When I first stumbled across the School of Calisthenics, I had already developed a real love for simple bodyweight training.
I didn’t know the term calisthenics at the time, let alone how to pronounce it, but the phrase ‘redefine your impossible’ instantly caught my attention as it really resonated with me.
In 2010, I went through a sudden life changing moment. In a freak accident, I took a 35ft fall and hit the ground hard. In one swift moment I went from being a fit active bloke in his 20’s to someone who was changed forever.
Over the coming days, weeks and month the reality of my new me began to sink in. I’d badly smashed up my ankle, I had snapped my wrist in half and to make all of that pale into insignificance, I’d also broken my back in two places, damaging my spinal cord at both spots.
I found myself in a hospital bed with no feeling or movement from the waste down, with a spine heavily loaded with titanium and a whole new reality as a wheel chair user looking likely for my future. What I categorised as my possible and impossible was very different pre-accident. My reality had changed so much that peeing without a catheter was now something in the impossible category and I started the process of rehab which really is redefining your impossible at its purest from.
My spinal injuries were ‘incomplete’ meaning I might get something back. Some nerves might pass some signals again if I was very fortunate, but the likelihood was high that I would require a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
By the time I’d been discharged, I could ambulate tiny amounts but only with elbow crutches, callipers and the need for a huge amount of recovery in the following days.
I won’t bore you with all the detail of the next few years of learning, rehabbing and further surgeries, but by 2013, I was out of the chair, getting around on my feet and prepping to have my right leg amputated below the knee as the damaged caused in the accident was so severe it wasn’t allowing any level of function once out of the wheelchair. I had redefined my impossible and relearnt to walk, but it had come at some serious cost, I was losing a foot and had to start to ‘learn to walk part 3’.
It went incredibly well, I rehabbed well and have since been endlessly finding new ways to push myself and my new limits. I trained as a personal trainer and have since returned to my first sporting love of rock climbing where I now compete as part of the GB international climbing team. My discovery of calisthenics pretty much came out of a desire to work antagonistic muscle groups and keep my body well conditioned against climbing based injuries.
2019 has seen me embark on a whole new challenge (in addition to the climbing athlete life) to redefine my impossible. I was eager to find new ways to push my limits, to try and find the boundaries of what is possible and see just what my broken body can achieve! Along side that, I recognised that I would forever be indebted to many many people, not least the air ambulance who were my first point of medical contact and likely saved my life. Certainly their swift pick up and treatment increased the chances of recovery. As a result, I decided to try to combine me finding my limits and an attempt to raise some funds for the air ambulance, who are funded purely through people giving which is just extraordinary.
I spent a long time trying to think of a challenge that was worthy. That would push me hard enough to really feel I’d tested myself, but also that would capture people’s imagination and as a result raise awareness and funds!
To cut a long story short I failed miserably. I couldn’t think of a single challenge that would push me hard enough and so the 12 challenges in 12 months concept was formed. Instead of doing a single challenge, I decided to attempt 12 challenges in a 12 month period of 2019 and all of them had to look like something that would have looked impossible back in 2010 when my accident happened.
It’s a diverse mix of challenges from a half marathon to a couple of OCR’s, to some crossfit competitions, a marathon row, an open water swim and ending with a 24-hour rope climb challenge as part of a three man team.
It’s been a fascinating year so far. There have been bits that have excited me, bits that have scared me and bits that have nearly broken me, but I feel like I’m learning a lot about my body, the mind over matter element of training and about how to train for multiple disciplines.
I’m working on a continuous focus of increasing work capacity – literally learning how to work really hard, repeatedly, multiple sessions a day, combined with recognising the need to build in skill-specific training in the run up to events (although climbing is always the absolute top priority).
I’m no sport scientist, I’m not sure I would recommend this approach to anyone, but I would really encourage people to try something new.
Take the School of Calisthenics’ passion for defining your impossible into other areas of life, not just calisthenics and do something that you didn’t think you could do!
If you want to find out a bit more about the challenges – click here
If you’re feeling really generous and wanted to sponsor me, I’ve created a Just Giving page – click here. I’ve set me a pretty massive fundraising goal, so any little bit that can help get me there would be incredible.
And if you want to track my progress, see how I’m getting on or send some encouragement to help motivate me, Instagram is the best bet and I can be found as @josh_senior
The rest of the year should have some fascinating moments and one of my big projects at the moment is to work out what 2020 will look like and how I can conitinue to redefine my impossible!
Thanks so much for reading