He’s shredded, committed to fitness, runs a fitness site and is on the Autism Spectrum.
Autistic adults even on the high end of the Spectrum continue to fall short in terms of physical fitness – collectively being more de-conditioned than same-age neurotypicals.
But there are exceptions to this phenomenon, such as Robin Young, 39, who was diagnosed with autism at 34.
The entrepreneur has the physique of a fitness model (that’s him in the top image).
This isn’t due to some genetic lottery win. It’s due to focus and perseverance – two traits that autistic people excel at.
Robin explains, “When I was in school I never used to take part in physical education. I would always make excuses so that I didn’t have to play sports.
“My awareness of my body position and hand-eye coordination are not great, so I was never good at sports.
“If I did play sports, I would not be very good at them, and other kids would make fun of me, so it made me less likely to take part.
“I had tried lifting weights before but I didn’t really take it seriously.
“Because of my ASD, my primary focus was always on music. I taught myself to play the piano, write and produce music, and this was my entire focus for most of my life.
When I reached my 30s and my music career hadn’t taken off, I decided to take a career seriously and started working in an accounts department.
“I worked my way up from part-time bookkeeper to CFO in just four years.
“Again, this was due to my ASD, where I was 100 percent focused on the job and taught myself everything I needed to know about running the accounts department for a company.
“At the same time, I took up fitness and started lifting weights again — but this time I stuck at it.
“Unfortunately, I was fired from my job — which was connected to my ASD.
“I was criticized for not communicating very well with people.
“I was regarded as being blunt and direct with my suggestions and recommendations, which led to the senior management team conspiring to replace me so that they could have someone with better people skills.”
But there’s a silver lining to this story. Because the reasons for firing Robin were connected to his autism, the company settled with him to avoid a lawsuit, and he used the funds to start his online company, Fitness Savvy.
“I started Fitness Savvy as a price comparison and review website for supplements and fitness equipment,” says Robin.
“All the while, I was lifting weights and working out new ways of building muscle and getting shredded.
“When the pandemic hit, the gyms closed, and my website went crazy; everyone wanted home gym equipment.
“As a stroke of luck, my website had just hit first place in Google for lots of relevant keywords like ‘cheap weight set’ — and so the business brought in about $40,000 over the space of a couple of months (until everywhere literally ran out of all fitness equipment).
“I used these funds to invest in some 6k camera equipment and started my YouTube channel.
“The great thing about the business I run is that I don’t have to deal with customers!
“I have terrible people skills and I get anxious when I have to interact with people, so my business is perfect.
“I can do the things I enjoy (fitness, spreadsheets, music); I work from home, and I rarely have to talk to people — and so my anxiety is lower.”
ALL Autistic People Should Lift Weights
Strength training benefits every body.
Benefits of lifting weights for autistics:
• Solitary activity
• Can be done at home; expensive, fancy, space-consuming equipment is NOT necessary.
• Improves neuromuscular coordination without having to do balance exercises.
• Enhances awareness of where one’s body is in space (proprioception).
• Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
• A strong, trained body creates a feeling of “I’m cool just the way I am!” no matter what one’s neurodivergent challenges are.
Imagine the rush when an autistic person, who struggles with social interactions, effortlessly lifts up heavy things.
This rule actually applies to ANYONE with challenges – including anxiety and depression!
• Reduces anxiety and depression!
“Lifting weights, to start off with, like sports, was tricky,” says Robin.
“Getting the form right on exercises is hard to begin with, but it is all based on routine — and I love routine! This is why I am able to stick to the programs and see great results.
“The hardest part is making a start. Autistic people can be set in a routine, so making the initial change is the toughest part, but I think many would enjoy lifting weights.”
If the idea of starting a weightlifting program seems a bit daunting, try this: Picture just one set of dumbbells, like the ones shown below.
You can do all sorts of exercises with just one pair of dumbbells.
Over time, you can gradually add to your “home gym” by purchasing additional equipment such as another set of dumbbells, a set of tension bands and maybe a heavy-ball.
And don’t forget the value of bodyweight exercises! The best ones are squats, lunges and pushups.
Robin says, “It is also great for mental health — as I know many of us suffer from depression and anxiety — and this helped me a lot with these conditions.”
Robin Young runs Fitness Savvy and has a YouTube channel dedicated to building muscle and a stronger body. An entrepreneur, he also runs gardenfurnituresales.com where you can buy garden furniture at cheap prices. He’s based in Banbury in the UK.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In spring 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.