“[Cystic fibrosis] was always an opportunity for me to go, what’s your excuse?”
Josh Llewelyn-Jones’ serious flat-brimmed hat streaked with a bright red “24” and his contrasting benevolent smile flooded the screen. From the confidence Josh exudes through his assertive gestures and impressive physique, you would never guess that he has waged warfare against cystic fibrosis (CF).
Right upon birth, he was rushed into intestinal surgery and was given a ten percent chance of making it alive through the night. Determined to stay healthy, Josh grew up rough-housing with his older brothers and playing sports. At age 21, he was once again rushed into intestinal surgery. “Just not being in control… that was when I felt most vulnerable,” Josh says about his experience lying motionless on the hospital bed, staring down the 50 to 60 staples on his stomach. The doctors told Josh, had he not been so fit, he would not have lived through the operation. During the hospital-stay, Josh lost at least ten pounds and he felt “really skinny, [with] no muscles”; it was as if all the effort he put into getting in shape was lost within the span of a few days.
Josh explained that the worst part of this experience was the loss of control, the control he grinded so hard to gain with every single workout since his youth: “I was [lying] on the sofa and it was painful to move, and I just didn’t feel like I had control.” Despite this loss of control, Josh refused to give up: “I just said to my dad I’ve got to get up, I’ve got to do something because I’ve got to start getting better. Regardless of what happened, this is my life and I need to take control of my life.” And with this decision, within three weeks of the surgery, he was outside with his dad kicking a ball in their backyard. Every twist of the body was “pure agony”, but Josh persisted. “I probably wouldn’t recommend it,” he laughs. But what he’s learned from a lifetime of battles is that “as human beings, we’re fighters”.
“I can honestly say that taking ownership of [my health] is the best experience ever.”
Josh’s motivation to utilize fitness to inspire others and to spread awareness of cystic fibrosis is incredibly fierce. “I can honestly say that taking ownership of [my health] is the best experience ever,” he attests. Josh truly believes in the people he motivates, as he explains, “having that drive and determination not to give up is something that all ‘CFers’ have”.
Josh is no exception to possessing the awe-inspiring drive and determination characteristic of those with cystic fibrosis. At age 17, he became the youngest person with CF to climb Mount Kilamanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at a stunning 19,341 feet; and he climbed it to raise money and awareness for CF. Since then, he has done many fitness challenges to rally support for CF. However, in honor of his upcoming 30th birthday, an age the doctors never thought he would reach, Josh started training for his greatest fitness awareness project yet: the 24-hour challenge. What is the 24 challenge? Basically, it is to complete the following within 24 hours:
- Lift 100 tons (or ‘tonnes’)
- Cycle 100 miles
- Run 10 miles
- Cross-train 10 miles
- Row 10 miles
- Swim 2 miles
- 3000 sit-ups
- 1000 press-ups
- 1000 squats
Josh will toil non-stop for 24 hours to raise awareness and £100,000 for CF.
With his training, Josh continues to gain social media popularity and press attention. Yet, for Josh, the best part is not the fame, but the opportunity to use his influence to create a direct, positive impact on peoples’ lives. For example, every Wednesday on his Instagram account (@joshj24), he gives a shout-out to an athlete with cystic fibrosis as a “#WednesdayWarrior”, to inspire them to keep training. One night when Josh was at the gym, he received a video from Wyatt, a young boy with CF. Wyatt said he thought Josh was cool because of his muscles and tattoos. Then, Wyatt got sad as he explained he had no friends who understood his condition. Josh was so moved that he immediately drove home to live stream himself doing 1000 squats on Facebook. In the post, Josh encouraged the CF social media community to reach out to Wyatt, and to show him that he is not alone.
Now Josh has just several days of intensive training left until he embarks upon the 24-hour challenge. Cheer him on at http://24hrs4cf.com/, while he summons all his strength and courage to cheer on the cystic fibrosis community.