Max Poplawski


My name is Max Poplawski. I am a 22 year old from the United Kingdom (London).

I have always been a sporty person. For as long as I can remember I have been doing one sport or another. By the age of 9/10 I focused on swimming and rugby. When I was 15 I was captain of my local rugby team, and even competed within the UK Schools National Tournament. My swimming was objectively more successful. I have a few National School medals, and have swam at UK nationals. Basically, what I am trying to say is that I used my body a lot. I trained a lot, I worked hard to get to where I was, and as a result sport was a huge part of my identity. I was always the ‘swimmer dude’ at school with my chlorine bleached hair. That was me.


I was diagnosed at 17. In retrospect, I had symptoms from about 13 onwards. My whole sense of identity came crashing down around me. I wasn’t the ‘swimmer’ anymore. I was the guy sitting at home unable to walk because my sciatica was so bad. The physical parts of AS are well documented; the back pain, the soreness, the tiredness. The mental part, not so much. It is draining, and hard, and tiring, and I was miserable. I don’t say that often, but I was truly miserable and spiteful at the world around me. “Why me?” would be on repeat in my head. Afterall, I did everything right. I exercised, I ate well, I slept as well as I could. What more could I have done?! It took that year of struggle to reset my perceptions of what I was capable of doing.


Now, I am 22. I have got to a point with my medication and sport that I can manage my condition. I am an active climber now. I have climbed in a host of countries and have met some amazing people, and if it were not for my AS I am not sure I would have ever started climbing to begin with. I am also finishing university in the Netherlands, and run a YouTube channel about outdoor sports (and more recently AS in young people). I hope to be able to use the platform to raise awareness about the condition and its role in young people’s lives.

England, United Kingdom, Europe

One Response to “Max Poplawski”

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

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