Once upon a time, I was a high flying school rugby captain and a sporty all-rounder. Then a flashy ski rep living the high life in the Swiss Alps.
Then not so long ago but still a distant memory, I worked for a health and fitness brand. Every Saturday I’d be sweating away in the gym and in spin classes. I’d complete an annual triathlon and swim at least twice a week. But something wasn’t right. I would stumble on my left foot while running, and my legs would go all wobbly after a spin session. MS? Well, it turned out to be!
My 2007 diagnosis saw all fitness activity stop dead. I’m not sure it was understood – and if it was, it wasn’t preached – just how important staying active is for our wellbeing.
I gradually found my exercise mojo again though. Partially helped by some group physio classes via the NHS, but especially when I discovered the excellent Chilterns MS Centre not too far from home. Some helpful nagging by individual therapists and some great exercise classes gave me the push I needed. Not just while there, but I also came away with plenty of ‘homework’ to work on my flexibility and fitness daily.
The confirmation I had secondary progressive MS came in 2018. I wasn’t overly surprised given I had been using a wheelchair more and more.
But I’ve actually felt more driven to exercise, not less. Partly because I fully understand the concept of ‘use it or lose it’. Partly because I want to keep up with our two boys as much as possible and get some Vitamin D into the bargain.
But mostly because I have discovered the absolute thrill and joy that is Wheelchair Rugby! It’s not as dangerous as it looks or sounds. The specialised wheelchairs take the damage, not us. Given I have a progressive illness and the sport is mixed ability (and mixed gender), I’m comfortably the slowest player on court. A super sub in a super team, the Bournemouth Lions.
Training in the pandemic
I’ve kept up my fitness in lockdown by self-imposing a ‘Virathlon’ and tracking progress:
- tootling up and down the patio in my wheelchair
- walking a few yards with my rollator on days I have felt up to it
- lifting hand weights while watching telly.
With one arm way better than the other, I’m now a hunk in one bicep. Not great for travelling in a straight wheelchair line!
We Are Undefeatable
So I’m delighted to be taking part in the ‘We are undefeatable’ campaign. While I accept my MS is very likely to keep progressing, I’ll just keep adapting. I’ll keep celebrating little wins and milestones. I loved working with the team, and I loved sharing the joy of doing something – anything! – to keep active.
Watch the new We Are Undefeated Film here: https://youtu.be/LW3ZBUZ1RUE