Tag Archives: Steptember

‘I feel like a gladiator’ – disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke

A guest post by Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker for people with learning difficulties. He is holding the UK’s first Disabled Strongman Competition in Stoke on Trent this weekend. 

Since taking part in my first strongman competition back in 2011, I’ve had ambitions to set up a Britain’s strongest disabled man competition.

This Saturday (29 July) my dream is set to become reality as 10 disabled competitors take part in Britain’s Disabled Strongman 2015 in Stoke on Trent.

I’ve always wanted to bring the event to the UK. My inspiration is Arnar Már Jónsson, who started the disabled strongman movement in Iceland, where it has been running for 15 years. He was a pioneer and has made all subsequent events possible.

The movement is growing worldwide now with competitions being held in America, Hungary and of course the UK this year.

The UK event consists of:
• The truck pull – stationed at the top of a hill in a harnessed down wheelchair competitors have to pull a 4×4 up the hill
• The Hercules hold – holding 80kg in each hand on a pulley system, you have to hold on as long as you can.
• The crucifix hold – 7.5kg sledgehammers held in each hand for the maximum time possible
• The giant dumbbell press
• Atlas stones ranging from 40 to 90kg in weight have to be transferred between oil drums
• A log lift of 75kg on an incline bench

At the moment all the disabled athletes compete together, but eventually I’d like to implement standing and sitting categories.

We’ve got about 100 spectators due to come along on Saturday and we’re expecting more on the day. There’s always a great atmosphere at these events, the athletes are really supportive of each other and the audience really gets behind the competitors. Everyone spurs each other on. Everyone understands how difficult it is.

I feel like a gladiator

Disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke
Disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke

It’s been a long time in the planning, but I always knew it would happen. You’ve got to make things happen, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean you can’t be the first to do it.

I’m not sure what appeals so much about strongman competitions, but I’ve always loved them. I’ve been a fan of strongman since the days of Geoff Capes and Jón Páll Sigmarsson. I can still hear cries of “I am a Viking” to this day. I remember saying to my grandmother at the time: “One day I’ll be doing this.”

It’s just quite a bizarre concept and I’m quite eccentric. I think everyone involved is a bit mad. It’s not a sport for people who want to sit indoors. It’s a real do-er, warrior-type sport. I feel like a gladiator!

I’ve competed in five World’s Strongest Disabled Man events in Iceland. They’re great events and I push myself further in what I can achieve each year. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet Magnus ver Magnusson – the four-time winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition and strongman icon.

There is definitely an aspect of challenging attitudes to disability. We are doing these competitions to a high standard; there is nothing light about them. It’s about pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

My hope is that the UK competition will be annual event and that it continues to grow.

Gary is supporting Scope’s fitness fundraising challenge Steptember. Participants are challenged to take at least 10,000 steps a day for the month of September. A huge range of activities, including swimming, cycling, wheeling and weight-lifting, can be converted into ‘steps’ via the event website. There still time to sign up on the Steptember website and get active while raising money for a great cause.

Disabled people aren’t delicate! Why we’re getting fit this #Steptember

Guest post from Kris Saunders-Stowe of Wheely Good Fitness, who runs exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire. He’s helping us promote Steptember, the fun fitness challenge where you can raise money for Scope.DSC_0153

For some people exercise is a dirty word, conjuring up images of sweaty, unfriendly gyms, intimidating perfect physiques and lots of hard work, sweat and tears. This can be true! However, it’s just one side of the fitness world, and not at all reflective of what it’s all about.

Every movement we perform in daily life, from carrying shopping and lifting a wheelchair into the car to opening a door or cleaning our teeth, is exercise.

And the definition of success is different for every person – one person’s desire to lift a 40kg dumb-bell is just as valid as another person’s desire to lift and hold their cup of morning coffee.

Step away from the stereotyped image of exercise, and you see that it’s about looking after your body to ensure that it is healthy and able to support you in your daily life.

Disability and fitness

Disability and exercise aren’t usually seen as going hand in hand. Yet for disabled people, getting the right exercise is all-important – otherwise, you’ll lose strength and flexibility and become less and less active.Wheelchair fitness class taking place

Another reason for the negativity around exercise and disability is one forced upon us by society. Disabled people are delicate, we should be careful, we’re not allowed to do this and that. Health and safety!

