I have touched on this previously but wanted to go a bit deeper as it is something that has been increasingly frustrating me recently. Be prepared for some word vomit coming up! With all this spare time on our hands during lockdown, I have been spending more time on social media (as I am sure many people have). I follow all these incredible individuals enjoying fitness and being part of the fitness community online. People on Instagram have formed friendships through their common interests and love of fitness online. I don’t see how I fit in and it is not just online but in real life too. I really enjoy fitness but don’t feel that I can use this as a way to make friendships. I feel I have to do all exercise on my own. This is because if I do it with fully able-bodied people, I end up feeling like useless and down as I am not as capable as them as my Cerebral Palsy (CP) prevents me from keeping up with them.
Running: Nope, I can’t join the local running club: I cannot run as fast as my friends who are runners (or even those who aren’t). I even have to say no to them suggesting I do a slow 5k – I just know that I won’t keep up and will end up feeling rubbish. Yes, this may be down to my stubbornness and competitive nature that I want to keep-up, but I always find it disheartening to know that I am holding others up. Dad recently made me join him on his run and I felt under intense pressure to keep running faster than him as I would feel such a failure if I had to go at his pace. There is nothing wrong with my Dad’s pace of running but it is because I know that my brother and friends would all easily run faster than Dad so I felt I have to follow suit to prove it to myself.
Strength and Weights: nope, I don’t fit in here either. I struggle to stay upright and manage a squat without wobbling all over the place and falling over. When doing squats, we are always told to keep our knees over our toes, well mine are nowhere near my toes for two reasons, firstly my knees barely bend as my leg muscles are tight so I don’t go very low into a squat at all. Secondly, the pigeon comes out in me and my knees just go inwards so are nowhere near my toes anyway. If my basic squat with no weights is such a shambles, what on Earth am I supposed to do when adding weights to the scenario – it is just a nightmare. There is no hope of hitting a Personal Best here for me. I distinctly remember being in a Body Pump gym class, using barbells, where the instructor suggested I abandon the barbell to work on ensuring my form was correct when squatting. I know this is sound advice but didn’t do much for my self-confidence as the weights were the whole point of the class.
Circuits: It just takes me eons to get through one burpee – you guys go ahead without me and I will just crack on by myself alright. I don’t need your smug faces while you rest and are waiting for me to struggle through the set taking my own sweet time.
Tennis: One. Word.Mortifying. Let me explain. When I was younger, my family would coerce me to play in doubles matches. I felt under so much pressure as I know that every shot my partner lets me attempt will end in disaster. On top of this, my poor partner is legging it all over the court to make up for the fact that I cannot react and move quickly enough to play the shots. I dread the point at which it is my time to serve. These games always end with my team losing due to the shocking number of double faults I manage to perfect and all eyes are on me whilst I make a fool of myself. I just want the whole thing to be over. I just feel so bad for my partner as being stuck with me is a guaranteed loss.
Skiing: I have too many horrific memories of ski school aged 14 when I was in a class with bloody annoying 5 year olds. I cannot put myself through the pressure of skiing with friends who I know are good skiers. My self-belief will just nose dive like me bum skiing down that mountain. My only option is to ski with friends who have not skied previously, however, this terrifies me; when skiing with my family they know how hard to push me and my limitations but I am scared that skiing with first time skiing friends I would lose control, have a bad fall and give my friends a difficult situation to cope with.
I think I would be happier if those around me were of a similar ability to myself so I didn’t always feel like the worst one, the issue is that this is difficult to come by. This blog has been amazing to allow me to connect with others with CP. However, due to the massive range of ways that CP affects ability, I struggle to find my tribe in the CP fitness world. I struggle to find others like me out there to aspire to. It is either Paralympians (as much as I wish this was the case I am definitely not at their level yet), or more often the individuals and blogs I have found are either written & run by the parents of severely affected children or adults with more severe CP. Trying to research fitness for those with my level of CP is like searching for a needle in a haystack. All the articles I read are research papers aimed at children with severe CP which is not applicable to me. Is this a problem anyone else has encountered?
As I don’t feel that I am left with many options, I guess I will just have to #BeLikeYazzi. It is our differences that make us unique. The most important thing is that despite all these mental barriers around sport and fitness, I have found that you can still get stuck in and move in a way that you enjoy even if it is not the same way as everyone else may be doing it. But that said if anyone reading this is facing similar issues around ability and fitness (or knows someone who is), let me know in the comments and we can come together in our diversity.