Cerebral Palsy. Body Image and Internal Healing.

I’m starting to see a correlation between cerebral palsy and body image, this correlation stems from being in contact with numerous people who live with cerebral palsy through social media. In this particular regard, I’m speaking about having a negative self image.

You may look at the image of me below, and not think that I am “fat” all, but when I look at myself. That is what I see.

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When I look at the sides of my stomach, I think “Ugh gross” then I start thinking or obsessing over what I eat and upping the intensity of my daily workouts. Which is not a bad thing at all. It is a problem though, when you are in the middle of your workout and you can’t stop dwelling on how disgusting you feel and look.

I posted that above photo on instagram a few weeks ago, lots of people said that I looked great, or that we all had those feelings, or even “that’s just skin!” The comments were heart warming and helped me to think more positively.. For awhile, but then I would find myself in the downward spiral of self destruction and sabotage.

My workouts have consisted of lots of burpees, probably two-four hundred every single day. Along with Kettle and Bar Bell lifting. I sweat a lot, recover well but am utterly hungry the rest of the day.  Nor am I afraid of eating my carbs, protein and Beer… My one beer after work.

The engine is constantly stoked, and I’m constantly pushing my mind and body.. But there is this area of my life, that needs change. I’m tried all the thought stopping methods, all the positive affirmations etc. And still nothing helps the crap shoot stop.

After CF today, I came home, ate and then went to wash my stinky self. There I was, looking at my body with contempt. And then I thought, “this has to stop!” Truly the only thing that gets me through life is my faith. So after redirecting my thoughts back to it, I whispered to God:

“God, you don’t want me to hate my body, I know that. Help me to see myself differently, as you do.” At that moment, something clicked on inside of me. I’m not saying that you have to do, as I do, that is something that you have to decide and work through for yourself.

What I am saying though, is that these destructive thinking has to stop, or at least be put in its rightful place. A vast majority of therapists would saying that working out is killing me, and steer me away from it as they would most addictions. But I don’t think that that is the end all be all solution.

Yes, some things might need to change, or pause. But this is less a physical issue, and more a mental, emotional and spiritual issue. And until those issues heal, nothing we change the way we long for.

So! We have to understand that this is going to be a long journey, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have to accept where we are at. I know that this is something that will not want to be heard, you might spend lots of time in a wheel chair, and be on lots of meds. Okay, we can work with that, the fact is that we cannot give up.

There are plenty of exercises that can be done from a seated position, plenty of ways to even build stamina too. I should get on making videos regarding these topics. Yet the biggest component is learning to take care of ourselves from a place of love and not so much a “I have to” but an “I want to” there’s a huge difference.

Change your forward thinking: Think less on your image, and think more about prolonged health, mobility, strength and focus. So that we can be the strongest version of ourselves, not so much for ourselves but for others.

The internal healing is more tangible than we believe, more closer than we think. Much like any medicine though, it takes time for the benefits to show up, but rest assured. Through discipline and diligence change will come.

Blessings!

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

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When Your Not So Skinny…

 

The other morning, I was laying on the couch with my niece, my nephew had just gone off to school and I was probably in an out of sleep probably more than a handful of times. When I awoke, my niece was still there beside me watching videos on her Ipad. Most of the videos were toy reviews on YouTube. But one thing that stood out to me was a cartoon we were watching.

I don’t remember the name, but a particular scene a small group of kids were in a science lab, observing two girls who drink a green concoction. Girl A, after drinking it became tone and slender like, and was able to run for a long time on a treadmill. The small group of kids then had eyes bigger than their own heads as they awed over how pretty Girl A looked.

Girl B drank the same green drink and she went from a skinny girl, to a large muscle pound person. The kids were disgusted by her appearance. I couldn’t help but feel sad after watching this. I realized that in this instance, our culture still puts so much esteem on the tone person. But has much less esteem for the bigger muscle bound person. In fact, some think it is down right ugly.

But I ask, what are we teaching the future generation? Is the standard of beauty and fitness still given to the slim and slender type? Though there is nothing wrong with it. The average women who does CrossFit today, that has a lot of muscle to her and a six pack on her is seen as manly looking. And in fact they are ridiculed and shamed by those who do not approve.

I gather that one might not find it attractive on a personal level, but to shame them and say ugly things about them is filled with stupidity. For unless you spent time with them daily, and you saw how hard they worked to get to that point, then you wouldn’t be able to say much. But you damn sure would stand in awe and applaud.

