The gym that I'm thinking of joining, there's a phrase I never thought I'd say, has three pieces of accessible equipment. I went yesterday for a free trial day to see if the machines would work for me and if they'd be enough to keep me interested with a variety of exercises. One of the staff stayed near me to show me how to make the machines accessible, one by pulling the seat out and the other by unclipping it and sliding it aside, the other needed no modification.
I tried the first one which required me rolling up and onto it after the seat was taken away. I was able to get in and begin exercising. I did note the moment, my first time in a real gym, not a hotel gym, with equipment adapted for wheelchair users. I found myself, tiring out fairly quickly, but I set a goal for ten minutes on the machine and summoned up the energy to make it.
Then it was on to another machine. This one didn't have bells and whistles, no screen told me the calories burned or the distance gone, this one was just hard work. There again I set myself goals and met them. Admittedly the goals were low, but I'm just starting and I want to acclimatize myself to the machines and the routines.
The last machine had 5 different exercises you could do on it and I was instructed slowly and carefully on how to do each one. The instructor was very patient and answered my questions. She was interested as she listened to me talk about the mechanics of pushing a chair and which muscle groups were important to me, she answered what she could and stated that this was new for her too and what she didn't know now, she'd know next time.
After about an hour and ten minutes I left the gym and headed up for a run on the track. It's different pushing long distance on a track than in a mall, where I usually practice, because I don't have to constantly break for other people. There was a level of intensity that came with being on the track that I liked but wasn't prepared for. So I only did three laps but that was enough for the day.
I met with everyone downstairs as Joe and the kids were in the pool. Marissa, their mom, had agreed to be my gym buddy for the day and we compared notes on the gym. What struck me was that the staff were equally interested in both of our experiences and helped when it was needed or appropriate.
What also struck me was that my fear of being the odd one out amongst people who were all fit and toned was quite appropriate. They all were. My fear about them being superior or nasty to me because of my weight and difference was, in fact, unfounded. For the most part people were there to do what they do and it all seemed quite solitary. A few brief hellos when passing but little else.
So, I'm going to go a couple more times to determine if this is something I'm going to do or something I'm going to lose interest in. Then, maybe, I'll join. But it's nice that the decision is down to me and is only about my motivation, not about my reception or treatment at the gym.
On my way out of the gym I thanked them for their attitude of welcome and one woman said, "No problem, that's our job." I said, "That doesn't always make it happen though does it?"
We'll see what happens next.
Just got in from the gym and read your post. I have been going for a few years now, but there are no wheelchair friendly machines! Most of the people I meet there are very welcoming and helpful. I also think sometimes they seem standoffish but are involved in their own training. If you go the same time every week you will get to know 'the group' that are there at the same time. I belong, now to a good bunch of guys on a monday morning. I hope you decide to join
If there are a variety of machines and free weights / dumbbells you can use there, that could be very advantageous for you. However, it's always nice to exercise at home too. I like to mix it up myself. I find that the monetary commitment I'd made for joining the gym is enough to keep my miserly ass going back. I hate the thought of spending money on something I don't use. Still though, it's that feeling of accomplishment I get when I go on days that I absolutely don't want to that keep me coming back. (Those are the days that make the difference!) I would imagine your strength would improve even more in time as well.
Sometimes - a gym buddy is a good thing too. Maybe Joe will go with ya!
In the end, I find gym membership a daily choice though. Sure I plopped down money, but it's not the commitment I made once that makes the difference - it's the one I make today. Good luck to you Dave!
Quite a few wheelchair users in my local gym, also people of all shapes, sizes and ages, I think the oldest is in her late nineties. Even though all the gym staff are all young, slim and very fit, they have a clear ethos of exercising being for health, and make a big effort to make sure all are welcome.
Did you ask if there were other people who used the accessible equipment? More users would make you feel more comfortable.
Not a reason to make a decision one way or the other, but important for the long run.
Good for you! I joined a local wellness center last year mainly for the therapeutic pool. I am not an exercise fanatic, but I do feel better when I go regularly.
Oh I miss working out at a gym! I used to "lift" a lot: uni rowing got me started. You're right that it's solitary---I always found myself wrapped in my own bubble and everyone else there was just as absent. I hope someday I'll go back.
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