Laura, Hatfield Leisure Centre
Hi Laura, tell us about your fitness journey...
I’ve been a member Better gym since 2018 so I’ve been on my fitness journey for a few years now. I really wanted to try different things, and it took me quite a while to find something that worked for me. I've tried different gyms and different kinds of exercises but I found that I couldn't keep up in a class with lots of other people due to having different needs and doing exercises differently. That’s quite difficult, you feel a bit left out, and you might feel a bit different in that context. So, I stopped, and lost the confidence to try something else. Eventually, I thought I needed to do something because the doctors were telling me I should do more exercise, and it’s quite hard to hear but, they were probably right. I decided to be more confident and find something that suited me and not to just give up once something didn’t work.
What motivates you to get active?
Think like a lot of people I wanted to improve my fitness, and having a mobility impairment myself, I can struggle with doing exercise sometimes. But in order to stay active, and particularly keep doing all the travel that I want to do, I need to be fit enough to do so.
I think having a mobility impairment as well can be quite challenging, it can feel that it's not always for you. It can be quite daunting to come to a gym in the first place, so I think for me, it was a question of trying out lots of different things and finding what I found accessible for me and what really worked for me.
How have you stayed consistent?
It does take a lot of personal motivation, and I think having others around you helps. I've found it beneficial to have a personal trainer at the gym to keep me on track, it's that kind of accountability and having someone to check that you're doing things makes me want to get better. So, I found it really, really helped to have that bit of support.
How does exercise make you feel?
Exercise makes me feel good about myself. I’ve found that my confidence has improved since coming to the gym. It's that sense of satisfaction when you lift a weight that you've never lifted before, it's that real buzz; that real excitement you get from that achievement is huge. So to some people, that might be a small achievement, but for me, when I never thought I could ever lift such a weight, that's really massive.
What type of workouts do you do?
I do a mix of things. I do some of the light conditioning exercises; I really like the seated cross trainer as I never thought I'd find something that was accessible for me. To actually be able to do things in the gym has been great. I love the rowing machine as well. Quite reluctantly, I'll do the hand bike as well as I’ve realised it's really good for that upper body strength. Then I also do some of the weights. Sometimes, I need someone to help me because I can't always reach everything. So that's why it's helpful to have someone else with you, but then I can come in and do other things by myself. And that's great, too.
What does health mean to you?
I think it's essential to look after your health. I want to travel, I really want to see the world, there are so many things I want to do in my life. So actually keeping healthy is important, and it’s about looking after yourself - that’s what health means to me.
How does staying active impact and benefit you?
I've definitely seen lots of improvements in my physical health. I've done things I never thought I would ever do in the gym and lifting weights that when I first started seemed absolutely impossible. That has had a good impact on my mental well-being because I feel that sense of achievement.
Also, the social aspects of coming to the gym - being able to come to the gym means that I get out of the house and chat with people. The great thing about being a member of my Better gym is that it feels really inclusive, and people do talk to each other. So overall, it's helped me in different aspects of my life, which is great.
What does fitness mean to you?
I think it has changed the way I see myself, it's really helped me to build my own self-confidence and my self-belief in what I can do - that's been a really important lesson I've learned on my fitness journey.
What advice would you give other people who may find it difficult to build physical activity into their daily lives or potentially lack confidence to participate?
I never thought that I would find so many things that I could do in the gym. It's been a real journey and a real revelation to me that there is so much that I can do. What I would like to say to other people or people with mobility impairments, like me, is don't worry, try different things, get out there and see what works for you. Don't be afraid to try something new. I know how daunting it is to walk into a really big gym with lots of people around who seem to know what they're doing. People aren't going to be looking at you, and they aren't going to be wondering what on earth you are doing. So go in there, be yourself, be confident and be happy.
Have you set any goals for this year?
My goal for 2022 will be to ride my trike at 20 for 20 kilometres. I've never been able to ride a bike but in 2021, I bought myself a recumbent trike. So, I got my first ever bike at the ripe old age of 41, which is fantastic. Now I need to get out and practice. To do that, I need to come to the gym and practice things like the seated cross trainer and weights so that I'm strong enough to achieve my goal.