When we think of a bodybuilder, what are some of the words that come to mind? Strong, certainly, but also agile, muscular, flexible. The image that accompanies these words is probably something we might see in a fitness magazine or even a classic marble sculpture—an “ideal” body with perfectly symmetrical dimensions and supermodel looks.
One of Virginia’s most notable bodybuilders has overcome these stereotypes. A bodybuilder with cerebral palsy, Steve Alexy refused to let other people’s expectations, even medical diagnosis, define his potential. He shows that sometimes a disability is only as severe as you allow it to be. For this reason, he is our I Define Me award winner for this month.
Cerebral Palsy Bodybuilder Proves Disability Doesn’t Limit One’s Potential
Steve Alexy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. His condition was so severe that doctors told his parents he would never walk, and that they should prepare for the likelihood that their son would ultimately spend his life under institutionalized care.
However, Steve’s parents refused to let that bleak prognosis define their son. Determined to support him in leading a normal life, they raised him to press his limits and meet challenges independently. As a result, Steve grew up going to work, driving and living on his own—no institution needed.
Most bodybuilders get into the game for some level of social achievement. Some want the acclaim of their fellow gym rats, or to get noticed in their community. Many enter bodybuilding competitions in order to advance a career in nutrition, fitness coaching or athletic training.
Steve Alexy got into bodybuilding with a very different goal in mind. His aspiration was to improve his strength and coordination beyond what mere daily exercise could do.
For many years, Steve followed a disciplined exercise schedule with the help of trainers, working hard to offset the weakness and limited motor skills that result from his cerebral palsy. Over time, Steve found himself wanting a greater challenge. In 2011, he joined Anytime Fitness Suffolk and looked for a trainer who was as ready to take on the challenge as he was.
Steve found the trainer he was looking for in Chris Lovelette, who specializes in body composition change training as well as functional integrated strength training. More important than the trainer’s skillset, Steve felt confident that Lovelette would not “baby” him. In Steve’s words,
“I told him, ‘If we break you, we’re right next to the hospital, don’t worry,’ ” Lovelette joked.
Steve immediately dove into a rigorous workout schedule, spending two hours a day at the gym, five days per week. Under Lovelette’s guidance, Steve experienced huge gains in his strength and improved form as well as stability and coordination.
His physical condition wasn’t the only thing that grew stronger. Steve’s personal confidence and quality of life were as visibly increased as his muscle tone. So when he approached his trainer last year with the goal of entering a bodybuilding contest, it was hardly surprising to anyone.
“I told him, ‘If that’s what you want to do, I’ll make it happen,’” said Lovelette.
On June 28, Steve took the stage as a competitor at the OCB-Natural Bodyz Beach Classic bodybuilding competition at the Kroc Center in Norfolk, Va. His routine, which included nine poses, brought spectators to their feet in a standing ovation. Many of them were moved to tears when Alexy was presented with the competition’s outstanding achievement award. The reaction spread around the world when a video taken by someone in the crowd went viral on the Internet, inspiring viewers with Steve’s dedication and his refusal to be defined by his physical limitations.
Steve’s mother Shirley, who was in the crowd during the competition, had glowing words of praise for her son’s achievement.
“He’s one of my heroes,” she said. “He’s doing this for himself and to encourage others.”
Steve agreed that his goal is to prove that no one should judge someone else’s potential by their physical disability.