Karen Nolan-Evans

Face 1533

A little about me

From Wales, UK.

I played football for most of my childhood and early 20s. I also praticed TKD where I gained my 2nd Dan Black Belt,

Mid 20s I started Kibckboxing.
During the last 6-12 months of training in kickboxing I was finding movement and twisting a big struggle. I could barely do sit ups as I was getting intense back pain. My knees started to weaken and I needed several surgeries on them.

My left knee needed an osteotomy which resulted in me not being able to return to kickboxing. I could have returned and concentrated on earning my belts but I found it too difficult to watch others sparring and not be able to join in.


I moved home January 2012 and joined a local gym called Muscle and Fitness Barry Island. After a while the owners (Guy and Karren Sillett) encouraged me to take part in a local bodybuilding competition. Although I have always weight trained, since age 16 years, I never trained with the intention to grow as much muscle as possible. My previous training background certainly gave me a good stepping stone into bodybuilding training as I loved the intensity and discipline of the sport. I entered the NABBA Wales Miss Trained Figure category where I placed 2nd. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to compete again. Two months later I entered and won the BNBF Welsh Natural Bodybuilding Championships. I was invited to the BNBF British Finals in Manchester. I was an opportunity I couldn’t resist and although I didn’t feel quite ready I decided to enter for the experience and to learn as much as possible. Just being on the same stage as some o the more experienced girls was an honour.

After this season I was selected to represent the UK at the INBA World Championships in Slovakia June 2014. An opportunity I couldn’t let slip between my fingers. I travelled to Slovakia and although I didnt place I learnt a lot about my body. The journey over caused a huge flare up and I struggled to walk. Competition day I struggled to remove the excess water I had built up due to the inflammation and what use to be a nice set of abs turned into a bloated mess. Despite this I remained positive and did my best. I was proud of myself for competing in an able bodied class with this disease.

Soon after I decided not to compete in bodybuilding again. That was until Sonia Armitage, organiser of the IBFA Miss England championships encouraged me to enter her competition. I wasn’t even aware there was a disAbility category available and thought it was just for people in wheelchairs. I am looking forward to making my debut in this category.

I am still hooked on this sport and cant ever see me stopping. Bodybuilding helps the symptoms of my A.S. The strength work helps with the joints and I;m convinced the healthy diet required for this sport also helps my symptoms.


I continued to have joint trouble and saw a spinal physio who referred me to a rheumatologist. As a result and many examinations I was diagnosed with sero-negative Spondyloarthropathy.

Since that time I have been on several DMARDs (Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) namely Sulfasalazine, Oral Methotrexate, Sub cut Methetraxate (self administered) and Leflunomide, aswell as anti-inflammatory medication. I am currently receiving antiTNF (Cimzia) aswell as other meds.

I started to develop increasing spine and hip pain over the autumn and winter of 2013 and had an MRI in January 2014.

The results showed quite bad inflammation in 5 vertebrae (lower 3 thoracic and upper 2 lumbar) which led my Rheumatology Dr to change my diagnosis from Spondyloarthropathy to Ankylosing Spondiltiis. I was then referred for anti-TNF treatment.

Since the diagnosis I’ve had several surgeries aswell as the osteotomy including ankle reconstructions with LARS (http://www.lars-ligaments.com/) on both ankles. End of 2014 both LARS ankle surgeries failed. The ligaments had ruptured somehow. Dec 30th 2014 I had my left ankle LARS repaired and had arthrex ligaments fitted. I am now on the waiting list for my right ankle to have the same procedure.

AntiTNF was going well until I had to stop taking it so I could have surgery over new year. I have restarted it but it hasnt had the same effect. I am currently waiting for another MRI scan result to determine whether the disease has progressed so my doctor can decide whether to change the treatment.

Karen Nolan-Evans Disability Bodybuilder
I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and I am a bodybuilder. The two shouldn’t go together, but I make it work.
Wales, United Kingdom

One Response to “Karen Nolan-Evans”

  1. Dear Karen,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely Cookie

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