Online Exercise Classes – Matthew’s Story

Matthew is 66 and was born in Surrey, before moving around the world in his teenage years due to his fathers work. Whilst living in Switzerland he even learnt to ski and absolutely loved the sense of freedom you get from the slopes.

After settling back in the UK as a student Matthew gained a degree in Chemistry and continued his studies with a PhD at Cambridge. At this time, and at the age of 25 his sights were set on a new life in California, and a post doctorate at Stanford University, this was until he broke his neck playing rugby not long after he had started this exciting new research programme.  Matthew spent his initial rehabilitation in a spinal injuries unit in the Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre in San Jose. He was there for 4 months and then subsequently transferred to Stoke Mandeville. 

“The care I received meant that my spinal cord injury was incomplete and I was mainly paralysed down my right side. I learnt to walk again and have been able to lead a full independent life since.”

“After hospital, I could no longer work in the laboratories and I moved into computing/programming, and the rest is history as they say! I eventually joined ICI and settled in Cheshire, got married and had a daughter.”

During his continued rehabilitation Matthew was introduced to hand cycling which was the spark he needed to set him on the path to a more active lifestyle.

“We got into handcycling in the mid 1990’s and that was a real change in our lives from being sedentary to pretty active much of the time. I have been involved in Handcycling UK since its inception and am still involved organising introduction to handcycling days at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.”

In the past 15 years, Matthew has noticed more weakness in his right side and has also developed chronic fatigue which led to him retiring at the age of 52. Walking has become more difficult and he now uses aids at home and a wheelchair when out and about.

When the national lockdown began in March 2020 Matthew realised that he would need to find new ways to remain active from his home and through connections at Handcycling UK he found out about the resources and classes being offered by WheelPower.

Prior to lockdown Matthew was regularly having physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions which all stopped instantly and didn’t start up again until September. He also had started to learn to sit ski at the centre in Manchester which he is very much looking forward to starting up again when it’s possible to do so.

As he explains, “I like to be active but tire easily so I have to pace myself.  But I know that I need to exercise daily to keep my muscles supple otherwise I risk tightening up which makes getting around difficult.”

“I think of all the classes I have enjoyed the yoga sessions the most. I already had a morning exercise routine comprising elements of yoga and tai chi which helped me get started each day.  Following Nina’s yoga videos on YouTube initially and then doing the yoga in the online sessions with Nina has been really good. I have also extended my morning routine to include more of the yoga exercises.”

With the new classes, and videos, as well as his own daily routines, Matthew has been able to maintain a structure throughout lockdown.

“Participating in the weekly café sessions gave me something to look forward to. I have enjoyed the sessions and felt better for taking part. It has also allowed me to have contact (in a virtual sense) with the other participants which has been great.”

Matthew is also an holistic therapist and he brought these skills to the classes and now regularly delivers a short visualization to the participants, as a means of relaxing following some for the more vigorous exercises! We are very grateful to Matthew for wishing to do this in the classes and we know that everyone has really enjoyed learning how they can relax during these difficult times.

“My aim is promote wellbeing and demonstrate what we can do this ourselves to improve the quality of our lives. I believe this is even more relevant as we all cope with the effects of coronavirus and the lockdowns. The Emerald Alignment is a self help technique and it is a simple, safe and effective method of releasing anxiety and stress. It comprises a breathing exercise and visualising 2 colours and takes about 5 minutes. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to demonstrate this to people who attend the café and have shown how it can really benefit people with disabilities.”

“I’m very appreciative for WheelPower starting the online café as it has helped me enormously this year. I would definitely recommend it to others. Thank you WheelPower.”

For more information on Matthew’s work as a holistic therapist, please visit this link

Matthew's Favourite WheelPower Exercises


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