Wheelchair user with cerebral palsy becomes gym instructor and fitness blogger
A wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy has become a qualified fitness instructor, and is shattering narrow expectations about what people with disabilities can achieve.
20-year-old Jay Moir, from Aberdeen, Scotland, says there should be no barriers to fitness.
As a teenager, he struggled with his mental health and coping with his health condition, but finding a love for fitness helped him overcome the worst of his symptoms.
‘What I love about training and fitness is how good it makes me feel,’ Jay said.
‘When I’m in the gym, I can just zone-out and forget about everything – stress, worries, and just life in general is just completely forgotten about for a couple hours a day.
‘When I’m in the gym, I feel strong, full of energy, but most importantly, happy. The gym is my happy place and I feel like people underestimate just how powerful a gym session can be.’
And Jay says his focus isn’t always about lifting heavy weights, he says just 20 minutes on the rowing machine is enough to get the endorphins going,to help us feel great. He knows that working out is as much about mental well-being as it is about physical fitness.
Jay’s anxiety and depression meant he was unable to complete his exams and he left school with very few qualifications. He was also comfort eating and devloped an unhealthy relationship with food – gaining three stone.
To get back on track, Jay started seeing a therapist, and that alongside physical activity and training helped his mental health to improve.
He says there’s nothing difficult about working out with cerebral palsy, it’s just a case of trial and error.
‘It’s about finding ways to adapt certain things to suit your own ability,’ says Jay. ‘I’m more or less able to do the same things in the gym as everyone else. I’m lucky enough that I can actually come out of my chair to go on the machines, so I don’t really find anything too difficult. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
The good thing is that Jay has never experienced any discrimination or judgement in the gym. He says people in the fitness world are nothing but encouraging and supportive.
‘People often come up to me and offer assistance if needed, and tell me that when they don’t feel like going to the gym, they think of me – if I can do it, so can they,’ he says.
‘I never really set out to inspire others, I do what I do for my own health and for my own well-being. But of course, if I do inspire people, that’s great.
‘Working out is extremely beneficial, not just physically but mentally, and the sooner people realise this, the better.’
Jay believes that we need to see more visible diversity in the world of fitness. He wants other wheelchair users to see that fitness is possible for them, and that it is actually really important.
‘Being sedentary and not moving very often can obviously have a detrimental effect to overall health, so if there are more disabled fitness bloggers, or “influencers” on show; this could motivate other people with disabilities to get involved, and this will lead to them being in a healthier position,’ explains Jay.
‘I’ve always found that gyms are quite spacious – so this is ideal for getting around in my chair.
‘A lot of gyms have levers that you can pull that allow the seats to swing out of the way, and although I don’t require it – it’s great for those who are unable to come out of their chairs.
‘It’s great to see things like this being implemented into modern gyms, as it makes facilities a bit more inclusive for everyone.’
Jay is blogging about his fitness journey and hopes to build a following online and become a fitness influencer. Not simply because he hopes to inspire others, but also because he is so passionate about his work.
‘I just love working out,’ he says. ‘I normally do five days of strength/resistance training and one day of adaptive CrossFit with CrossFit Aberdeen.
‘Anything that gets those endorphins going is great for me. Of course, at the time, it’s tiring and that burning/lactic acid sensations take over, but afterwards, it’s a feeling like no other and I honestly cannot put into words how amazing I feel afterwards.’
He says his advice for anyone – able-bodied or disabled – is to give a gym session a try, and challenge yourself.
‘People picture the gym as this big, scary place of showboating, and people with “perfect” bodies – it’s not that at all,’ says Jay.
‘Everybody in the gym is there for themselves. Everybody has their own goals, their own insecurities, their own strengths and weaknesses.
‘In my opinion, it is a community and in my experience, everyone’s always been super upbeat and positive towards me. And I hope that more people with disabilities can find a way to start their own fitness journey.’