I’ve been sharing BJ’s gym and therapy journey over on the Have Wheelchair Will Travel Facebook page in the hope his progress may prove encouraging to others. When we started BJ at the gym we really didn’t know whether he’d embrace it or hate it. It had been years since he’d been in a real therapy setting. We’ve always kept the principals of therapy going at home but in a less structured way. We’ve been thrilled to watch BJ’s progress. Not every day at the gym has been a success but hey, we all have days where we’re more motivated than others. Recently BJ had a review to document his progress and set goals for the future. It was fantastic to see proof of his improvement and with lockdown looking to drag on in Sydney I left frustrated to think he may have weeks away from the gym. All that progress stalled. I tried to borrow equipment but that was a no-go so it seemed totally reasonable to create an accessible home therapy gym. I thought I’d share how we went about creating the do-it-yourself therapy gym for anyone else looking at doing one.
CREATING AN ACCESSIBLE HOME GYM
After having no success with borrowing equipment I thought I’d try hiring equipment. I found a company offering equipment for hire but they were specialising in renting exercise gear to those in hotel quarantine. It didn’t seem a safe option and it would cost $299 for two weeks for a treadmill. So, I turned to Facebook marketplace and found a treadmill in a neighbouring suburb for $250.
A year ago when BJ started at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance gym he could only just last 5 minutes walking on the treadmill. Now he can walk for 15 minutes at 2 kilometres an hour on an incline without breaking a sweat. We’ve seen this improvement transfer over to BJ’s day-to-day movement around the house at home. He freaks us out though by standing up from the lounge, steadying himself and then taking off across the loungeroom. He has a great method and it’s wonderful to see, even if it stops my heart every single time!
At the gym one of the goals we are focusing on is BJ’s ability to stand up out of his wheelchair, walk using parallel bars, turning independently at the end and returning to his chair to sit down. Parallel bars are not easy to come by. Hubby was happy to make them but I knew it would take time so I was keen to buy or hire them. Hiring proved impossible and buying them new was super expensive. Hubby found some on Facebook marketplace which were from a dance studio for $210. When pricing out how much they would cost to make and time involved, this was a cost effective option. The secret was to look online for ballet barres rather than parallel bars.
One of BJ’s other goals he’s working on at the gym is stepping. BJ can step quite well but the organisation involved and the fluidity of bending his knees needs work. It doesn’t come easily to him but his ability to do it makes the world of difference to what he can do when we travel. At the gym he works on it with the help of aerobic steppers. Kmart was out of stock of their $18 steps but I found them at Big W for $20 each. I bought three and the great thing is they are height adjustable and can be stacked meaning we can increase the challenge over time.
Lastly, BJ loves ball games so he’s easily motivated to work on his arm strength with a basketball and hoop. At the gym he practices sit to stand and then walks with a basketball. There’s a lot of organisation and strength needed to walk with the ball, raise it and land it in the basketball hoop. I managed to score (see what I did there) a basketball hoop on Facebook Marketplace for $45.
All up we spent $565 on creating an accessible home therapy gym for BJ to use during lockdown and beyond. While it’s great to go to the gym once a week for an hour for therapy, we all know consistency is the key to success. I’ll be keen to see BJ’s progress over time. So far he’s been enthusiastic about using the equipment but perhaps the novelty will wear off and doing gym at home won’t be as exciting as going to the gym for our social guy. Maybe he’ll have even greater success at the gym with the practice at home. Stay tuned for future updates.
Aside from an exercise physiologist to give Hubby and I a break, what else are we missing from our home therapy gym?
If you missed out on reading about BJ’s therapy at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Gym you can catch up on that review here.