Sometimes just crossing the threshold of your own house can be the biggest challenge when you are trying to get to the gym, but for one group of remarkable north-east individuals, a good gym session is the perfect inspiration to get out of the door.
Ian Retalic, Tuesday Mennie, Atholl Smart, Derek Stephen, and Ian Aiken are all amputees who refuse to let their disabilities stop them from attending weekly personal training sessions at Aberdeen Sports Village.
The sessions, managed by trained PTs, have been set up through Scottish charity Finding Your Feet, which supports families affected by amputation or limb absence, and each of the gym-goers have their own personal goals for health and fitness to help improve their quality of life.
Ian Retalic, 40, is the most recent in the group to adapt to a new lifestyle, after developing sepsis through group A strep in 2020 which resulted in him losing both legs and lower arms. The former electrician, who lives with his wife and daughter in Portlethen, says the sessions at ASV have been a lifeline for him.
“I was in hospital for four months in 2020 and I had to learn everything from the beginning again, to talk, to eat, everything. I loved going to the gym before the illness, so being able to come to ASV and get back into the gym just two years after my amputation has made a huge difference to me. Thanks to the support of the PTs, I have a newfound love of weightlifting, which is something I thought I’d never be able to do.”
33-year-old Tuesday Mennie, who works in administration at Glencraft, was born with her disability and enjoys the social side of the group sessions which helps her build up strength, whilst Derek Stephen, 50, from Peterhead, who lost a leg in a car accident in 2017, is focussed on building strength in his upper body and good leg.
The eldest of the group, Atholl Smart, 57, from Aberdeen, is a member of ASV and attends the sports village up to three times a week. The former security officer lost a leg through diabetes in 2019.
He said: “Being able to come to ASV and take part in the various activities on offer gets me out of the house and socialising with other people. The facilities are brilliant, and I’ve been able to try lots of things, including an aqua aerobics class! My main focus is being able to walk properly and to be able to build more upper and lower body strength so I can help to get myself up if I fall, which will make life a little easier for my wife who is my main support at home.”
Ian Aiken, who also lost his leg due to diabetes, said: “Coming to Aberdeen Sports Village has improved my confidence in coming into the gym. I have been using a mixture of the machines and resistance bands to work on my strength and it has certainly helped. I find that standing without my crutch is easier and moving around is more comfortable. My main goal is to improve my balance and core strength and I already feel the benefits of it, so I hope to keep coming along and improving as I continue to work hard.”
Funding and donations from two north-east organisations have supported ASV to offer more to the group. Grampian Disability Sport has provided funding to pay for 12 ASV memberships and ordered specialist equipment to support the amputees’ training within the gym. Meanwhile, member organisation, the Intervention & Coiled Tubing Association (ICoTA) is donating £5000 towards weekly coaching sessions or to purchase more equipment to support this group and provide future opportunities for others.
ASV PT, Tracy Stainer, who trains the Finding Your Feet group, added: “These four never fail to amaze me and inspire me every week. They are real troopers and never let anything get in the way of a good training session in the gym. I adapt exercises to suit their individual abilities and the facilities we have at ASV really allows us to offer them the chance to come into the gym and train alongside all of our other members. Of course, we also try our best to give them the chance to try out other activities at ASV, including using the pool, and it really highlights that the sports village is here for everyone in our community to enjoy, whatever their capabilities or fitness level.”
There is a great gym inspiration quote: “Each day is a new opportunity to improve yourself. Take it. And make the most of it.” These four amazing north-east amputees take on every opportunity they can with the support of Aberdeen Sports Village, Finding Your Feet, Grampian Disability Sport, Scottish Disability Sport, and ICoTA, and prove that nothing will stop them in their tracks.