In 2012, Brandon Beack was an incredibly active and talented teenager. In addition to showing real talent in music and dancing, Brandon was a highly aspirational gymnast, competing for Western Province in the South African championships. His sights were firmly set on selection for the Junior Olympics and he was training for four hours, six days a week.
However, a bad landing in training left Brandon with a complete Spinal Cord Injury at C6-C7. He was paralysed from the arms down, needing support with many aspects of his daily life and personal care. After ten weeks inpatient rehabilitation, Brandon was discharged and he and his family began to discuss their plans for the future. Determined to keep making progress and to regain his independence, Brandon set out on an intensive program of rehabilitation with a team of experts, including a personal trainer, body builder and his gymnastics coach. After 14 months, Brandon travelled to the Shepherd Centre in Atlanta, USA, where he had advanced rehab 3 hours a day for 6 weeks.
It was during his time at the Shepherd Centre that Brandon first discovered Active Hands gripping aids. Brandon began to use his gripping aids as an integral part of all his rehabilitation work and his Dad, Mark, describes his recovery as, “beyond amazing.” Five years on and Brandon still finds his gripping aids essential in enabling him to reach impressive goals in the gym, including lifting 22.5kg dumbells and even uses them to assist him when using his EKSO walking suit.
Not content in reaching his own ambitious goals, Brandon and his family began to plan how they could help others to gain access to state of the art rehabilitation equipment to enable them to make the kind of progress Brandon had experienced. In 2015 the ‘Walking with Brandon’ Foundation was unveiled and it now offers a ‘therapy and beyond’ program which has seen some impressive outcomes for its patients. Working in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s research department, the foundation is undertaking research into how recovery from spinal cord injury can be assisted by technology such as the EKSO walking suit. Their ultimate dream is for disadvantaged communities to have access to their rehabilitation program and world-class equipment, and to one day have their own facilities that can offer all kinds of therapies, equipment and support to those with neurological disabilities. If you would like to find out more about the work of the ‘Walking with Brandon’ Foundation, click on the image below to visit their website.
As for Brandon’s personal goals, he continues to dream big. He is currently training to represent South Africa in the Tokyo 2020 paralympics as well as completing a BA sports science with a major in sports psychology; a qualification he hopes will enable him to assist further in the work of the foundation. Alongside this, his ultimate goal; to walk again and to, “never give up.”
We were so pleased to hear of Brandon’s story. His determination and dedication, not only to his own rehabilitation, but to aiding that of others is very motivating and we wish the foundation continued success in their work to advance rehabilitation facilities and knowledge in South Africa. Hearing of how Active Hands has enabled people to reach beyond what they thought was possible is equally motivating for us! If you have a story to share about how your active hands aids have opened new opportunities for you, let us know at email@example.com.
At the beginning of the year, Active Hands were excited to be contacted by BBC Business Online who had heard about our business and were interested in meeting us and finding out about the work we do, as a part of a larger theme they were researching on disabled people working in business.
After a bit of a tidy round (and just a bit of worrying about what to wear!), we were ready to welcome the BBC and at the end of January, we met Jeremy Howell who came to our new offices to film an interview.
Jeremy was interested in finding out about our range of products and how they can help disabled people to lead active and independent lives, as well as the challenges and rewards of working in the business sector as a disabled person. It was great to be able to show him our new offices and to talk about a business that we are so passionate about. We loved demonstrating our products and describing the difference they can make to people’s lives. It was especially exciting to be able to demonstrate the pre-production version of our small item gripping aid, which we have been working on for some time now and are looking forward to bringing to the market this spring.
We are pleased that extracts from the interview have been published on the BBC news business page and may be aired as part of a BBC news 24 feature at a later date. To see our interview (and get a sneak preview of our small item gripping aid) find us on the BBC news page here.
Over the past year, we have featured the stories of some incredible athletes; people with a wide range of disabilities who compete at the highest level in their sports and have represented their country at the paralympics. Their stories have motivated and astounded us in equal measure! But sometimes the most encouraging stories are those of quieter achievements; regaining independence, arriving home from rehab and returning to daily lives after a traumatic injury.
In 2011, Jerod was on holiday with his family. Excited to get into the ocean, he ran down the beach and dived in unfamiliar water, striking a rock and breaking his C5 vertebrae. With no trunk control, no sensation from the chest down and very limited arm movement, Jerod was barely able to control a power wheelchair and was told he might never feed himself. “It’s affected nearly every aspect of my life,” explained Jerod, when he wrote to tell us of the difference rehab and Active Hands gripping aids have made to his recovery.
Jerod was in rehab for 4 months as an inpatient and upon discharge was determined to find a specialist team who together would push him to “achieve more than [he] was lead to believe was possible”. Embarking on a packed schedule of OT, pool therapy, fine motor work and weight training amongst other sessions, Jerod’s determination has turned into some impressive progress.
