Saturday, 1 March 2014

why personal training...

As is often the way, time absolutely flies by!  I cannot believe we are into March already.  

Part of the reason its flown by at such a pace is that its been busy.  I've been working my way through a course with premier training to become a Personal Trainer.  Im pleased to say that at the end of last week I passed, and passed pretty well if I may say so myself! 

Having passed, Im now in the process of working out what to do with it and how to use it. Im eager to operate freelance to make fitness and exercise as inclusive as it can possibly be.  Whilst contemplating all of this its been hard not too spend a bit of time thinking about how far I've come as well since that fateful day in 2010  (this blog has only existed since 2013, in case you don't know - that was the day of the 30 odd foot fall, broken back, snapped wrist and ruined ankle...), and the way a passion for activity has, at least in part, helped keep my focused, progress my rehab, and guide my recovery.  


This is me about two weeks into my post injury life having just been winched into a wheelchair for the first time.  I'd love to say this was the lowest point but Im actually looking pretty good here compared many occasions in the days before this was taken.  At the time, this was a huge step (for want of a better word).  My legs were paralysed, my right arm had various canulars going into it, and it was a treat to have my left arm out of its vertical position in its sling.  A lot of this was crap but it was still a really positive step forward as it was the first step towards getting into a manual wheelchair and regaining some vague degree of independence.  

Since then its been six months in Stoke Mandeville, a rehab experience like no other.  A gradual process of learning to walk again over a very long period.  The realisation of just how seriously I had ruined my ankle as it became more limiting than my back, and was causing me to walk badly making my back far worse.  Three surgical proceeders to try and fix make the ankle something worth hanging onto.  The realisation that it wasn't. An amputation.  Another four weeks in hospital and countless appointments with the prosthetist (with on going physio throughout)!



Then last week I  earnt my t-shirt!  

There are a lot of things that have helped my get to this stage.  My faith is an important part of my life and has undeniably dragged my through some hard times and I hold it heavily responsible for my ability to keep positive pretty much whatever happens.   Morgan has been a HUGE part of every element of the recovery, from the great moments like successfully walking down the isle on our wedding day (ruined my for a week after), to making the decision to amputate last spring.  Its been a huge burden on her and I hate that fact but despite that, on a daily basis she has absolutely amazed me with her mental strength and her ability to support me through it all.  On a similar note, family have been a huge help and I consider us really lucky to have family on my side and Morgans, who are local and who would do anything to help us.  As much as I get frustrated with myself  at the help I need at times, its a real blessing that its there.  On a purely practical point, Im extremely fortunate that there is an ongoing legal case on my behalf.  Whilst it is a horrible process, it has meant that Im able to see and work with some spectacular physios and access some incredible prosthetics.  Later in March I will be trialling a bionic foot.  The sad reality is that its something that is a long way off being accessible without such claims.  


So where does fitness come in.  Ive always loved activity.  Thats not to say I was into your classic sports at school (never on the football team - couldnt have cared less), but never the less I was never happier than when I was being active, whether that was on my back or climbing or what.  As a rule, the greater the perceived risk, the more interested I was!  At the time of the accident, I was in good shape.  I was running most days, I was climbing and kayaking regularly, and biked a lot.  I also spent a lot of time working my core and training in ways to improve my climbing ability beyond anything.  There are two reasons why this proved a good thing.  1 - it meant I could handle more.  At least 4 surgeons have commented that my level of fitness is likely to have helped limit the damage that was done by the fall.  Put simply, the fitter/stronger you are, more muscle you have which helps protect the body, secure the joints etc, and the stronger your bones are! 2 - It gave me something to strive for.  It was incredible, laying in a hospital bed and realising how fast muscle wastage is.  I expected it on my legs as they were literally unable to move, but I was amazed by how scrawny my upper body became.  I was determined that in time, Id be in ok shape again in the future. 

Reality is that these things take time and its a process.  Regaining some upper body strength happened quite quickly but it came with quite a lot of body fat.  Working out how to train effectively from the position I was in wasn't easy and nutrition was, sadly, the last thing on my mind - in hospital, whether its first or last thing on your mind its challenging to get right.  

As the months have rolled on Ive had different focuses.  In the early days of learning to walk, I knew that my legs needed to be stronger and I needed to regain the muscle mass Id lost.  Challenging when putting weight through one of your feet literally makes you want to cry.  As I was preparing myself for an amputation, I knew one of the key things that would help with recovery was improved core strength to improve my balance and control as I moved onto a prosthesis and so I worked my core hard (one of the key influences in my 3 week rehab, as opposed to the 6-8 week rehab I was told I would need). 


really, whats not to love....
So why a personal trainer?? I genuinely believe one of the key processes in my recovery has been my fitness level, and my determination to improve my fitness level throughout.  Exercise also keeps me going on a day to day basis.  If I don't, my body seizes up.  Everything gets harder, everything gets more painful.  In reality, at the absolute best of times, if I walk for more than half an hour my back will start screaming at me but I know that if I go a few days without training its made worse still.  The body and mind are a bit like a car engine when it comes to activity, they work at there best when the engine is warm.  If I don't exercise for a few days, everything gets cold and seizes up, and starting again becomes a 10x harder.  I also notice it in my mental state (as does Morgan I'm ashamed to say...).  If I don't train, I get moody! Part of that is probably linked to the increase back pain and discomfort though in all fairness...  


It literally improves my ability to function on a day to day business and I don't think thats limited to me.  Its the case for everyone and so as a PT, I want to help people to find that for themselves.  I also want to help people to find something they love to do.  It frustrates me when people tell me they don't like exercise.  The reality is that the body was BUILT TO MOVE.  We are not designed for the sedate lives thats western culture slots us into.   Most of us spend our days moving from one chair to another and spend our days sitting down, not on our feet, not moving.  Our bodies are designed to be upright, we are designed to be mobile and active and a huge number of health issues would be reduced if we fix that problem (we also work better when we have good quality fuel but Im not getting into nutrition now or Ill be ranting all night),  Even if your mind doesnt enjoy exercise, your body does, and in reality, exercise comes in many forms, theres something for everyone!   For me, its not about turing everyone into bodybuilding champions and fitness models (although if thats your goal, great, thats what we'd work on), instead its about functional exercise to improve how well you function on a day to day basis.  That might be as simple as a client saying, "I want to improve my health and not be out of breath when I walk to work", it might be "I've got three kids who all have more energy and I cant keep up".  It will vary from person to person.   

My hope is that, due to my own life experiences, as a PT I'll be able to empathise with my clients.  I understand that its hard, I understand that sometimes it feels like the body just doesn't want to join in, but I also see the importance and know that the benefits are hugely more than just looking better with your shirt off (although theres no harm in that).   

So my goals.  Work as a freelance PT.  Im currently in the process of going through the practicalities of creating a business, getting insured, setting up a website etc (functionalfitness.org.uk - its still a work in progress, ignore the typos, spelling mistakes, and need for more content). 

Long term, I plan to do specialist work looking at exercise referral, working with people with disabilities, and rehabilitation work along side the standard personal training work but you know what they say, one step at a time....  With a baby due in April, there is plenty to be thinking about after all! 

And on that note, Ive just realised how late it is and so Im going to hope this makes sense and say goodnight...


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