As for the fat shaming that our culture puts into practice, I say this: 1) they probably already know that they are not as healthy as they could be or want to be. So rather than ripping them down all the more, how about you try and spur them on with words of hope and encouragement? I bet much more good would be done in this way. Plus, the filth we have to say about others, is more often than not aimed out ourselves.

2) When you see a larger person in the gym, trying to better themselves. Don’t shame them or speak ill of them. They got out of bed, decided to get after it and make changes to be better and live better.

The culture at large is slowly being revamped, but we have a lot of work to yet be done. We can’t change everyone’s mind. But to those that we can, it’s a job well done.

 

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Brandon’s No Excuse WorkOut

The following workout routine (or body movements) are taken liberally from various fitness channels, and are designed to strengthen and condition the entire body, with maximum efficiency. Movements can be mixed up or done in longer duration. Please understand that this is only meant to supplement and help as a guide and no way, shape or form takes the place of one on one train with a coach near you. Please understand that it is my lifelong passion to help adaptive athletes whether they a walker, crutches, are in a wheel chair or simply do have mobility in one area or another in their body. There is almost a way to be stronger and healthier, you only need to be able to set aside your excuses. You have to be willing to sacrifice what you are. For what you can be. If you any questions, please find my contact information below.

 

Pushups- kneeling or standard way. sets of 5 on up

 

Push up plank- hold for as long as possible in lock out position

 

adaptive burpee- sets of 5 on up (lie flat on ground, perform push up, slide knees under you and come to kneeling position and back down).

 

hip ups- eventually you want to do these with some weight

 

adaptive kneeling air squat- sets of 5 on up

 

inverted row or pull up, if you do not have access to a bar bell, you can do rows with dumbbell, kettle bell or even a gallon of water.

 

weighted squat with dumb bell

 

Floor press with kettle bells, dumbbells or barbell

 

adaptive burpee to standing, thus, after you come to kneeling position, you can use a walker or anything near you to stand up. Then lower self back down for next rep.

 

This is called a no excuse workout for a reason, you can do these every day to build or tone muscle and break a sweat.

 

Let me know if I can help further, as always drink plenty of water, eat lots of protein, lots of green, some fruit and stay away from processed junk.

 

Blessings,

 

-Brandon

Email: Brandon.Ryan1984@gmail.com

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Adapt And Rise

Our excuses to not take care of ourselves are no more.

The reasons we have to not better ourselves, don’t stand up to what the modern day adaptive athlete can do.

Being born with Cerebral Palsy, I was told that there was a low chance of survival, and if I lived. I wouldn’t amount to much. If you heard this story before and feel like you’re reading the same blog over again, I’m sorry but this is my story. And I will gladly proclaim how God took a frail child and turned him into a warrior.

On this day, maybe you feel down and out, depressed, suicidal, feel alone and feel like you could never amount to much. I get it, I’ve been there, but I’m here today to tell you that you can rise above and conquer all of that. Maybe you have bad health, or hate the way your body looks. Okay, lets start making changes right this second.

Maybe you have no use of your legs, okay, you can have a strong upper body!

Maybe you have one leg or arm, that just means that you have to be willing to adapt to your circumstances. There are ways to adapt upper body lifts to those with only one arm. If you have a prosthetic leg, awesome  there’re so many ways you can adapt exercises and functional movements to fit your needs.

Have an autoimmune, still not the end of the world, take the journey of finding good coaches that can help you. Go slow, listen to your body. And go fourth in your journey.

Please understand that, in no way do I intend to sound un-compassionate. Nor am I implying that any of this will be easy. It is because of compassion and love, that I am imploring you  today to not sit in your excuses and settle for anything less then your best.

Do I have my bad days? Yes,  but warriors rise after they fall, they get up after a needed rest.  Greatness comes from darkness, use the pain, use the hurt to drive forward to a better tomorrow. I’ll say it again, there are no short cuts, no self help books or remedies that can make the journey any easier.

What will help is hope. faith. Love and community. These are real things with eternal significants. Whatever is holding you back today, whatever is keeping you from progress. Face it. Don’t give it authority a second longer. Your life matters. Make the most of it.

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What Frustrates Me About CrossFit- And Why Winning Isn’t Everything.

No, I’m not here to say that I’ve changed my mind about Crossfit. I don’t think it’s dangerous, nor do I believe that it’s a cult or a fad. I believe that Crossfit is changing the very landscape as we speak.  As a person with cerebral palsy, and as one who has gone through several years with traditional physical therapy, nothing has made me strong or as mobile as the methodology of CrossFit.

