Running with Cerebral Palsy
Justin Gallegos has always had a different life than most. By the time he was three he still had difficulty learning to walk and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Physical activity and speaking were and have been two of the more challenging aspects of Justin’s life. Justin wasn’t able to participate in P.E. classes throughout elementary school, and has had to work on reducing his speech impediment throughout his life. But CP isn’t the only thing that sets Justin’s life apart from most.
Over the past few years Justin has been busy building quite an impressive resumé for himself. He is studying journalism at the University of Oregon while simultaneously running for their track team and working with Nike to design a special pair of shoes.
There seems to be no obstacle too large for Justin. He is now a motivational speaker and professional athlete. It was official when he became the first athlete with CP to sign with Nike, a dream come true for Justin.
And he is not done yet.
Tune in to today’s Running for Real podcast or read along to learn more from Justin’s determination and winning spirit where he discusses his love for running, working at Nike (including meeting Phil Knight), and his plan to break into the 2-hour half marathon club.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Brain damage, especially while the brain is developing and the child is in the womb, is the cause of Cerebral Palsy. The symptoms include a wide variety of muscle movement challenges. Involuntary movement, abnormal posture, and speech impediments are some of the most common.
As Justin explains it, “It is very a diverse disability.” For some people this means they are paralyzed, for others it means they struggle with speaking and walking. Justin considers himself somewhere in the middle, closer to the high-functioning side. Cerebral Palsy is challenging, but as Justin shows, it is not defining.
You Are Not Your Disability
Justin is a wonderful ambassador for being much more than his disability, and running has been a huge factor for helping him come to that realization. When Justin first started running, he was unable to pick up his feet and knees properly, causing his feet to drag. He would fall during his workouts frequently. But slowly, his body grew stronger, and as it did, so did his mind.
“I never set out to be a motivational speaker or inspiring to be a pro athlete,” says Justin, “But running really did that for me, in the sense that it changed my mental game and showed me that I’m no different than anyone else.”
Running has shown Justin that he can overcome. It has given him the confidence to tackle other impossibilities. This is one of the most beautiful things about running. It is a sport that allows you to improve every day, to work hard on something every day, and it rewards you with determination to live life fearlessly. For Justin and for anyone, running can change your life.
Appreciating the Push
When Justin began running cross country and track for his high school, he experienced something new and refreshing. Instead of being told to be careful, he was asked to work harder. He relates that his coach often pushed him to work just as harder or harder than the other athletes.
Justin thrived in this environment. Having the trust of a coach to encourage Justin to run faster instead of to slow down, gave him a drive and confidence.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook our opportunities because of their difficulty. Justin’s mindset is a wonderful example. Next time you feel overwhelmed with the tasks before you, take a step back and be grateful that you are allowed to take on those tasks. An attitude of gratitude will change your world.
Your Only Limit is Your Mind
Each of us has challenges that are unique to us. Some may appear harder than others, but Justin’s message is that all of us have limitless potential. “Never forget you are limitless,” he says. You will be happily surprised when you put your heart into your work with gratitude and fearlessness. Like Justin, you too can change the world. What you do matters, so make it count.
Listen to the Running for Real Podcast here:
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Thank you to Justin, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.