Sport and Fitness- Feel Confident Trying Something New

colourful fitness equipment, stretch bands and weights

Fitness classes and sports clubs are great for getting into a routine, motivation, providing instruction, and socialising. After I became unable to swim and cycle easily I went on a bit of a quest to find something fun that would keep me fit. I tried lots of different classes and sports including salsa, Zumba, yoga, squash (really not good for weak wrists), pilates, jogging and going to the gym. Trying new things with a disability or injury can be a bit daunting, so whether you are thinking of going to an in person class, or following one online, here are my tips for getting started:

1. If you have a disability, injury or illness and the exercise is something new to you, remember to speak to your doctor about it first. If you join a gym or sign up for classes they will ask you to fill out some medical forms so being informed is key.
2. I really recommend turning up early to speak to the instructor before in person sessions. Rather than just naming your condition, let the instructor know specifically if there’s any movements you can’t do, if you don’t want to be pushed hard, or if you might have to take a break during the session. This might also help if you’re feeling self-conscious about not fitting in exactly with what everyone else is doing.
3. If you’re feeling anxious about getting started, see if you can persuade someone to come with you for moral support, even if it’s just for the first session.
4. Before committing to a long-term gym or classes subscription, look for offers or ask if you can try the first session for free. That way if you’re not enjoying it, you’re free to try something else.
5. Think outside the box if traditional classes aren’t your style. Think swing dance, hillwalking, archery or canoeing!
6. If you can afford it, a one-to-one session can help you to work out the best way to modify exercises for you. This might be to find alternative exercises which accommodate your disability, working on improving skills, or finding out how to play to your strengths. You might also get more personalised suggestions for improvement in a smaller group.
7. Online classes and videos are great for fitting around any schedule and trying things out on your own. Follow the links on the Resources page for free classes, including specialised classes for managing arthritis pain, and post-stroke exercises.
8. Don’t forget any splints, braces or tape that you use to support joints and muscles.
9. Make sure to warm up/cool down, rehydrate and stretch properly before and after the class. For me, this means paying special attention to my wrists.
10. Finally, don’t worry about what anyone else is doing! Take breaks as you need, listen to your body and don’t be afraid to call it a day if it’s really not for you.

“Pre-lockdown I used to enjoy going to Zumba because it’s great cardio and everyone leaves smiling. I would go at the back so I wouldn’t feel self-conscious or worry that I was confusing anyone when freestyling over the moves I couldn’t do. Now I follow online and it’s still a way to improve my agility and coordination in a way that’s more fun for me than going to the gym.”

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