on stage four years ago.

With encouragement from my new friends by my side, the crowd support, whether they were there for you or someone else, from the organisers, the crew – it all felt right.

For a significant period of my life I didn’t feel like that, feeling very isolated at school with some barriers that you just couldn’t jump through and within an education ‘setting’ you couldn’t get out of until 16.

The fitness community, the bodybuilding community, the PCA community, the GymShark community, the gym community – it’s of my own choosing now to be there – and people are there of their own accord too.

I have been privileged to have met so many amazing people along the way.

I’m also part of an amazing disability community and I have had the privilege to share many stories with my friends on that journey to the stage, the challenges, the depths of the very unique hurdles but one of togetherness.

The bodybuilding arena can be and is a very competitive scene, but also one with is bouncing with drive, determination, challenge & above all, what I have found…respect.

It’s a place that I like to be, one that helps on the cold mornings, the tired days and is something that very much adds the fuel to your target.

During this mental health awareness week, it’s made me reflect not on my achievements but to thank those on the way, to every single one of you that have been part of one of those communities that have given joy much joy and support…

…it means the world.

The Attachments Episode…

I just LOVE doing these #podcasts, thank you to everyone supporting it, appreciating the feedback, suggestions & subscribing!

The Disability Bodybuilding Show Available on #Apple, Spotify & through!

It’s only the beginning!

I’ve spent a great amount of time trialling and incorporating the different attachments available at the gym to help with training with a disability. Today I’ll share those discoveries and how that has impacted my programme & approach to my workouts with cerebral palsy…

The Disability Bodybuilding Show

#Podcast #Disabledathlete #Workout #Disability #GymLife #fitnessmotivation #Marvel #Thor #Adaptive #Fitness #Fitfam #Gymshark #MyProtein #Health #Bodybuilding #PCA #gains #Fit #Journey #Goals

Attachments!! Assemble!!

Ok, so my wrist support isn’t exactly Thor’s hammer but my word, it certainly opens up a new world of variety for me in the gym, a place that The God of Thunder himself, Chris Hemsworth, would no doubt utilised to build his awesome physique in the Marvel series.

I love to share training attachment discoveries, for a number of reasons.

For me, the gym is one giant toolbox to help improve your fitness and can be used in so many different ways that help many with their goal. Think about it, the number of people that will head to the gym this week will each have a goal, some at the start, middle or toward the end of their targets. But each will be different.

Now, take a huge variety of equipment, multiply that by the ways in which they can be used and the mix of sets and volume that can be done, that’s a significant number of combinations right there.

This is why I love the attachments, they can be used to create and harness new mix ups of sets to accommodate my different style owing to my disability. I’ve talked before about the creative process that this produces in the gym, and those combinations increase week on week.

Be it a wrist support, ankle strap, V handle, ropes, lat bars, there are so many combos to suit the type of training you need.

Another challenge to tackle is how those different combos take time to bring together, as I’ve suggested before to seek advice from a qualified PT, this will help define what can work for you.

I’ve enjoyed taking individual trips to the gym to experiment these days, starting with just the attachment, looking to isolate the muscle area I want and finding a unique way forward, I just love discovering new paths and continue to find myself day by day…

It’s a world of discovery…

From rejecting help to embracing the unique path…

On this week’s podcast episode…

Today, I start to unpick how I began to accept and celebrate my disability and gratefully turn challenges into opportunities to find creativity…from driving to fitness!

Subscribe below on Apple or Spotify!

The Disability Bodybuilding Show