Dagenham bodybuilder with cerebral palsy proves 'the mind is your most powerful asset'
- Credit: Lee Farrell
If there’s one thing Dagenham-based Lee Farrell certainly isn’t short of, it’s ambition.
Lee, 35, was born with cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that affects movement and coordination.
He is also a bodybuilder, and at the UFE European Championships in London this year, he came second place in the men’s physique competition and fifth place overall.
His journey to becoming a medal-winning athlete started around four and a half years ago, when he was taken to a gym by a family member at a time when he was struggling with his mental health.
He instantly “fell in love with it”, got himself a personal trainer, and began a fitness journey that would change his life.
Enjoying both the challenge of going to the gym and seeing the changes it made to his body, Lee developed a passion for exercise and the research behind it.
Despite setbacks sparked because of his workouts, such as muscle spasms, Lee has always remained determined to “come back bigger and stronger”.
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“I’d rather put up with that pain than not train and have that pain 10 times’ worse and muscle cramp on a regular basis," he said.
While training for this year’s competition was “brutal” and “not for the faint-hearted”, Lee says the event itself was special.
Support was provided to make sure he had everything he needed, from his own en-suite to having people on-hand to assist him if required.
“For my first-time experience, I couldn’t ask for anything better," he told the Post.
The bodybuilding community has also been hugely supportive, Lee said, describing it as “a little family unit”.
“You meet other people who do the exact same thing, you might not know them from anywhere and it’s like you’ve known them a whole lifetime.
"It’s a real family community to be honest."
However, Lee's ambitions lay far beyond just competing at bodybuilding events.
Since he started to train, Lee found there were very few people who understood and were able to cater to his needs, something he sees as an issue for most disabled people hoping to get into working out and fitness.
Using his recent success and his studies into sports science at Barking and Dagenham College as a springboard, Lee hopes to eventually become a public figure and personal trainer who understands disability needs.
He also hopes to open his own centre for disabled people.
“My vision is to one day, hopefully, to have a centre that is for disabled people that has all the services under one roof.
“Physiotherapists, speech therapists, a place where you can get your wheelchair fixed, plus a specialised gym that can allow people in wheelchairs and other disabilities to come in and feel at ease, instead of going into a normal gym and struggling.
“As a disabled person, I’ve realised over the last three/four years of training, getting the knowledge that I have, I get a lot of relief out of this and it helps with my disability. It improves my balance, it improves my strength, it’s good for my coordination skills, it keeps my muscles active, and I’m just trying to educate myself more in that field."
Well aware his dreams aren’t going to happen overnight, Farrell is confident in his ability to achieve his goals one day, regardless of how long it takes.
“Once I’m passionate about something I’m determined to see it through to the end."
For now, he’s busy focussing on getting back into training, his college work and preparing to fundraise for Great Ormond Street Hospital later this year.
For 12 days before Christmas, Lee will be eating eight meals each day with the aim of raising £2,000.
For updates on Lee's forthcoming GoFundMe page, keep an eye on his Instagram.