We only have to look at Paralympics to see that that’s not true. But lots of disabled people can relate to being turned away from a gym. Or they’re only allowed to take part in an over-70s class or similar (which is silly in itself – older people resent being pigeon-holed by their years rather than their abilities!).

At Wheely Good Fitness, we like to challenge these preconceptions by running modern, proactive and high energy classes for people of varying abilities.

We do this because there’s a severe lack of suitable multi-ability classes out there – classes where disabled people actively take part with the group and have the same experience as the rest. There is a huge need for leisure facilities to start making disability fitness an integral part of their programmes.

Get involved

Whether you’re disabled or not, we’re all the same – our muscles need maintaining, our hearts need looking after, our minds need challenging and our weight managing. I want to encourage more people to take part in exercise on any level, and that’s why I and some of my clients are supporting Steptember.

Man lifting weights while sitting in a wheelchair, another man with a prosthetic leg behind him
Kris with disabled model Jack Eyres, who’s also supporting Steptember

This month of activity is about increasing the amount of physical activity you do, in whatever way you prefer, whilst also raising money for Scope. You might want to take 10,000 steps a day, or the equivalent using a wheelchair, but there are dozens of other activities that also count.

We’re also releasing our first ever Wheel-Fit home exercise DVD for Steptember, with £1 from every copy sold going to Scope.

Remember, we all have something we can do to get fit – and we can all improve our abilities, mood, energy levels and fitness through exercise. Whether you’re lifting dumbbells or tins of beans, doing a marathon or wheeling to your front door and back, it all makes a difference!

Sign up for Steptember to get fit this autumn – and raise money for Scope! You can do it alone or with friends or colleagues.

Get a little more activity during the day for Steptember

This September, we’re challenging people across the UK to get a little bit more active while raising funds to support Scope. These suggestions will help you get a little more activity into your day just in time for Steptember.

One great way of making sure you get a little more active during the day is by changing your route to work up just a little bit so that you get more active. You can do this by giving our exercises to do at your desk a once over or, you can try adding a bit more to your journey in the morning.

I know what you’re thinking. “My commute is long enough!”, but taking a break and walking between stops, getting hopefully some fresh air, can actually improve your mood. And once you get used to it, you’ll find it’s just as natural as your commute now.

Walking more in London

Around the Scope head office, we’ve found ways of getting a few more meters into our routines using an application that tells you the distance between Underground stations.

All you have to do is pick where you are and then try your hand at walking to a few stations on a daily basis to add to your overall step count! Since the Tube map doesn’t reflect accurate distances, this app can help you get a better idea of which stations to walk to.

Or, if you’re looking to spontaneously walk a journey, save the redesigned Tube map that Joe Watson and Aryven Arasen created after the 48 hour Tube strike and use it even while you’re underground.

Walking more outside of London

Finding your walking distances outside of London might not be quite as simple, but don’t fret.

The WalkIt app, available in the Apple Store and Google Play, allows you to search any major city and find the walking directions and distance by individual stations. You can even plan and save your routes with your own account.

Or, if you just want to take an extra stroll, you can use WalkIt to plan a circular path using the length of time you’d like to move. You can also plot your own route and figure out how much distance you’ll rack up doing it.

There’s still time to register your team on the Steptember website, so get a few friends, sign up, and make a pledge to get a bit more active while raising funds for a great cause.

Walking for wellbeing

In September we’re encouraging people to get active and take part in our Steptember event! The event may be called Steptember, but walking isn’t the only way to reach your daily step count. You can run, wheel, cycle, swim or even dance your way to glory. If you use a wheelchair, here’s some inspiration for you.

Guest post from Bonnie Friend, writer for Walk magazine

There is an awful lot in the news at the moment on the power of walking for improved health. It’s a great way to lose weight, gentle on the joints, and gets you out into the fresh air.

What is sometimes overlooked though is the impact that it can have on psychological wellbeing, and speaking to members of the Ramblers and Disabled Ramblers, the potency of that becomes a striking reality.

Walk magazine spoke to one lady who was able to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through walking and a man who, after 20 years suffering with depression, declared that the best antidote he has found is to garner the courage to head out for a stroll along the Pennine Way.

It is not to say that walking is going to be the complete answer to every problem, but in a world where we struggle to find solutions to complex issues, it is reassuring to know that something as simple as a walk can provide untold comfort.

Where this becomes a whole lot trickier however, is where mobility poses an extra obstacle, and this is what the people at Disabled Ramblers have been working tirelessly to rectify.

