Starting in May through to September 2018 I did some work alongside The University of Hull and the Artificial Limb Unit, with above and below knee amputees.
The resultant effect it had on their physical and mental wellbeing were outstanding.
When starting this work, I’d noticed the guys all shared one thing in common; a lack of confidence! This confidence in some ways was similar to most going into a gym environment and being completely clueless. However, it went a bit further for these guys, as most had avoided wearing shorts as its harder to hide their prosthetic and found being in an unfamiliar environment daunting.
So being the type of gym we are, we made them feel at ease, part of the community and showed them how we differ from your average “gym environment”. Their response to our facility was fantastic. They loved the place, and felt comfortable in the environment, to the point of feeling able to come train in their own free time without a coach beside them.
Our focuses in training were on core stability, hip alignment, and increasing overall aerobic fitness. These aspects, I had confidence we would see progress in, and we progressed week after week. However, the area of improvement I did not foresee, was the effect it had on their mental wellbeing. Each of them had expressed how much more energy they felt, how much more confident in their own ability and just in general knowing that having a limb amputation does stop you from doing everything.
A lot was learnt in these four months, from how the remaining length of the stump can affect how well you move even with an artificial limb, how your body adapts and compensates to the loss, and the huge variation on ability between each individual amputee. However, the most important thing learnt through my time with the amputees was… to never take for granted the simple things we are able to do on a daily basis.
To name a few, walking, running, going up and down stairs, picking items off the floor, getting up in the morning and not having to attach your leg so that you can start your day.
This to me, brought to light how often we take movement for granted. We drive when sometimes we could walk or bike, we sit for a large majority of our days at work, we order food, clothes, items we can buy from shops ourselves instead of going to get them, we come home to sit down and watch TV, we build excuses to not go to the gym, go out for that run you’ve been avoiding for weeks on end.
For these guys movement is hard work, its painful, it’s takes up to 80% more effort to walk when compared to the average human being, but most importantly above all else… movement to lower limb amputees is freedom. None of them let anything stand in the way of that. So yeah obviously, it’s hard work losing a limb, but do you know just how hard it truly is?
You have to re train your brain to adapt to the changes, the stump (reminder of the limb left) shrinks over time which loosens the fitting of the protheses and can cause pains, sores and infection. Not only is pain experienced on the stump, some experience feeling in the foot that is no longer there, even pains, aches and itches which can never be scratched. All this been said, not a single one of them use any of that an excuse. None of them are willing to let any of those factors get in the way of their freedom.
Never take being able to move for granted. Our bodies are brilliantly designed, specifically for movement. Use them for what they are designed to do and move. It’s just as easy to make a reason to move than it is to make a reason not to.