Chris Ruden first became famous when he went on YouTube and told the emotional story of how he left behind a desire to hide a congenital birth defect that had given him a shorter left arm with just two fingers. In 2017, a video documenting his first week with a prosthetic hand went viral and since then, Ruden has made great strides in both his physical and mental growth.
Ruden uses his journey to inspire others. He is a versatile fitness professional with a bachelor's degree in exercise science and health promotion. He's also a bodybuilder and elite powerlifter capable of lifting an incredible 600-pound deadlift – with just one biological hand. But it was a rocky transition for a teenager who turned to drugs and alcohol first to drown out his self-doubts. In his new book with the clever title “The Upper Hand”, Ruden gives hope to those of us who have to face our own struggles.
The inspiring and uplifting story of the South Florida is a must for anyone looking to reassess and overcome their own limits.
As if growing up with a different arm wasn't enough of a strain for Ruden, he was later diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which forced him to monitor his own insulin levels from the age of 19. Calling Ruden simply disabled would not acknowledge the fact that the former Titan Games contestant can likely do many things that most of us cannot.
As a young man, Ruden first fell in love with bodybuilding in order to create physical armor that could offer emotional protection against his perceived limitations. "I felt like a monster," he says. “My compensation mechanism should be competitive. It should prove to people that not only am I disabled, but I can do better than you. "
Ruden's relationship with the gym was initially tumultuous when he discovered that gyms were mostly built for one shape only. "I've seen the covers of fitness magazine and I would always think the bodies are so cool," he says. “I wanted to, but someone told me that because of my disability, I could never be me. That lit a fire in me! "
You don't have to "overcome" to participate
"The word" overcome "is funny," says Ruden. “I don't think there is an end goal. It's a process more than a place.” For example, walking into a gym for the first time is an intimidating experience for anyone, but when combined with body confidence issues, anxiety can skyrocket . Ruden says we are all on a journey and shouldn't put pressure on ourselves to overcome fears or trust issues before challenging ourselves to participate. Taking the first steps towards our goals can help us overcome our fears, but even if we don't completely overcome every problem, we can still benefit so much if we allow ourselves to at least get started with what we want to do.
As a one-handed man who lives in a two-handed world (his words), Ruden had to find ways to adapt his movements to work with the various fitness machines. "I did everything wrong," he laughs. “With a limb difference, I've made a lot of mistakes and built on poor foundations. I had the feeling that I had to cut a trail on my own. “But over time the wisdom came and Ruden soon found that training was more than a way of expressing anger. He also found the gym to be a quiet place where he could focus on himself.
If you fail, you don't become a failure
With modern culture celebrating success stories overnight and nifty social media campaigns focused on instant gratification, it's easy for us to feel like failures every time we make a mistake. The truth is, humans evolved because of our ability to extract information from things that don't get in our way the first time. So if we fail at something, we can take a different approach the next time, and this will ultimately lead to the success we yearn for. "The gym taught me to fail," says Ruden. "And that's the best lesson I've ever learned. There's a difference between failure and failure. If you don't do something, just keep going until you get it right."
Embrace our individuality
How does your definition of "disabled" compare to a man who can bench press 365 pounds and squat and deadlift over 600 pounds? "I love to find gyms with options," says Ruden. "The inclusion of disabilities in gyms is on the rise, but people with disabilities are in the largest minority in the world so it's difficult to master." One-sided equipment is great for me, ”says Ruden. "I love gyms that use hammer strength or different movements that I can isolate."
While gyms are actively trying to make their surroundings more inclusive, sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact. "I see it all the time," says Ruden. "Paper towel dispensers have a sticker that says" Have to use two hands. "I guess this isn't going to happen today! It's kind of fun, but then I think of the younger me or any kid who does
You may have problems, so inclusion and awareness are very important. You will always be the best when you are yourself and you will always suck when you try to be someone else. "
Find a like-minded community
There is no doubt that type 1 diabetes increases the pressures and responsibilities of Ruden on everyday life, but he has learned to recognize the positive effects that such control over his diet can have. "I am more aware of what I eat, I am more aware of my training and where my health is," says Ruden. Thanks to technological innovations, Ruden can wear a continuous glucose monitor that connects to a smartphone app. He's also excited about advances in insulin absorption that offer inhalable alternatives to needles.
Ruden found that there was a large community of people who faced challenges similar to himself and were able to find comfort and support others while catching up on the latest developments in medicine. When you go through struggles, you find peace knowing there are other people. Connect with a like-minded community because we are always better together.
Don't limit your potential
Ruden is driven by a desire to show others that limitations are self-imposed. As a motivational speaker, he draws on his own experience in dealing with his fears. One of those biggest challenges, of course, came when he stepped into season one of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Titan Games. With one hand he climbed the lunar impact structure like a big cat, but inside he shivered like a kitten. "I was afraid of heights," says Ruden. "I wrote on my application that I am not afraid of heights, and they gave me the matter of heights! It was insane … a great experience showing that people who are believed to be" shorter than " can be powerful. "
For Ruden, becoming a public figure was like plunging into the depths. In one way he is finally gaining the love and acceptance he has longed for, but also had to grapple with a spotlight that he had already spent most of his life avoiding. "It was like hiding in sight," says Ruden. "That attention made me feel more comfortable."
In addition to his motivating speeches and record performances, Ruden is also part of the team behind NRG Foods, which has brought diabetes-friendly protein snacks with less sugar to the market. Like everyone, Ruden has good days and bad days, but he believes that people of all abilities should feel empowered when it comes to achieving their goals. "Life is not a Disney movie," says Ruden. "It's not about mastering challenges magically, it's about everyday life."