Emily’s Story - The Red Warrior Challenge, Coping with Lockdown and beyond
Updated: Apr 14
Being born with a disability like cerebral palsy doesn’t come without its challenges but do I let them define who I am? From being born 3 months premature, weighing barely 2 pounds, years of hospital, doctors and physiotherapy appointments to the daily challenges I face today. My cerebral palsy mainly effects my legs and learning to walk unaided was one of the biggest, the struggles of having to wear plaster casts, use a walking frame, wear splits and orthopaedic shoes as I grew are still real in my mind today but did I get there? Yes I did. A lot of people say to me school must have been tough on you but in all honestly school was nothing compared to what I’ve faced in my life as I've got older, mentally more than physically. In my mid/late teens, slowly realising that life for me wasn’t going to be easy and as I faced the reality of leaving school and going out into the world on my own I started to suffer with depression and anxiety. I cut myself off from all my friends and spent a lot of time at home hiding away, to me that was easier than having to explain how I felt to people.
Over the next few years my depression was up and down but managed well with medication.
I manage to live pretty much a normal life, I have a job and more recently I’ve moved into my own home, I can do everyday tasks easily.
About 18 months ago I really started to struggle, my depression and anxiety was at its worst, to the point where I wouldn’t go out the house by myself at all. I would make excuses to avoid going out or seeing anyone. I would have panic attacks, thinking I was going to trip over or fall. Even the thought of walking out of my front door to my car, something I’ve done hundreds of times before would upset me. Like most people I ignored it at first just hoping it would just go away. Eventually it started to effect my work, I was late most days, I wasn’t concentrating when I was there, I was constantly worrying and sometimes I would just drive around avoiding going home.
There is only so much a person can take, although some of my close family did sort of know what I was going through I avoided talking to them and never really spoke to anyone about it as somehow I felt like I was burdening them and trying to keep everything to yourself only makes everything worse.
I was completely at my lowest point, I was lonely and felt like I had no where to turn. I started to think about taking my own life and even self harmed, not even that made me realise I needed help. That moment came one Monday morning when I broke down and had a panic/anxiety attack at work. This time I couldn’t hide it from anyone not my boss, colleagues, friends or family. Within the next week or so I went to the doctor, who changed my medication and I started to see my counsellor regularly again. Slowly things started to get better, my confidence started to grow I started going out by myself and seeing my friends again. Things were getting better but I still wasn’t happy within myself, I still felt as though something was missing. That was when I friend suggested to me why don’t you start going to the gym?
At first the thought of me going to the gym sounded totally ridiculous, what was I going to be able to do at the gym? But once the seed was planted it was something I couldn't stop thinking about, what if I could?
So eventually I plucked up the courage and went along to a consultation and we talked a lot about me and what I wanted to get from this and what I wanted to achieve. One of the main words used in that conversation was confidence. I came away from that thinking, just give it a try what’s the worst that could happen?
My first session went exactly how I excepted it to, I was really nervous and thought I wasn’t really achieving much but I was there. When I left that session I realised that my biggest challenge was just walking through that door and I’d done that so what was stopping me from going again, nothing.
Over the next few weeks and months I kept going regularly and with right support and guidance from Richard my confidence grew daily. Slowly I started to see some progress physically and mentally and I started to realise that I could do anything at the gym it just takes a bit more time patience. 10 months later and can’t imagine not going to the gym now, I’ve achieved some amazing things from being totally freaked at the thought of pull ups to actually doing them and even deadlifting! It’s not always easy and there are a lot of things we do have to work around but we always find a way. Everyone’s gym journey is different, we are not all the same.
One thing I do know for certain though, the gym is and will be part of my life now and finding a PT and friend like Richard who has shown so much belief in me even when I didn’t see it in myself to help me on my journey means so much me. I’m actually excited about what the future holds for me. Who knows what I could achieve in the next 10 months?
I’ve faced a lots of challenges in my life but on October 6th this year I will be facing my biggest, toughest one yet.
