Adam (thecpsavage) is a 30 year old from North West England with Cerebral Palsy. He can be found listening to rock music, binge watching TV shows, or playing playstation. But mostly, he enjoys lifting heavy things. Very heavy things.
How does your cerebral palsy affect you?
Adam has Cerebral Palsy (left sided hemiplegia). He explains, “it affects my balance on stairs, I can’t ride a bike, or run fast, that sort of thing.” However, the main area that is affected is his left arm, which lacks muscle mass and grip strength as well as being shorter than his right arm, meaning holding things without handles or pressing weights overhead is not possible. “My right side compensates a lot for this, hence why it is really strong.”
What sport can you access with Cerebral Palsy?
Keen to be active, Adam spent years training in boxing and mixed martial arts 5-6 days a week. But while browsing Facebook, he came across an advert for the World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2016 being held in Manchester. “Until that point, I was oblivious to the sport. I had always loved Strongman but thought I’d never do anything like that as I thought there was not a disabled category – I was wrong. As soon as I saw the event in Manchester, I knew this was what I was meant to do!”
Adam attended Trojans Fitness Gym in Bristol for a strongman event in November 2016. While there he met Gina, an adaptive martial artist who was using Active Hands gripping aids to do seated deadlifts.
“I asked her via Facebook, a few weeks after the event, what the gripping aids were. She sent me the link and I ordered one then and there. They help me loads with things like deadlifts, rack pulls, cable rows and smith machine overhead press, as these require grip from both hands to be done effectively. They can all be done with one arm, but using two helps to activate more muscles and maintain balance throughout the body.”
What is coming up for you in the future?
Adam’s first Strongman competition is England’s Strongest Disabled Man on Monday 2nd April at Brands Hatch Racecourse. “I’ve been training hard for this competition ever since I decided to back out of Britain’s Strongest Man last year, as I felt I needed more time to prepare.”
Adam’s training takes him to the gym 4 to 5 times per week. “I don’t really train Strongman events. I just lift a lot of weights and have fun doing it. I train certain body parts on certain days and adapt things that need adapting. Otherwise I’m like everyone else – I love to lift and to get bigger and stronger. The gym is my second home.”
What are your goals for the future?
“This sport is my life now and I want to get to the top of the mountain one day and be the World’s Strongest Disabled Man. But I have to start small and be realistic that it’s going to take time, effort, determination and a fair few more years competing to achieve that goal. I want to be known as the strongest Cerebral Palsy athlete in the world. I’m working on it!”
What advice would you give to someone with a disability, looking to start out in sport?
For Adam, the Strongman events provide a community that is encouraging and motivating. Finding the community, and playing his part in it, has been transforming. “My advice would be, don’t be afraid to start training and competing. You will be amazed by how supportive and encouraging people are.”
The gripping aids that Adam uses, along with our full range of gym aids, are all available on our website activehands.com. Adam now trains at The Warehouse Gym, Southport, which can be found here, or you can follow him on instagram @thecpsavage. If you would like to share your gym photos, we’d love to see them! Send them to email@example.com or post them to instagram and tag @activehandsco.
Getting to grips with cooking can be really challenging with reduced hand function – it can be hard to feel independent when it comes to making meals or enjoying baking. Earlier in the year, we set Nino, a quad/tetraplegic from Slovenia, the challenge of baking us something delicious, completely independently, using kitchen products from our website. And we can’t stop watching the result!
As Nino shows, with the right tools, the kitchen can become accessible and you can discover a passion for cooking. All of the products Nino uses are available to buy on our shop page. To help you get started in the kitchen, we now offer all of these items in one handy Kitchen Pack, giving you a massive saving of over 20%, compared to buying the items individually.
The Kitchen Pack includes:
– One-touch can opener; Jar opener, anti-slip coaster, all-purpose knife, push whisk, nimble and a set of cutlery grips, all for the fantastic price of £54.95/$94.95/€74.95.