As an adaptive Crossfit athlete, I have been doing this sport for almost over 3-4 years and competed in four different tournaments. All of which have been able-bodied events, I never thought that I would be involved in a sport like this.

I’ll never forget the feeling of walking into Crossfit Omaha with my dad and being the only person with cerebral palsy there. Honestly, that’s how it’s always been that way, so I wasn’t expecting anything else.

I’m not sure what other people were thinking when they saw me walk in there, maybe there was some doubt. Or maybe it was the doubt that was deep in my mind.  From that point on, I some so many other adaptive athletes rising as well, which is awesome. I would watch countless videos on youtube both of other adaptive athletes and abled bodied people.

What frustrates me then, is the illusions that these videos give off. Most of them suggest that people that do Crossfit are automatically brought into a family type setting where people cheer you on as though you are some hero. Sounds awesome right? But I very rarely experience this illusion of grandeur that these videos produce.

In fact, the support that  I do have comes from a  small group of people. I know what you’re thinking “well, at least you have people supporting right?”

Yes, you’re right, I am very thankful. My frustration and struggle then, is two-fold:

1) As hard as I work to get better, I still feel as though I’m “The  Lone Crossfitter” the guy who has to adapt everything, who doesn’t have full overhead movement at doesn’t move as fast or explosive as others. That I’ll never be apart of the winning team, or even take the podium as an individual.

2) I think this is where myself and others are going so wrong. In that, we have becoming so focused on winning. Certainly, it’s not wrong to want to win; I’ve never gone to a competition of any kind and not want to win. The problem is, then, that when you become some focused on winning that one can lose sight of what Crossfit is about altogether. And that is changing people’s lives!

It can be so deadly to be so focused on winning; your joy can be stripped from you so quickly. Honestly, I want to taste what it’s like to be on the winning team. But as much as much as I’d like to experience that.  I must always remind myself that there is much joy is teaching an adaptive athlete how to get up off the ground or teaching them to take steps without much aid slowly walk on their own. Or watching someone gain more mobility all together, there’s more of a victory in that than anything else.

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Letting Go of The Heavy Load.

Do you ever feel like you have to have it all together?

Do you ever feel like if you don’t have your act together 24/7, then you’re not measuring up?

I relate to both those questions, both in a physical and spiritual sense and for me they both intertwine with one another. In a physical sense if I’m not winning then I do not amount to much.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Brazilian Jiujitsu or Crossfit. If I’m not submitting people and bringing home the gold medals, then I further down the mountain while losing the respect of my team and sponsors.

If it’s Crossfit, and I’m not hitting the huge PR’s in the gym, if I’m not making the fastest time in competition and make it to the podium. Then others are beating me out and taking that spot that I desired in my heart.   As an athlete, I believe that wanting to win is a right and healthy mindset, but when we put too much unhealthy pressure on ourselves, I think that we willingly put ourselves into a mindset of slavery that we were never meant to be in any way.

You see, performance should never determine our worth. Sure, we should have dreams and be motivated to complete those goals. The bedrock of our lives should be centered around the understanding that we are loved. Loved by God, our family, and friends. When our lives are based on our performance and what we can produce with our lives, then it isn’t loving. It’s a tireless effort to meet a standard we could never meet on our own.

When the love of friends, family, and even coaches is based on the way we perform. Then one might strongly consider that the problem has little to do with you and more to do with them.  If it’s a coach treating you this way, I highly suggest not giving them anymore of your time.

Secondly, this can esaily translate over to the spiritual mind set, in that if we constanly feel that we have to earn Gods love, approval and favor then we have a foggy perspective of who God is. As sch our view of God most be quickly cleared up. So often we feel that if there is a God, then we first have to clean ourselves up in order to even approach him.

That couldn’t be more of a lie, the truth is that we can come to him despite how many flaws we have or how dirty we think we are. God longs for you to come to him, you don’t have to carry around the heavy load that is in your soul. Freedom and hope are possible.

There is a vast difference between God desiring for you to better off then you were, out of a new desire to be less of the person you were yesterday and wanting perfection. God wants you to be a brand new creation, but he understands that you will fall down time and time again. He won’t stop loving you just because you fall or have a bad day. He will love you to the sky and back. You just have to let him.

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Developing Your Inner Coach.

One of the greatest gifts my father could have ever given me was the gift of working out. I can remember the first pair of green weights from GNC. He came into the living room where I was and placed a weight in my hand and taught me how to do a bicep curl, he might have even said something manly about having huge muscles. I’m not sure.

