Wheelchair Fitness: Staying Fit and Why?

There are so many articles and videos about wheelchair fitness that it can feel overwhelming. Where and how do I get started? How do I find the time? Getting started with wheelchair fitness can be daunting. I get it, I really do. But there is a secret: Find something you love to do. Choose something that you find enjoyable and I promise you will find the time to do it, you will learn how to do it well, and you will feel better.

Here are a couple of tips that have helped me along the way:

Finding Your Niche

I like being outside in the sun and fresh air but I found I wasn't getting outside as much as I would have liked to. So I adopted a large breed dog, Koda, from an animal rescue. This did two things: It helped give a dog a crazy but loving home, and it "made" me get outside. I owed it to the dog. I had a reason to go for walks in the morning and when I came home from work. Every day there was a wagging tail by the door, ready to go.

Tracey Ferguson and her dog Koda playing outside

Maybe you don't have time for a dog? That's fair. Maybe you don't like being outside. How about swimming? Lifting weights? Rock climbing? Handcycling? Find what is fun for you.

Starting

This might be the hardest part, so start small. You picked something you enjoy or want to try, so go for it. Set aside the time for it. Put it in your phone with a reminder. If you have scheduled time for your activity, you will be much more likely to follow through on it.

Koda and I started going to walks. I had gotten a new everyday wheelchair, the Quickie Q7, and once I became more comfortable with the chair and used to our route I was able to make the walk more challenging. Sprint for 1 minute, then walk for 4 minutes. I worked up to a jogging pace with my friend who was starting to train for a 5K race. The next day, when I saw lamp posts, I would weave through them as quickly as I could. Changing things up all the time made the walk more challenging and fun for both Koda and me.

Seriously, change things up so you don't get bored. Challenge yourself more and more as you get more comfortable with training or your particular activity.

Adapting

In addition to adapting your routine, you may need to adapt your equipment. For example, I adopted Koda in the spring, when it was easy to get outside. When winter came, I was already committed to my routine with Koda but I needed to adapt my wheelchair so that I could get outside in the snow.

I needed snow tires, which required me to space out my wheels more. I had to get clothes, boots, and gloves that would keep me warm but still let me push my chair. Some days, it was near impossible but I would get Koda outside for him to do what he needed to do, and then I adapted again. I did circuits, wheeling in the underground of my condo so that Koda and I could still get our exercise.

Making New Discoveries

The more I was out walking Koda, the easier it got! Seven years later, I don't even think about it anymore; I just go out there and enjoy the day, rain or shine. I have also been caught in some serious downpours but I am grateful for each day outside.

I have met so many people! Lots of dog people of course, but even random non-dog people who see me out with Koda. They wave, say hello, and just like that I've made some new friends!

Trying New Things

A year or so ago, I got a Quickie Shark RS. I am not a handbike racer, but I wanted to change up my training and try something new. I could not be happier with my decision. It is one of my favorite ways to train now. I even got bike rollers so I can train inside using the handbike in winter.

If you don't want to race or have to transfer, then try Quickie's new Attitude add-on handbike. I did a half-marathon with it and while it is not as fast as my Quickie Shark RS, it is great for fitness as it allowed me to sit upright and easily handcycle at a runner's pace. Then at the end of the race, I just detached it and could easily wheel around the celebration party afterwards.

Do It for You!

It can be daunting to start getting active or fit. Know that we all have to start somewhere. You belong out there on the trails, in the pool, at the gym, having fun. Challenge yourself and I am sure you will be amazed at how far you come after taking the first few steps to getting fit. It really does get easier.

If you need help figuring things out, Sunrise Medical's Facebook page has tons of tips. Ask one of the Athlete Ambassadors: We have all been stuck in a training idea, or had to modify our equipment. We can help!

Good luck in finding your way to getting fit and having fun!

Tracey Ferguson and her dog Koda exercising outside in the woods

About the Author

Tracey Ferguson

Tracey Ferguson has been a member of seven Paralympic teams and is no newcomer to high performance sport on the world stage.

Always a competitor, Ferguson notes that she grew up playing street hockey and competing in everything she did, including Easter egg hunts. Her competitive spirit and love of winning fueled her dream of one day representing Canada on the Olympic podium.

That dream was not derailed by a spinal surgery that left her paralyzed at the age of nine.

Of all the sports she discovered, it has been wheelchair basketball that has allowed her to not only reach the podium at the international level, but to reach the top level of the podium at both World Championships and Paralympic Games. She was also named to two world all-star teams in the process (1998 and 2002).

Ferguson truly believes that representing Canada as an athlete is a an honor.

Most of the stories here on Live Quickie were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.


Date: 1/17/2017 12:00:00 AM


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