Rising above adversity with a smile: Nothing can stop Lawrence Mendoza
At Ryderwear, our philosophy is that the gym should be a space where everyone belongs. We believe in living your best life through fitness no matter your size, gender, body shape, physical ability, identity or sexuality.
Our ‘Lifting is for Everyone’ series amplifies the voices of those who show up, work hard and lift heavy - just like anyone else. Still, society places them in a box because they don’t necessarily fit the typical stereotype of a ‘lifter’. We’re here to celebrate these athletes and shine a light on their incredible achievements and inspirational attitudes.
We’ve teamed up with IFBB Wheelchair Division Champion Lawrence Mendoza, whose infectious positivity allows him to rise above any challenge that comes his way, continuing to inspire people through his passion for lifting.
RW: Can you tell us about your journey to where you are now? How would you tell the story of Lawrence Mendoza?
LM: My story is one of a kind and the reason I say that is because I was born with Cerebral Palsy.
When I was younger my parents and sisters took care of me and it was hard for them, even though they wouldn’t admit it, I sort of knew. So I had to try to be more independent. It was hard at first because I can’t walk at all, so I started to crawl. I would crawl around the house from a young age right up until now, being more independent and learning things on my own, every day - I loved it and still do.
Even though there have been some challenges that I had to overcome on my own in order to be the person I am today, I'm happy that I got through all those hardships; because without them, and the risks, I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today, independent and strong.
“Sometimes I do wish I could walk, but honestly, I’m happy that I’m doing and living life like a normal person and I wouldn’t change a thing about me.”
All my life, people have felt sorry for me because I’m in a wheelchair. But in my mind, whenever I go out with friends or to the gym I don’t even think about the chair, I’m just living my life to the fullest every day and every night.
RW: How did you get involved in bodybuilding?
LM: I started getting involved in bodybuilding from my friend who was a PT and a competitor himself. So when he was prepping for his shows, it inspired me and made me want to do a bodybuilding competition as well.
For my first show, I asked him to be my personal trainer and he introduced me to his coach. I have to admit it was a hard and long process but I managed to get through my first competition and after that, I just kept training for them. All of a sudden I have now competed in 13 comps.
RW: Can you describe the feeling you get when you’re competing on stage?
LM: The feeling I get when I roll up on stage is amazing, the crowd just goes wild. The floor is vibrating, the photographers are taking photos and when I strike a pose everyone is just screaming my name or my number. It feels like a concert.
The best thing about being up on stage is looking down at the crowd. It makes me happy because I can see I’m inspiring people. I remember at one of my comps I could see some people in the crowd crying and it made me want to cry. I know I’m going to be competing for a very long time.
RW: How do you prepare for your bodybuilding competitions? Are there any challenges you face?
LM: When I get ready to do a competition I follow my training program and my diet plan with how many calories I should be eating. I also practice my posing with my coach. Preparation for comps is challenging because I have to sacrifice eating out with friends, going out with them to the clubs or house parties. The same goes for my family and for me - as a Filipino we love to eat, a lot. So most of the time I normally just stay home while my family spend time with my cousins.
In 2017 I was preparing for my first comp and that was the hardest. My family was wondering why I wasn’t coming with them to events and parties. This made me feel really bad because my family always comes first.
Bodybuilding has a lot of challenges that I've had to take on and have had to sacrifice the things I love doing. But in the end, it was all worth it going up on stage, inspiring people and holding that trophy up in the air.
RW: Our community has been inspired & motivated by the fitness content you’ve shared. What role has fitness and the gym played throughout your life?
LM: Fitness and the gym is what motivates me every day; it’s my comfort zone and that makes me feel happy, strong and excited to lift all those heavy weights.
The support from my gym community also empowers me. The friendly faces and the routine makes it fun and plays such a vital role in my life. When I work out, I have the mindset that I have to be better than I was in my past comps and that motivates me. This is just the beginning of my fitness journey. The gym is like my second home and I couldn't be happier.
RW: How has fitness & lifting help you overcome challenges in life that you’ve faced?
LM: Fitness and training have helped me overcome many physical and mental challenges in my life. It helped me overcome obesity and change my life for the better. It also helped me to change my mindset so that any challenges I face in life, I know I can overcome them.
RW: What’s a goal you’re working on right now?
LM: Well, honestly, there are so many goals I want to achieve, but the main goal I’m working towards right now is to be a motivational speaker. I want to share my life story with everyone because I believe it will help inspire and change other people's lives. It will take some time, but whatever the challenges are, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
RW: Do you have any words of motivation or encouragement for those reading this who might be experiencing adversity right now?
LM: All I can say is if you had a dream when you were a kid, keep that dream in your heart. Whether that be bodybuilding or whatever you want to do and achieve in life, never stop grinding! Even though there will be challenges to get to your dream, you just have to push through all the walls.
Don’t let anyone say you can't do it, not your family or your friends because you can prove them wrong and show them how it's done. It doesn’t matter if you're small or big, young or old, anything is possible, you just have to believe in it. So never give up and always believe in yourself.
RW: Are there any other causes you’d like to talk about or messages you’d like to share with the Ryderwear community?
LM: Ever since I started my fitness career 10 years ago I've learnt a lot and during those years. I've noticed so many clothing brands and what caught my eye instantly was Ryderwear. The first thing I bought from Ryderwear was a sleeveless hoodie and a cheat day jumper. I said to myself I really want to be sponsored by them one day.
So when I sent a direct message on your Instagram I said to myself “they will never reply”. Then my notifications went off and it was from Ryderwear asking me to be one of their athletes. I was super excited and so happy that I thought they might have made a mistake.
It's funny because I never thought in a million years that a wheelchair guy like me would be sponsored by Ryderwear. I made a promise to myself that I would do anything and everything I can to help the Ryderwear brand. To me, Ryderwear is the biggest brand that I am a part of and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else.
"I’m going to be with Ryderwear for a long time and I’m truly honoured and blessed to be part of this amazing family."
RW: What can the health & fitness industry do to be more inclusive and represent a more diverse range of people?
LM: I think sharing the stories of all kinds of people in the industry will make it more inviting for people to start their own fitness journey. Also showing that everyone has to start somewhere and that they too can achieve their goals.
THE RYDERWEAR I’M REPPING
Lawrence’s favourite Ryderwear pieces for the weight room, working up a sweat prepping for a comp and rest day essentials:
LM: Well there's a number of collections and pieces that I like including CAMO TECH, EVO, and the newest release KG X RW.
RWXKG FLEECE HOODIE
My favourite is the KG X RW Jumper. It's so soft and comfy and ever since I got it I always wear it while I'm doing my afternoon cardio.
EVO MESH BALLER TANK
The other piece would have to be the EVO tank top. Honestly, it’s so lightweight when I’m training with it on that it feels like I’m shirtless - I don't even notice that it's on me.
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