I enjoy gardening – love my garden and it’s a place I like to be. Away from the ‘phone and the computer screen. Growing vegetables is great fun – watching seeds turn into tiny seedlings, larger plants and then eventually fruiting. Of course, nothing beats the taste of home grown produce – picked just before cooking or eating. The flavour of sun ripened home-grown tomatoes just can’t be beaten!
As well as providing a dose of fresh air (and it’s been pretty “fresh” recently!), even potting up seedlings can provide some great exercise and burns those calories.
As we move towards Summer, we get an essential dos of Vitamin D from the daylight. Being outside, listening to the birds cheerfully chirping and the squirrels chattering lifts my mood.
Because of my limited mobility and restricted reach, I do need some practical assistance with certain aspects of gardening.
Early this morning, I was supported to set up a “work station” with everything I required to pot up several hundred tiny seedlings – cucumbers, sweetcorn, cosmos, sun flowers. These seedlings have come for a short fostering visit from my Mum’s garden – to develop to their next stage of life, to be re-potted and then returned home where they will continue to be nurtured and then…. enjoyed.
A wallpaper pasting table in the sunshine, a couple of bags of compost strategically placed, a stack of pots, some hand tools and my shower stool, plus a small watering can that I could refill from the nearby water butt. A large shallow tray at a convenient height where I could organise the newly planted seedling pots.
And I was ready to go.
I didn’t plan on the fact I’d work through a snow shower or two, but once out there, I soldiered on until over half the seedlings were repotted. Then back inside to defrost and enjoy a nice cup of tea….
Soon into lockdown, I was looking to find ways to vary my exercise regime. A regular session for me is about 30 minutes of various stretches for my spine, neck and shoulders, followed by vigorous bouncing on a gym ball whilst swinging my arms about wildly to increase my heart rate. Usually during this latter part of the exercise session, I am listening to music and keeping an eye on my heart rate and my target (specific number of steps). But this becomes rather tedious day in, day out.
I happened upon a “virtual treadmill run” around Dublin, a city I’ve visited a number of times. The video was produced by Dr Howey (Richard) who has a whole series of running films lasting about an hour. Pretty soon I was hooked!
Dr Howey’s runs have transported me to some stunningly beautiful places. Many of these are around the North East where he lives – somewhere I’m not familiar with. Along lengthy sandy beaches (Druridge Bay), the length of Hadrian’s Wall trail, Simonside Hills Trail. Exploring the towns of Morpeth and Alnwick – along rivers and through woodland.
I finish my exercise feeling as though I have been momentarily transported to these lovely places – running through fields of oil seed rape and amongst sheep and cows.
Richard has also run in Europe – Germany, Sorrento, Prague. Prague was one of my favourite “runs”. This is also a city I’ve visited, but as a wheelchair user, the cobbled streets were quite a challenge. Dr Howey’s run took me through the old town; this was an area we didn’t get to explore much because it is pretty inaccessible with lots of steps. I loved the feeling of running up a lengthy flight of stairs and actually found myself speeding up and getting more out of breath!
Somewhere I enjoyed but definitely not a place to visit as a wheelchair user was Pompeii! Not very accessible at all, but I enjoyed the trip there.
I have also competed in a number of races and fun runs – this is a completely new experience for me and not something I’m likely to participate in in the “real world”. I love seeing the other runners and I get that feeling of elation as I reach the finish line. I’ve done it!
These wonderful films have really brightened up my lockdown exercise experience. I felt I had to contact Dr Howey and let him know just how valuable his films had become to me. Plus I needed to find out how tall he was – this man seemed to be a giant!
In my next Blog post, I asked Richard to be a guest on my Blog – check back soon to find out more about his journey and our conversation around virtual treadmill running.
Every day as part of my daily exercise routine, I do around 40 minutes of vigorous bouncing on my gym ball. I find it difficult and painful to weight bear for any great length of time because of my disability and my damaged ankle so once I’ve done my stretches and warm up exercises, I bounce away to raise my heart rate.
Usually I’ll take that time to look out of the window, watch people walking by on their way to work or school. I’ll watch the cars driving past and note with some amusement whether someone is running rate, or whether that yellow Aygo that passes at 8.30am has been washed yet.
The scene outside my window has changed and there’s less to see. I love watching the birds nesting in the hedge opposite, the red kites wheeling in the sky above.
But now I’ve discovered “virtual running”! I used You Tube to look up virtual treadmill runs and have found a whole new world (literally!) I can run in Rome, Paris, London, Prague and even Singapore.
I’ve run a 10k in Durham – which was incredible – I really did feel as though I have been a participant as I overtook the runners ahead of me in the field and as I saw runners slowing down to a walk. The feeling as I passed the finish line may not have been quite the same as the person who was doing the filming, but I held him in awe as I realise that he’d run in one session what had taken me over two days (2 hours) of bouncing on my ball.
