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November 17, 2020 4 min read

In that moment, it was like everything I had ever worked for was just completely insignificant.

Nothing else mattered.

And I knew what I had to focus on now…

I had to prove them wrong.

***

Just like many other young lads, football was my thing.

A young teenager, playing for my county with a dream of making it pro…

But again, like so many young lads, it wasn’t easy.

So, I started hitting the gym too, to try and build my strength.

But at the age of 15, after unsuccessful football trials, I needed to make a decision.

I couldn’t carry on with both – football or strength training?

I chose strength training.

And I really worked hard at it… 

 

MY COMPETITIVE TRAINING BEGAN

Neale Cranwell competing early days

With my focus now entirely on strength training, I wanted to compete.

The dream was to gain professional status as a bodybuilder.

So, with my goal in mind I began my journey!

2001…

ANB SE - Runner Up (90kg class)

ANB Midlands – Runner Up (90kg class)

2002…

Musclemania UK, Light Heavyweight – Runner Up

Musclemania Europe, Heavyweight – Runner Up

2003…

A motorbike accident.

Still in the infancy of my competitive journey and I was paralysed from the neck down.

My arms and hips were shattered…

And I was told I would probably never write again, let alone lift weights.

In that moment, it was like everything I had ever worked for was just completely insignificant.

Nothing else mattered.

And I knew what I had to focus on now…

I had to prove them wrong.

But, when you’re paralysed from the neck down, where do you even begin?

For weeks, all I could do was move my eyes.

And I just remember thinking that all of those material things that I had worked so hard for meant nothing…

I wished them all away, just to be able to get up and brush my teeth or walk to the toilet.

It took several months before I even managed just slight movements in my fingers and my toes.

But the biggest thing for me was drawing on mental strength.

When the surgeons told me that I’d have to give up sport

… Give up going to the gym

… Give up competing

I could have let my head drop and just given up.

But I didn’t.

I took the bull by the horns and vowed to keep a positive mind.

  

LEARNING THE BASICS AGAIN

After several surgeries to put plates and pins in my arms, and a rigorous physio routine…

I was able to start learning how to do the basics again.

I learned how to feed myself again.

I learned how to write again.

And I learned how to walk again.

I worked so hard on my recovery, with the support of family, friends and colleagues…

Everything I did was to get myself back to where I had been and prove the surgeons wrong.

And I did!

Despite everything I was told, I started lifting weights.

I started training again.

I started competing again!

My drive to get back on stage was so strong.

And, in 2006, I was crowned Mr Titan.

It was only a small local show but, for me, this achievement was huge!

Against all the odds, I had proved the surgeons wrong.

And it was then that I realised the true power of the mind

That if you really believe in something and work at it, you can make it happen.

So, I didn’t stop there…

I carried on competing because I knew that I could handle whatever came my way.

 

MORE SETBACKS

And it turned out that more was set to come my way.

My motorbike accident wasn’t the only challenge I would face.

A fractured spine and two slipped discs, after a normal training session doing deadlifts…

A torn bicep from tyre flipping, as part of strongman training…

But in that same year, I went on to win the World Physique Federation Heavyweight Mr Universe Title.

Then, after winning the IBFA world championships in Italy, I tore my chest muscles from bench pressing 160kg.

And more recently, I’ve just recovered from knee surgery.

It almost felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back.

But each time, my positive mindset allowed me to focus on getting back to where I had been.

And, in fact, it gave me another chance to restart things in the correct way…

Like learning to lift and squat again with the correct techniques, without the bad habits I’d picked up along my journey.

 

REACHING MY ULTIMATE GOAL

Despite everything that had set me back along the way, I couldn’t be stopped.

My bodybuilding journey has allowed me to win so many titles - over 50 in total.

I’ve also been able to help so many people through my PT business.

People just like me who have faced adversity and, having seen my story, have come to me for help.

But, this year, I managed to hit my ultimate goal.

The one I had dreamed of when I started this journey over 20 years ago.

I finally got my pro card in bodybuilding.

I’ve competed for so many years now…

In every amateur show and every federation, winning almost all of the titles.

And now my pro status has opened up another chapter for me, so I’d like to carry on competing until I’m about 50.

To still be in amazing shape, when so many others have given up!

It’s a difficult industry that is so physically demanding, but it’s totally worth the reward.

And I will keep going until I say it’s time to stop…

 

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You can see more of Neale's amazing achievements and follow his journey on his Instagram page - @nealecranwell

Or contact Neale for training help on info@nealecranwell.co.uk!


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