I will be taking part in The Red Warrior Challenge 5k obstacle course race in Pembrey Country Park.
In signing up to this this we decided it would be a good idea to raise money for charity at the same time. In the last few weeks I’ve been working really hard trying to raise money for a charity called Bobath Wales, a charity based in Cardiff that specialise in helping children born with cerebral palsy using different therapy techniques and is also somewhere I went when I was when I was a child.
Now, I know this isn’t going to be easy but the support and positive reaction I’ve had from family and friends has been amazing, I’ve even had encouraging messages from people I don’t even know which I am truly grateful for. This is another thing in my life I am determined face head on and conquer. If I can do it, surely you can too? And when I get to the finish line, with a smile on my face hopefully, I can know that I've help make even just one child’s life a little bit easier then it will all have been worth it.
Only three weeks to go until the event now! To say I I have mixed emotions would be an understatement, I’m nervous, excited, scared everything possible but mainly determined.
I know it’s totally normal to feel all these kind of emotions when facing such a big challenge but also with the added pressure of taking part in this event with my disability makes me a little bit more wary.
Can I do it? What if I fail? These are just some of the questions I asked myself over and over again while thinking about taking part in the event, I thought I’d never be able to do it but the more I thought about it and the more I talked about it to my friends and family they convinced me. Why can’t you do it? What’s stopping you? The answer to that was my mind and nothing to do with my physical capabilities, after all I’ve been deadlifting at the gym for months now and to me that was impossible not so long ago. So with the team I’ve put together and the support and belief people have shown in me over the last few months it has made me even more determined to do this. Most of of all I have to remember to enjoy it, it’s all well and good wanting to do well and raising money for a charity that is really important to me but this event is meant to be fun and is there for people to enjoy. So I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself, worrying about what ifs or how long it’s going to take me and just do it with a smile on my face and have fun. Who knows I could take part in more events in the future?
Race Day - Sunday 6th October
Firstly, Sorry its been so long since my last post, life has been so busy with work and preparing for my big challenge. What a day Sunday was, I don’t even know where to start. Sunday morning I was surprised at how calm I was about it all but knew I’d worked hard and I was ready for it. Arriving at Prembrey Country Park and seeing everyone there and my family and friends start to arrive I did start to get nervous. As you know I have been fundraising for a CP charity, Bobath Wales and there was a representative there to support me which meant a lot. I wasn’t leaving that place without crossing that finishing line no matter how long it took me. I’m not going to lie, it was one of the toughest things I have ever faced in my life, physically. The first half was okay and I even surprised myself at how head on I was facing the obstacles. I was positive and had my team with me for support when I needed them. It was around half way through at the beach/sand dunes I really started to struggle. At that point I really thought I can’t do this, I have to stop. I sat down for a few minutes, gathered myself took a few deep breaths and remembered why I was doing this, I picked myself up and I kept going. My team were amazing in helping me through, making me laugh and keeping my spirits up all the way through. I could not have done it without them. Also the support I had from every marshall along the way, encouraging me and telling me how well I was doing helped me so much. Even though it was tough it was fun too and the water slide towards the end of the course was the best bit of it all, although I was freezing after! It’s been four days since the event and it’s slowly starting to sink in, what I actually achieved and no one can ever take that away from me. I absolutely loved it. I’m still struggling to express how emotional and overwhelmed I was when I crossed that finish line. I literally had nothing left at the end. I will be forever grateful to everyone who was there cheering me on until the very end. To receive my medal from Richard at the end meant so much to me, thank you and thank you for always believing in me and I hope I did you proud. It was an amazing event and everyone involved, from putting the event on to taking part should be so proud of themselves! To everyone who supported me, donated and are still donating to Bobath Wales thanks to you also, you've no idea how much it means to me.
