Athlete encourages others to work towards their fitness goals


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– Joel Hensleigh has been a part of Special Olympics since he was a kid. He’s got two favorite sports to keep him motivated. “Powerlifting and basketball,” said Joel Hensleigh.

Despite his interest in sports, Hensleigh struggled for years to lose weight. When the pandemic started and Special Olympics had to move activities online, Hensleigh had to make some adjustments to stay active. He says that was no easy task. “Different and hard,” said Hensleigh. However, he didn’t let that stop him. He decided to make a change and stick with it. “I want to be healthier and more active,” said Hensleigh.

Over the course of 10 months, he lost about 40 pounds. His friends and people with Special Olympics watched his transformation. “He would text me every once in a while and tell me that he was eating healthier because his mom was watching what he was eating. He was working out with their dad and doing things around their farm and so forth and just walking a lot more than he probably ever has in his life,” said Sally Walker.

“Most of us during the pandemic who were forced to stay at home probably got most of our steps going to the refrigerator and back. He went outdoors and started to eat better,” said Linda Wunder, Special Olympics Illinois.

Hensleigh put aside things that used to make him happy. “I gave up Taco Bell and Mcdonalds,” said Hensleigh. He developed new habits along the way. “Just seeing how much different he looked and being able to see how much difference it made in just how happy he was, you could really tell a big difference as far as that was concerned,” said Walker.

He’s got one piece of advice for people who are running towards their goals but feel like they’re just not getting there quick enough. “Keep on working out and don’t quit on it,” said Hensleigh. Hensleigh now mentors and encourages others to continue to reach their fitness goals.

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