Kyle's Story

Kyle, Pancras Square

Hi Kyle, tell us about your fitness journey...

My name is Kyle Jordan. I'm a postgraduate student at University College London and I've been a member of Better for just shy of four years now.

When I was 14 years old, I started doing Disabled Sports. It started out with shotput and javelin, so throwing, but then it quickly developed into wheelchair racing. And then it got on to all sorts of other sports, wheelchair table tennis, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, all sorts of other things. I was competing regionally - the I got to was Commonwealth level, which was fun.

Doing sports, being active, and doing fun things like that was not only good for my body but my mind too.

How did you benefit from that experience?

Having that experience really gave me the confidence to be a more outgoing person, which I think I am today. And also the kind of the comfort in knowing that I could do more if I wanted to - I could explore all these different ways of doing things.

I think it helped me come to appreciate that even with the differences of my body compared to your average Joe or whatever I found that actually my body can do a lot of things that people wouldn't expect – and that's why I enjoy exercise and sport.

How have you stayed consistent?

Consistency is hard and I don't judge anyone who finds it difficult. I think for me, one of the ways I've been able to keep consistent is that when you are disabled routine is key. More often than not you have to work to some form of routine because the built environment or just other human decisions sometimes force you to plan ahead. So always having a plan and making time for those plans is really important, it makes it in some ways easier for me to be able to commit to those times.

I also like to self-propel a lot and self-propelling obviously requires a lot of energy! So it's kind of a necessity. I also think having that hour or hour and a half where I can just focus on myself and shut the rest of the world out is really good just to kind of center myself.

You get to clear your mind and your body and just pump it out. So when you think about it that way, and when you see it as that opportunity just to take that time out, it actually helps make that consistency stick.

 

How does exercise make you feel?

Exercise makes me feel a lot of things, pain is one. But I don't want to make that sound an inherently negative thing because one thing I think is key to understand for a lot of disabled people, in many different ways, is that we have a very intimate relationship with pain.

Having a means by which you can test that pain and figure out the pushing to your limit and understanding how your body works on your own terms is really beneficial. So yes, it makes me feel pain but that's pain on my terms. 

In a kind of brighter way it does make me feel lighter, it takes a pressure off the chest.

What type of workouts do you do?

I tend to focus on upper body and core strength. Whenever I do legs, it's mostly just stretches because obviously there's no point in building muscle there, those muscles aren't going to get used anyway, and they atrophy pretty quickly.

I use a lot of free weights and a lot of the resistance machines because again, it's about pushing to that limit of what you can do and quite often I'm doing a lot of exercises that are obviously beneficial to how I get around how I move.

Like I mentioned earlier, I've developed different stripes. So there are some things that I can do better than other people because that's just how my body copes. So there are all these sorts of different resistance and body exercises strength building that helped me kind of maintain a healthy center and an understanding of my body.

What does fitness mean to you?

Fitness for me means having a keen sense of yourself and an appreciation of how great a variety of people we are as a species and just how diverse we are in the way that we do things. 

I find myself appreciating how other people do things in the gym, you know, to see those tests of strength or stamina. I don't think there is any sort of peak person, I think everyone's peak is different and all of those peaks are beautiful in their own way.

I think if we carried ourselves in life like that more, appreciating people living life on their own terms, and empowering them to live life on their own terms, and not necessarily to fit a one size fits all kind of box. I think we'd all be a lot happier.

How does being active impact and benefit your physical, mental and social health?

It's helped me in a multitude of ways. Physically, it obviously helps me in my day-to-day life, it helps me understand my body and how it's constantly changing as I'm getting older and appreciating you know, the sorts of things that I can and can't do. Mentally it's helped me in terms of giving me a center for myself. And socially, it helps because I'm a more confident, outgoing person. I've always generally been an upbeat sort of person, but I certainly feel more present as a person. I certainly feel more kind of engaged as a person.

Have you set any goals for this year?

The focus is more on increasing my capacity to resist and control the mid to heavyweights that I'm working with. So in that sense, I think my goals are mostly built around just increasing that kind of, I guess, tactfulness would be the right word - that ability to stretch more and to push more. And to keep that up, and remain consistent. And going from there.

I like to shake things up occasionally. At the moment, I'm using a lot of weights and stuff but maybe I'll switch to doing body exercises a bit more. Swimming would be really nice, I haven't really done it since I was young so it's something I would love to pick up again. Maybe in the next year, if we're lucky, I'll be able to go swimming because that'd be fun. 

What advice would you give other people who are looking to get active?

It's about just throwing yourself in and being willing to try. It's about finding what's right for your body. There are so many different choices that you can make in doing fitness. You, your body and your mind will find what's right for you. If you're willing to try.

Don't worry about everyone else in the gym, they're so deep into their own focus, they probably haven't even realised you’re there, and more likely, they're going to be glad to see you there. The amount of times I've been here and just generally appreciated the presence of someone there, even if they don't say anything to you is a good thing.

So yeah, my biggest piece of advice, just throw yourself in and try - if you're unsure, just ask, people will help you.