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Accessible Fitness with Paralympian Sophie Carrigill

GB Wheelchair Basketballer, Paralympian, World and European Silver Medalist Sophie Carrigill, who is an ambassador for AccessAble, tells us what being active and exercising means to her as a disabled person.

We all know that once a New Year begins, everyone loves to set New Year’s Resolutions… me included! I’ve actually stuck to mine so far! One of the most common ones is being more active or joining a gym, which is probably due to the overindulgence over Christmas and it makes people think they need to exercise more.

I’m a real believer that exercise isn’t just for your body but for your mind as well. You shouldn’t be exercising just to look a certain way or lose weight, but because it makes you feel good! Thankfully for me, I get to exercise daily as part of my job and I really do love it. But for those of you that find it more difficult, especially adding a disability into the mix, which often takes forward planning, I hope in sharing my experiences you may be motivated to stick to those New Year’s Resolutions and not be afraid to be active.

Before I became a wheelchair user, I was a super active girl and loved playing sport. That was my way of staying fit as I hadn’t really ventured into a gym yet. So after my car accident at 16 years old, during recovery, I realised how much I missed being active and playing sport. I got in touch with a wheelchair basketball club who trained at a local leisure centre. It was ideal for me because I felt confident that the leisure centre had all the required accessible facilities and I was excited to be amongst other disabled people who were going through something similar.

It dawned on me that to getting fitter and stronger was really benefitting my quality of life, not just getting better at playing wheelchair basketball. But as I started to train with the Great Britain team, I knew it would be important for me to use a gym to get even stronger. To begin with, it was daunting! Having a new disability, I wasn’t really sure what my body was capable of or what adaptions I would need to make. My first coach really educated me in this area and allowed me to try things first and then we would adapt exercises. For example, I would concentrate a lot on building my core because that would really help my balance in my wheelchair. And of course, building those biceps! As I said, not just to look good, but because I use my arms for everything, I knew they needed to be strong.

Sophie lifting weights in the gym

For first time gym goers, I would really recommend asking one of the members of staff at the facility for some basics of where to start. In my (nearly!) 10 years of being a wheelchair user, who uses gyms often, I’ve found that they actually have a lot have adapted equipment and everyone I’ve ever come across is more than happy to help. It could really help you build up a foundation of strength and most importantly, confidence in using gym equipment.

Luckily for me, I had a great experience in the gym, and I love going. But I know the gym is not for everyone. There are plenty of ways disabled people can get active without going to a gym… by joining a sports club such as wheelchair basketball like I did or even a walking club that would enable you to go for long pushes around a park. The important thing is that you do your research using the AccessAble website and App or getting in touch with the group you have in mind to make sure it fits your access needs and you are comfortable attending.

Looking for accessible places to get active around the UK? Use the links below to search. You can plan in advance on our website or on the go with our mobile App, with detailed access information about gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools and lots more venues across the country.

Remember, all of the venues included in our Detailed Access Guides have been visited and assessed by a trained AccessAble surveyor, so you can decide with confidence if somewhere is right for you.

Click here to search for accessible gyms

Click here to search for accessible golf courses

Click here to search for accessible leisure centres

Click here to search for accessible ski centres

Click here to search for accessible swimming pools

Click here to search for accessible trampoline parks

Click here to search for accessible walks

Want to learn more about Sophie? Click here to read our blog post introducing her as an AccessAble ambassador.

AccessAble Ambassador