I’m still a bit bruised and sore but I’ve recovered well and looking forward to getting back into training again in the next week or so. Who knows what challenge I’m going to take on next? There most definitely will be more to come! I will keep you updated on how much money I’ve raised in the next couple of weeks. 😊
So it’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on what I’ve been up to since completing my challenge. Even though I loved it, I’ve struggled a bit emotionally since. In the months leading up to the event everything I did inside and outside of gym and training was based around the event, making sure I was prepared mentally and physically for what I was going to face, it was all I could think about and I was so determined. Completing the event felt absolutely amazing and the support and congratulations was unbelievable and I was and still am truly grateful, but it quite literally took everything out of me both mentally and physically.
It’s been easier to recover physically than mentally, since that day I’ve obviously still been training as hard as before but as is normal when you achieve something so amazing after the initial high and excitement of it all, I started to feel a bit low and struggled to find motivation. I couldn’t help thinking, what now? What do I do next? A couple of people even said me “Ohhh you’re still going to the gym even though you done the event?” I even started to think maybe I should stop going?
I’m not one for giving up easily, I kept going and after talking through I started to see and think more positive again and started to think and plan some new goals for next year, which is exciting and something I’m looking forward to but for now I’m just learning and trying to enjoy and appreciate everything I’ve achieved this year because even if I don’t believe it myself sometimes it has been amazing!
I’m still setting and achieving my mini goals at the gym but I’m not planning anything too major before Christmas! I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family and preparing myself for what challenges are ahead me next year, inside and outside of the gym.
As promised, it’s taken quite a while to get in all together but I had a letter from the charity I was raising money for, Bobath Wales confirming that in doing my challenge I raised an amazing £1,120!
Receiving that letter made me feel so proud. Knowing that I’ve helped children who are going through the same struggles as I did growing up made it all totally worth it! I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Again it’s been a while apologises for that but everyday life is keeping me so busy at moment.
Just a quick update to let you all know what I’ve been up to over the last few months.
My training is still going really well and I’m still really enjoying it. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time working on my deadlifts, as I was working towards achieving another goal.
So in preparation for this goal, I was working on my deadlifts almost every session. Deadlifts are probably my favourite part of training but doing them every session was tough and it didn’t come without it’s difficulties, I tend to struggle with with pain in my lower back due to the physical difficulties that I face and after a while I did start to feel some soreness in my back.
This is where listening to yourself and what your body is telling you is so important. I knew that if I didn’t then there was no way I was going to achieve this goal that we had set. So for a few sessions we stepped back and just slowly worked on my recovery making sure I did plenty of stretches in and outside of the gym, I do a lot of work at home too so that’s helps a lot. We only did some light work at the gym and I really made sure that I ate right and drank plenty of water and got enough rest. I was soon back on track.
So, my goal? What was it?
It was to go to a new gym somewhere I’d never been before, a totally different environment to what what I’m used to and complete a deadlift session with a few other people, some of which I’d met and know through training and some I didn’t know. I was also going to attempt to free bar deadlift 60kgs for the first time.
On the morning of the session did all the usual\right things, stretching, ate breakfast and drank plenty of water.
I even did my morning shift at work!
Was I nervous? Of course I was but I’d worked so hard and this was something I really wanted. I did my my warm up as I normally would in any other session. Slowly built it up, warm up set and slowly built up the weight rep by rep, making sure I had as much rest I felt I needed in between each set.
During the whole of of the session the only way I can describe how I felt was like I was having an out of body experience, that might sound ridiculous to some but whole thing of been in a place I said I would never ever go, with some people didn’t even know doing something I’d never thought I would truly in heart be able achieve just felt so surreal like I was watching myself from afar.
Then it was time to attempt my goal, the whole reason I was there. Did have doubts? Yes. Was I going to let that stop me from trying? No.
I went through my usual routine the same As i would on any other day in any other session.
Deep breath, feet set at the bar, a few words of encouragement, hands in position on the bar. I wasn’t quite comfortable first time so I stepped back and readjusted myself and started my setup up again, another deep breath and it went up. I did it! I free bar deadlifted 60kgs! 🏋🏻♀️
I’m my own biggest critic and as you’ll see from the video I know it’s far from perfect but I’m determined to work on it until i get it right but I’d achieved another major goal and the support and encouragement I got from everyone at that amazing session really helped and made me even more determined. It was also nice to see other people achieve some awesome goals and encourage them.
