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  • Kate Walker

health & fitness with a disability


This week’s post is all about getting healthy. Dun dun dunnnnnnn. Eating healthy and working out is honestly so difficult for me. If you are new here, I have a disability called Friedreich’s Ataxia which causes me to progressively lose my balance and coordination. Because of this I am in a wheelchair 99% of the time. There is no cure, so exercising is the best thing that I can do to slow down progression. Explore my website if you want to learn more.

Getting healthy is hard for anyone. But with a disability it can be even harder. Workout plans are usually designed for able bodied people, so they don’t work for me because I don’t have the ability to do most of the exercises. For years, I’ve been going through phases where I am on top of my game and getting active every single day. However, most of the time, I’m a couch potato.

A few things I have to admit before I give advice:

  • I have a MAJOR sweet tooth

  • I will kill for fast food

  • I hate going to the gym

  • I don’t like to sweat

  • I feel insecure when people watch me workout

  • I’m a picky eater (I literally like about three things)

  • Writing down meals and having every second planned stresses me out

  • I will do anything to avoid working out

  • I love lying around and doing nothing

Now a list of excuses I use to avoid being healthy:

  • I’m too tired

  • I don’t have time this week

  • I deserve an unhealthy meal

Granted, some days I am too tired or I don’t have time or I do deserve it. But this is not the case every single day. Here’s my advice for anyone, with or without a disability, who wants to get healthy.

1. Find an activity that works for you

If you don’t have the ability to do all the workouts the Victoria Secret Angels or whoever are doing, that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get fit. Things that I do are riding my recumbent trike, pushing my chair up and down a hill, weights on a pulley system, riding a stationary bike, etc.

2. Try new foods I am such a picky eater. Recently though, I tried kale in a strawberry smoothie and it was great. I felt so good about myself and I got my greens in. Sometimes when you try something, you will be severely disappointed. But other times, you might find something you like.

3. Stock up on healthy snacks

This can be really hard, especially if you still live with your parents and don’t grocery shop for yourself (me). But if you can, try to have snacks on hand that are better to eat for you than strawberry PopTarts.

4. Listen to good music

Having a good playlist to listen to while you work out can make exercising a little more bearable. Personally, it keeps my attention on something else rather than my frustrations or insecurities. Make a playlist of your favorite songs and jam out. Don’t think about the rest of the world for just an hour. If you need music recommendations, let me know. I have plenty. But in the meantime, my Spotify is khwalker. ;)

5. Stop comparing yourself

I know that is literally the worst thing that you can say to someone that is struggling with comparison because I hate when people tell me that. But seriously, you’re on your own journey. Everyone’s goals, body types, and abilities are different. Don’t worry about anyone’s journey except your own. Unfollow those people on social media that make you feel insecure. It may not seem like it, but you’re really not going to miss out on anything if you unfollow them. However, you may miss out on your own wonderful and precious life if you constantly focus on someone else’s. You only get one life. Live it. (sorry for that tangent)

6. Think about the after

You know that you are going to feel better after you work out or eat a salad or whatever you do. Being healthy makes you feel so much better about yourself and your body. Exercising is proven to release endorphins and leave you more energized and less stressed. I personally have found that I feel like I am on top of the freakin’ world if I am working out and eating clean. I fall less, have more energy, and feel more accomplished.

7. Don’t beat yourself up

This is one of the most important things. If you remember anything I wrote, remember this. Don’t beat yourself up. We all slip up. Don’t punish yourself for eating the last piece of cake. Eat it with pride. You earned it. Maybe there is a specific workout that all the fitness junkies are doing that you don't have the ability to do. It's okay. Your abilities don't define you. If you don’t make it to the gym, it’s okay. Try again tomorrow. I have a Post-It note on my mirror that says “Today is a new day. A new start.” Remember that.

Last thing, you probably are thinking ‘why would I listen to a 16-year-old girl?’ For as long as I can remember, doctors have been telling me to take care of myself so that I can preserve my abilities for as long as possible. I’ve tried so many things to keep myself motivated and this is what I’ve found works for me. I can promise that I have struggled so much and that every difficulty I have talked about, I have experienced first hand (or am still experiencing) I don’t have all this figured out. I eat way too much junk food, I lay in bed to avoid working out, and I haven't done the best at being active lately. I know that about myself and have made it my goal to fix some of that. We’re on this journey together.

If you ever want to talk with me about my life with disability, hear more about this topic, or have ideas for blog posts, let me know. You can email makeithappen.curefa@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram or Twitter. I’d be happy to talk to you! :)


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