Archive for the 'Inspirational' Category
Stuart Jamieson was born with spina bifida, scoliosis, kyphosis, and diastematomyelia. He was not expected to live past his second birthday. Doctors did not even expect him to sit up as a child. The thought of him living an active life as an adult was not even considered.
Over twenty years later, Stuart is now a British Classic Powerlifting champion. Highlights from one of his recent meets can be seen below. You will see him pull 225kg while weighing in at just 59kg. If you aren’t quick with math, that’s a few pounds short of 500 at a bodyweight of approximately 130 pounds.
Stuart provides a powerful example of an individual who was determined to write his own destiny. His early doctors were entitled to an opinion, but Stuart and his family did everything they could to prevent that opinion from becoming a reality. To suggest that they defied the odds is an understatement.
Fortunately, you do not need to have endured Stuart’s early struggles to learn from his example. At some point, I’m sure we have all been told by an authority figure what we could or could not achieve. Whether it was a doctor, teacher, coach, or family member, there is a good chance that someone could not resist sharing their opinion of your future.
Ultimately, it is up to you whether you’ll accept such opinions as fact or instead find out for yourself. Stuart and his family obviously chose the latter.
In fact, Stuart shared the following wisdom in a recent interview:
Despite my conditions, I have had an incredible life. I have experienced the best and worst that life has to offer but I have not allowed my disability to define my quality of life… Life was never destined to be a smooth ride for me, but it has given me the strength of character to live a fulfilling life and chase my passions.
I want to show that regardless of what we may be labeled as – disability, age, race, gender – we all control what life we lead and what we can achieve.
In summary, if there is something you wish to achieve, you owe it to yourself to take a chance and find out. Ironically, hard work and self-belief are both invaluable, yet also freely available. Rather than wasting time worrying about the opinion of others, invest that time in yourself. When you truly do work hard and refuse to give up, you will not only surprise those around you, but also yourself.
Potential will always be an opinion. No one knows exactly what can be achieved until it has happened. Find out for yourself. Regardless of the outcome, the journey will be much more rewarding.
The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them. – Bernard M. Baruch2 comments
Throughout this blog’s history, I have featured athletes from all corners of the world who have thrived despite living and training amidst poverty. I have highlighted athletes from countries such as Myanmar, Russia, Ghana, Brazil, Uganda, Cuba, and Thailand. Many of these athletes know nothing of each other, yet share in their quest to fight for survival and hopes of a better life.
And while not every fighter is fortunate enough to escape the harsh reality that surrounds them, there have been countless world champions who have risen from poverty. They have thrived despite growing up poor and training with little or nothing. These fighters never had access to fancy equipment, seminars, quality foods, or any of the other so-called necessities that are hyped by the industry today. All that they’ve ever had was the desire to someday escape the world around them.
Such harsh environments are not always located on the other side of the world however. It is one thing to read about fighters in distant lands such as Myanmar, but often times there are others struggling in the city or town next door to you. You do not need to live in a poor country to live in a harsh environment. One such example can be seen in the video below. Antoine Douglas has been fighting since day one despite being born in our nation’s capital of Washington D.C.
As for his harsh upbringing, Antoine wouldn’t have it any other way. When asked about his childhood, here is how he responded in a recent interview:
I don’t regret any of it because it made me into the person that I am today. Actually, I appreciate it more than anything. If it wasn’t for all of that,I don’t know where my mind would be at right now. Because of that I am so grateful to be where I am now… That’s why I am pushing so hard to be as successful as I can.
Antoine is not the only Douglas fighting hard for a better life though. His sister Tyrieshia is also an unbeaten professional boxer. She recently improved to 5-0 while Antoine will put his unbeaten record (14-0) on the line on July 25th. His upcoming bout will be broadcast on Showtime’s ShoBox series.
In summary, where you start does not matter as much as where you finish. So the next time you panic because you’ve run out of protein powder, remember that it could be worse. There are other athletes in the world who don’t even know when their next meal will come. They aren’t just hungry for food however. They are also hungry to compete and improve. Once you understand and appreciate these athletes, you tend to have a better understanding of what really matters when considering athletic development. At some point, it always comes back to how bad you want it and how hard you are willing to work.
We acquire the strength we have overcome. – Ralph Waldo Emerson3 comments
It’s rare that a week passes without someone asking how to recover from an injury or setback. Just last night I heard from a young man who was upset about missing 4 days of training after a recent bout of nausea. A day before I heard from a woman who sprained her ankle during an obstacle course race. I could go on and on with similar examples. In each case, an individual suffers a short term setback and panics under the assumption that their hard work will wasted. They fear that a few days of inactivity will cause them to lose all previous gains.
The reality however is that a few days is a blink of an eye when you consider the big picture. And please note, I say this not to minimize any particular injury or illness. I too dislike missing even a single day of training. I enjoy the work so a day without exercise is a day I prefer to avoid. With that said, we often need to be reminded that missing a few days is insignificant. It takes much more than a few days of inactivity to lose what took years to develop. In addition, whatever is lost during a period of downtime typically comes back much faster than it did to initially acquire.