Obviously I was so pleased to achieve something so amazing but I was so drained after the session it probably didn’t come across like I was. Thinking back and watching the videos I realised I kind of let my emotions take over and I felt like I wasn’t fully focused and forgot about the little things which I was slightly disappointed about but perfection takes hard work and that doesn’t happen over night.
I also struggled to motivate myself for a week or so after. I’m the kind of person that works so much better when I have a big goal in mind and something to aim for. After I achieve that I always think what now now? Where do from here?
Even though I know that deadlift still needs hard work I like to set myself big goals, they help me focus on the mini goals that in the long term help me get to that point.
So at the moment I’m working hard on perfecting the little things to get me to my next major goal, which I already have planned and with right support I’m determined to get there.
I’ll keep you updated with how I get on! 😊👍🏻
Coping with lockdown
It hasn’t been as long as it usually is but I have a bit more time on my hands at the moment. So it’s been a strange few weeks for us all.
In these unprecedented times we are all facing, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about coping with and managing my mental wellbeing. Hopefully this post will give you a small insight into how I’ve been dealing with lockdown. Hopefully it might help anyone out there who is or has been struggling.
Somedays I think the last 6 weeks have last forever and and sometimes I have no idea where they have gone. The lockdown has meant that like a lot people I haven’t been at work for a while, or been able train how I would like. Now of course I have been worried about all the uncertainties that are out there right now and concerned about my family and friends. I was also scared that that all those concerns where going to send me back to a dark place.
From day one I’ve been determined to make sure that hasn’t happened.
I’m someone who focuses and functions so much better when I have a structure and routine to my day. So even though I’ve been at home everyday I’m still setting my alarm at night, making sure I get up at a decent time although admittedly I’m not getting up at 6:30 every morning. 😂
I’ve been making sure I eat breakfast everyday. Breakfast isn’t something I’ve eaten a lot since my school days but over the last few months I’ve really tried to make more of of an effort to include it in my routine. It has honesty helped me a lot, it has improved my mood, which is exactly what I need right now and I feel like I have more energy and it has helped me with one of the most important things in my life, my training. 🏋🏻♂️
One other important thing that I find helps not only in our current situation but also helped me recover from those dark days in general is making sure I get dressed everyday. Sitting around in your pyjamas all day everyday isn’t going to do anything to improve how you feel.
Making sure I eat regular and decent meals has been important too as I really didn’t want to to start boredom eating. I’m not someone eats terribly bad anyway but being at home more has given more time to really think about what I’m eating and experiment with different things and try/eat things I wouldn’t normally. I’ve saved a bit of money too by not going out and buying my lunch like I would if I was at work. I think I’ll be making more of my lunch at home and taking it with me when I do go back to work. That’s one positive thing to come out of this already..😀
I’ve even been keeping a diary and I’m hoping to write a post about that soon. So look out for that.
As for my training, I’ve haven’t been doing as much as I would like for obvious reasons and I’m doing a lot of things from home, such as various mobility strengthening excises and stretching and recovery work. It’s not easy to on my own but I manage.
I’ve also been struggling with my back for a couple of weeks, mainly due to the fact that, although I’m trying my best its inevitable that I’m not as active as I’m used to being and believe it not my body has struggled with that, I was expecting that though but I’m doing all the right things and I’m getting there. With the weather been so nice lately I’ve been walking a lot more which is helping me all round.
So all in all lockdown so far hasn’t been too bad, I’ve had my down days but when they happen I try to keep myself busy by sorting through things at home. I’ve read more books and watched more tv/films in the last 6 weeks than I have in a long time. 😆
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future too and what I want in life and I’ve realised that I want to make changes but those changes aren’t going to happen unless I do something about them. So I’m putting in a lot of work and doing my research on that at the moment and I’m excited about that.
Life is changing a lot for us all at the moment and we all have worries and concerns about the new way of life that is facing us but you still have to look ahead, this isn’t going to be forever.
