Getting in Shape: How CF Led Me to My Dream Job

Growing up with cystic fibrosis made me feel different and like I had a lot to overcome. The road that led me to my own personal training business showed me that CF has shaped me in good ways.

March 28, 2019 | 5 min read
James Richardson

I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. Little did I know how much it would affect my life. As a toddler, I was fragile and was in and out of the hospital. I realized at a young age that I wasn't like all of the other kids in school. None of the other kids had to take pills before they ate. None of the other kids had to take a break from recess because they couldn't breathe. I remember those days very clearly, but it challenged me to be the person I am today. 

Through elementary, middle, and high school, I viewed life through a different lens. Although I knew I was different, I was also in denial about what that difference meant. I was told I couldn't play sports, but I went out for every sport I could -- soccer, football, basketball, and baseball. During high school, I accepted that I was different and hid my CF from my friends and peers. When I was a freshman in high school, I took a year off from sports because I was very self-conscious of my cough and people always asking me if I was sick. I played varsity soccer for the last three years of high school and was offered college scholarships, but I felt that my lungs wouldn't be able to keep up with conditioned college athletes.

After high school, I enrolled in college classes I thought were interesting, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Having CF made the simplest things, like sitting in a classroom, almost impossible.

I felt self-conscious about coughing in a classroom, or having to hold in my coughs when getting a haircut so I wouldn't move, or sitting through an entire movie at the theater trying not to cough.

After going to college for a year, I decided that it wasn't for me. I moved back home to live with my mom and stepdad for about three months before deciding to move out again. I started working two jobs to support myself. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to become a nationally certified personal trainer and began studying for that test. After about a year, I decided to follow my dreams. I packed my things and moved to Los Angeles.

I had always wanted to train celebrities and professional athletes, so I searched for jobs within that field and soon began working in corporate gyms. Within three months, I ran my own training department with 15 staff members. Although I was professionally successful, I was working 60-hour weeks and suffered an enormous number of lung infections.

This was one of the most mentally challenging journeys I've ever been on. It was difficult to set a good example for my employees when I was struggling to just breathe and not getting enough rest.


The lung infections forced me to take time off. When I was working people often asked, “Are you sick?” I realized that I wanted to be my own boss and control my own schedule so I could maintain my lung function and have a clean bill of health. So, I took another calculated risk by quitting my job and opening my own personal training business. Running my own business gives me the opportunity to change people's lives every day. I am very blessed to teach people how to lead healthy lives through fitness and positive thinking. 

The most important thing that my life has taught me throughout the years of living with the good and the bad of CF, is that it's all about my mindset. I have to be positive and treat people well. I have to focus on gratitude for my family, friends, and the people that support me.

I believe I was blessed because this disease has made me the confident, strong person I am today. So even though I'll never run a 4-minute mile, hold my breath under water for too long, or be able to wake up and go about my day like a normal person, I know that everything I've accomplished is amazing and stands for something. I'm happy about who I am and how strong I am, and I'm lucky that I can motivate people with and without CF to live healthier lives.


Life is all about love and positivity. Living with cystic fibrosis makes life different and difficult at times, but I am happy and I am loved by my family, friends, fiancé, and dogs. I am proud to say that I am not scared to tell people that I have CF anymore. I don't need to hide it. I no longer care if people see me take pills before meals or if I have to stop to catch my breath sometimes. I'm a motivated and loving person, and my disease does not define me. I am making something great out of it, and making something great out of my life. I'm happy to say that I accept everything that CF throws at me because I know that I'm strong enough to overcome it all and will continue to get stronger every day.

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This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth, James has been working in the fitness industry for nine years and owns his own personal training business. James uses social media to demonstrate overcoming adversity and spreading positivity through health and fitness. He and his fiancee, Paulina, live in Los Angeles with his two dogs, Tinkerbell and Violet. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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