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Hard Core Training Has New Meaning to Me

When I was 13, a family friend gave me a bodybuilding magazine box. I never imagined that the man who inspired me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would one day become governor of California.

I participated in his first bodybuilding competition in 1984, at the age of 16. Since then, I have competed in about 40 shows and won titles such as Mr. Philadelphia, Mr. Pennsylvania, Mr. Physique USA, and in 1993, Mr. North America.

I was at the top of my game, getting ready to go pro, when my body started giving me trouble. In 1994-95, I had problems with my leg balance and strength. I was working with a friend one day and I told him I saw it on the Internet and thought I might have a disease, Multiple Sclerosis.

He just laughed and said, "Paul, you don't have MS, you only weigh 550 pounds!" So I laughed, too; there's no way I have MS. However, in the back of my mind, I realized that I was crouching at Smith's machine; that doesn't require me to balance myself.

As my health continued to decline, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1997. I was still going to compete, a year later, but lost my sight. This caused me to fall into a deep depression, and with MS, it also brought a lot of stress. Because I felt so sad, I asked my doctor to put me on anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and medications for my muscle cramps. Drugs only made me tired and sad, and my MS progressed to where I had to be in a wheelchair.

I sat in my wheelchair for a long time, feeling sad for myself. I then met my future wife, Judy, and she told me I needed to receive my MS. I told her I didn't want to and I hated her, but she explained that I had to do something other than feel inferior. I wasn't sure if I could, because the doctor told me I had a major progressive MS. That's the worst part; you don't get better.

I decided to not trust my doctor, and went back to the gym to start exercising. I have found that the muscles are mainly affected by MS - the core muscles (abs, hips, and back muscles). When this becomes weak, it is like a flower with a weak stem that falls when the wind blows. That's me, and that's why people with MS are always looking for something to help them balance. I also learned about core muscles by watching my son, Tyler. When he was 7 months old, he had the leg strength to push himself into the stand, but I had to hold on to him to balance. When she was 11 months old, she would always use the sofa to support herself as she walked - as I did. Then, I realized that for babies, the core muscles are the last to develop, and in someone with MS, or other neurological conditions, they are the first to go. Before he can walk, Tyler will balance his knee. I thought, "What a great way to work out, do it on your knees and strike a balance. You don't have to worry about falling!" I also found that by building new muscles, I was able to stabilize and work better.

The average person activates about 60-70% of their muscles throughout their life, about 75% of bodybuilders (they are larger), but a dancer or gym raises about 90% or more. I said to myself, "Wow, if I could use those muscles, it would be like a spare tire for your car." So the way I do this is by challenging the balance of using a Swiss ball, or standing in an air cushion. Both strengthen the core.

In 2001, I moved to California. When I returned to the gyms, I realized how difficult it was for them to be in a wheelchair. Sure, it's possible that the bathroom and car park are accessible, but rarely have the equipment. I applied to work at Club-One, even though they didn't have wheelchair accessible equipment. When I told the manager about my mission to help the disabled community, he was very grateful. That's why I decided to work there.

During my interview, the fitness manager asked if I knew what core training was. At the time, I wasn't used to it, so I tried to joke, "Of course, rigorous training, I've been doing it for 20 years." He didn't laugh, but I got a job.

I started training people with disabilities, but I realized that many physically challenged people didn't come to the gym because the equipment was inaccessible. I decided to do something about it, and in 2002, my wife and I opened Accessible Fitness, a wheelchair accessible gym in Santa Clara, California. We specialize in working with people of all ages and fitness levels, and not only every wheelchair power station is accessible, but cardiovascular equipment as well.

Now I help young and old get in shape, lose weight, gain six packs of abs and others want more strength and muscle so they can move easily from their wheelchairs.

"My life is different now because I feel like exercising, I've regained control of my life and no longer have to give up on this thing they call MS. has some kind of physical challenge. "

I am no longer in a wheelchair and will compete this year in the Mr America competition. Although I have to use my stick, I'm there, winning or losing, to represent physically challenged people like me.

For a long time I asked myself, "Why me?" But then I realized this was my calling, my spirit in life.


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