All I know is that since that time I have not stopped, it was the times that my father all but demanded that I come downstairs and work out rather than playing video games. Another memory that comes to mind is when my parents bought one of the original versions of the total gym, a machine heavily endorsed by Chuck Norris and many other top athletes in various sports.

When I first got on this machine, I’ll never forget how great and amazing it felt to develop the range of motions in my arms. Not just that, but muscle tone. From that point on, I wanted to be on that machine.   My mom, though, she would always be protective of me and not want me to get hurt by working out on my own as any good mother would.

I’ve always liked working out on my own, though. Being able to throw in my ear buds and tune out the world. Letting go of pent of emotions, feelings and thoughts. I never really understood people that liked to stand around and talk during a workout. I understand, though, that people are fundamentally different in some ways.  Maybe for the ones who like to talk during a workout, it’s a means to catch up in regards to life or perhaps it’s a form of accountability to make sure you finish what you started.

What I want to discuss, though, is developing your own inner coach or rather inner drill sergeant. I don’t know when this started exactly, but when there is a difficult WOD ahead of me (that’s Crossfit language for the workout of the day) I often sense this inner voice saying to me “Don’t give up!” Or “Almost there, don’t quit”. This inner voice is always there for me. Even when I am tired and would rather lie in bed, the voice whispers “you’re one step closer toward your goal”

By now, you might be wondering “that’s great for you, but how do I get an inner coach?” And to be honest, I’m not sure that there is some magic formula that I can give you. I believe everyone’s inner coach will sound or seem different. The first suggestion I could provide you.

  1. Find a verbal cue, what I mean is find something that triggers a sense of motivation and resolve within you. For me, it was triggered by an army commercial where a drill instructor would tell the soon to be ranger “Don’t quit!” with great conviction in his voice. Since that moment, that same drill instructors voice has not left my head. Whatever it is for you, my encouragement is that you embark on the journey of your own inner coach.
  2.  If there is one lesson that I have had to learn over and over again, it’s that you cannot depend on others to be there. You won’t always have that friend to drag you from the couch to the gym. It’s in the pivotal moment when one must decide if they’re going to keep chasing their goals despite the fact that no ones watching, despite the fact that no one is cheering for you. The question you have to ask you have to ask yourself is: Do I love myself enough to do what it takes to be the best version of you possible?  Forget about the moments of failure, forget the moments of self-loathing and forget about all the times you thought that none of this really matters. The only thing you have to is Keep moving forward.
  3. What do you do then, when you can’t sense the voice of your own inner coach? The answer is simple: Keep going, there are many many times when I have to quietly yell at myself to keep going. To give all I got no matter how long it takes me to finish the task at hand. I have no regard for records or who is the best at what, but that I finish and finish strong.

Lastly, set goals for yourself, some short term and some long term. Goals will allow you to keep going not matter what comes your way. Even if the goal is to get out of bed in the morning, start there and move to the next, like eating a healthy breakfast. Then get your ass to the gym.  Life is far to valuable and precious not to take care of yourself, so why not start today?

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Reflection on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

 

March is cerebral palsy awareness month, I’ve made a few posts on FB but I thought that a full-length post would be  good as well. I have lived with cerebral palsy (cp) for 30 years now. Yes, I’m 30 years of age, but I don’t feel it or look it. For that, I can thank the genetics that is in me. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that I have, not who I am.

Cerebral Palsy may be an extension of myself, but it is not who I am. First and foremost I am a child of God, who is loved from the earth to the heavens. This is where my identity lies. God knew my small frame long before time began, he wonderfully made me and gave me worth and dignity.

Having cerebral palsy then is a way that he has gifted me to reach out to others. It has allowed me to empathise with those who feel lonely, hurt and rejected by society. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I probably wouldn’t have as big as a heart for people as I do now.

If anything, I probably would be more selfish and self-focused than I already am. That being said, there are many dark days that come with having this condition. There are many days that I wish I was different or like everybody else. Meaning that I wish I could run, walk and sprint. There are days when I cry out to God wishing things were different.

In these moments of self-pity and feeling of  helplessness, I ask the “what if?” and “why me?” questions. We all ask these questions, so to an extent its okay, God can handle these questions. Cerebral palsy is in no way easy to live with, it has taken me quite a long time to be at peace with myself, God and others.

The biggest truth that I can leave you with is that God loves you and created you with passion and purpose and no one can take that from you. People may not understand what we go through, they may even make fun of how we are. But I fearlessly proclaim that you’re loved beyond anything you could ever long for. Even in the times when you feel most alone, the most rejected the most misunderstood you’re loved.

