Meet Tyler Saunders, the Disabled PT Who Wants to Show Everyone That Limitations Are Self-imposed

Scarlett Wrench
·2-min read

From Men's Health

Growing up, I was the only disabled person I knew,” says Tyler Saunders, who was born with one leg. As a kid, he enjoyed sports, but often struggled as a result of his impaired mobility. Until his early twenties, he wore a prosthetic. It was uncomfortable, but it made him less self-conscious. “Back then, I didn’t want to stand out,” he says. It was only when an ex-girlfriend challenged him on it that he made the switch to using crutches. “Eventually, I got over the idea that everyone was looking at me,” he says. “It became my identity: I was the one-legged guy who got around very easily.”

At 25, he took up wheelchair basketball, a sport in which he had dabbled as a teenager, but which hadn’t stuck. With its focus on upper-body fitness, it was a natural fit for Saunders. He was soon drafted into the Team GB development squad, then he joined a club in Germany. “For three years, I lived the athlete’s life,” he says. “Training and playing, I saw my body change.” When he returned, he knew that he could never go back to his old office job, so he applied for a PT qualification.

Initially, Saunders expected to work with other disabled people. But he found that his message of excellence against the odds – and the outright rejection of excuses – resonated with a broad audience. Now, the majority of his clients, as well as the bulk of his 25,000 Instagram followers, are non-disabled.

If you recognise Saunders, it’s likely from his turn on Ninja Warrior UK, a TV show on which high-level contestants complete a brutal obstacle course. “I thought I might as well try, even if it looked impossible,” he says. “It ended up being one of the best things I’ve done. It was scary, but every time I watch it again, it makes me proud.”

In taking these leaps, Saunders hasn’t just given visibility to disabled athletes: he has become a source of inspiration (and practical, no-nonsense advice) for anyone with mental barriers to get over. “Limitations are self-imposed. I’ve not let my situation define who I am. When I was younger, people with disabilities weren’t… Well, you didn’t expect to influence lots of people. Now, I use my platform to show people what’s achievable.”

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