Training towards new goals, step by step

Be Fit Be Able, James Jones, wheelchair fitness, exercise programmes

This article was submitted by the Be Fit Be Able team, which supports stroke patients in regaining abilities through a dedicated programme. Learn more by visiting the website here.

At 1,9 m and 113 kg, James Jones still looks like the all-state wide receiver (an American football position) he was for the University of Florida in the US. But as he stands with difficulty, you notice the unanimated arm that hangs at his side and the noticeable limp that hints at a previous … something.

This gentle giant has a heart full of empathy and compassion from overcoming hardship. He knows first-hand the anger, depression, sadness and helplessness that result from a life-altering health condition. At the age of 40 and the height of his career as an executive with a courier service, Jones had a brain aneurism that led to a massive stroke. 

After 225 days in the hospital and a non-verbal first three months, Jones started physical therapy and his new life in a wheelchair, which he used for two years. Facing depression, boredom and frustration, he finally decided to take his life into is hands and change it!

“I got lost in my disability,” he explains. “But I was tired of feeling like that. So I decided to do whatever I could with only one good arm and one leg.” His right hand and leg were affected by the stroke. As a right-handed individual, Jones had to teach himself how to do everything with his left hand.

He relearnt how to write, tie his shoes and cook, among other things. Determined to see exactly how much he could do, Jones started building his strength by lifting cans of soup, bottles of water and other handy items around the house. He started working his legs using a towel. Through unlimited patience and determination, he gradually saw progress.

The progress gave him the confidence and determination to do more. He shares: “I would set small goals for myself. It took me months to get out of my wheelchair, turn around and sit on my bed! But when I did it, I was so excited.”

Ten year later, Jones is living independently, driving, cooking his own meals and running his business. He became a personal trainer to help others with physical disabilities! At the gym, in his home town of Durango, Colorado, Jones serves as a cheerleader for his clients. He looks at what they can do and builds from there.

Always encouraging, he gently makes suggestions for the next move to try or weight to lift. His clients can see that he has been there. He knows what they’re going through.

“I listen to the story about their disability, how they feel and what they think they can and can’t do. I then tell them: ‘Okay, that’s where you are now. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?’ Then we work towards those goals together – in gradual steps,” Jones explains.

“It’s my passion to help people with disabilities achieve whatever is possible in their lives,” he concludes. “I created a website so I can be with people in their homes, supporting and encouraging them. Please check out the free instructional videos on my website.”

Stay tuned for more exercising advice from James Jones in the next ROLLING INSPIRATION newsletter!

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