Last February Mark came to see me in my clinic. He just lives a few doors down from me so I’d seen him around in his wheelchair but had never really taken much notice of him. He was born with Spina Bifida which affects his mobility and uses a wheelchair outdoors and a stick in his house. He now lives alone as his parents both died from cancer. Sadly Mark was also diagnosed with cancer but he fought it and was given the all clear a few years ago. It had left him unhealthy, over weight and with high blood pressure. When he came to the clinic I suggested he joins our local gym; Kimberley Leisure Centre. They do a fantastic health referral scheme to support people who may be overweight, have long term health conditions or are recovering from illness.
Mark had never been to a gym before, doesn’t own a smart phone or use a computer and hasnt had any physiotherapy input since he was a child. He was. however, keen to make a change to his life and improve his fitness. He had, over the last few years dropped 4 stone in weight and this had made a big improvement to the back pain he regularly suffered from after his cancer.
In March we headed to the gym and to say Mark was nervous was an understatement. He started on the hand bike followed by a few minutes on the recumbant bike. He had never used touch screen, had no concept of ‘the cloud’ where you can store all your workout details and was terrified he would make a fool of himself. After his first session he went a very odd shade of grey and I did actually think I had pushed him a bit too much. He struggled to breath and I really did think he would never go back!! There were a few set backs in the first few weeks as he hurt his shoulder using the hand bike and then developed gout in one of his feet. These injuries knocked him for six and once again I thought he would give exercise up as it was seeming to make him feel worse. He had 5 or 6 weeks off and then he felt ready to go back again. He very slowly started to improve his pace on the bike and we started to introduce a different weight exercise each session. He would go twice a week and I always tried to make sure I was around to give him some moral support. He started adding in some proper cycling, monitoring his heart rate each time to see how he was improving. He keeps a book (which is a bit tattered now) of everything he does so he can look back to when he started to see the improvements he’s made. He thrives on praise and all the leisure centre staff have commeneted on how well he is doing. The staff have been super friendly in the gym and I’ve told him to never be afraid to ask for help. We gradually started leaving his wheelchair downstairs so he had to practice walking up and down the stairs. We then started walking from the leisure centre through the car park, the first time he did it I though he was going to collapse as he was so unsteady and breathless. We added rowing in and continued to add different weights exercises in. He said right from the start his goals were to get fitter and join the gym, get back on his bike and do an event.
Over the last month he has improved so much. He now aims to do 20 mins on the bike non stop, 2000 metres on the rower and 3-6 different other exercises. 4 weeks ago after announcing he couldn’t do a press up I showed him an easier way to do one and we’ve been working on this. He walks up and down the stairs now confidently and can now walk all the way to the end of the car park and round to the school car park before he needs a rest. He still thrives on praise and is continuingly keen to try new exercisies and bits of equipment.
I had though of ways to get him involved in some kind of event as I knew it was one of his goals but couldnt quite figure out the best way to do this. Then I saw the Robin Hood mile challenge on saturday. I mentioned it to him and he was super keen to try it so he’s now all signed up and ready to go!!! It’s a mile event open to all ages and abilities and all types of mobility aids are allowed. To most of us a mile is nothing but for someone like Mark who has a disability it can seem like a marathon. He’s taking his stick and we’re going to walk as much of it as he can and rest in his chair inbetween. His goal is to walk over the finish line to get his medal.
Looking back over Marks journey so far he has shown so much improvement. I know on Saturday he’s going to be super nervous but I know how proud of himself he is going to be when he crosses the finish line and gets his first ever medal for anything!! So if youre about on saturday and you see us crossing the line give him a big cheer.