Whilst at Craig Rehabiliation in Colorado, Jerod was introduced to Active Hands gripping aids and, combined with an equally determined OT named Ryan Bird, they helped his rehab to really turn a corner. Ryan explains, “Jerod was able to bring a pair of Active Hands home with him and we have used them in his rehab every day for the last five years. He has progressed from lifting 1lb weights to 30lbs in around four years. The progress he has made has been truly remarkable.” This incredible progress has ensured Jerod has felt benefits not only on his arms but his trunk too. “We couldn’t have done it without your product and for that we are forever grateful,” says Ryan.
Now a participant in an outpatient program under Dr. Harkema of Louisville, Jerod is hoping to push the boundaries of science forward by showing that hard work and dedication can make measurable differences to the quality of life of those with spinal cord injuries. To get a feel for the impressive level of hard work Jerod has committed to over the past six years and the amazing progress he has made, check out a video made by his OT, Ryan, here. If you would like to know more, you can get in touch with Jerod via facebook, or go to The Walk On Foundation.
Jerod describes the rest of his life as his ongoing ‘rehab’ and is determined to “never give up”. He explains, “I believe with hard work, you’ll amaze yourself at how far you’ll go. Active Hands have helped keep me on track towards the goals I have for myself. Not only have they made me exponentially stronger, the secondary benefits like overall wellbeing and confidence are immeasurable.”
Whether your gym sessions are part of an intense training program for high-level sport, or more about individual goals and an improved sense of wellbeing and confidence, a determined attitude and a little help from Active Hands can clearly go a long way! Good luck with all your fitness goals this year and don’t forget, we love hearing how you are all getting on so feel free to get in touch or send us some pictures of your workouts!
This week began an exciting new chapter for Active Hands – we moved into our new office at Rumbush Farm in Solihull! The new office is set in the countryside, but handily located just off the M42, perfect for both the local dispatch team and for those of us who travel from Leamington/Warwick.
Up until now our business has been run from our homes but have now out-grown this solution, especially as we have expanded into stocking products from other companies, bringing together hand function solutions for a wide range of activities.
The new office gives us opportunity to meet up together and work side by side. This gives us a chance to discus the everyday running of the business without having to have specific meetings – and will hopefully reduce the amount of emails that we send between each other!
We also have access to meeting rooms where we can meet up with other companies, such as the Kandu group, and the all important kitchen area for making tea!
As well as a desk-based area we have a new dispatch area where customer orders can be put together before shipping. This new area has plenty of room to collate and package items, as well as having a huge shelving area – giving easy access to all of our products. Hopefully this will make life easier for the dispatch team.
There is also a warehouse area where we can keep our overflow stock, exhibition equipment and all those bits and bobs that are not needed on a daily basis.
We have made a great start at settling into the new office and the staff from Admin Business Solutions, who are based in the same office space, have been very helpful in getting us up and running and made us feel very welcome. We just need to make a few small home improvements, like getting pictures up on the wall, and we will be all set for another productive year at Active Hands.
Our new address is:
The Active Hands Company
Unit 4, Rumbush Farm,
322A Rumbush Lane,
No Time Like The Present
Over the last few days we have shown just a few of the possibilities open to you if you go to the gym with the right attitude and the right set of gripping aids! On top of the exercises listed here, are scores of others that can be undertaken and worked into your fitness routine, it is all about knowing what you want to get out of it and finding out what works best for you.
With September’s Paralympics still fresh in people’s minds and the hunt already on for potential stars of the Tokyo Games, 2017 is an ideal year to renew those gym memberships, get involved in sport and see where it takes you!
Below is a video made by Active Hands founder Rob Smith, in which he explores the different exercises and machines open to wheelchair users at the gym. In it you will find many of the exercises mentioned here, as well as a few new ones; with both verbal and visual demonstrations to go with them, so it’s definitely worth a watch!
This is the end of our series on New Year Exercises. We’d love to see how you have got on so please share your comments and videos with us by posting them on our page or sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activity: Rowing Machine
Used in conjunction with: Looped Exercise Aids
Beneficial for: Increasing strength in arms, shoulders and upper torso; increasing stamina and cardio; overall fitness
I find the rowing machine to be a particularly useful piece of equipment and one that can actually be used from a wheelchair. The seat and slider can be unclipped from the front of the machine and moved out of the way with relative ease, leaving you free to pull up to the front of the rower, put your brakes on and get started. Similarly to the handbike, the rowing machine provides a great fitness and cardio-based workout, whilst continuously working the muscles in your upper limbs. Another benefit for wheelchair users is that the backwards pulling motion works in contrast to the forwards pushing motion of a wheelchair, which strengthens the back of the shoulders and helps prevent them from rounding, a common problem for long time wheelchair users. The Looped Exercise Aids can easily slip over each side of the rowing handle, meaning you don’t need to worry about maintaining your grip as you pull. I also find it helpful to fasten a weightlifting belt around my stomach and the back of my wheelchair to support my core and fix my torso in position when I use the machine. Rowing machines are great for anyone involved in sports that require upper body strength and stamina, such as tennis, basketball and rugby players, and in particular swimmers and rowers, as the motions can perfectly mimic pulling an oar or an arm through water.
