Unbreakable: How Mo Samuels Overcame the Odds

I want to start with a confession. I’ve never written a blog post or anything like this in my entire life, so when Gymshark approached me and said “Hey Mo, can you write a blog post that’ll be read by millions of people?” I obviously replied “hell yeah”. Three years ago, I would have never imagined I’d be where I am today or even talking about what I am right now (with a company such as Gymshark!?) as I was more concerned whether I’d ever be able to walk or run again.

Let’s start with a little bit about me. My name’s Mo Samuels. I’m 20 years old and I’m a final year university student studying marine biology in the UK. I started producing fitness content on social media around two years ago and completely fell in love with the process and everything surrounding it. I’ve trained for roughly 5 years in total and it’s this which has completely changed everything. 

I’m here to tell you about how the worst news and darkest situations have led to some of the greatest and most wonderful life-changing events, so if you are going through some hard times in your own life right now you can take heart in the fact that you can (and will) overcome it. I’m a believer that at some point in life, everyone will experience resistance in some form or another, some great struggle or event that affects day-to-day life. Everyone goes through this at varying scales; the only difference for me is that it’s lasted a little longer than most. 

I suffer from a rare, degenerative and incurable condition in my left leg called lymphedema. Lymphedema affects the lymphatic system causing swelling and pain as well as making me prone to life threatening infections. Here are a few fun facts: I have to raise my legs every night to sleep, wear a full leg compression tight to walk and I struggle to stand for any longer than around 15 minutes. Boohoo, right ? Luckily I’m not here to tell you about how hard done by I am and how sorry you should feel for me, so we’re all good. I’m here to tell you about how mindset is everything and what I’ve learnt from my experiences. As I said before, it is ultimately the darkest times in my life that have created the person I am today.

"I had spent weeks in bed, weeks avoiding human interaction and was tired of doing absolutely nothing with my life. That’s when I decided to take a risk and join the local gym." Mo Samuels

I’ve had lymphedema in my leg for about 7 years. To cut a long story short, 3 years ago I woke up with what felt like a twisted ankle. I shrugged it off and carried on with my day only for it to get worse and worse – before long, the pain spread up my leg and I developed a fever. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me and I continued to deteriorate until I couldn’t stomach food or even leave my bed. My muscle was wasting away and I become massively underweight. At the end of 2013 I was rushed to hospital with a life threatening bacterial infection that started from my knee. Straight away I was put on a drip and pumped full of strong antibiotics to try and kill the infection. I was so scared that I would lose my leg or even never leave the hospital. 

After a month in hospital and two surgeries, I was finally allowed to go home but doctors told me I may never walk or run properly again. At 5’11 I weighed just shy of 145lbs and couldn’t move without using crutches. I was physically and emotionally crushed; my leg was locked out straight, unable to bend, and there were times where I didn’t want to carry on. The issues with my leg during my childhood had made me an incredibly insecure and anxious person and this illness made that so much worse. I ended up spending the next few weeks’ bed-bound, alone in my room and feeling sorry for myself. It came to a point where I couldn’t live like this life anymore. I was missing my end of year exams at school and worst of all recovery was painfully slow. I had spent weeks in bed, weeks avoiding human interaction and was tired of doing absolutely nothing with my life. That’s when I decided to take a risk and join the local gym. 

I started training with the one goal of being able to run again. Progress was slow at first and it almost seemed hopeless. In the mornings I would stand in the shower, bending my leg with my hand as much as I physically could until I cried with pain. I would do this every day without fail. I would train every day without fail. I would also eat every day without fail and this persistence eventually began to pay off. Within a couple of months I was able to walk again and after a few more something incredible happened… I could run again! It was at this point I thought, why stop here? I’ve come this far; what’s to stop me from getting better and continuing to grow? If you have the potential to improve yourself and make your life better and the lives of others around you, why wouldn’t you do it? At this moment, I was absolutely hooked on creating the best version of myself.

