Yorkshire man with genetic disease defies odds to become bodybuilder

A Yorkshire man who suffers from a genetic disease which leads to muscle weakness and numbness has defied the odds to become a successful bodybuilder.

John Nixon, 44, suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a condition that causes nerve damage. Despite the challenges the disease brings, John has become a bodybuilder and even came second in the PCA bodybuilding world finals in Malaga, Spain.

John, of Barnsley, said: "I joined the gym to feel stronger and to stop falling and tripping as much and I've never looked back. I've always been pretty good in myself but around this time I was getting quite thin and weak.

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"Because my condition can be degenerative, I really think I would be in a wheelchair if I didn't find bodybuilding 17 years ago."

John Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMTJohn Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMT
John Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMT

John was officially diagnosed with the condition when he was 12. At the time, doctors told him that he must never lift weights and be very cautious when doing exercise. John has many of the key symptoms that are characteristic to CMT.

These include numbness and muscle weakness in his feet, ankles, legs and hands, an awkward way of walking (gait) and highly arched feet. To combat the symptoms as best as possible, John has two pairs of custom made orthotic boots that are designed to fit his feet.

The boots are the only footwear available to him and are constantly going for upgrades and repairs to help John as best they can. Even with the boots, John describes the daily pain of his condition as a "constant irritation" that won't go away.

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He said: "The aches and pains almost feel like you've been electrocuted at times. In the morning I can't walk on the hard floor as the pain is too much so getting to the toilet is hard. I have to wear my boots to answer the door, which can take a while to put on, so sometimes I have to just crawl. I have to wear them in the garden as well as the grass is too uneven.

John Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMT.John Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMT.
John Nixon, 44, has thrived at bodybuilding despite facing challenges of caused by CMT.

"Within the last two years too I have had to start taking my crutches everywhere too. Especially If I go out anywhere that I don't know what the floor surface is like. I have to have crutches. I have mobility scooter to walk the dogs though, they love it just as much as me."

Despite all of these challenges and the daily struggles, John has pushed through. He discovered bodybuilding in 2007 and it changed the course of his life forever.

He said: "When I took bodybuilding up I didn't do it to compete. Before the pandemic I thought about it but that hunger only grew even more as we couldn't use gyms."

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John started competing in bodybuilding events in 2022 and he now has three 1st place medals and two 2nd place medals to his name.

He said: "After winning several events, I won a pro card to get me to the PCA bodybuilding world finals l in Malaga where I came second. Just to get that experience of going abroad to do it, it's the pride and sense of achievement."

Looking forward to the future, John is hungry for more competition and aims to compete again next year. He is also looking to continue his journey on social media, educating people about his condition.

He said: "When I was first diagnosed, google wasn't what is was today. Even the professionals didn't know too much about CMT. But I really feel like I am winning because people are learning more and more about this disease because of my content. I feel so strongly about getting people with chronic illnesses to keep active, and I hope to carry on that message."

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