"Make your wheelchair the reason you’re fit – not the excuse"
By Jordan Jarrett-Bryan
I struggle to remember a time when I wasn’t active. I’ve always been into sport or at least physical activity, mainly because I’ve always been a hyperactive and competitive person.
Running, jumping, playing football, basketball, rounders: all were things I did daily when I was a boy. It was a huge cause of being an active and healthy young boy, but more importantly a happy boy.
I was nowhere near the fastest in my class at primary school – I remember running made me the happiest, though. As someone with a disability, I can also remember not ever being too conscious about the fact I had an artificial leg.There may have been times, it may have been uncomfortable, but I refused to not take part in sports.
I don’t use a wheelchair for everyday use, but getting used to one when I first started playing wheelchair basketball was weirdly liberating.
Playing a sport without running and jumping was different, but I was still fast, powerful, moving. Active. It joined two of three most important elements of sports – winning, health and enjoyment.
Find the thing you really enjoy doing
For many people, the idea of the being active and getting fit is something that feels like hard work and even a chore. This can be especially true if you have a temporary disability or illness that makes it hard to get around.
Borrowing or hiring a wheelchair from the British Red Cross can make a difference, and you can keep it for as long as you need it. Volunteers help run this service around the UK, giving their time to help keep people moving.
Once I finished playing professional wheelchair basketball, I must admit, the idea of going to the gym didn’t appeal. If I’m honest, going to the gym and lifting weights never appealed to me.
WHEN I FIRST STARTED PLAYING WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL WAS WEIRDLY LIBERATING.
As a result of not playing basketball and training daily, I put on weight and I could physically feel my health and fitness declining. This went on for a few years.
But, having been a professional athlete before, I was fully aware of what it felt like to be fit and why it was important. So, I went back to that mindset and decided that I had to stop this and take control.
Not playing basketball daily anymore meant the only way this was going to happen was to find something that I enjoyed doing. I chose to dance. I took up Kizomba and loved it. I also started playing badminton.
Between these two, I’d found something that I really loved doing and got fit as a consequence. My advice to all is to find the thing that you really enjoy doing. Something that doesn’t feel like a chore, something you can’t wait to do, and that will be the best way to get or stay fit and active.
No excuses – get a wheelchair if you need it
It’s very easy to live through our phones now. Phones are often seen as the enemy to health and fitness. But if you’re smart about it, mobile phones can be the ally to health and keeping active. Whether it’s a simple as the alarm clock on it, to get you out of bed, or using the apps that can track movements pushes or runs.
Phones are no doubt a huge cause for a fall in activity for many people. But the phone as an object isn’t the real reason you’ve put on a bit of weight. You not exercising, playing a sport at leisure, not pushing that extra half mile daily is the reason you’re not as active and healthy as you think.
USING A WHEELCHAIR DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN'T BE ACTIVE.
Using a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Depending on your disability or illness, it’s possible to stretch and keep certain muscles strong, and it’s important that you do this daily.
Many charities and gyms have classes and professionals to assist people in wheelchairs to be the healthiest and fittest they can be. You can use the wheelchair you borrow from the Red Cross to be part of them.
What’s important is that no matter who you are or what your disability is, health is wealth – and I don’t mean financially.
Jordan Jarrett-Bryan is a journalist and Channel 4 sports reporter.
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