colourful fitness equipment, stretch bands and weights
Hobbies and Sport, Sport and Fitness

Sport and Fitness- Feel Confident Trying Something New

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.”

banner of a watercolour tiger painting, an oil painting of tomatoes, and an abstract yellow and blues acrylic painting
Hobbies and Sport

Quick and Easy Art Media Review

I used to enjoy drawing and painting before my injury and have tried since, but found it too painful for my injured hand and too difficult with my non-dominant hand. I wanted to find something creative that would be fun and easy to do, without needing very fine motor skills.

I dug out a bunch of art supplies from my Art GCSE days and tried them out to see which techniques lend themselves best to non-dominant hand use. I decided to avoid using my dominant hand altogether which left me with my uninjured left hand that’s bad at aiming and still not used to holding a pencil.

Chalk Pastels

Pastels seemed like a good idea because there’s no equipment needed and no washing up. They’re also chunkier than pencils or paintbrushes. They needed more pressure than I had thought and I found them difficult to manipulate. It was also hard to aim because of the pastel’s blunt style combined with my lack of precision. The difficulty caused my right hand to tense up and move around in sympathy, so had the unintended effect of causing pain anyway. I was happy with my picture but I found the style frustrating and painful so I won’t be trying them again soon.

Solid Watercolours

These paints need water to be picked up and mixed in with the brush, which is difficult if you have problems stabilising your arm. A solution to this could be to add in water with an eyedropper, or to use tube watercolours. The paintbrush was thin and difficult to hold, so wrapping tape around it or using rubber pencil grips might have helped. Watercolours were good because very little pressure is needed, but adding details was hard and needed concentration to aim. It’s also not a very forgiving type of paint- if you make a mistake, it’s tricky to cover up. I think I’ll try again with watercolours, but using a different technique and style.

Oil paints

These paints are thick, squishy, and slow to dry so allow lots of corrections and alterations as you go; I used a palette knife to spread and mix the paints together on the page. I found this easier than using a brush because I didn’t have to be as accurate and the movement didn’t need as much dexterity. The only problem with oil paints is that they are tricky to clean up if you don’t have the water-soluble kind.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are faster to dry than oils but still thick. I premixed some different colours, dotted them randomly on a canvas board, then spread them with a palette knife for an abstract effect. This was quick, fun, and easy to do. It is also easy on the hand and wrist joints and didn’t need much pressure.

Final Thoughts

  • I found the thick paints to be easier to use than watercolours or pastels which needed greater accuracy. I liked the tactile (but low pressure) approach.
  • An easel would have been useful to stop the paper or canvas moving around on the table and I’ll look into that in future.
  • Working on a bigger scale would make adding details easier. I was working on A6 size paper for all except the acrylics (A5).

Hobbies and Sport, Lifestyle, Work and Study

Welcome to ‘I’m Handling It’

‘I’m Handling It’ is a project documenting hand and wrist adaptations that hopes to be a source of ideas and resources for others.

Hi, I’m Hope! I’m a part-time research postgrad student living in the UK and writing my thesis from home. I have wrist instability and chronic pain caused by nerve damage from a road accident, both on my dominant side. After surgeries and physical rehab I’m now investing time into adapting all aspects of life to get my independence and old hobbies back. This usually involves trying to adapt things for one-handed use.

What will be on the blog?

I’ve especially missed playing instruments, baking, doing art, and crafting so will be looking for ways to make these things more one-handed friendly. Around the house I’ll be looking for adaptations and hacks to make cleaning easier, and for recipes and food preparation techniques that are easy to do one-handed. The successes, failures and recommendations will be published here in the hope that it can help others looking for advice.

I also want to share what I’ve learnt from being a disabled student at university and the adaptations that have been helpful so far. I am a Biochemist/Immunologist who used to work in a lab, but for the past year my work has been computational so I have made lots of changes to my computer set up and the technology I use.

I especially want to learn from other people experiencing upper limb disabilities and hope to feature interviews to talk about their experiences and advice. It would be great to highlight adaptation and disability services that already exist for all kinds of upper limb disabilities and injuries, and to bring them together in one place. If you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see, or to propose a submission or collaboration, please do get in touch here.