Everyone has their own demons, and it is common to see these demons persist in the forms of deterioration of mental health.
Especially in my fast-paced modernized society that I was raised in.
At least for me, that demon was anxiety.
For me, exercising always served as an escape outlet that emptied my mind, recharged me with positive thoughts and feelings that allowed me to break the internal wall which anxiety has created.
That wasn’t completely avoidable but was rather manageable through exercising.
I am not going to lie but most often people who just started to exercise often view exercise as a choir or a responsibility.
Once you see the long-term both external and internal results of exercising, it’s going to motivate you to view exercise as something to look forward to.
Or, almost like a life hack that raises your quality of life.
Thus, I want to promote these values, which is why I have done 25 days of challenges that relate to health and wellness.
First, one I’ve done was the 25 days push-ups challenge which raised awareness for PTSD & other mental health-related issues.
It was a crazy idea, but back then myself barely knowing how to do a one-arm push-up, I made a promise that I will be able to complete 25 consecutive one arm push-ups.
Miraculously, on Day 25, I do end up accomplishing this goal.
During the challenge, I’ve included many songs from some of my favorite rappers that touch on issues on mental health and have been a victim of it (Rappers include: Logic, Mac Miller, Juice WRLD, and Alison Wonderland).
I remember listening to these artists when I was going through hard times in my life during my workouts.
So now, I continue to take on health-related challenges such as Cutting Alcohol for 25 days, bodyweight training for 25 days (building a muscular physique without using dumbbells & barbells), no meat excluding Fish for 25 days, and actually was today was the last day of 25 Days Body Weight Training Challenge, and these pictures are the result of that challenge.
My name is Emmanuel Nicodemos Oliveira Santana, I am a Biologist and I work as an environmental consultant.
I’m married, I have 2 children and a goddaughter who lives with us. I met with a motorcycle accident in 2005 and lost the movements of my left foot.
The disability is known in the orthopedic area as “pé caído” (fallen foot, in a literal translation). It occurs when the nerve connection of the tibial plateau is disrupted.
I have had been in the hospital for almost a year and was early dismissed because the specialists said that my problem had no solution. Then I started to live a more sedentary lifestyle.
I was depressed and at the same time had a hard obesity – I reached 127 kg!
However, during that time, I studied biology at the State University of Montes Claros (UNIMONTES). I became a Biologist and got obsessed with poisonous animals.
So, just before I graduated, I spent every weekend in the field looking for this kind of creatures.
Therefore, I had a great intimacy with nature, having contact with nature and animals of all kinds.
Although, I always feel upset and anxious for not walking right, and always feeling sorry about myself for my disability.
One day, in 2017, I watched a documentary that calls “Valley Uprising”. It’s about the epic history of climbing in Yosemite National Park.
I started to look for more documentaries, and I ended up watching “The Dawn Wall” which tells the story of Tommy Caldwell, and at that moment I thought that I need to lose weight, and I needed to climb.
I focused on the gym every day, I changed my diet by myself, only with information from the internet. Then 5 months later I had lost 15kg.
One year later, I had reduced 35kg.
After a year and a half, I’ve had lost 52 kg.
However, when I got to weigh 75 kilograms I was very weak and without strength.
Nowadays, I have a great physical shape with 86 kilos, but I have gained big muscles.
During this effort in the first 6 months of weight loss, I surprised a lot of people, with my dedication.
They believed I had developed some sort of obsession for training, but it worked.
Then I started watching several climbing videos, remembering that my contact with the vertical world had been years before as a guide for waterfall trails and setting up a rappelling system in waterfalls and cliffs in my region.
I had no experience in climbing. When I climbed the first time, I invited my 61-year-old father-in-law to make me safe, and it wasn’t even TOP ROPE.
Then a friend who is my coworker listened to my comments about my interest and adventure and said he was interested in climbing together.
As I had already invested in equipment for two people and since my city doesn’t have a climbing academy or climbers, we booked a day and we went.
I believe that the day when I decided to climb and dedicated myself to weight loss, I was already been in a new world with fantastic people.
