Christine's Member Story
Christine was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 24 years old. Joining the gym has helped her to strengthen her muscles so they can support her joints better, and she has a better quality of life as a result. Read her story to find out more.
Hey! I’m Christine and I am a member of PureGym Halifax.
I received my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis when I was 24 years old. My hands were suddenly really painful, every finger joint was blue,and I couldn’t bend them. I visited the GP every few weeks and nothing changed.
It’s extremely scary to suddenly lose function in any part of your body, but the hands are hard to deal with because we use them for everything and it’s impossible to rest them.
Most small tasks became periodically difficult, cutting food, opening packets and tins, changing nappies and as my job was standing all day and using hands I had to stop. I had to go from busy and active, to staying at home quite quickly after my diagnosis and had to have most things done for me.
Years into my diagnosis and having struggled to put on weight for years, I learned that with Rheumatoid Arthritis you can easily waste muscle and the Dr recommended I started exercising. It changed how I thought about my body as previously I was told rest, rest, and more rest.
I’d started to think about movement and what I needed to improve. Some parts of my body require gentle movement, some not to be worked at all and others needed strengthening. I can’t fix my joints, but I can improve the muscle which then will support them.
I dipped in and out of exercise, but when I started at PureGym I settled into a more regular routine about 2 and half years ago.
My first gym experience I got completely wrong. I saw all the powerful-looking machines and wanted to try them all and didn’t respect my bodies capabilities - so it hurt and put me off for a while. Once my husband Paul completed his Personal Training course, he helped me and showed me which exercises worked which part of the body, considering joints as well as muscle which is extremely important for me.
I use a crutch to walk with less pain and for balance and I can use it when doing exercise too, although most of my workout is done sitting. As I cannot put full weight on one foot and one of my arms has changed in movement due to damage it can limit the gym equipment I can use. But there are still enough options to do a legs, arms or full body workout!
I think if you have any medical condition, you are better off having a PT at least once a week or a trained person guide you in the gym space rather than try to do it all alone, like I did to start with! You won’t continue with an activity if you don’t feel any benefits and that is what made my earlier gym experience so inconsistent and off-putting. Now I know what I want, I understand my capabilities and disability better and don’t do anything that doesn’t benefit me.
The lockdown was an eye-opener of how much function and fluidity of movement I can lose in just a year, so I don’t make any excuses now to try and get out of training and booked with a PT Marcus once a week.
For me, it was impossible to work my muscles safely and so precisely at home so the gym is so important to me regaining some health.
I deadlift sat down which is my ego boost! I love the feeling of the bar with an impressive looking weight on either side and just pulling it up, it gives an amazing stretch. I know people groan at gym selfies, but I am recording to show that off and posting everywhere!
My body really notices the difference and I feel less tense and less scrunched for staying active in the gym. I can walk for longer without getting tired, my exhaustion levels have improved a lot and I sleep better.
My confidence has also grown, and I feel more positive about my health and that it will continue to improve. I like that I am doing something people don’t think I can or expect me to do!
You can wonder if it will be intimidating to be the only person walking with a heavy limp and using a crutch, but I haven’t found that at all. I don’t feel awkward in the gym, I don’t feel unwelcome or like I stick out.
Gyms usually use strong healthy people to advertise themselves, you will see posters with built men and women not “crutch using to make sure I move well images” - so what I like particularly about Pure Gym is they showcase all abilities because actually, the gym is made for people like me.
To anyone nervous about joining the gym, I would say you will never start if you don’t set foot inside, try it before you decide it isn’t for you. Everyone probably feels as awkward the first time no matter the abilities, my disability doesn’t mean the space isn’t for me, it is made for me.
I like Pure Gym because it feels safe and secure. PureGym's TrainSafe measures are really well thought out and the cleaning stations are great. It gives me control to clean the areas I’m working out in, and I know for sure it is cleaned well because I can do it myself. RA is an autoimmune disease meaning I can easily catch infections and classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. I wouldn’t set foot in the space if I was worried about the cleanliness.
Start your fitness journey
Exercising with a disability can be challenging, and you may find you need to adapt certain exercises. You can check out our resources for exercising with health conditions here, or why not work with a Personal Trainer who can help tailor workouts to suit your needs.