There are thousands of miles of tracks and footpaths around the UK, and only a fraction of them are currently as accessible as they could be. Predominantly in national parks such as the Malvern Hills.

John Cuthbertson, Director of Disabled Ramblers is passionate about initiatives that look to remove or find alternatives to manmade barriers such as steps, stiles and gates that limit accessibility for anyone with a disability.

Another part of their work sees the categorization of walking routes for their accessibility level, and the organization of around 50 nationwide group walks each year. They have a number of specialised mobility scooters (Trampers) available to borrow and group walks see around 20-30 people participating each time alongside 15-25 carers. Details are carefully adhered to in order to make the experience as easy as possible for anyone wanting to join, such as the inclusion of a mobile toilet transported on a trailer.

The upshot of this careful organisation is something that has an indisputably positive outcome. “We have a guy with Motor Neurone Disease who joins us and is adamant that the walks have extended his lifespan,” says John, continuing: “the big things that people experience are good company, meeting like-minded individuals, and a big change in both psychological and physical wellbeing as a result of being able to get out into their beloved countryside.”

As one walker said, “when I reach somewhere beautiful and look around I can’t help but think it would make anyone smile.” If nothing else, that seems like a pretty perfect reason to give it a try.

Has this inspired you? Sign up to Steptember and get out there to explore! 

10 tips to get active with your kids this summer

The summer holidays are a great chance to practice getting more active ahead of Steptember, an inclusive event designed to get you moving more, whilst raising some money for Scope!

Here are 10 tips to get more active with your children. 

1.       Go swimming

This is a great activity for all kids, and can be very therapeutic for disabled children. If you’re lucky with the weather, an outdoor pool or Lido in the sun is even more fun!

Young woman riding a bike through a park

2.       Go on a bike ride

It’s the closest thing to flying, and even if you’ve not done it for ages, you never forget!

3.       Camp out

Even if it’s just for one night, it will mean you’re out in nature exploring together as a family, and bound to be a lot more active than when you’re at home.

Young disabled girl dancing4.      Dance off

Make a playlist of all your family’s favourite upbeat songs and then have a dance off!

5.       Fly a kite

Everyone loves a bit of kite flying. You could even make one together the day before.

6.       Walk the dog

Don’t have one? Borrow a neighbour’s or sign up to Borrow My Doggy.

Family of four - mum, dad, and two daughters, one using a wheelchair, laughing together in a forest7.       Go on a family hike

The great thing about the UK is that you’re never too far from a National Park, and a lot of them have many accessible routes and special event days too. You can make it even more exciting by planning a lovely picnic.

8.      Make a den

All kids love to make dens. Why not find some old items around the house to decorate it with, and get constructing together in the garden or local park?

Four young children racing in a garden
 

9.       Have a race

This could be as simple or complicated as you like. Egg and spoon race? Wheelchair race? Family relay race? Sack race? Whatever you fancy!

10.   Put ideas in a hat!

Can’t decide between yourselves? Each write your active idea down on some paper, pop into a hat and then let your kids pick one out. It’s a great way to avoid arguments and keep things fair!

You can also see our tips for a stress-free summer holiday, and games all children can play

Feeling ready to sign up to Steptember

Exercises to do at your desk

This September, we’re asking you to get a little more activity into your day, and raise funds for Scope’s work. Sign up today for Steptember and get ready to get active! Here are some exercises you can do at your desk to boost your step count.

There are so many articles out there about different ways to work out at work. We’ve scoured all of the articles to find the best exercises you can do at your desk from every source possible. And we’ve tried to make sure all of these can be done without standing.

1. Stretch

Forbes includes this exercise as one of their 10 best on their website and we think it’s good to start with a stretch. Sit tall in your chair and stretch your arms towards the ceiling for starters. You probably already do this exercise. Then, take your left arm, reach across your body and grab the back of your chair and turn your torso to the right to stretch out your spine. Repeat this with your right arm turning toward the left.

2. Arm pumps

WebMD has a series of great exercises, but most of them involve getting up from your seat. If that’s not an option, you can try arm pumps. If you have any items on your desk that can act as weights, this can help. Hold your arms up at right angles on each side of your head and straighten them out. Try that as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then you can either rest for 30 seconds, or tap your feet on the floor football drill style during that time. Repeat this 3-5 times.