Once again, I have the privilege to live up to my teenage dream which was there before I encountered the painful accident.
As my city doesn’t have a climbing gym, I built a small training station in my backyard.
I can train with my sons, João and Lucas, and my goddaughter Isabela and also with the friends whom I’m taking for the climb as well.
In December 2020, I started a paragliding course.
Also, I am in a process of learning to also fulfill my dream of flying.
I have plans to continue my journey, always believing in my dreams and pass this feeling to my children.
Walking, climbing, and flying, even with the difficulty that my left leg submits me, makes me more willing to win.
I probably should begin my story saying that I have sports in my DNA.
My mom was an acrobat and fitness instructor, now she’s a PE teacher.
My dad graduated from the sports academy and I remember that he always was a member of those sports clubs at work when there was such a possibility.
Now, when there’s no sports club in his current job, he goes to gym every day even though he’s over 50.
So, when I was little, my mom used to take me to her fitness class.
If I had to choose one thing that I’m grateful to my parents the most then it would be the possibility to try any kind of hobby including plenty of sports disciplines.
So, the first one was fitness.
Then my mom taught me some acrobat tricks.
When I was 6 or 7, I joined a gymnastics club. Around this time my parents took me and my sister to a Cirque du Soleil show where I fell in love with a performance of a girl on a trapeze and I decided that one day I’d be just like her.
However, it was just a dream, till this day I wonder why I didn’t ask parents to sign me up for aerial classes.
At the same time, I started dancing. Summarizing, I danced for about 10 years but it never was my main activity.
After two years, I dropped gymnastics because I was mentally too weak and I still regret it a little and joined a basketball club that was in my primary school.
I went to the first workout with my best friend just as a company, I had no idea about basketball.
She didn’t like it and it was her first and the last workout, I stayed for the next 6 or 7 years and almost decided to become a professional player.
We were the best team in the region and the second in the entire country and I was lucky enough to finish my basketball career as a captain of the team.
I was on several camps of one of the national league teams but at this point, I thought that I need to either focus on school or try to become a professional player.
I was scared that I’d become this stereotypical dumb sportsperson or that one injury would leave me with no future.
So, I decided to focus on school.
Then, I danced a little more though I never treated it seriously and I still played basketball in school tournaments.
At this time, I was working out a lot by myself at home.
Social media was becoming more and more popular and I was getting tons of inspiration on Instagram.
Also, I took yoga classes from time.
I think that at that time I learnt more tricks that anyone had taught me before.
And then the most stupid injury happened.
In Poland, before Easter, schools take 3 days off and instead of lessons there are workshops in church.
In high school though we had extra classes after the workshops, everyone could choose what they want to do at this time.
I chose PE of course.
While most kids played volleyball, I went for the second, a way smaller gym where I decided to stretch. I was doing splits on a gym ladder and my hip simply fell out of the joint.
I couldn’t walk for a month.
It was a real struggle and I was entirely out of sports for next 3 months.
I thought I’d never do another split in my life (though I did after a year ).
It was freshman year in high school, and I got this paper from my doctor that I couldn’t run nor jump.
So, I sat during 90% of PE classes.
This is when I quit dance for good.
Then I got more interested in yoga, pilates, and similar mental classes and I really loved it.
This is when I went to a gym for the first time, I thought of going back to a dance school.
However, after a 2-year break when I compared the price of a gym member and dance school. I simply went to a gym.
Later, I tried dancing on my own or went to some dance workshops here and there but my hip can’t deal with this kind of move.
So, I totally gave up and haven’t danced for about 3 years.
Within a few years when my hip got better I started getting a little bored of those yoga and pilates classes.
Despite working out 4-5 times a week I was loosing my shape more and more and I didn’t like that.
I slowly started “sightseeing” the gym.
For two years, I only went to the fitness studio inside the gym.
I was extremely scared of the rest of the gym and muscular people, I’m sure you know the feeling.
However, over time, I started feeling more and more confident.
I started using some cardio machines before pilates.
There was this lecture that a personal trainer ran, during which he gave vouchers to a workout with him.
