Written by PDA’s QLD Associate Director, Sarah Styles
We are all familiar with the journey of learning to thrive through disability. This path normally involves years of searching for answers with many setbacks in finding the best management plan and supports. Then, dealing with organisations like NDIA brings challenges that can push us past our limits. It is after years of this I found my mental health at a low.
Since my exercise physiologist is working well with me, I decided to enter a powerlifting competition. It would give me a healthy goal that involves other people in the form of other competitors and those that work with us. Turned out to be the best decision.
Benefit 1 – Starting bench press improved my body in an unexpected way!
As someone with hEDS my connective tissue is too stretchy and cannot support my body and organs the way they are designed to. As a result, my muscles need to be extra strong to support my joints instead. It’s also hard to stretch because I hyper-extend and get no benefits, even though my body is screaming out for it. My body desires to move and get strong but more often than not I get injured doing simple things.
Lying down on the bench press provides a decent stretch without injury throughout my whole body. Winning already!
Benefit 2 – Mental Health
My mental health improved immediately as expected. Physically feeling better and stronger coupled with a goal to work towards really did the trick.
Benefit 3 – Meeting people who are happy to work with me – no matter what that means!
Powerlifting Australia informed me that the next competition was fast approaching, and they were happy to make adjustments to make it happen last minute. Not only that, but there is no segregation. Adjustments are made so everyone can compete together regardless of their physical ability. Which I really appreciated. This alone was uplifting and empowering.
The first thing I noticed was the family vibe. Feeling that, I knew everything would be fine. Despite arriving an hour late to prevent health issues – I struggled – but they flew into action. I was informed of anything I didn’t know, such as doing weigh in, choosing what weight I’d lift for my 3 attempts, then warming up.
It takes a lot of people to make a competition run. Everyone knew their job and functioned so well as a team you’d not know if there was a problem they had to solve. I ended up pressing my personal best – which was exciting – and leaving with a gold medal!
As a spectator you can’t help but cheer everyone on. I even witnessed a world record being made. I am definitely looking forward to the next competition and I’m thrilled to be counted with everyone else.