12 May 2021

On a holiday to South Africa in 2007, Claire visited a women’s shelter that helped women and children that had suffered abuse.  Sadly the facility was in a poor state with rubbish stacked up everywhere.

Up until this point Claire had been feeling quite low after the loss of her mother but witnessing for herself the hardships that the women and children had to face through no fault of their own made Claire realise that she had two options – either dwell on the negative things or make changes for the better.

Claire then became consumed with the idea of fundraising for the charity and felt that the best way to do this was through a physical challenge.  Claire, who has cerebral palsy, knew that this would not be easy, but after some thought decided that she would like to do a sponsored hand-cycle.

As a gym member of YMCA Thames Gateway Claire then spent the next four months training very hard and went from only being able to move for a couple of minutes to 3 hours and raised £500 for the charity!

Feeling better than she had in a long time, Claire was then determined to push herself even further by trying the seated bike.  With a little help from YMCATG gym instructors Dave and James, Claire was introduced to the bike.  Claire made slow progress and with limited mobility found it quite tough.

At around the same time a member of staff recommended the Powerplate, a piece of kit that quickly stimulates muscles to contract and relax using vibrations, this, in turn, improves muscle memory so that the body knows what to do. The effects were immediate and Claire found that she was able to pedal the bike steadily for the first time.

Spending much of her time in the gym, Claire noticed that other members with mobility issues were using the treadmill and wanted to give it a try.  Unfortunately, this experience proved a little too much for Claire as she realised that she needed to improve her balance and coordination skills first.

Not put off and on the advice of the gym team, Claire continued to build up her strength and fitness through regular exercise and with some support was finally able to walk on the treadmill.  Over time this has improved drastically and Claire has moved on from having the support of three instructors to just one.  Claire’s confidence has grown so much that she now needs very limited support and has increased her walking pace.

Claire has gone from strength to strength ever since and more recently has qualified as a gym instructor through the Aspire InstructAbillity programme.  With a passion for fitness, Claire now volunteers for us here at YMCA Thames Gateway and continues to help others access the gym equipment and understand how it all works.