What’s stopping you from coming out on other side of all this having achieved something worthwhile?
Trying to adjust to the new normal
So lockdown has been lifted for a good few weeks now but life as we know it is not the same as we have all had to adjust to the “new normal” as it’s called.
In all honesty lockdown wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going be and I coped really well, which surprised me, but sticking to my routines and activities I talked about in my previous blog post really helped.
So, I’ve slowly been adjusting to life after lockdown, going back to work, out and about again, picking up my training. It’s been tougher than I thought if I’m honest, with so many rules and restrictions to follow now, sometimes going out and being around so many people can make me feel a bit anxious and nervous and working all day having to wear a mask and gloves isn’t easy but it has to be done. Physically adjusting to life again isn’t easy and I've felt so tired some days, but it got easier day by day. Still not being able to see certain family members and friends is also tough but I know it’s for their own safety and well being.
It’s not all bad though, I’ve been back in the gym for a few weeks now and it's going really well, I’m working on a few new things which I’m excited about. 👍🏻
I’m working as hard as ever and all the home stuff I do really helps my progress, don’t always see it but when I sit and think about it I have achieved a lot in the last few weeks, including a new deadlift PB! 🏋🏻♀️ Look out for the video soon!! 😀
So all in all things aren’t too bad at the moment, there are a few changes I want to make in the not too distant future and I’m trying my best to make that happen. 👍🏻
6th Oct 2020
Training, lockdown and Pbs
Not being able to train as much and as I would have liked during lockdown was tough, even just finding the motivation to do some basic exercise or even get dressed some days was hard. But I knew/know that the time that I put in at home and things that I do are just as important as going to gym! And I knew if I didn’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made not only physically, but mentally as well, I had to push myself even when I didn’t want to!
A few weeks into lockdown I started to suffer with my back issues, quite badly. It lasted around 6/7 weeks so along with the home stuff I shifted my focus onto treating and recovery. This included doing certain exercises and stretching specifically for the lower back. Also lots of hot water bottles, ice packs and soaks in the bath which was good for the rest of my body and muscles, keeping them loose. When recovering from injuries and issues it’s also really important to focus on full body health so things like keeping as active as possible, I was walking a lot more, eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of rest and enough sleep and taking vitamins and omega3. I also tried something new called bone broth, which is full of amino acids and various other vitamins and minerals which can only boost your health and well-being. It’s not going to be for everyone but it has really helped me feel like I have a lot more energy and feel less hungry and I’ve even lost a bit of weight. It is now part of my daily routine and I drink it daily with warm water and regularly add it as stock to my meals.
Slowly I started to feel better but 6/7 weeks is a long time to be in worse pain than I’m used to being in, especially while in the middle of a lockdown it seemed like forever. When you’ve got all day to think about things your mind can run away from you and I started to think that I was never going to get back to training properly again and worried that my back problem was going to stop me from deadlifting again it really got me down. I'm not one for giving up easily, I kept going and slowly it got better, but even though it is better now I know I still have to keep on top of the stuff I do to keep it at bay, to stop in happening again.
So going back to the gym post lockdown, I was nervous about doing deadlifts straightaway so we took things slowly by doing a lot of mobility and machine based exercises. Building things up doing squats and few other things.
Doing deadlifts again was strange, I felt like I’d forgotten how to do it, my routine before I lift, when to breathe, I’d lost all feel for it. So we started from the beginning which was a bit daunting but day by day and every session it got easier and in all started to come back. It was a slow process and after a while I felt like I wasn’t making much progress with my deadlifts and it had been so long since I’d got anywhere close to lifting my best.
A few weeks ago I attempted to lift over 60kgs for the first time! This session I was training with a friend so that made me feel a bit calmer and relaxed and it was nice to have a bit of extra support to pull me through, but it’s never easy, it took one or two tries (as you will see from the videos.) As always when facing a new weight it’s the not knowing that freaks me out the most but I’m never going to let that stop me from trying. In the first video obviously I was a bit nervous and struggling to settle myself but few deep breaths and a few calm words, I went through my routine again, hands on the bar, deep breath again and it went up! I lost control a bit on the down which disappointed me a bit, but I was determined to do it right so of course I just had to do it again!
