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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Welstead

The unimaginable power of the human body: my experience personal training someone with a disability

When I began my practice as a personal trainer, I had no idea how much it would enrich my life. Of course, the satisfaction of helping people reach their goals and improve their health is amazing in itself, but being involved with someone else’s journey towards achieving good physical fitness takes on a whole new level of meaning when that person has a disability. Recently, I was fortunate to have worked with an incredible individual who not only inspired me but whose story also serves as proof that determination and hard work can help you overcome even the most daunting challenges. This is my experience training and coaching people through the process of improving their health while dealing with a disability.

I never intended to get into training people with disabilities, but it all started when one of my senior clients got pneumonia after a skiing trip in 2015. His body was shutting down and catabolizing his muscle mass to stay alive. The only way to stop this from happening was to place him into an induced coma. A few months ago, the man before me was unrecognizable. He couldn't walk without a frame and he could hardly speak. But now, 4 months later, he is doing much better. However, once he saw me, his motivation to improve and get better greatly increased. With the go-ahead from the physiotherapist, I was able to watch him walk with a frame up and down the ward. Although his body wasn't physically ready yet, mentally he was prepared. 2 years later, his progress with me and his physiotherapist was remarkable. He's a living miracle. Even though life still isn't perfect for him and he has to manage his conditions, this taught me a valuable lesson: we must make the most of what we can do, even in the face of what we can't.

I got a call from a domiciliary care firm in the middle of the covid pandemic, asking if I would be willing to work with a lady who had suffered a server brain injury from a car crash back in 2000. This left her unable to walk for years and with very poor short-term memory (initially diagnosed as early onset Alzheimers). After our consultation, I was aware that this would be a difficult task. Every exercise had to be completed while seated, except with the help of a walking frame for balance assistance. She constantly complained of backaches, sore knees and shoulders. In order to gauge her level of mobility, I devised a progressive plan consisting of very light resistance band exercises, shadow boxing (which is great for cardio and memory), stretches done while seated and concluding with guided meditation. In the last two years, I've come to know this lady very well. She's amazing for many reasons—not just because she can walk with a walking stick or remember our boxing combinations with gloves and pads. She also does over 40 full chair squats in a row! This woman is relentless and makes the best of every situation. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, she chooses to focus on what brings her joy. Her smile is completely contagious, and it fills me with happiness when I see her because I know that I am training with someone who loves herself unconditionally.

In the past two years, I have successfully trained other clients who have neurological disorders and disabilities. Each client is unique, with different needs, abilities, and mentalities--including those with mental conditions. Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. Some of these areas can be improved, while others cannot. For example, some clients can express their emotions verbally much better than others. It's my responsibility to help them by incorporating physical and mental exercises into their daily routine as frequently as possible—challenges like food choices 24/7 whether they're at home or out of the house. No two clients are alike which is what I enjoy most about this job!

No matter how difficult life may seem at times, it is important to remember that there is always hope; by striving to make the most of what we can do rather than focusing on what we cannot accomplish, we are truly capable of achieving miracles in our lives!

Daniel Welstead - Expert Personal Trainer in Sevenoaks

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