Despite having cerebral palsy, Dwayne Boyd decided he wanted to start going to the gym for the first time at the age of 46 and began working out at Planet Fitness in Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE
LEOMINSTER — One of the first things you notice about Dwayne Boyd is his handshake: a bone-cracking grip not unlike the animated hand of a stone statue.
Another thing you will notice are the crutches those vice-like hands are clasped to.
“What people don’t know is that I’m actually quadriplegic. My arms aren’t affected as badly, but they are,” he said.
Of Leominster’s roughly 40,000 residents, Boyd has one of the best excuses not to go to the gym. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was just 6 months old, Boyd relies on his crutches to get around and also experiences limited mobility in his arms.
He decided to join Leominster’s Planet Fitness in 2015, at the age of 44.
Dwayne Boyd began going to the gym for the first time at the age of 44. Despite having cerebral palsy, Boyd is a regular at Planet Fitness in Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE PHOTO/JOHN LOVE
Although he had lifted weights in high school and college, it had been years since Boyd had incorporated exercise into his regular daily routine.
“What really kicked me in the butt to get in here was a pretty sad situation,” Boyd explained.
Right around the same time his mother was starting to experience symptoms of small vessel disease, a condition Boyd likens to Alzheimer’s Disease, Boyd was separating from his wife, eventually leading the couple to a divorce.
“I had a lot coming down at me all at once and I just needed to do something positive,” he said.
Gym manager Erin Hillman has worked alongside Boyd during much of his time at the gym and still remembers the day in April 2015 when he first came in to sign up for a membership.
“I remember him seeing that it would work for him. How excited he was that he could start here was just so motivating for me, our staff, and even members of the gym,” she said.
Hillman said that Boyd is among the gym’s most popular members and that his progress from only being able to use a handful of the gym’s exercise equipment to having mastered a variety of workouts continuously motivates his fellow athletes.
“A lot of people who might not have a visible disability will come up to me and confide in me.
As he gets older, Boyd said cerebral palsy does seem to make him a little more aware of his body’s age. His joints creek a little louder and he sometimes feels a little slower, but the best way of keeping aging at bay is by staying active. Boyd works out three times a week and isn’t showing and signs of slowing down.
Though he recognizes that there are lots of reasons why people might not go to the gym, he does have this advice to those who don’t exercise: “You’ve got to use it or lose it.
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.
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