Used in conjunction with: General Purpose Gripping Aid
Beneficial for: Increasing strength in arms; increasing stamina and cardio; overall fitness
Static handbike machines are great for wheelchair users and those who struggle with treadmills or regular exercise bikes, as they allow you to work up a sweat, get a good, fitness-based workout and burn off some calories – especially handy after the Christmas period! The removable seat means that you can use this machine from your wheelchair and the varying resistance levels and programs mean each use can be tailored to fit that day’s workout; whether you want to go long distance on low resistance, short distance on high resistance or have the resistance vary throughout. And if you struggle to maintain a solid grip on the handles as you pedal, then strap your hand(s) in with the General Purpose Gripping Aid(s); although be advised, you will need help if attaching both hands. Gym handbikes are ideal for anyone involved in a sport that requires stamina and endurance, and are a perfect solution for track racers and handcyclists, if weather conditions prevent you from getting outside.
Activity: Cable & pulley machines
Used in conjunction with: D-Ring Aids
Beneficial for: Increasing strength and muscle tone in arms and shoulders; maintaining suppleness and flexibility of joints; increasing stamina
Cable and pulley machines are ideal for wheelchair users as you can often set them up at whatever height you want and do the exercises straight from your chair. The great thing about these machines is that they are designed for multiple exercises, as opposed to one exercise per machine, which is often the case with the weights machines mentioned previously. With the adjustable height and freedom to undertake numerous exercises, the cable and pulley machines give you the chance to completely customise your workout. You can work on various muscles using a variety of exercises, such as: tricep raises, tricep extensions, diagonal pulls, inward and outward cuff rotations, straight arm lifts, bicep curls, shoulder raises, lateral raises and many more. If you want to concentrate on strength and muscle building then use heavier weights with lower reps; if you want to concentrate on stamina then use lighter weights with higher reps. These machines are also great for maintaining healthy joints, something wheelchair users are prone to having issues with, especially with their rotator cuffs. And if, like myself, there are some exercises where you struggle to hold onto the grip provided, then simply unhook the grip, pop a pair of D-Ring Aids around your wrists and attach them directly to the karabiner, using one at a time or both together, depending on the exercise. The cable and pulley machines are a favourite of track racers and swimmers, as they are able to use the machines to mimic the downward thrust of a wheelchair push or the straight armed push of an arm through the water.
Activity: Weights machines
Used in conjunction with: Looped Exercise Aids
Beneficial for: Increasing strength, power and muscle tone in arms, shoulders and upper torso
Weights machines can often be tricky for disabled gym goers to access, as most of them do not have removable seats, and so being able to use them will depend on the person’s ability to transfer and remain stable on a seat which is often on the petite side! However, it can be of great benefit if you are able to make use of these machines, as they can offer a balanced and simultaneous workout for your arms and shoulders, as well as the upper torso. Another benefit of these machines is that you can do a number of exercises without necessarily needing to ‘grip’ anything. Exercises such as tricep dips, various chest presses, shoulder presses, lateral raises and seated bench presses all require you to push; meaning that, as long as you can press your palms/arms against them, you should be able to complete them grip-free. And for exercises such as butterflies, seated rowing, seated shoulder shrugs, lateral pull downs etc, where you perform a pull motion, simply strap on a pair of Looped Exercise Aids, hook the loops over each bar/handle and begin. The Looped Exercise Aids enable you to get the same workout but without needing to grip or even hold the bars/handles! Doing a session on the weights machines offers a varied and balanced workout for those with limited arm and finger function, and similar to the free weights, is of benefit to athletes who require power and bursts of strength. Track racers need a strong start to a race, especially in short distance sprints, and so it is vital that the first few pushes be as powerful as possible. Similarly, players in team sports such as wheelchair rugby and basketball require the strength and power to push past, out-manoeuvre and, in rugby’s case, crash into opposition players!
Activity: Free weights
Used in conjunction with: General Purpose Gripping Aid, Heavy Use Gripping Wrap
Beneficial for: Increasing strength, power and muscle tone in arms and shoulders
Free weights are the bread and butter of many people’s trips to the gym, especially if disability has meant that ‘leg day’ is permanently skipped! When this is the case, building up strength in your arms becomes absolutely essential, as having the strength and ability to lift yourself, do various transfers and push a wheelchair can often be the difference between complete independence and having to rely on others. So it can be all the more frustrating if, due to limited hand or finger function, you struggle to maintain a firm hold on the weights. Thankfully, by strapping on a General Purpose Gripping Aid, you are able to achieve an iron grip that allows you to lift any size weight of your choosing; wrapping the Heavy Use Gripping Wrap around the weight beforehand for extra support and comfort if needed. Then you are free to explore a range of muscle building and toning exercises from a standing or seated position, such as: bicep curls, reverse bicep curls, tricep presses, tricep kickbacks, shoulder presses, straight arm shoulder raises, bent over rowing and more. It is important to vary the weights you lift, especially when doing tricep exercises, as it is common for quadriplegics to have weakened triceps. Doing a free weight gym session can be particularly beneficial for an athlete involved in a sport which relies on power and/or bursts of strength. Field events such as the discus, shot put or club throw are entirely based around a combination of power and technique, so the ability to train with free weights is vital in achieving success.
Come back tomorrow for more ideas on how to improve your fitness in 2017. If you have missed any of the series they can all be found here.