When one exercises, the body releases endorphins which uplifts the mood, reduces stress, enhances self-esteem and creates a sense of well-being. But for the disabled, managing life itself is a task and succeeding in the field of fitness is even tougher. However, there are a few individuals who chose to rise above their physical limitations, so much so that physical fitness has become a way of life for them.
Wheelchair ambassador and model Anand Arnold never lost hope on life. When he was 11-years-old, Arnold decided to take up bodybuilding as his profession and joined a gym when he turned 13. It helped that he came from a family which veered towards fitness, his father was in the Indian Air Force, uncle, the captain of the Indian Hockey team which won a gold medal at the Olympics and a brother who won the title of Mr Ludhiana four times.
Anand doesn’t use any special equipment while working out, instead he ties a belt around his waist so that his weight is balanced. “I do all upper body exercises like bench press, incline bench press, lift dumbbells with the support of the belt since I don’t have pelvic balance,” says Anand Arnold who supports his family by promoting a few companies. He also played a major role in the movie Supreme and was the subject of an inspirational novel Weightless- a true story of courage and determination penned by author Allen Woodman. “I’m now acting in an autobiographical film directed by Mohan Das,” says model-turned-actor who takes online classes for students from across the globe. “Confidence comes with success and once you achieve success, you start to inspire others which itself is motivating.”
While Arnold inspires everyone with his positive attitude to life, visually-impaired Gunja Madhu made a name for himself after winning the Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014.In a sport like cricket, having good muscle strength in the arms is important. “We don’t have a coach on a regular basis, but we go for jogging every morning. Before tournaments, we lift dumbbells and skip,” says Madhu who works for a software company as an office administrator.
During practice sessions, if the players make a mistake, they are informed about the space dimensions and run accordingly as punishment. Cricketers who are completely blind are generally accompanied by partial visually impaired team members. “We get a coach only during an international tournament. Our coach was Patrick Raj Kumar. Though he is strict and punishes us, he doesn’t differentiate or show sympathy towards us. He trains us like any other person,” says Madhu who has 40% vision in one eye.
Truly, the right attitude and willpower can take anyone places as was the case with Vasundhara Koppula who is a paraplegic. After struggling to get a foothold in the media sector for a year, the turning point in her life came when she won the title of ‘Miss Wheelchair India’ beauty contest. Motivated and encouraged by her success, she sought out others like her with a goal to improve their lives.
“Initially, I also struggled a lot for an opportunity. But my family was supportive and I was able to move around on wheelchair for months. But what about people who can’t afford even that?” says Vasundhara who is now conducting a fashion pageant ‘Miss Ability Telangana’ for physically-challenged individuals. “I want to celebrate the beauty in every differently-abled girl. Fitness is nothing but mental health and emotional strength, each person should possess,” adds Vasundhara who did her masters in mass communication from SK University.