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Fighting fit

Uts gym

Guy: I wanted to share this article that came out here at the UTS university of Sydney recently. Moustafa (pictured left) has cerebral palsy and has been coming through the gym doors now for the last 18 months. The transformation over that time with Moustafa has been nothing short of incredible. I do tease him about the fact that it’s down to the 180 he’s been taking, but it’s easy to understand when you see Mousthafa training why he’s making such great progress. The sheer will and drive Moustafa has rubs off on us all that know him and he is one of the most determined guys I know.

By Calarizza Fernandez

Moustafa Ardati (24) and Ben Ly (28) have a unique relationship. Ardati, a science and IT student, has natural energy and drive, while UTS Fitness Centre Manager Ly gets a kick out of pushing people to their limits. One and a half years ago Moustafa – who was born with cerebal palsy – found it difficult to get up from his wheelchair without assistance. However, since meeting each other, the pair say both their lives have changed for the better.

Moustafa Ardati:

I first met Ben through UTS:Special Needs. I have cerebral palsy, but I like to keep active so I approached the special needs service regarding some funding for the gym and they referred me to Ben at the UTS Fitness Centre. Ben introduced me to Liz Brett who is in charge of the Elite Athlete scholarship program – because I play wheelchair hockey, I qualified for the scholarship.

There are different degrees of cerebral palsy. It affects your fine motor skills, your speech and you get a lot of spasms. Before the gym I used to be hesitant; I used to struggle speaking, I could hardly move my arms.

I’ve only been at the gym for a year and a half but the amount of progress I’ve made has helped me with everything – in sport, my daily needs, personal care. Everything.

I guess when I was young I received a lot of negative feedback from people saying ‘You can’t do this or you can’t do that’, but I never believed them. I’ve always wanted to prove people wrong.

My old doctor never believed I could do the things I can do now. I actually no longer see him. He was really surprised when I showed him my progress; he was happy for me but he wanted to use me as a guinea pig. I’m not going to repeat what I said to him, but you can imagine!

Initially, my goal at the gym was to one day stand up by myself and get out of my chair without any help. A year and a half ago I needed my dad to help me out of my chair but now my 11-year-old sister can help me and I can even stand on my own. I can dress myself now too, except for my shoes. I try to avoid that!

I’m very competitive. I found I love the challenge and being pushed to my limits; I’ve got a never-say-die attitude.

Realistically, even if I can’t walk, I’m happy as long as I can get in and out of my chair. Being able to get in and out of my chair without relying on someone is what I really want. Walking is a bonus.

I think the reason why Ben and I get along is that he’s as passionate and as motivated as I am. No matter what Ben throws at me, I’m willing to try it and if Ben sees I’m struggling he gives me an extra push. He’s that extra voice in my head that pushes me beyond my boundaries and motivates me. Sometimes though, he increases the weights without me knowing.

After an intense work out you reach a stage when you’re mentally fatigued and having someone on the side, to help you fight through the pain barrier and believe in you, really helps. Knowing that he believes in me so much gives me self-belief.

Ben Ly:

Moustafa is an interesting guy. With cerebral palsy it’s uncommon for someone to go into a gym environment and have a program worked out for them. Moustafa approached Special Needs and they contacted me – I manage the UTS Fitness Centre and take care of clients with workplace injuries, workers compensation injuries and those with special needs.

Moustafa is confined to a wheelchair so he has a lot of energy to burn and he’s quite an adventurous guy – he thinks he can do everything and that’s what I love about him.

The Elite Athlete Program (EAP) is set up through Liz Brett in the Union’s Sport and Recreation team. We have a lot of emerging athletes at UTS, and because Moustafa plays wheelchair hockey he was eligible for the program. Through the EAP, Moustafa was given free gym membership and a grant. But in his position, he needs assisted sessions too.

When I met Moustafa, the thing that stuck in my mind was his intentions. When you meet someone you have to be realistic and honest with what you can do. Some clients have unrealistic goals. Not Moustafa.

When he first came, Moustafa had to get botox in his legs for pain because Botox is a muscle relaxant. But since training with us, he hasn’t needed to get botox injections and that was my main goal.

Also, his speech used to be slurred but he’s learnt how to relax now and not be anxious – he really wants to convey what he’s thinking.

Moustafa was always confident and fun-loving, but now he’s got twice as much confidence. He’s a celebrity here. He walks in and makes fun of people as they’re training; he yells out to them. It’s a lot of fun to see.

He loves talking to people, joking around and being people’s equal – we’ve never seen him as being someone in a wheelchair. I definitely have to say he’s a social butterfly – he talks to all the girls, he flirts with all the girls, he tries to chat up my trainers. He’s really outgoing. He’s a very intelligent kid.

Moustafa’s become more and more adventurous in the exercises that he wants to try too. He hates it when you tell him he can’t do something, and I tell him that whenever I want to get him to do something.

He’s definitely one of those clients that come around once in a blue moon. It’s uplifting for me as a personal trainer to see someone who wants to better themselves as much as Moustafa does, especially with somebody that has experienced so much adversity; he has jumped so many hurdles.

Everyone in the gym has said it, but when they see him training it gives them motivation. When Moustafa’s in here, you see a ‘lift’ and people train harder and I love seeing that. It’s a very cool thing to have in the centre.

Article reproduced with permission from U:magazine.