Although Curtis Palmer is an active para athlete, he admits that he is not the biggest fan of heading down to big, major gyms to accomplish his fitness regime.
“Even for veterans like myself who have been using a wheelchair for many years, gyms can be a place where you can feel very different."
Some of his apprehensions towards going to major gyms include limited numbers of people with disabilities, overcrowding, and non-adaptive workout equipment. All of these can contribute to making a gym experience for someone with a disability an uncomfortable one, “especially if you’re not quite comfortable or used to how your new body works post-accident.”
Tips for achieving your fitness goals without heading to a gym:
Workout from home: Training from home affords you the comforts of a familiar space, and you can still accomplish different exercises without using any machinery. You can experiment adapting exercises for the able-bodied and figure out new ways of engaging your muscles. For instance, one at-home exercise Curtis recommends is blowing up a balloon and trying to keep it in the air with your hands. “You’ll be surprised at how high your heart rate will increase and the different dimensions your body moves in,” shares Curtis. Another idea is to try finding exercises online that you can perform from the comfort of your home. Do an online search, or get in touch with a trainer who might be able to recommend an appropriate online program.
Participate in a sport: Handcycling is an example. Not only is hand-cycling a good way to keep yourself active, it is also an activity that can be family- or friends-oriented. This way, you would not have to be exercising alone! Activities such as going for a push outside or playing with your children are also good ways to involve your family and friends while you get some exercise in your day.
If heading to a gym is still the best way for you to achieve a good amount of exercise, head to a small local gym, or specialized training studio instead. This way, you get to develop a partnership with the trainers there, or even engage in one-on-one training. Gyms are great places “where you find a strong community of people to support you in reaching your goals" and offer a pleasant atmosphere where people are driven to succeed and push themselves to reach their goals. Thus, smaller, boutique gyms enable you to mix with a close community of people, too.
Try to find a gym that is spacious and not cluttered with equipment. This allows for more freedom of movement, and being uncluttered helps to make gyms less intimidating. Gyms that have specialized, adaptive equipment are a bonus as well.
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