This is how I learnt to lift weights and got fully confident to use the entire gym.
I fell in love with weights and I had never been in better shape.
I remember one day when I only went to yoga and was scared of the rest of the gym, there was this event for valentine’s day.
We were dragged out of the fitness studio just to see some sort of kettlebell show in which they forced us to participate.
This was actually the first time I lifted, I still have pictures of this event, my technique was so poor.
I’m shocked no one took the kettle from me and I hated them for making me do this.
I had no idea that kettle would ever become my favorite gym equipment.
Then, I joined the same sports academy my dad graduated and got my Bachelor’s Degree and became a fitness instructor.
Two years ago this thought hit me that I had the trapeze dream.
I think, I had always thought that it’s one of those dreams that never come true but I started wondering what is there to stop me.
I was big girl enough to buy my equipment and I didn’t have to ask for permission anymore.
My parents have a garden where I could work out.
Only I slightly modified my dream.
I thought that an aerial hoop would be even more fun.
Without giving too much thought, I did a quick research and bought my hoop.
Thanks to my experience with dance and gymnastics.
I had this kind of intuition on the hoop even though I had never been to any aerial acrobatics class.
Getting the hoop was the best feeling in my life.
I truly feel like my dream came true, I really don’t know why I didn’t ask my parents to sign me up for such classes sooner.
Anyway, the pandemic came, gyms got closed.
Luckily, I have enough knowledge that I could easily switch to home/garden workouts.
At this point, I don’t really care about the gym.
I’m a little tired of that one day they are open and another they are closed.
So, I feel like I will stick to the home workouts though gym will forever stay in my heart as at some point of my life it was my second home.
I think this is it; sports will always be one of the biggest parts of my life.
No support, financially embarrassed, unfit, no motivation and slowly suffocating.
I was struggling with life!
40+ wanted to change this situation, did not know how or where to turn!
I have always been a very upbeat or active sort of person. Loved playing football, golf, going to the gym & having a few beers.
We all have our bad days and show them in different ways. But no one really knows how you are really feeling, but you and the thoughts that race through your mind.
Life can just simply suck you in & spit you out!
I needed help. Although I went to the doctors where I ended up on medication and had a few counseling sessions, it was not enough.
Something was still missing on my road to recovery.
Until I fought back & thought what made me happy and helped me focus!
Fitness, something everyone could do, so why not me again.
I decided I had enough of the silly o’clock nights of going to bed, getting up late, sitting on the sofa watching sky sports on repeat! I was already doing a few walks down the local prom, getting fresh air seeing the flowing water of the river Mersey.
I would always see a few joggers run past which triggered something inside me to give that a go.
So, I did!
I thought I was still fit; forgot a few years or more had passed without any real running and quickly found out this was going to be much tougher than I first thought.
I attempted to give 2 miles a blast! Only took me 23 minutes flat, had to walk some of that.
Well, that was embarrassing. Breathing hard, sweating more than I was in my last job interview.
However, when I walked back home, with shaky legs, something was triggered inside me to do this again and keep going.
I got a bit high, and it was different from the feelings I was having sitting on that couch.
It also stopped my negative thoughts briefly. My mate Hez at the time was running too and he was encouraging me, where he came up with an idea of posting our runs to motivate each other to keep doing it.
I got better at this running and gradually I got a bit of confidence to join a gym.
This was working for my well-being. From 2 miles in 23 minutes to 10k in 55 minutes. Might not be Olympic qualifying times, but it is a great achievement all the same – In my words, I was buzzing my lips off (Very happy).
I found the missing link that would aid me to my recovery.
I started to document my new journey & progress on social media, which gave me a focus and the support of fellow runners/friends.
It was giving me a sense of achievement each time I made a post.
This led me to enhancing my nutrition and fitness via someone introducing me to the no.1 brand in weight management & wellbeing, who came across my profile.
Obviously, I was skeptical.
Who wouldn’t be, but the more I looked into it, the more it got my interest. I guess it was at the right time, so I thought why not, nothing ventured, nothing gained… right?
I did my due diligence before fully committing.
