Hi everyone my name is James Norris. My goal is to share some of my life experiences with you so that you may be able to learn and benefit from it. I hope it creates an open dialogue we can all learn from. First let me start by telling you a little bit about myself and how I’m at where I am today. I’m 32 years old I was born in Southern California but have resided in Boston Massachusetts for the majority of my life. I was born 3 months premature. I weighed 2 1/2 pounds and was 11 3/4 long. That’s smaller than a velveeta box. I stayed in the hospital for 3 months. My family would come and see me everyday for feedings and lots of cuddles. My mom would tell me she would ware the same perfume every day so I would know she was there. After continuing to thrive I finally reached my goal weight of a whopping 5 pounds. I was paroled in October right around my original due date. A month later I was rushed to the hospital to undergo an emergency hernia surgery. During the procedure the tube that goes down your throat was not taped to my mouth. I moved during the surgery and the tube came out depriving me of oxygen for five minutes. At the time it was unclear if I was going to survive and if I did the doctors were uncertain what my quality of life would be. By the grace of God I survived.
I was diagnosed with
Cerebral Palsy (CP) at the age of 1 1/2. My parents and family noticed I wasn’t meeting the milestones that I should be at certain ages. The doctors kept telling them I was playing catch up because I was premature. Then I was finally sent to a neurologist and within 10 minuets of the exam they diagnosed me with CP. There are many different types and severity levels when it come to CP but mine in particular effects my legs and my left arm so my balance isn’t very good and I have very limited use of my arm. As a child I had many surgeries on my back, ankles, hips and hamstrings. The reason for this was to try an loosen the muscles giving me more range of motion and flexibility. During my Elementary and middle school years I did many hours of physical therapy and let me tell you I HATED IT! That being said my parents, teachers and physical therapist didn’t let me off the hook. That enabled me to be able to use braces and a walker. I’ve always been a huge sports fan so my parents got me involved in Challenger baseball and basketball and I LOVED IT! Every Friday night I was either Mo Vaughn or Michael Jordan. Towards the end of middle school our family moved to California because my dad got a job transfer but we returned to Massachusetts after a year and that’s when we moved to Malden. Something I forgot to mention before I never asked the question why me? Or said life sucks! Sure I’ve had my fill of tough days and I still have them occasionally but I have always been ok with my circumstances for a few reasons. First and foremost my faith, and second how I was raised. My family never treated me any different in fact they held me to high standards because they knew what I was capable of and let’s be honest having CP is the only thing I’ve ever known. That being said I was very shy and not very outgoing I’d go to school come home do homework and watch sports and I was totally fine with that. Little did I know that was all about to change. Mrs. Thur,she was my high school study teacher. She was very high energy and she also loved sports so we would sit around talking sports and she’d share stories about the great Celtics teams of the 70s and 80s so that was right up my alley. One day she told me to come with her and she introduced me to the head coach of the girls basketball team Coach Brown and he asked if I’d keep the shot charts and be the team manager. This was a great first step to breaking me out of my shell but I was still extremely shy. Fast forward to my senior year prom was right around the corner Mrs. Thur asked if I was going to prom? I said NO! She asked why? My response was “because I have sports to watch” she said that’s not an acceptable reason and you’re going! We went round and round needless to say I ended up going and my date was Jenelle a player from the team. If I’m being honest I had a blast if you asked Jenelle I’m not sure she’d say the same because she wasn’t really the dress and high heels type lol BUT she did it and looked great I might add! I didn’t realize it at the time but that played a huge part into making me the person I am today. After high school I attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. After graduation I met Jason of Radio 92.9 (WBOS) he not only gave me an internship he then offered me my first radio job. Jason was someone I like to call a character builder for me. He threw me to the wolves and was very direct and there were many days we had it out and I wanted to quit. I remember this one time he got ticked off with me and grabbed a marker and wrote a line on the wall and said “your here and I need you here!” That other mark seemed to be light years away from where I was. I don’t know why exactly it sticks out in my mind it just does it was kinda like a coach screaming at the team during halftime. Thank God I didn’t quit because looking back he was just showing me what life is like in the real world…did he handle it right all the time no but hey we’re all human. Jason and I are still friends to this day and he’s played a huge part in getting me where I