For people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), symptoms and behaviours may often be misunderstood, while emotional changes including anxiety, depression and stress can rapidly appear.
This doesn’t stop our gym member of seven years Derek Farrar from making the most of life and maintaining a positive and confident attitude. We hear from Derek on how he has been able to utilise the empowering support from Ability Bow staff and other service users to help manage his condition and why he feels the gym is vital to his life.
Derek Farrar loves our gym. “The very fact I’ve been able to keep physically active for longer and with no issue, is an amazing achievement in itself given my condition and it’s all thanks to Ability Bow”, says Derek. He adds: “I really don’t think there’s another gym like ours! What’s helping to manage my condition is the people here all care about everyone and the familiar faces you see are always so supportive.”
First joining our gym seven years ago, Derek has become a regular independent user of our services. Attending three times a week, 61-year-old Derek puts all of his energy into using the gym’s wide variety of specialist equipment including a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike.
As a previous gym user, while he maintains he’s always been physically active and finds it easy to generate a lot of self-confidence and motivation, Derek did notice that fitness centres he attended lacked a person-centred feel and were too macho for his liking - particularly in accommodating his progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis.
“I often found people ignored me when I went to other gyms and I wanted something different”, says Derek.
“That’s when I found Ability Bow and the benefits I’ve received since being here are incredible. Everyone here is sociable and they gee you along to help you physically when you need it, which inspires you every time you visit.
“Being at Ability Bow has also helped me to get out and about in the community too, which without the staff and other members’ encouragement to not let my condition get me down, I would otherwise find very challenging!”
A Specialist Service
Derek, who used to work in the City of London in a financial role, was diagnosed with MS in 1998. He says that while his health challenge has been life-changing, Ability Bow has provided a great mechanism to help manage his condition, including the specialist knowledge offered by our instructors.
He says: “As I’m an independent user, I tend to work on a bit of everything equipment-wise while I’m here. What helps when I use the equipment is that all of the instructors have a fantastic understanding of how to use it effectively and through them you tend to pick up a lot of useful tips.
“What’s most important too is that they treat you really well! But I love the equipment too as in itself it’s really accessible as it’s specially designed for those with conditions like mine and it really helps gym members to work to their strengths and goals.”
Despite his condition, Derek’s outlook through using Ability Bow is incredibly inspiring. The Tower Hamlets resident and avid Arsenal Football Club fan - who as he puts it, has ‘joined a very Arsenal-heavy gym of supporters!’ - knows that while his condition is progressive, the physical and emotional strength he gains by attending the gym makes him resilient to adversity.
“MS is one of those conditions which essentially means all I can do is try to manage it day to day and maintain the best health I can - and by coming to the gym through my exercise programme, it really helps keep my muscles strong and has been vital in maintaining my independence and mobility,” Derek adds.
Why You Should Join Us
But why should people otherwise join the gym? Derek says that essentially, it’s the people and their passion to support you which makes him consistently return.
He says: “For anyone who joins, I’d definitely recommend the level of support and attention you receive!
“What’s struck me about being here is that it’s such a friendly place and the willingness of other gym members to recover and build physical and emotional strength - and improve - really motivates you too, while I’ve made so many friends since being here I hardly need hobbies outside of the gym.
“Another impressive thing is that when you’re not at the gym, the instructors still keep in contact and engage with you to check how you are. So I’d say to anyone joining that you really do get a person-centred programme in more ways than one!”
To find out more about our range of specialist exercise programmes for people living with disabilities and long-term health conditions - including those ranging from neurological conditions such as MS and Parkinson’s, to those dealing with hearing difficulties or recovery from strokes - visit www.abilitybow.org/activities.