My accessible home gym (because working out shouldn't stress me out)
Gym culture runs on the traditional ideals of beauty – that we should aspire to have the ideal body. Many gym-goers have transcended this old notion and instead focus on health or personal accomplishment. But the shell still remains, and gyms tend to be inaccessible cathedrals to machismo.
I am not sure how much of the stigma I feel when I go into a gym is real and how much is perceived, but I feel anxious about my own disabled body. My body looks and moves different than most people (and very different from most models, bodybuilders, and generally people on posters). It is time to rethink fitness culture through the lens of disability.
A friend of mine who is a personal trainer first talked to me about exercising outside of a gym. He made me a workout routine involving tables, chairs, and resistance bands. His advice before I started: “protect yourself, then bust your ass.” He was saying that I should develop good form and prioritize my safety before getting into whatever position. But when I did get there I should push as hard as I could. He was reminding me to be safe, secure, and stable before exerting myself. Busting one’s ass before this leads to injury and failure.
It can be hard for me to be safe when using traditional gym equipment. Many transfers are often involved. Lifting weights in any form (dumbbells or god forbid a barbell) can pose big problems, both in dropping them on my feet and, even if I can lift them, accidentally swinging them into my skull or teeth. There is also the shame and anxiety from participating in a culture that glorifies ability and traditional beauty norms.
For me the solution is a home gym. It can often feel limiting and the social element is reduced to my four-year-old climbing all over my wheelchair while I try to do seated jumping jacks. But there is something very refreshing about working out in my home. I am away from any perceived judgment and I am not anxious about looking goofy. I can use my own equipment and start very slowly and easily. I can protect myself and bust my ass.
Because I mostly use body weight exercises and resistance bands, I am not worried about dropping anything on my feet. The commute is great. So much guidance and instruction is available on Youtube to build my own routine. For motivation I track my “Active Zone” minutes on my Fitbit. I do not claim that working out at home will be the right solution for everyone or even that I am doing it all right – it is just what works for me.
Although it might not give me the ideal male physique, my home gym routine makes it easy for me to work for my own body and health.
What works for you and your body? How have you built accessibility into your fitness routine? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Products mentioned in this blog:
Fitbit Versa 2 - Available at FitBit, Amazon
TheraBand Resistance Band Set - Available at Theraband, Amazon
The opinions in blogs are those of the authors. Nothing on our website substitutes as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professionals for questions regarding your health and exercise.