It’s 8:15 p.m. and I’m just finishing my second bench press warm-up set. As I get up from the bench, a few other guys in the gym are staring at me with a quizzical and doubtful look. It’s because of my left hand and arm. Anyways, then they watch me lift double what they can and squat more than they would ever think about squatting. It’s surprising to them. See, my left arm is 5 inches shorter than my right, and I have only two fingers on my left hand which causes people to look at me strange, to discredit me. Not to mention the amount of people who stare at my insulin pump, wondering if it is a beeper or merely a second MP3 player.
I was born differently than most people. But I outperform “normal” people in the gym everyday. Humblebrag. Some view my adversities as a terrible thing. Don’t feel sorry for me, though. It’s the reason I’m a successful fitness professional today.
It’s also why you should listen to me.
Throughout this semester and next, I’ll teach you seemingly hopeless gym junkie wannabes how to look and feel better. I will instruct you on how to burn stubborn belly fat, build lean muscle and look better naked. Seriously, who doesn’t want to look better naked? Yes, it will be slightly more difficult than your usual doughnut eating, once-a-week workout program, but you will see results. After all, if a diabetic, disabled college student can do it, why can’t you? Don’t answer that yet. Well, for one, you don’t know where the gym is.
But I do. And here’s my story.
I was born in an ordinary hospital, but I was transported to a specialist hospital that takes care of amputees and kids with disabilities. My left arm was much shorter then my right, and my fingers were grouped together in a way where the doctors decided to remove all but two of them from my hand. According to the docs, I would have little-to-no use of my left arm and hand. Wrong.
Growing up with a disability was extremely difficult, though. While everyone else was worrying about what they were going to do during recess, I worried about who was going to make fun of me that day, about what group activity I physically couldn’t do. The difficulties were more emotional than they ever were physical. So I learned to adapt physically and play with other kids, realizing I wasn’t completely doomed. I had desires like every other kid. I wanted to be a drummer, so bad, but there was no way I could hold the stick in my left hand.
But I was determined to find a way.
I tried holding a drumstick with the two fingers I had, a wrist band — even tape, but nothing worked. Until … I used a workout glove. Sliding the drum stick through a finger hole, I tightened the glove strap and began to play the drums.
Playing mindlessly turned into practice and eventually led me to competing state wide on my high school drumline. I had accomplished the inconceivable. My mind ran wild with possibilities. The next of which was breakdancing.
I was already a decent dancer but I wanted to breakdance, partly due to the difficulty of the challenge and partly because it’s just badass. I started taking classes and practicing everyday, which eventually led to me earning the title of best dancer in high school. I wanted to really further my skills, but I needed to build strength, so I joined a gym.
I quickly became infatuated with fitness.
I jumped around from machine to machine and then began experimenting with free weights, adapting every exercise to my physical capabilities. I went home and researched exercise science every night and it became almost an obsession. I was the go-to guy for fitness info but, at the time, I was merely a glorified gym junkie. Everything changed when I was diagnosed with diabetes at 19.
I was hospitalized for two days because of diabetes. While in the hospital, I didn’t mope, though. I realized how important fitness is for patients with diabetes, so I became a trainer to help myself stay healthy, to help other people overcome adversity in their own life. I changed my career path to exercise science. Fitness and health have engulfed my life. Diabetes was the best thing that happened to me.
You want to change how you look? You want to build confidence? You want to function better? I can show you everything you need, but ultimately — it’s not up to me. It’s up to you, and if I can do it, why can’t you?