As well as achieving my cardiac workout, I’m enjoying my tour of the world, seeing cities filled with tourists taking in the famous landmarks and sights.
Best of all, the “runner” climbs steep flights of steps to I get to see parts of the city that I may have struggled to access from my powered wheelchair. That was certainly the case for my run around Prague where I enjoyed seeing parts of the old town that I didn’t see when we visited many years ago.
It wasn’t as cold either….. Prague in February is very, VERY cold!
Unsurprisingly, the news recently has been dominated by the news of the Covid-19 pandemic. Understandable alarm – and even panic (when it comes to toilet paper buying) has been well documented via social media platforms.
It was refreshing this morning to listen to a programme on BBC Radio 4 which was rather more reassuring about what we can do to keep ourselves as well as we can in the period leading up to preparing for the effects of the virus to hit its peak. I thought I would share here.
These aren’t the “usual” things that we might have been hearing or seeing. Spreading panic isn’t helpful or constructive and often has a profound negative effect on our emotional health.
The programme looked at how we should all ensure that we look after our own health – even before we consider offering support to others. This isn’t just be about our physical health either. Emotional wellbeing is vital at this time and that will become even more important if we are forced into self-isolation or when those around us are affected.
I have read and heard concern from those thinking ahead to self-isolation. How good are we at being kept apart from others? Our friends, family members, social activities and events, holidays and trips, days out….. these are all critical in maintaining our wellbeing.
One of those who appeared on the programme was Derrick Evans, aka Mr Motivator. Derrick is a Jamaican born British fitness instructor who rose to fame in 1993 through appearances on the UK breakfast show GMTV where he performed live fitness sessions and offered tips and advice to viewers.
I remember vividly Derrick’s lurid tight-fitting spandex outfits. I also recall his infectious enthusiasm and big smile and listening to him on the programme this morning, at the age of 67, he appears not to have changed.
He advised listeners of the importance of maintaining physical wellbeing as we age and outlined some simple things that we should be doing on a daily basis in order to keep as mobile and fit as possible as we grow older. His advice today was that we can use time when we are forced into our homes to concentrate on our physical activity. He exercises daily for an hour and does a press up for every year of his age. He described the value of music whilst we do exercise.
I’ve just returned from a very relaxing fortnight in Tenerife – somewhere that enjoys a warm sunny and dry climate virtually the whole year round. It has a very obvious appeal to us at this time of year when the temperatures drop, the evenings draw in and the heavens open!
It is inevitable that I’ll eat more when I am away and move less. When I am at home, I an stringent with logging all the food I eat and keeping tabs on my calories. At home there is housework and daily chores. I may not move far, but I move little and often. At this time of year I’ll also spend hours at a time raking leaves in the back garden. Our mature oak tree keeps me busy with my rake.
On holiday, I use my wheelchair more – the place we stay is at the top of a long hill. I can be in my wheelchair for 2/3 hours a day, depending on what we are doing. But I can also spend many hours sitting on a sun lounger and soaking up the rays whilst enjoying a good read.
I can usually expect to return home from this holiday having gained 7 – 10lbs. This year, I was determined to try and minimise any gain, as I am determined to get to 9 stone at some point during the year. My lowest weight was in 2014 when I saw 9st 3lbs on the scale. Since then, I have bounced about a but with my weight, but never allowed it to creep above around 10st 10lbs.
One of the things my sister (who accompanied me on the holiday) encouraged me to do was to take my gym ball, which can easily be inflated and deflated. Of course, it also meant taking the foot pump. I packed this non-essential item really not expecting to use it more than once or twice.
However, on the first morning of the holiday, I sat on the ball and carried out my regular routine of warm up stretches and then a 40-45 minute “bouncing” session, when I swing my arms wildly to music. I can get my heart rate into my “peak” zone (above 140 bpm). It was so lovely to be outside, watching the sun rise, listening to the birds and enjoying the idyllic surroundings. I quickly realised that this was something that wasn’t a chore – I was on holiday with plenty of time to fit in my exercise and it really set me up for the day. My stretches do help to limit my pain and keep everything flexible. I concentrate on my neck and back.
I’ve just totted up the various numbers which I logged on my Fitbit:
I “bounced” 60,729 steps. Earned 6,062 calories. Spent a total of 17.5 hours of my holiday exercising.
What’s even better was that my weight gain for the fortnight was just 3.8lbs! Incredible!
I’ve been on my weight loss journey for seven and a half years now.
So many little things which have now become “normal” for me – not just in terms of eating behaviour, but also in my abilities to move – were once things I couldn’t even dream of when I first started on my journey.
I’ve always been disabled. And for most of my life (from the age of 9) I’ve been overweight.
From my own personal perspective, it was easy to use my disability as an excuse as to why I was overweight and why I was unable to move MORE.
