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Adversity breeds champions

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Some athletes must channel passion to find strength and overcome disabilities.

LACK of time, money, health—our long-term goals are certain to cross paths with an obstacle or two. For busy fitness enthusiasts fighting to balance life with intense goals, these barriers can be discourag- ing or even devastating. It’s easy to lose focus when these barriers show up uninvited: injury, illness or even a work week littered with interruptions and annoyances. How do we react to these challenges?

Some people, whether recreational or competitive in their athletic goals, have no choice but to welcome daily challenges if they want to succeed. Statistics Canada reports that approximately 14% of Canadians have
a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability. Among these people are some of the most inspiring stories of athletes from which we we can learn. These are people choosing to identify more with their abilities than with their disabilities.They are champions achieving excellence in their sport, holding a positive presence of mind, and reinventing themselves in the face of adversity.

Reinvention has been a running theme in CJ Bhatti’s life since recently becoming a competitive physique athlete. Bhatti was in kindergarten when she realized she wasn’t able to hear out of her left ear. Profound uni- lateral hearing comes with as many emotional challenges as it does physical.“My hearing loss is a daily struggle but I try not to let it affect me. The hardest thing to deal with is people’s misconceptions about me when they aren’t aware of my disability,” says Bhatti. “They assume that I’m stupid or snobby for not responding to them when they speak to me.”

She believes it’s prejudgement like this that leads to social isolation, anxiety or increased feelings of insecurity for people with her condition. There’s no room for insecurity in Bhatti’s sport, which is what motivated her to commit to her ambitious stage goals. “I’m taking a stand for myself by being on stage. Its about pushing my limits, overcoming my fears and moving away from social isolation.”

As a 41-year-old single mother of two boys, a soccer coach, and a full time business executive, Bhatti makes time to train like a champion consistently throughout the year. Her coach adjusts her fitness program monthly, generally spanning six days per week with 30-minute cardio sessions, and plenty of resistance training. “I also take Zumba to de-stress,” says Bhatti. “The instructor doesn’t talk and you just move to the rhythm of the music—like dancing. My next goal is to get Zumba Instructor certified.”

Aside from having trouble hearing her coach during stage presence workshops, most of Bhatti’s contest prep takes place in the gym without any distraction from her hearing loss. “I struggle on stage with my hearing—I can’t hear my number being called when judges call me to the front of the stage or move me around for comparisons,” she says. “I’ve grown significantly since my first show and I’m a different person and I’ve found my fit.” Bhatti has competed since 2012 and achieved provincial level status in only her second show. She’s aiming to earn a pro card in Masters Bikini division and plans to use this achievement to inspire others working on multi-dimensional goals like hers.

More Inspiration: Check out this great story on how Aeryon Ashlie was inspired to change her life.


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