Today, Matthew Schlafly looks like you might expect a personal trainer to look, with muscles and veins bulging from his arms. But Schlafly’s path to his current profession is unique and inspiring, and he brings his unusual background to the table when working with fitness clients.


Schlafly has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, a rare condition diagnosed in early childhood that causes extreme muscle stiffness and contractions in the legs. In many cases, like Schlafly’s, there is no obvious cause.

“I believe there are things that happen to us for which there is no explanation, but that’s part of life,” he says. “We have an opportunity to stay optimistic and accept this, or be pessimistic and bitter for not knowing the cause of our problems.”

Schlafly chose the former, and that attitude helped him face a series of complex surgeries, starting when he was just 7 years old. During the first operation, the surgeon intentionally severed the nerves that caused the severe spasticity in Schlafly’s legs, leaving him with no sensation in either leg. Three other surgeries on his legs and feet would follow before he reached the age of 16.

“I will not be needing any more surgeries in the future, and I am extremely blessed for this,” Schlafly says. “Through years of patience, I am fully able to walk with minimal hints that I have a physical disability.”

Patience was only part of Schlafly’s journey to get back on his feet. Grit, determination and intense rehabilitation also factored in. At 9 years old, Schlafly joined a local gym, Power Play, located on Manchester Road in Des Peres.