The lockdown period has been mentally and physically challenging for people across the globe.
And it hasn’t been any different for Joshua van Staden who, luckily, has managed to extricate himself from his lockdown slump.
The 19-year-old now hopes to inspire others to follow his example.
Joshua, who is from Cape Town, was born with achondroplasia dwarfism – a bone growth disorder that causes disproportionate dwarfism – and has had two operations as a young boy to correct his spinal cord and to straighten his legs
Although his condition prevents him from taking part in contact sport, it hasn’t stopped him pursuing his dream to become the world's best athlete.
Joshua eased into sport through swimming at Vista Nova High School in Pinelands. Later he was introduced to field events and immediately fell in love with shot put and javelin, eventually managing to take part in professional competition in both events.
He represented South Africa at the 2019 Para Athletics Junior Championships in Nottwil Switzerland, bringing home a silver medal. He was also awarded Junior Para Athlete of the Year in 2019 by Cape Winelands and all his achievements earned him a bursary to Stellenbosch University, where he’s studying theology.
He was due to travel to Germany in July to compete in the Para Athletics championships, but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to his plans.
Instead, Joshua saw himself sitting at home for months and gaining a lot of weight.
“I had to be honest with myself and it was harsh,” Joshua tells YOU. “There was a point where I even cried – no flower grows without rain. I got emotional because I felt this was too much.
“I’ve been sitting on my butt for four months doing
nothing, and yet I’m a professional athlete – I say I want to be the world's
“‘Athletics was my escape from the realities I face in the world, from the realities I face daily regarding my self-esteem and bullying. It gave me a sense of pride, now the world is basically on pause, so it’s either I evolve or stay the same person.”
After some introspection, Joshua challenged himself to start getting fit again. He went on to social media platform Pinterest and started looking for the best exercises to suit his workout routine.
“It started with push-ups, and with doing social media fitness challenges,” says Joshua, who was determined to come out of the lockdown with a new perspective and physique.
“I know other people who are dwarfs, and I know a lot of people with disabilities but not many of them are active because of the way they perceive their disability as something that weighs them down, not something they can use to set them free.”
During his transformation, Joshua decided to share his workout videos online to help others who might have let themselves go during the lockdown.
He’s dedicated two hours of his day to exercising, and is feeling better than ever before.
“My body is looking cool now. I’ve never seen this side of it – my muscles are showing and with that comes confidence and more of a push to exercise more. I look in the mirror and notice the changes.”
Take a look at some of the videos below:
Extra source: Healthline