While the blood, sweat, and tears associated with the gym are usually metaphorical, for a fitness-fanatic amputee, they are very real indeed.
As a nine-year-old, Josh Ford, 18, was diagnosed with Meningitis B and had to have both legs amputated at the knees, but – despite the pain – the Burnley lad refuses to let it affect his passion for exercise.
“Sometimes it can be painful just to stand,” Josh says.
While the trauma of losing the ability to walk at such an active age is itself a considerable hurdle, Josh saw the gym as a way to lead a normal life and to indulge his devotion to nutrition and health.
Now emblematic of someone with direction in life, it was not always so straightforward for Josh, who endured severe pain after undergoing surgery and had trouble adjusting to his prosthetic legs.
“I have been up and down with walking, quite literally,” said Josh. “I’ve had a lot of setbacks, but that’s just part of life. I’ve never given up and don’t plan on doing so.”
In spite of setbacks, Josh remained focused, taking inspiration from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Just seeing someone like Arnold in his prime put as much dedication into something he loved is inspiring,” he said. “Watching and reading about bodybuilding as a child just gave me a rush of adrenaline.”
Josh joined his local gym, Xercise4Less on Kingsway, in May 2015 and was instantly addicted. He now trains three days a week (which he plans to increase to four), and inspires others with his sheer tenacity.
“Xercise4Less is a great gym for those living with a disability,” Josh said. “Parking and access is easy to negotiate and the gym itself is very big and spacious, with a vast range of equipment. The staff have helped by offering support, and making sure I am aware that they are there whenever I need help.”
Josh will embark on a photography course at the University of Central Lancashire this month and wants to find a place of his own. And with an upcoming appointment at the SMRC (Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre) in Preston to have new prosthetics fitted, he hopes to remove his reliance on a wheelchair to get around.
Exercise, Josh says, has given him a confidence boost and has granted him more opportunities as he looks to shatter misconceptions around amputees, and he hopes his story can embolden others to take on challenges from which they would otherwise shirk.
“With the right advice, one can become a much better person; fitness applies to this,” said Josh, who is looking forward to more independence after recently passing his driving test. “Having the opportunity to better someone’s life by passing on advice is a great feeling.
“Working out has improved both my strength and morale, as well as adherence with general activities, maturity, and perspective,” insists Josh. “I am definitely a much better person for it, and it is scary looking back at who I was.
“The results outweigh the hard work and dedication put in,” he continues. “This journey lasts a lifetime.”