Today's guest blog is from one of our favorite Aussies: Robyn Lambird, a 19 year old athlete who competes internationally in wheelchair racing, a disability advocate, blogger, and total fashion-lover!
"As a disability mentor and advocate, I often preach the importance of being active or involved in some form of sport. Whilst we are all very aware of the benefits of living an active lifestyle, and of how increasing your fitness is key to living longer and staying healthy, for me being an athlete is so much more.
Before I started traveling to compete in wheelchair rugby and athletics I wasn’t quite the person I am today. I had pretty severe anxiety, I didn’t have the confidence needed to put myself in situations where I would have to be self reliant, and I was also struggling with my mobility. Although as an advocate I promoted the idea that life for people living with disabilities didn’t have to be one of confinement or limitation, I almost didn’t believe in my own abilities.
I wouldn’t really interact with new people unless I had other friends or family with me, and I couldn’t imagine hopping on a plane by myself or living without my parents for more than a couple of days. Although I’ve always had a pretty positive outlook when it comes to disability, I think in the back of my mind, I always thought I was going to find myself stuck in some kind of situation where my cerebral palsy would get the better of me.
In a sporting environment though, I am forced to be social in order to be successful. Whether it’s during a rugby competition, where team communication is the most vital part of the game, or in athletics, where networking is key to becoming noticed as an athlete, I can’t escape putting myself out there. This has definitely played a huge part in me developing into the confident person I am today, even if I did have to fake it until I made it!
The other great thing about traveling as a disabled athlete is that you have ample opportunity to learn how others, in a similar situation to yourself, navigate the world. In my case, on a number of occasions I’ve traveled with an older athlete who also has CP and just seeing how she does basic things like preparing meals or going up and down curbs in her wheelchair, has helped me greatly in being more independent in my own day to day life. However, whilst the athletes around are often there to support you if need be, the competitive and focused nature of sport pushes you to be the most independent and capable person you can be on your own.
Working out has also given me a better understanding of my own body. As I progress I can feel a deeper connection between my mind and my muscles, and I’m noticing new levels of engagement all the time. Through this new sense of awareness, I’m able to see how strengthening or loosening a particular muscle has a knock on effect on my overall posture. I’m also better equipped to recognise poor alignment and to work to correct it. In being able to access and draw upon more of my body, I’ve been able to develop more efficient ways of mobilising, both in my wheelchair and on my feet, and have in turn reduced the amount joint pain I experience on a day to day basis.
Through developing these skills, I am now able to put myself out there as a public figure and speak confidently about the issues I am passionate about. Sport has also given me a bigger platform on which I can be an advocate and I can now say I'm truly living what I teach.
I’m not trying to convince you that joining a football team is going to be a miracle cure, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t have days where the sweaty palms and racing heart rate come back, or I’m left feeling sorry for myself because of knee pain, but I can honestly say I’ve never been more confident and comfortable with in myself and I owe a large portion of that success to my sporting experiences."
Follow Robyn's accounts for more of her sporting life: