Be More Human ...From Our Partners at Reebok
Adaptive Athlete Finds Purpose in Fitness
“Today is leg day,” says Nick Santonastasso, an adaptive athlete with no legs and one arm, who has dedicated his adult life to ignoring his disability and getting fit.
"Fitness has helped me be the best version of myself because I look at being fit, motivating and inspiring as a duty."
Instinctive chuckles echo in the gym around him. Santonastasso’s training partner wraps a belt around his torso to strap him to the bench before loading his single arm with three plates.
Despite the obvious limitations, Santonastasso is pursuing a career in bodybuilding, a continuation of his passion for fitness that began when he was a high school wrestler.
He was born with Hanhart syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that results in undeveloped limbs. In high school, as a member of the wrestling team, he opted to have part of his right arm amputated so that he could compete more effectively. Now, he uses a custom prosthetic limb to help him use traditional weightlifting equipment.
“The most important thing about all this is giving value of others and spreading motivation,” he says. “The fact that I can just post my daily life on a social media platform and impact people all over the world, that’s what I’m most proud of.”
When he joined the wrestling team as a junior, he weighed 20 pounds less than most of his opponents and lost repeatedly. Despite the losses, he received standing ovations every time he took the mat. At first, he was confused. But eventually he understood the crowd’s reaction.
“I got my ‘why’ answer,” he says. “Fitness.”
“That’s when I realized fitness was going to be a game changer for me,” he says. “I finally realized, ‘Nick, just you doing you and doing these physical activities you can have such an impact on people.’”
“I do it for the kids in wheelchairs or [those that are] paralyzed, or the kids in hospital beds who would give up anything and everything just to live a physical life. People would switch with me in an instant.”
Santonastasso’s newfound confidence has spurred him to set his sights on competing in professional bodybuilding in the Men’s Physique category. He adheres to a rigorous high-protein diet and spends several hours in the gym every day.
His training regime is the result of several months of trial and error. He and Fuca are constantly experimenting with various pieces of adaptive equipment to make traditional strength machines accessible. When Santonastasso is not at the gym, he spends his free time watching YouTube videos searching for new exercise ideas to further his bodybuilding career.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us Nick. Here's a motivational speech Nick gave last March that can also be seen on his Youtube Channel.