For the past six years Leon Bostik has been adjusting to life in a wheelchair after a weight-machine at his local gym fell on him while he was training, crushing his spine and throwing him into depression.
Fortunately the depression didn't last (although he did spend four-and-a-half-years "hiding from the world") and now as a c4/c6 incomplete quadriplegic, Leon, 38, juggles his time playing a variety of sports and competing in his favorite activity: bodybuilding. Working his way up the ranks, Leon recently placed 5th in the heavyweight division at the 2007 Wheelchair Nationals.
Although technically a quadriplegic, Leon, who professes to be an "undercover quadriplegic", as he can still compete with the more mobile paraplegics in basketball and bodybuilding ("grabbing and holding weights is hard") who have greater control of their upper body muscles, has to overcome far more than your average gym-goer.
Still he has his eyes firmly focused on staying strong to excel in his chosen sports and to be in good shape should a cure for his condition be found. His message for those who find themselves in his position? Get out of the house and into bodybuilding.
[ Q ] What series of events led to your disability?
I began exercising to control and reduce my cholesterol levels and I was involved in an accident at a gym. A machine with a huge weight stack fell on me. I have traumatic amnesia so I don't know the details and there were no witnesses.
[ Q ] How old were you when you had your accident and how old are you now?
I was 31-years-old when it happened and I am 37 now.
[ Q ] How did you initially deal with this disability?
Depression and isolation kept me in the house for almost four years during which time I was anti-social and had minimum contact with others. I was desperate to find a cure or any miracle cure.
[ Q ] How did you become involved in wheelchair bodybuilding?
Lifting weights was necessary for therapy, but lifting weights for the sake of lifting was boring and I found it hard to focus doing it this way. Bodybuilding gave me a goal which helped me to maintain my focus at the same time.
[ Q ] Was there anything specific that motivated you to pursue bodybuilding?
Going to the summer sports clinic hosted by Casa Colina in August of 2006 after seeing an ad in the newspaper prompted me to get more involved in bodybuilding.
[ Q ] What were your initial bodybuilding goals?
To improve overall body strength and conditioning. I like to call it preparation for when a cure is found, and I also do it to maximize my potential.
[ Q ] What is it about bodybuilding that keeps you training?
Meeting other handicapped individuals is an additional incentive to exercise. I also use it to prepare for and to improve my performance in other sports.
[ Q ] What are some of your key bodybuilding accomplishments?
Improving my social skills and travelling. Simply getting out of the house was a big accomplishment for me.
[ Q ] What has been your best bodybuilding moment and why?
The fact that I was able to get onstage in front of people was a big jump from being a full time hermit.
[ Q ] Describe your current nutrition programs.
[ Q ] Please describe your current training program?
I ride a racing chair for 1 hour 3-times-a-week
I ride a hand cycle for 1.5 hours four-times-a-week
I lift weights four-times-a-week working a different body parts each time (shoulders, chest, legs, back are trained on days one, two, three, four and five respectively) and I do forearms and abs when I am bored.
Now I swim 30 minutes twice-a-week.
[ Q ] As a wheelchair bodybuilder, what specific obstacles do you encounter? How hard is it for you to get into competition shape?
Being a quad (quadriplegic) grabbing and holding weights is hard as my level of body fat is higher below my injury level. If I had more muscle control I would love to work my abs harder.
[ Q ] What do you mean by having higher body fat below your injury level?
I am c4/c6 incomplete so I do not have neuromuscular control below the level of my chest.
[ Q ] Exactly how much movement do you have?
I can move my abs and legs a little bit but they don't function. I cannot walk or stand.
[ Q ] What is your favorite exercise and why?
I like working chest and shoulders because I have more control over those muscles.
[ Q ] What is you off-season bodyweight and what do you compete at?
I stay between 213 and 218 all year round there is no off season for me.
[ Q ] What advice would you give others who are trying to adjust to life in a wheelchair?
Do not stay in the house; get out after your injury and do bodybuilding or play sports.
[ Q ] How important is bodybuilding in your life? How has it helped you as one with a disability?
Because of bodybuilding I am more independent through being physically stronger. I also am more motivated to work muscle groups that are underdeveloped due to my disability.
[ Q ] What is your main job. How do you fit your training around this?
I currently don't have a job so I don't live an extravagant lifestyle.
[ Q ] What other specific hobbies and interests do you have?
[ Q ] Who has inspired you to reach your goals?
My trainer and other disabled athletes have kept me going. Plus one day I hope there will be a cure so I stay strong for this possibility.
[ Q ] What are your bodybuilding goals?
I would like to be competitive against paraplegics or individuals with more ability and control of their bodies.
[ Q ] What supplements do you use and why? How have the benefited you?
I have to have protein bars and drinks for convenience as cooking as a c4/c6 quad is difficult. Supplements are also great snacks. I have already burned my legs three times trying to cook so I don't push my luck. I also like endurance drinks or powders mixed with water during long bike rides.
Check Out Leon's Wheelchairbodybuilding.com Page here.