Becoming a para rider: Meet my latest sponsor

With a new sponsor on board, Sallyanne has thrown herself into getting stronger than ever, ready for life in the saddle. 

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Back in December 2017 I was introduced to a new concept in physical rehabilitation and gym work. 

My personal trainer Seona had been speaking to a friend of hers who's a nurse that attended the Para Olympics as part of the healthcare team linked to the wheelchair rugby.

She'd worked with a gentleman called Ed Baker who had set up a new type of gym in the Bristol area, called Neurokinex.

Neurokinex provides activity-based rehabilitation and specialises in neurological rehabilitation for various forms of paralysis. 

How Neurokinex can help

Neurokinex's vision is to make high-quality rehabilitation and wellbeing programs more accessible and inclusive for those living with various forms of paralysis.

Neurokinex provide forms of rehabilitation for conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, transverse myelitis and multiple sclerosis.

Activity-based rehabilitation has two main goals: to stimulate the whole body to work as one unit again and, if possible, to re-establish some form of link or pathway between the paralysed and functioning parts, improving the body’s condition as much as possible to allow the client to be stronger, fitter and more independent.

The approach is to target the entire nervous and musculoskeletal systems rather than only the functioning areas of the body.

Neurokinex uses a variety of activities to help including balance, stand, gait and locomotor training, as well as electrical stimulation, vibration therapy and strength training.

The benefits of this type of rehabilitation are improving muscle bulk, balance and trunk control, as well as boosting skin and bone health, neurological function, cardiovascular health, strength and stamina, and psychological wellbeing.

How it will benefit me

I'm now planning to have weekly sessions at the gym in Bristol, which will help with my ongoing rehabilitation for my spinal injury and keep me in shape for riding.

I recently had a one-hour session and started off with some stretching. 

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My feet are suffering from foot drop as my achilles and calves have shortened, meaning that my feet are always in a drop position. 

I have to stretch them every morning and massage my calves. I get quite a lot of resistance at first and the clonus is quite bad (this is where my feet spasm).

Ed has to work on getting me to flex and extend my feet and also we work up my legs and do lots of pushing away and pulling back to me.

For my knees and thighs, we do similar exercises and this is quite hard. The faces I pull are hilarious.

Once we've stretched out the lower parts, Ed moves up to my hip flexors. Being sat in a wheelchair all day means these have shortened, so it’s very painful to lie flat and draw my legs up, but stretching helps.

The next phase 

After stretching, I transfer into a stand aid and work on my cardio using a hand bike. I have to sprint for one minute on a high resistance and then rest. The aim is to increase my cardio output and blood flow, in order to help with circulation.

When I do this, I feel pins and needles tingling in my legs. It’s really hard to explain the feeling that I get from the pain, as it's there all the time and becomes like white noise in the background. Hopefully, the more exercise I do and suppler I become, the better.

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I really want to work on the standing as it puts my weight into my legs, which will help with the bone density and prove very helpful for moving forward with my riding.

This gets me really out of breath and I can tell I need to get fitter.

Strengthening the core

We then move onto another machine that boosts my core strength. While in a stand position, I lean forward from my waist and try to pull back up.

This helps strengthen my back, but I find it impossible to do at the moment!

At this point, I'm shattered, but there's no rest for the wicked and we continue, pulling weights forward and leaning back and trying to pull myself up.

My spinal injury means that my core stability has gone completely and I've worked really hard on my core to hold myself up, otherwise I would just flop forward or backwards.

This is really obvious when I'm sat on the horse as my balance is shocking.

I won’t give up easily though as I want to achieve the possibility of riding again. It’s hard for me mentally to try and forget how I did things before and I'm trying to learn a new way of doing things, but it's not so easy at my age!

Finishing the session 

We finish the session with a machine that I lie on and work with small movements to push and pull up my knees. By now I'm totally knackered.

I love the session, especially being upright for so much of it, as this really feels good. I'm working at getting upright into my stand frame at home and being able to do this activity myself. 

I've achieved it a couple of times and the more I do the easier it will become. I'm working towards standing three times a week for one hour.

At the moment I need my hands to hold on, but as I work on releasing one hand at a time, I'll be able to do my hand exercises at the same time.

Go girl rehab goals!

Until next time,

Sallyanne x            

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