The time I spent in hospital made one thing clear – that I took too much for granted and no matter how bad I thought I had it, it could always get worse. Regardless of your situation there is always going to be someone worse off than you, someone who has achieved much more from much less. It’s only in these “negative” situations that our true flaws become exposed and for me this was self-pity, thinking that I’m so hard done by and my life was so difficult. I had to change that. Everyone has issues and everyone has reasons why they can’t do something. The difference between the people who succeed and the people who fail? The ones who succeed don’t look at the things they can’t do, they look at all the things they can do and use that to create something epic.

Before I began my journey it seemed hopeless, like I could change nothing. And you know what? Nothing did change at first, because I didn’t believe it would. It was only once I started to develop this naive belief in myself and what I am capable of that I started to move forwards. The tiny bit of progress from that even smaller initial belief led to a slightly bigger bit of confidence. With confidence comes success and with success comes confidence so once you are beyond the start the rest is easy. All it took was for me to actually start. The beginning is the hardest part of any endeavour because you have no results to show for it and because of that, very little confidence. But if you stay persistent, you stay true to your beliefs, true to your vision, it will become your reality. Literally anything is possible if you believe. Commit to your vision and bring it to life.

Was I scared? Yes. Do you I still get scared? Yes, everyday, but being scared is how you grow.

We’re biologically hardwired to survive, made to stay comfortable, play it safe and just get by. Sat in my bed for 24 hours a day I was surviving…But I didn’t want to survive, I wanted to thrive. I think the reason so many people don’t get to where they want to be is because they’re too scared to make a change. They’d rather stay comfortable. If you’re a wild animal comfortable is safe, comfortable means you’re not going to get eaten by some crazy sabretooth tiger beast - in that world, fear is bad. But we’re not cavemen anymore. We’re destined to create something greater, not to be mediocre, and it’s that fear that makes us evolve. Why do I do things that deliberately scare me, humiliate me and make me feel uncomfortable? Because you’re only going to grow by feeling scared, feeling that discomfort. “We cannot become what we want to be, by remaining what we are”. What are you going to become? Take that vision you created, take your naive belief and take action to make a change. 

I think of using fear like building a muscle. You go to the gym, you lift weights, you breakdown muscle fibres and they grow back stronger. Same thing with your mind. You become scared, you experience these failures, you learn from them, the fear becomes normal and you grow. One of the most important things for me after my recovery and to this day is seeking out things that scare me and doing them. Life is all about moving forwards and growing. I challenge you to do something that scares you next time you’re out and see how you feel after. Something that makes you sick to your stomach. It could be you’re scared in the gym and don’t want people to look at you – try deliberately dropping a weight a few times and making some noise. Make people look at you, feel uncomfortable and get scared. Keep doing that, putting yourself in that uncomfortable situation and whatever the fear is I can guarantee you’ll get over it.

I’m going to wrap this up now. Writing this was scary as hell, and – if you haven’t already realised -that’s why I did it. The most important things I’ve taken from all this? Someone will always have it worse than you. Looking at the things you can’t do will get you nowhere; gratitude and positivity is everything. I found that improving on the things you can change is the way to progress. BELIEVE! Believe in yourself and your own abilities, commit to your vision, put in the hours, stay consistent and it will become a reality. What you believe on the inside will become your reality. I know I’m repeating myself but this is important – get scared. You’ll grow the most outside of your comfort zone, and when you overcome that it’s the best feeling in the world. If something scares you, it means you SHOULD be doing it. 

I hope you can find value in my experiences and the things I’ve learnt. People need to realise that all these individuals who are at the top of the game, these motivating, inspiring individuals, who have done great things and overcome great challenges, aren’t born with some special gift. They’re just normal everyday people. The only difference is they have a belief in themselves and take action. The only thing stopping your dreams from becoming a reality is your own beliefs, and you can change that. Just remember, whatever resistance you’re faced with, it is whatever you choose to make it. It’s down to you to turn something negative into something positive. It just takes a little bit of belief!

Go get it.

Tags vision