3. Single arm raises

Men’s Fitness recommends a series of workout tips for sitting at your desk, but a lot of these are definitely for the seasoned professional used to gym jargon. This exercise though, is fairly simple. Place your chair against a wall and lift your left arm to shoulder height. Turn your palm facing the wall and push against the surface. Try to hold this until you can’t anymore, or for 15 seconds. Then repeat this on the opposite side.

4. Bicep building

Another tip from WebMD, this will allow you to strengthen your biceps and stretch your back. Put your hands on your desk, somewhere you can hang on. Push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you can see the floor. Then pull yourself slowly back in. Do this 15 times.

5. Hidden leg raises

HowStuffWorks has a series of secret workouts you can do at work if you don’t want anyone to notice. One of the best ones we found is a series of leg raises you can do under your desk. All you have to do is sit in your chair, hold your ab muscles tight, lift one leg toe the height of your hip and hold for 10 seconds, switching to the other leg when you’re done. If raising your leg isn’t an option, consider just tilting your body to one side and using your core muscles to hold the position for 10 seconds, and then switch.

6. Ab clenches

Wisebread makes a fantastic point in that some of these exercises might make you look a little silly at your desk. We think there’s nothing to be ashamed of in getting some exercise in, but in case you’re shy, you can try this one. Just sit at your desk and clench your own ab muscles for about ten seconds, then release. And repeat again in sets of 10-15. You can even do this with your bum muscles if you so wish. You might look a bit irritated or like you’re concentrating hard, but otherwise, no one will know.

7. Wrist stretch

So this is more of a stretch than an exercise – but these are important too! Especially if you type a lot. We’re throwing this in as a common stretch that many people do and something you should too. Put your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Take your left arm and, parallel to your right hand, grab your fingers, pulling your fingers back just slightly and your hand with it until your palm is facing outward instead of up to the ceiling. This should stretch out your wrist and arm. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

8. Tricep dips

Lifehack has a decent number of exercises you can try at your desk, some already mentioned. But this one we think can work for a variety of people, and you don’t need arm rests. Put your arms behind your back, make your hands into fists, and rest them on either side behind your bum. Then try to raise your bum off of the chair. You should feel your tricep muscle engaged. Try holding it for 10 seconds, taking a short rest and then repeating 10-15 times.

9. Cushion squeeze

Sam Murphy writing for the Guardian has a decent amount of suggested exercises in his article, but one of the best ones we found is the cushion squeeze. You can place a cushion or a rolled up jumper in between your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your hips square. Then squeeze the cushion and clench your bum. You should feel your inner thighs and bottom muscles contracting. Hold for five seconds and the slowly relax, but don’t let the cushion fall. Repeat this six times.

10. Cooldown stretches

WikiHow has a collection of fantastic simple stretches you can do involving all parts of your body. For this article, we’ll encourage you to roll your shoulders. Try 10 times backwards first and then 10 times forward. This can help relieve tension all throughout the day.

To get more active, please get a few friends and sign up for SteptemberIf you have any other specific exercises we haven’t mentioned here, please join our community and share them.

Get moving with Steptember

This September we’re asking you to take part in a challenge that will boost your health and boost the ways Scope can continue to do the work that we do.

The average office worker takes around 2,500 steps a day. But according to the NHS, that average office worker should be taking a minimum of 10,000 steps today. Next month, we’re going to challenge you to reach this minimum goal.

Steptember is a fun team step challenge that encourages you to become more active while at the same time raising funds for Scope’s work. We want you to take 10,000 steps a day for 28 days in September and raise a minimum of £100 for Scope’s work.

Steptember isn’t just about steps though! We have over 60 activities encompassing a wide range of activities and other forms of mobility that can convert to “steps”. There’s an activity for almost everyone that can work toward a total.

By logging in to the Steptember website, you can not only log your steps, but you can also see your progression, receive rewards as you climb and use it to work together in a team of up to four colleagues to improve your chances.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to improve your health or even a reason to bond with colleagues, give Steptember a try!

Steptember is supported by Kris Sauders-Stowe, a fitness instructor who runs a range of wheelchair-based exercise classes called Wheely Good Fitness, and Jack Eyers, an amputee model and personal trainer who starred in Scope’s spoof of the classic Levis 1980s lauderette ad Strip for Scope.

Visit the Steptember website to sign up with a team today. You can also call 020 7619 7270 or email events@scope.org.uk to sign up.