When it came to sports and working out, I felt like a burden.
22 July 2021
I’m Laura, I’m 41 and have a genetic syndrome called nail patella syndrome which affects my mobility.
I was born with two club feet and had to have lots of corrective surgery but didn’t think about it much as a child.
I was more of a reading student than a sporty student, so doing sport wasn’t a huge priority for me. But it felt like no one at school was making an effort to include me in sports. I had to do trials for sports day, just like everyone else, knowing full well that I wouldn’t qualify. I knew it was pointless and I didn’t want to do it.
I used to be able to manage a lot with my condition, I just got physically very tired. In my 30s I noticed issues with discomfort, pain and tightness and it was having an impact on my daily life. Doctors didn’t know what was happening and I just got told to manage it myself. I was getting overtired to the point of being really anxious and thinking I couldn’t do my job anymore.
I realised that I need to pace myself and work from home when I can, and that I should probably try some kind of exercise.
I spent a while trying lots of different things, and I wanted to try swimming because I used to love it as a child
The instructor made me feel so included because they were really good at finding different ways for me to do the exercises.
The instructor made me feel so included because they were really good at finding different ways for me to do the exercises. But one week there was a different teacher. When I told him there were certain things I couldn’t do and asked for alternatives, his reaction made me feel totally judged and it just completely put me off.
Joining a gym
My preconceptions about gyms and personal trainers were based on my experience of a different gym which was really intense and intimidating. I asked the staff to help me find things I could do in the gym and I was faced with negative attitudes and I felt like a burden.
Then my neighbour, who is disabled, joined a gym which I then joined. A PT came to introduce himself and he was talking to all the people using the specialist equipment. My neighbour decided to try out a PT session and said how good it was.
I was quite nervous to try one, but then I started and I just didn’t look back. It’s amazing working with someone who gets to know you and adapts exercise for you.
The satisfaction of being able to do something you didn’t think you’d be able to do is priceless.
Joining a gym has had a huge positive effect on my mental health. I’ve really noticed that it just makes me feel so much better. The satisfaction of being able to do something you didn’t think you’d be able to do is priceless. I’ve achieved things in the gym that I never thought I would.
When the pandemic hit, it was just a horrible year for me. My father passed away and my mother was being treated for a serious illness and Covid was just another thing. So I kept quite motivated to keep active.
Last April I did some home PT sessions at work, using things like candle holders as weights and my French and German dictionaries as steps. My PT created the sessions for me and I’d do them over zoom. In May when we were allowed to be outdoors, we did outdoor workouts, and again he adapted it to me.
Why I’m taking part in Make It Count
I’m taking part In Make It Count because I want physical activity to be accessible to everyone. I want everyone to have the chance to find an activity that they really enjoy and that is right for them. I have seen in myself how much better you can feel physically and mentally.
Make It Count coincides with the Paralympics, too. Disabled people who aren’t Paralympians should also have the same opportunities to get involved in sport! I think part of the problem is not knowing where to look for accessible sporting events and facilities. I hope that sharing my story goes some small way to helping other disabled people realise that there are accessible events and facilities out there.
Don’t be scared of trying something new – you will find something that works for you!
Make It Count is a fully accessible challenge where you can get active in your own way. Everybody's included. Together, we can create a world where disabled people are never excluded again.
22 July 2021