30 May #185 – Defying MS with the Barbell: Laura Desey & Coach Aaron Simm
Lots of people have excuses. Most of them don’t count, especially when it comes to training. I can’t train because my back hurts, I can’t train because I injured my knee, I can’t train because I have an old sports injury — nope, we’re not buying it here at Barbell Logic. Laura Desey, however, DOES have an excuse, a good one, but it doesn’t stop her from training, competing, and pursuing new physical challenges to keep her body and mind strong.
Laura is a young, beautiful, fit woman, and though you wouldn’t know it looking at her, she also has multiple sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the myelin sheathes of its nervous system, an insulating layer of tissue which keeps nerves firing correctly and, therefore, plays a big role in movement and sensation. This means that Laura has trouble walking, and physical exertion often causes her to lose feeling in her legs.
Nevertheless, she trains consistently, up to five days a week, and has built a fitness base that has allowed her to do physical tasks ranging from a 100km bicycle ride to bodybuilding to powerlifting meets. Recently she competed at her first powerlifting meet at Valhalla Strength in Brisbane, Australia, where she put up a 115kg squat, 60kg bench, and narrowly missed a 160kg deadlift (locked it out but jumped the down command).
Training for the event was difficult, as she had to carefully manage her warm ups and training stress to avoid losing her feeling and control of her legs. Fortunately, she had contacted powerlifting coach Aaron Simm to manage her training. They discovered that the body heat generated from lifting triggered neuropathy in her legs. Simm programmed carefully around this discovery, using warm ups sparingly — just enough to get her nervous system ready to lift heavy weights — and driving intensity when possible on her lower body. Somedays went better than others, so on workouts where the neuropathy was bad, he programmed high volume upper body work, which Laura could usually tolerate even when she couldn’t train her legs.
Laura posted an Instagram video of Coach Aaron carrying her to her final deadlift attempt that went viral.
You can follow Laura and her lifting exploits @lauz_life and you can follow her talented (and insanely strong) coach Aaron @aaron.simm. Aaron owns a premier strength training facility @simmcityperformance, where he coaches Laura and other lifters.
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