With hindsight, it was my WEIGHT that significantly prevented me from moving more. I could barely stand for a few minutes, let alone walk any distance. I would need someone to help fill the car with fuel as the whole process of standing whilst operating the pump was just too exhausting.
Whatever our abilities, we can all move just a little more, even if it’s just going for a trundle in the open air in a motorised wheelchair. In fact, the benefits of doing just that can be immense.
I have just returned from an amazing trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar. This is my third “adventure” holiday to far flung destinations and remote locations in as many years. The trips have involved long haul flights, climbing into single engine 12-seater planes and being hoisted into and out of jeeps whilst on safari. More are planned.
One of the day trips planned on this holiday was a boat trip in a traditional dhow (wooden boat). The thing I’ve always enjoyed about boat trips is that you jump on, travel about, see things and jump off. Not too much walking involved.
Not this time!
On arrival at the beach, the tide was right out and I could see, much to my dismay, that the boats were waiting about half a mile out in the shallow water. I immediately started to worry that I’d not be able to get out there – walking across sand and then rocks and rock pools ankle deep in water.
BUT my choices were limited.
I either attempted that walk, or neither of us would be able to do the trip (already arranged and paid for). The drive to the beach had already taken 40 minutes. We really wanted a day away from the hustle and bustle of Stone Town.
As we waited and were all kitted out with our flippers and masks/snorkels, I was experiencing an inner fear that was rising deep within me.
Eventually, we were allocated a crew member, who’s task it was to walk small groups out to the waiting boats.
Our group was allocated “Big Show”, a huge gentleman built like a water buffalo!
“Big Show” took hold of my wrist firmly in one HUGE hand, his fingers holding me tightly. “I will help you Mama” he said and started to walk me towards the boat at a steady pace, taking account of my short legs and reduced stride length.
I couldn’t look forward as my eyes needed to concentrate on the uneven ground beneath my feet, avoiding rock pools and particularly slimy patches. All the time he kept reassuring me with the words “polepole, polepole” (Swahili for “slowly, slowly”). Before long, we had reached the group of boats and I was heaved aboard – not in the most ladylike fashion, but by now I was exhausted and keen to get aboard and have a seat!
Likewise, when we stopped for our lunch, the boat had little option but to anchor in the shallows with a half mile walk to the beach and restaurant we were lunching in.
But this time, I was less fearful. By now it was the middle of the day, the sun was blazing down on us (30 degree heat). I slid into the water and up to my waist and Big Shot took my wrist.
This time, he walked me about 50 steps and then said “Stop. Rest.” I think he was aware of my laboured breathing (or should I say puffing!) The final part of this marathon was a climb up a steep sandy beach (see picture – this shows the tide right in). Once again, I arrived at my final destination, hot, exhausted, hungry and thirsty.
I took my seat int he shade and exclaimed “I think that deserves a Kili!” (local popular beer, Kilimanjaro). No sooner were the words uttered, then one arrived on the table in front of me, uncapped – delivered by a fellow passenger.
None of my fellow passengers knew anything about my walking abilities. We were all strangers meeting for the first time – French, American, Japanese, etc. But I have no doubt from comments during the trip that they admired what I achieved that day.
I have to say though, nobody was more impressed with my performance than I was myself!
Once again, I managed to truly achieve over and above what I thought I was physically able to.
WHAT! But I’m DISABLED! If I find it almost impossible to walk more than a few steps, there’s not a lot of exercise I can do, surely?
I’m often asked about the challenges of exercise and keeping fit with a physical disability. After all, that’s the theme of my website, so share my journey with readers. Things that I have found that have helped me to make those changes.
Because I am signed up to Patient Access (allowing patients signed up to their GP surgery electronically to access health services) I am regularly emailed interesting articles – this was one such.
I found it an interesting and useful read and thought I’d share with others who have a physical disability or long-term illness.
I’ve already incorporated into my every day life many of the things listed in the article and taken on board some of the advice.
This sentence particularly struck a chord, and is something that has been instrumental to my success….
“Excess weight pushes you down the ability spectrum, so adjust your calorie intake so it’s in line with your activity levels. You shouldn’t eat the diet of an athlete if you don’t train like an athlete.”
Thought I’d share what’s been keeping me busy today!
I’ve been making a film to share some of my stretching exercises with other disabled folk or indeed anyone who is unable to do weight bearing exercises.
It’s really crucial that I maintain my flexibility and address the pain I get in my neck, shoulders and back. Because of my arm length discrepancy, I spend a lot of time with my arms extended forward and my head bowed (reading, typing, cooking, eating, etc).
It’s vital for me to remain independent and continue my self care for as long as I am able to.
This is just a small part of the routine, but may hopefully inspire anyone who has problems standing or weight bearing for long periods. I also do some stretches using resistance bands – will film those another time!
Excuse the odd expressions and belly flab flashing… 🙂