So second time I did everything the same routine wise, another deep breath and it went up again and this time I kept control on the way down. I’d finally done it, I’d deadlifted over 60kgs!! 🏋🏻♀️
I’d waited a while since my last PB attempt, but that made me even more determined to achieve it and there was no way I wasn’t going to lift it and even though the first time didn’t go as planned did I give up on it? Of course not.
Achieving such a major goal so soon after lockdown and recovering from my back issues meant a lot and I probably showed more emotion than I usually do at the time. I’ve so far mentally and physically but couldn’t do it without the help and support I get not only when I attempt these crazy things but day in day out they’re always there sticking with me on everything so thank you! 😊
So at the moment I’m working on perfecting a few things and I’ve already got a new goal planned. 😀
A YEAR IN LOCKDOWN
So, it’s 2021 and we’ve been in and out of lockdown for over a year.
The last 7/8 months have probably been the hardest yet with a few personal things going on and lockdown happening just before Christmas.
Dark winter nights, being on furlough again and not being able to train. I have really struggled with motivation to do any home training at all this time around. I really started to notice changes in myself both physically and mentally. Changes in my weight and body shape have effected me a lot, seeing all the hard work I’ve put into training over the last 2 and half years just kind of disappear in a matter months really got to me. So much so that I starting losing my appetite and didn’t really want to eat. So I decided to change things up a bit and started looking at vegetarian recipes. It’s something that I’ve really got into and I’ve really surprised myself and enjoyed making and trying new and different things that I wouldn’t even have thought of trying.
Before researching different vegetarian options and recipes I naively thought that there wasn’t many options for vegetarians going by what choices are on restaurant menus. I definitely think that it’s something that could be looked at, in there been more variety available. Now I’m not saying I’m never going to eat meat again and I have eaten it once or twice but for now I’m just enjoying the experience in gaining different cooking skills and trying different food. 😊👍🏻
More recently I’ve been back work I bit more so that’s keeping me busy. I’m really trying to make an effort to do more home training and mobility work as I know it will help with everything coming back to together when I can get back to the gym.
A lot of people ask me about my home and mobility work so I thought I’d give you a quick insight into what I do. Firstly and most importantly I have to make sure that I’m safe and that I don’t injure myself so always make sure that I warm up and stretch fully before I start, obviously at home I have to keep it pretty basic and easy. So usually I will start by doing supported lunges or squats (sometimes both.) I always keep something to the side of me, or behind when doing squats just to give myself some extra stability. I also find resistance bands a safe and easy way to do both upper and lower body exercises as you can use them while sitting. Using dumbbells to do shoulder and upper body exercises, such as shoulder press, front and side raises which can also been done while sat. Sometimes, I also use anchored resistance bands which can be anchored into a shut door which gives me stability to do some work while while standing. Also basic non equipment things like step ups and calf raises.
After all that I have to make sure I recover well by making sure I stretch my back properly by doing certain stretches specifically for that area and foam rolling which I hate btw but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does. 🤣 I also spend a lot of time working and stretching my feet and ankles again using a kind of foam rolling technique but I prefer to use a tennis ball to do this, this keeps everything a little bit looser keeping my feet more planted to the floor when walking and in day to day life. Also giving me more stability when doing what I do best, deadlifting and squatting!! 😀🏋🏻♂️
There are nice recovery things too like reading a book while having a warm bubble bath, hot water bottles and heat packs.
Over the last few of weeks I’ve being nursing a non gym related ankle injury, we all get clumsy sometimes. 🙄 Day to day life has been a little more awkward and rehabbing another injury feels like I’m fighting a losing battle sometimes. It’s getting better day by day.
So, things are starting to look more hopeful I really do hope so. I’m looking forward to lighter summer nights, seeing more family, friends and getting out and about a bit more and of course chasing some gym goals and deadlift pbs. 😀