Furthermore, many injuries and setbacks are not nearly as bad as we believe. The old saying that it could always be worse is usually true. I was recently reminded of this simple concept by a reader of the site. Below you can see an image of cancer survivor Joshua DiMezza.
It was a few years ago when Joshua emailed me while undergoing chemotherapy. When all was said and done, he endured 25 rounds of chemo. Yet despite what was obviously an extended period of suffering, Joshua refused to stay down. Instead, he fought back by battling one day at a time. The results of his hard work can be seen below.
In summary, while no one wishes to be plagued by injury or illness, there is usually a chance to fight back. What Joshua has accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Hopefully the rest of us will never experience the struggles that he endured, but we can at least use his example to put our own bumps and bruises into perspective. Joshua hit rock bottom yet fought back to display a rare mix of strength, power, endurance, and athleticism.
It is actually somewhat ironic that Joshua first wrote to me after being inspired by my videos, yet I am now the one who is inspired by his example. His story will certainly be on my mind if and when I suffer my own injuries or setbacks.
Thanks to Joshua for the inspiration and best of luck with your future endeavors.
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. – Horace11 comments
Below is a video that has been making its way around Facebook (see here). Unfortunately, the Youtube version of the video is not available for embedding so I created an external link through the image below. If you have not seen the video on Facebook, it is well worth a look.
What you will see within is a 73 year old man (Anatoliy Nikitovich) whose abilities would humble most healthy adults a fraction of his age. I’m sure I speak for many in saying that I hope to perform at his level if and when I reach that age. If it ever happens, I promise that I will choose different training attire however.
As for the video itself, I enjoyed it for several reasons. First, it is obvious that this man is extremely capable despite training at a gym that consists of nothing but outdoor bars. If there was ever a case for the potential of a low-tech environment, this man should certainly be included in the discussion.
It is also nice to be reminded that bodyweight exercise is available to all. Anyone can head to a local playground and train from the bars. Calisthenics were never intended to be expensive to learn or perform. Unfortunately, it seems like every week there is a new bodyweight exercise certification being pimped to the masses. I have seen several bodyweight seminars and certifications marketed for hundreds of dollars (even more in some cases).
And while I have nothing against earning a living and providing quality instruction, charging such outrageous prices defeats the purpose of making calisthenics available to all. It shouldn’t be necessary that you refinance your home to learn how to effectively perform bodyweight exercise.
It is safe to assume that Anatoliy did not develop his strength at a weekend seminar. Instead, he is obviously the product years of intense dedication and effort. Fortunately, such attributes are free to all. You can’t purchase effort and dedication at the supplement store. Even the savviest marketers haven’t figured out how to sell these intangibles.
You will be hard pressed to find many senior citizens who are as capable as Anatoliy Nikitovich. Yet, rather than just being inspired by his example, we can learn from him as well. For instance, don’t confuse calisthenics with rocket science. Working with your body isn’t nearly as complicated as many would like you to believe. With a little creativity, you can exercise anywhere. Anatoliy trains at an outdoor gym that is available to all. It consists of nothing but bars. Anyone can go there to train. There are no secrets to his success. He shows up regularly and has done so for years. It is amazing what can be accomplished with a consistent and diligent effort. The sooner more people realize this simple fact, the better off we’ll all be.
In summary, don’t be blinded by the industry’s hype. Keep it simple, work hard, and remain consistent. Those are the only training secrets that you will ever need.
We’ve put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it. – Frank A. Clark7 comments
I first wrote about Tom Hafey in 2011. Sadly, the former Australian rules football player and coach recently passed away at age 82. As for his relevance to this site, I didn’t write about Tom Hafey because of his coaching or athletic career. I admittedly know little if anything about Australian rules football. What fascinated me about Tom Hafey wasn’t his sporting experience, but rather the enthusiasm that he had towards life. Even as he approached 80 years old, Tom Hafey continued to exercise with a daily routine that would put most youngsters to shame.
In the video below (filmed last year), Hafey shares some of his wisdom regarding health and longevity.
Hafey’s simplistic routine certainly allowed him to age gracefully. As he neared his 80th birthday, he was even asked to portray a healthy 70 year old in the commercial below. It wasn’t difficult for him to play the part of a younger man.
Tom Hafey is the type of person whose story is worthy of remembering and sharing. It is one thing to read about aging, yet entirely different to hear from someone who walked the walk with obvious success. Hafey lived life to the fullest and was able to remain healthy and active with a regular dose of calisthenics. The work that he performed is readily available to all. He did not rely on a commercial gym or any specific equipment. Instead, Tom Hafey subscribed to the idea that the world is our gym. The secret to his success was rooted in hard work and consistency. He didn’t do anything flashy, but he did keep doing. And while some may argue that is routine was overly simplistic or repetitive, it’s impossible to argue with the results.
RIP to a true inspiration.
Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children. – George Bernard Shaw12 comments