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Achieving fitness, strength and independence through personalised personal training sessions – Georgina’s story

This week’s personal experience blog is written by Georgina and her personal trainer and rehabilitation therapist, Joe.

Hi, my name is Georgina and I am 33 years old. This blog is written with my specialist personal trainer and rehabilitation therapist Joe to demonstrate how you can live with stroke and start regaining your strength, independence and confidence working with an ally in an inclusive gym. We have written this blog invite readers into my journey from living without a disability or impairment to now living with a stroke and my determination to regain some of my strength and vigour to live life as fully as I can. This blog is also written in a conversational way with Joe and I taking turns to explain what a session looks like working out in Breaking Barriers inclusive gym in Buckinghamshire.

Having lived for 33 years without a disability or major health condition, working as a sales manager in a successful London based company, exercising and going to the gym regularly, life took a dramatic turn for me in 2015 when I was struck with a number of strokes including a massive stroke that left me with physical and cognitive impairments.

I didn’t have movement on my left side, and my speech was affected. I needed help to do day-to-day tasks, and support from my family to manage through the day. I had some rehabilitation intervention on the NHS and I went home to live with my family in Buckinghamshire. When my NHS rehabilitation ended, I was looking to find ways to keep getting better physically and regain some measure of independence. I joined a gym, and began working with Breaking Barriers specialist personal trainer and rehabilitation therapist Joe Harman.

So now I want to invite Joe into this conversation and explain how specialist personalised training sessions can help people like me regain their strength and independence…

Joe: Specialist personal training after physical or neurological injury or illness, involves supporting people with injuries or disabilities in fitness based sessions, working one-to-one with a person to help them work toward their fitness goals. Sessions might focus on building up overall strength, balance, walking abilities, core or limb strength, mobility, flexibility, or reducing aches, pain and discomfort. Specialist based personal training is very different to traditional personal training. Some sessions are rehabilitation and recovery focused; these can be slow paced, involving stretches, or repetitive exercises, and may focus on building up a specific physical ability such as improving use of an arm, or hand as needed. Other sessions might involve more general full body movement or fitness challenges, adapting fitness activities such as using battle ropes or TRX to help clients build up overall physical activity and fitness levels.

Georgina: I work with Joe twice a week in my specialist personal training sessions, as well as having physiotherapy. I also have sports massage with Breaking Barriers which helps. My physiotherapist and my personal trainer liaise together to support me. The specialist personal training sessions are one-to-one, in the Breaking Barriers private gym. I have sessions focused on the use of my leg, and arm and building up my strength. Joe supports me to use a variety of gym equipment, including a TRX, bike, step, weight machines, and a specialist rehabilitation machine that I sit on and gets me using my arms and legs, and pushes me further every time, showing me my progress. Joe takes photos and videos to help me and my family see my progress which is really useful. This way I can see myself getting stronger and being able to move my arm with the kind of control I didn’t have a year ago.

Joe: Specialist personal training sessions can take place at a private gym, at people’s homes, in the park, or at a local gym. Training sessions can vary depending on what the client’s goals are and what each session will focus on. The focus could be on using and strengthening arms one week, using and strengthening legs the next week, or walking and balance the following week. We try to change the session plans every time, to make it fun and interesting but also to make it challenging, and for clients to feel they have been able to achieve more than they thought possible. At the Breaking Barriers gym we can put on music or disco lights if our clients want, to tailor it and make it as fun as possible! Exercise and physical activity can be fun for everyone!

Georgina: I enjoy my personal training sessions because they are personalised which I prefer to going to work out in a large gym. I enjoy the lights and music, but also just working out in my own space. Joe is very patient and encouraging with me, and I am making progress towards my goals. Joe experienced a serious injury himself and was therefore very empathetic, which helps when I am working with him as I feel he understands. Anything on my left side feels really hard and I have to work much harder on this side to keep moving. I keep positive though with Joe’s help, and keep going with the exercises he asks me to do. I remind myself that I am doing okay and I will keep going, and keep working hard to help my recovery, and help me stay physically active. I always feel better after I have had a session. I feel more confident and I have fun and leave the session in a good mood, after working hard!

Joe: Georgina is doing an amazing job – she stays positive and focuses on working hard. I know the sessions can be tough, because 7 years ago I went through the same process after a serious road accident. I understand what it can be like when a limb isn’t what it used to be or if you feel more tired, or have pain. I know how hard you have to work to regain some of your strength and I help my clients do the same. Overcoming injury or finding ways to get physically active with physical disabilities can be difficult if you are not fully supported in an inclusive way. If you are in this situation consider getting support from a specialist personal trainer who understands and is trained in working with disability and injury and can help work with you toward your fitness goals. Support from a specialist personal trainer can be hugely beneficial and motivating, and can help improve physical and mental health, increase wellbeing and keep you active.

Georgina and Joe have sessions at Breaking Barriers gym, Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.

Breaking Barriers is based in Bucks, but supports clients in London, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, Birmingham and the Midlands.

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