Now I am the fittest I have been since my 20’s
More motivated & have a more positive mindset.
This is now leading me to start up my own business with an income opportunity.
Do not get me wrong, I still have my moments and I still must remind myself where I am and where I was, but I am in a stronger position now to recognise any signs.
I was lucky that I still had a family to support me in tough times and I also had the timeout to give myself some space to heal.
Are you feeling like this, can you relate or know of someone to be in that situation or something similar?
If you were me and struggling like I was, being suffocated with life or feel your heading that way, you should contact me via Instagram –
I have to admit, I never saw myself being in a wheelchair for any reason.
I always considered myself a competitor and a winner.
As a young man, I was an athlete. I was a champion swimmer, I was a champion wrestler, I was on a championship football team, and I was a baseball player from early on.
In adulthood, I was a Utility Lineman, building the infrastructure of America’s internet.
I had been in the industry for nearly 20 years when my contract was put on hold for negotiations due to the company I was contracted to going over budget.
At that time, I discussed with my wife (of nearly 10 years) that I wanted to go visit my family in Virginia.
I have children there from a prior marriage and wanted to take the time off to spend with them and my wife understood and so it was arranged.
While on the visit, I was asked by my grandfather to help him on a roof and I agreed in order to spend some time with him.
On the afternoon of June 9, 2018, a storm was coming across the horizon and I made the decision to cover the roof so that rain wouldn’t get into the home.
In order to hold the cover in place, I stepped gingerly around the roof placing down boards in strategic spots to keep the wind from blowing the cover off.
At the time I was placing the last board down, I knew I was very close to the edge I cautiously stepped and stepped and then went over the edge.
Upon impact, I wasn’t able to breathe very well. My eyes were closed and my body felt twisted and my legs felt like they were reaching up into the ever-darkening sky.
As I opened my eyes, I noticed my legs were lying on the ground, immovable, bound by gravity. It is hard now to describe the pain I was in.
I believe it felt as though I had been sawed in half, I recollect the pain as being fiery and excruciating. I knew I’d broken my back. I know that I was in so much pain that I wished I would go ahead and die in order that I may have relief.
It was nearly an hour before volunteer paramedics arrived and the pain multiplied as every second slowly ticked by.
My body felt as though it had been dipped into hell itself as I continually gasped for breath, shallow as though I had a wall of bricks stacked atop my chest.
I was eventually loaded into a life flight helicopter and flown to the closest hospital to get put back together.
There was quite a bit I went through from the time of injury until the time I decided to live again.
My very identity had been shaken to its core, for a long time depression told me I wasn’t a man anymore.
I eventually thought I was doing well again. I started driving and had learned how to take care of myself again. It was at that moment that my wife (at the time) decided I was independent enough to manage on my own and so she left.
Entered depression again.
I was lying in bed, feeling very sorry for myself, hurting, perhaps even wishing for an angel of death to visit me.
At that moment, something inside sparked a flame and I thought, “Who is going to fix this? Who will take care of me?”
There was only one answer.
I was. I was and am the only person who is responsible for my well-being. I can give up or I can live. I chose to live. I got up and started doing what I could physically. I started working out with my own body weight.
Eventually, I was doing 200+ push-ups a day. My body weight wasn’t enough anymore.
I met a Paralympic power-lifter and started following him. I realized I can lift weights too. Of course, I started lifting. I want to be a Paralympic athlete too!
After a while, I found out about wheelchair bodybuilding and now that’s my new journey. I started working with a coach and am gaining weight and getting stronger.
I’ve also started mentoring other spinal cord injury patients as well as people who have something holding them back.
Through this whole journey, I’ve realized that as long as my mind is set on accomplishing a goal, it will get done.
My goal now is to become a Paralympic Powerlifter and also gain an IFBB Pro Card.
It will be a long journey but I will work for it and work for it and work for it.
My struggle brought me to the point of realization that even as a paraplegic, I am still a winner and all the pain I’ve experienced has made me stronger and more iron-willed.
Because of my injury, I will be a champion again.
Therefore, I say let your struggle fuel your success.