Matt Elson, born with cerebral palsy, has had an enforced year away from competing in bodybuilding competitions which he has adapted and overcome during a challenging year

Born with cerebral palsy, Matt has never let his disability define him and has been competing in national and international bodybuilding competitions for the past four years. He can be found almost every day, training and preparing at his local gym, Anytime Fitness Clifton.

This year has been a huge setback with such exciting plans in the pipeline, but Matt has managed to stay positive and be thankful for the things in his life.

“My ambitions completely changed this year,” said Matt. “There was the obvious feeling of disappointment initially, but you have to think about what your priorities are. Knowing that your friends and family are safe and healthy meant everything to me.”

Initially, Matt found it really tough in lockdown, having been in such an established routine for so many years.

“I was in such a habit of competing and pre-pandemic, it was very regimented” added Matt. “The first few weeks in lockdown I felt lost training wise and struggled without the usual routine. However, I needed to stay healthy. My wife had a great suggestion of just going for a daily walk to help keep some exercise routine, which quickly I got into a routine of doing every night which was really beneficial for me mentally.”

Matt invested in some home fitness equipment to fill the void, including dumbbells and weight bars to ensure he was still able to train. However, when gyms were given the green light to reopen on 25 July, there was only one place that Matt was heading. 

Matt Elson had his 2020 all planned out. The PCA World Championships in the Disability Category in Birmingham were in the diary together with a regional PCA Florida Championship in the summer in the USA, but unfortunately, it all came to nothing.

“I was one of the first down there on the Saturday morning,” said Matt. “Until you’re back there again, you don’t realise just how much you missed it. There’s a group of us that all go at a similar time and it was amazing to see them again. We didn’t know each other before joining but you see everyone at the same time and miss them! We’ve become closer since reopening.

“Gyms are more than just lifting weights; it’s bringing people back together and it’s been many peoples’ coping mechanism during this time. It also felt like such a safe space too, the staff there are great at keeping things clean and the members are so considerate too.”

While the next time Matt competes on the stage is impossible to predict, he’s still enjoying his training and looking at long-term goals, rather than short-term ones.

“All I’ve done is train for competitions and stay quite lean, but I’ve given myself an opportunity to try new things and shake things up a bit,” added Matt. “It’s acted as a chance to step back and say okay, let’s have a rethink about longer term goals. I’ll still be competition orientated but, in my head, the next time I do that will be America which is a lot longer term.

“I want to help people with disabilities get better access in sport. I found the buzz from being inspired my peers in the category and I want to pass that on. Competition participants are going up every year and that interest is amazing for us. I picked it up from being inspired by others and I want to do the same for others too.

“In the next 18 months, it’s about adapting but also having fun. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it! I love the challenge of fitness and have never not enjoyed it which us why I keep coming back for more.

“Fitness is for everyone and I want to inspire people to feel the positive things you do when you’re active. I’m campaigning for more opportunities for everyone, for even more access to help more people get involved at whichever level they aspire to, it’s helped me and I want to give something back. I always say that it all starts somewhere and before you know it, it’s a lifestyle.”