I’ll be honest, there have been times where I have wanted to die. Just to be free from this body full of scars, but some how God keeps this smile on my face. But I say again, you are loved . Never give up the fight. Chase your dreams. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve, be who you are.

Another truth I submit to you is this, you are not a burden. If people do not make time for you, if they do not take the time to get to know you. That is merely a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. Futher more, do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid to speak hope and encouragement. I truly believe that we can be the change we want to be in the world.

It may seem like you get nothing back in return, but as it is quoted in the movie Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. Do not shy away from pushing yourself physichally, I have been doing Brazillian Jiujitsu for almost 6 years and CrossFit for almost 2-3 years. With both of these elements in my life, my body has never been stronger. Even when doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do much on my own, even when teachers told me I wouldn’t amount to much. It is by Gods grace I am who I am.

The same reality can be present in your or own life, you just have to take that small step forward. That might require asking for help, swallowing your pride and letting others be your teacher. It might require you sitting down and discovering your dreams and who you are as a person. Regardless, you can rest assured that there is no glass ceiling over our heads precerebral_palsy_awarenessventing us from conquering the obstacles that stand in our way.

Be well my friends.

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Meet God in The Gym

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” ― Eric Liddell

I know that many people don’t believe in God, in the sense of Christianity and I know that it most likely won’t be anything that I can say to convince you of his love or the joy that he gives. But I want to share in one of the ways that I connect with God so deeply. Beyond the conventional prayer, reading scripture or even being among other believers. Spending time at my crossfit box or on the wrestling mats, is one of the main ways that I interact with God.

However I choose to spend my time, its a way for me to glorify him in my body, mind and emotions. Its a time for me to make war against bad attitudes or things that I would like to change about myself in order that I might know God more deeply and be a better friend and person to others.

Working out allows me to “see” God better, in that when I feel as if I am always falling short, after my mind is clear and my body feels good, I remember “hey, I am loved by the king of the universe, because he sacrificed his life for me, I now am in right standing with him.”

It is a Eric Liddell  says, “when I run I feel his pleasure” its as though God says “this is good”. One might not see working out as good or pleasurable, but I do. And regardless of if you believe in God or not, I encourage you to make the most of your body, because we only live this life once.11836709_10156022928025165_630930869917741017_n

A Confession of a CrossFitter

“I Have a Dream”

Four very powerful words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther. Ralph Waldo Emerson also once said ““Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

I believe that people in our society have had the ability to dream stripped from their hands, and it’s not necessarily our own fault. When we look at our current reality daily living is getting more and more expensive and a lot of us have to simply face facts. Some have even laid aside their own dreams, some for good reason, be it a wife and kids. They come first.

As a college student, majoring in Psychology (primarily substance abuse), the mind is something that I love, There is a real love for getting to simply sit and listen to ones story, while walking with them on their journey toward recovery. Were all addicts, as I like to say.

While that passion stays, two more have grown stronger. I’ve always had a real love for fitness, I’ve been into strength training for a long time, largely due to my dad buying me my first set of dumb bells. Over the past year I have fallen head over heels with CrossFit, it’s changed  my life and body in so many ways, and there are so many adaptive athletes popping up all over the place. Each person driving themselves to the max and beyond. I used to take muscle relaxers to help deal with pain and fall asleep, now I only do that if the pain is extremely bad.

I’m eating far more cleaner and have gained lots of healthy weight, each week I look forward to working with my coach, she pushes me each and every week and I leave more enthralled with what my body can do. There are rumors circulating that the Reebok CrossFit games will create a adaptive division, the joy that this brings me is almost unspeakable. I never thought I’d day this, but I want to make this dream a reality. I know I’ll need to work even harder then I have before, it won’t be easy and I know it’ll take time.

I know I’ll have to finish my undergrad, work  and have to base everything around training, as well as Jiujitsu training (which I have entire other dream for all together). I know, it sounds crazy, but I believe I can truly do this. I know that it will be the most tiring season of my life. But I always believe that I am in the perfect position to do this. I’m still really young, my body is holding up well and constantly improving, plus I have a killer work ethic and the heart of a lion. Beyond taking a stab at getting to the games, I want to obtain my certifications to be a certified CrossFit coach.

There is just something about seeing ones life change through doing CrossFit, that I want to be apart of and pass on to others. Plus I would like to think that all my psychology training could fit into all of this some how.

So here is to chasing a dream

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