Julie's diary: The pull of the gym

Keeping fit and keeping active has always been part of my life from the minute I learned to walk.

Julie on a rowing machine

I am a member of my local gym and I have always tried to aim to go to the gym three times a week. The gym staff are very helpful and approachable. Going to the gym is great to keep your body in shape and gets your endorphins going. You have to be motivated and focused to work out. I mainly concentrate on cardio exercises i.e. using the treadmill, cross trainer, rowing and I do some weights on my legs and arms.

Going to the gym is also important for someone like me who has Cerebral Palsy. It keeps me mobile, if I don't exercise my muscles would start to tighten up and it would begin to restrict my movements whereas keeping fit at the gym will avoid this. This is the reason I am involved - I want to make outdoor activities available to everyone and to encourage more disabled people to keep active - finding the motivation to get to the gym can be very hard. Hopefully events such as the Ben Nevis Challenge will show wheelchair users and others with disabilities the benefits and enjoyment which can be accessed from outdoor pursuits and the importance of teamwork.

Julie during the Andes expedition

The Andes expedition has definitely made me physically and mentally stronger - the final two days of the expedition pushed me too my limits that I never knew existed. Walking 400km on the rough terrain of one of the world's highest mountain ranges was very tough, constantly having to find my balance, and at times I helped push other participants in a wheelchair. I honestly didn't know whether my body was capable of continuing and if my legs would carry me any further! I was determined to do it, though my body was telling me it wasn't possible. I was determined to push my body despite the agonizing leg pains and to reach the Pacific coast. As my sister Amy said, there was no question of me coming home having failed to complete the expedition. I have proven that I can do anything like an able-bodied person, if not more!

It is crucial that participants for the Ben Nevis Challenge train for the climb. If they don't, they will struggle to push the wheelchair. It is hard work so they'll need to develop their stamina and upper body muscles (especially their arms) in order for the teams to make good progress up the mountains without stopping every 20 minutes. The wheelchair participants will have to train to improve their upper-body strength as they'll constantly be gripping for balance and shifting in the chairs. The organisers of the race are offering advice and support for this training so no need to worry.

Remember, it's a race to see which team can push their wheelchair participant up Ben Nevis in the quickest time!

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Page first published on Monday 3rd March 2008
Page last updated on Thursday 24th July 2008

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