Rethinking the workout



Sudden disability teaches a young woman what really matters

workout, disabiltity, injury, Sophie Butler

Sophie Butler, in her photo above, feels we can all let go of our obsession with looks and concentrate on keeping healthy.

Sophie Butler, an avid bodybuilder, was 21 when an accident at the gym left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her gradual return to working out, despite depression and PTSD, made her realize she'd had a superficial attitude about her trips to the gym.

As Butler told Women's Health magazine, she'd been a truly disciplined bodybuilder, lifting weights at the gym five or six days a week. But her main focus was how the workouts were sculpting her body. Once she was wheelchair-bound, she said, “As a disabled woman, I knew that I wouldn't fit into the box of what typical beauty standards told me to strive for, no matter how I tried.... So I had to separate my self-worth from how my body looked or functioned; I had to love my body exactly as it was.”

At the same time, she discovered if she wanted to be independent as a wheelchair user, she really needed upper body strength to push the chair, lift herself into her car, and single-handedly stow the 30-pound chair. The more she worked out, the easier her life became, as core strength helped her function, and increasing fitness gave her a sense of freedom.

Butler works out four times a week, with an emphasis on upper-body and core workouts, hitting muscle groups in the shoulders, chest, and back, through such movements as shoulder presses, bench presses, and lat pulldowns. She maintains a constant awareness of engaging her core.

She feels that what she has learned since her accident is of importance to all women. Those with disabilities can see that they don't have to give up on fitness but can create a workout tailored to their needs, not to their appearance. Able-bodied women can understand that they, too, can let go of an obsession with looks. All women can reclaim the real purpose of fitness, creating strength and health, and making the gym a more inclusive and welcoming place.

For workout guidelines, see Sophie Butler's Instagram profile at https://www.instagram.com/sophjbutler and our article on strength training for women



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