am today. After working at Radio 92.9 for four years I moved back to California to work at a production company I took this huge leap of faith in hopes that it would take my career to the next level. After a few months I realized that wasn’t going to happen for several different reasons. I had signed a one year lease on a house so I was stuck! On top of that I don’t drive and I had to use public transportation or a disabled ride service and both of those things were almost nonexistent in Southern California at the time. I was used to always being on the go and staying busy. Don’t get me wrong my family and friends would take me out but they had their own lives to live. I always drank alcohol and ate whatever I wanted I mean heck I worked in radio where we had 2-3 bar gigs a week interacting with listeners…but this was different I was drinking 6-7 beers a night. Was I an alcoholic? I don’t think so but I can honestly say I was definitely on that path. Every now and again I would help out at my uncle’s RV business in the office just to keep myself busy. One day when I was introduced to his new employee named Kristina we quickly hit it off and started hanging out often we would go to church, out to eat etc. She was in recovery so out of respect for her I cut back on my drinking and she convinced me to “eat healthy’ so as hard as that year was I really believe God put me on that path for many reasons with the one being that I need to rely on him. After the lease was up I moved back to Boston because it’s my home! I moved back to Malden to a two family house and my family’s apartment was on the second floor and my bedroom was on the third floor and let me tell you after climbing the stairs I was huffing and puffing and I knew I needed to loose weight.
My Journey and Life’s Calling
I remember the first time I went into LA Fitness and my number one goal Was to not make a fool out of myself. I watched what others were doing then did my best to emulate it. As time went on I learned and if I had a question I would ask and I was very surprised at everyone’s willingness to help and if I’m being honest this was a big reason why I kept going even though I was new and hadn’t seen results yet I became friends with a few people and that gave me a ton of confidence and I said hmm maybe I do belong. It wasn’t until I started working with my trainer Joe that I saw that maybe this fitness lifestyle was for me. He took a great interest in my CP and designed a program around my challenges. I became like a sponge trying to learn everything I could. Another big thing for me was if I wanted to try something I’d run it by Joe and together we’d come up with a safe and Effective way to do whatever the exercise. This gave me so much confidence.
Then a good friend said to me I workout at Mike Boyles Strength and Conditioning and I’ve seen the progress you’ve made LA Fitness but I think they may help you even more. To be honest that same Nervousness I experienced the first time going into LA fitness came back over me all I could think about was these guys work with pro athletes but I agreed to go check it out. From the start I could Ken was very interested in doing his best to help me better myself and my fitness. Similar to what Joe did Ken worked around my challenges and found ways to adapt the exercises. We started out going really slow and I remember thinking what the heck I’m not even sweating. Now looking back I now realize how important this was. As time went on I could see progress and slowly Ken started to Incorporate things like split squats then one day progressed from that we did loaded split it squats with a 15 then 20 pound vest then we incorporated . RFEs. It was a slow process but my legs began to become much stronger. During time I received leg braces and we stated walking using the medball rack to simulate a walker. One morning I woke up and said man it would be cold to walk a 5k so I brought that up to Ken during one of our training sessions and he said ok let’s make that a goal. Each week at the end of the workout we’d walk and it was during this time we came up with the idea of hosting the first annual Handi Capable Fitness Walk to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital. I chose them because that’s where I had my surgeries as a child. We set a date of May 12th and as time got closer we realized I wasn’t able to walk a full 5k and yet and that was a hard pill to swallow. After getting over the disappointment of not reaching my original goal I decided to go forth with the Walk because I thought it in bodied exactly what Handi Capable fitness is all about. Showing people that no matter the challenge you can still get after it. Going in to the walk Ken and I said if I could go once around the track We would consider that a success. I am proud to say that I was able to do three times around the track. My whole fitness journey has inspired me to learn more so I can help other adaptive athletes achieve their goals.. So I’m currently studying the CSFC material in hopes of becoming a fitness mentor.
My goal with Handi Capable Fitness is helping and inspiring others and highlight others who are faced with challenges but don’t let that stop them from doing amazing things. Living life to the fullest I truly believe my life’s calling is to help others
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