Kate Farley, known as ‘Girl boxer with CP’, is one determined athlete. Keen to train hard and push her boundaries, Kate met with personal trainer, Matthew Furnell. She quickly showed an interest in boxing and together they adapted their workouts to develop her passion, with their eyes set firmly on the Paralympics.
“Love pushing my abilities to discover different pieces of apparatus I can go on. Again, this is all thanks to my hand aids from Active Hands which allow me to hold onto anything with ease whilst I train. Always be determined and never say never!”
Now, Kate’s story has been picked up by Unilad who have produced this documentary, detailing Kate’s impressive training regime. Check out her story below (or if you’re pushed for time and just want to see our gripping aids in action, scroll to around 3 minutes 50!)
Alex Turley embodies all that we at Active Hands strive for; determined, strong-willed and very, very active! Alex is a 26 year old from Essex who is currently following her interest in animals by studying for an equine science degree. Not content with just studying however, Alex also trains and competes in horse-riding (including dressage), swimming, wheelchair racing and regularly completes weights-based workouts in the gym.
Born prematurely, Alex’s doctors hypothesise that some of her neuropathic pathways did not fully form: a condition so rare, it remains unnamed. As a teenager, Alex lost the use of her left arm and was paralysed for a year, before finding a surgeon who could help. Four years ago, Alex also lost the use of her left leg and her foot has twisted from dystonia.
Although she has regained a lot of the function in her arm, she still struggles with grip, in particular holding heavy items in her hand or raising her arms above her head whilst gripping.
But none of these challenges have prevented Alex from taking an active part in a wide range of sports. She began swimming at a young age and continues to find it relaxing, as well as a great way to exercise without needing to use her legs. She also rides with Barrow Farm RDA and takes part in dressage competitions. “I enjoy [these] as it gives me clear goals to work towards and a sense of achievement.”
Most recently, having seen a facebook post asking people to trial wheelchair racing, Alex has begun training at Harlow racing club, coached by Richard Chiassaro. “I’ve been doing it for a few months now and have found it difficult but rewarding. It gives me some bigger goals to set myself.”
To support her achievements in these sports, Alex’s physio suggested she try weight training. Having joined a new gym and eager to begin, Alex was introduced to Active Hands. She quickly found that the General Purpose gripping aid gave her the confidence to carry out her exercises without worrying at all that she would drop the weights or lose grip on a bar, which would cause more injuries.
“When I first used the gripping aid, I found them to fit comfortably, which is important to me. Once they were done up around a dumbbell they felt secure and didn’t slip, move or undo. All these things have given me the confidence to trust in the aid, especially inside the gym.”
Over the next year, Alex is looking forward to competing in the Dressage Anywhere Championships and is hoping to gain funding for her own race chair and rollers to enable her to progress in her newest sport. If you would like to read more about Alex, or to help her fund her race chair, you can find her on facebook, her own website, or head to her Go Fund Me page.
Alex is clearly a very motivated and determined athlete who is achieving big things. But her advice for others is simple.
“Remember that everyone starts somewhere and everyone has at one stage been at the beginning and new to their sport or activity. Give yourself goals to work towards so that when you complete these it’s an accomplishment.”
Always on the lookout for new, well-designed and high-quality solutions for those with reduced hand function, we were especially excited when we came across our latest product.
Reaching and picking up items from the floor, or up high, can be really tricky when you have reduced hand function, and potentially reduced balance or core strength too. How many times have you dropped keys, or coins, or needed to grab an item from the fridge, or a high shelf? It can be a real challenge and we know many people look for a reacher tool to assist them. However, these can be heavy, weak and crucially involve a ‘gripping’ action to operate.
Our new reacher/grabber is uniquely designed by and for users with little or no hand function. Unlike other reachers on the market, this one requires no ‘gripping’ action and is operated simply by flexing the wrist.
Precise enough to pick up small items such as a coin, pen, set of keys or allen key, yet strong enough to handle larger objects such as reaching your coat from a hook or lifting milk cartons from the fridge – this reacher will lift items up to 3kg (6.6lbs) in weight.
The reacher is fully adjustable to fit the width of your forearm, wrist and palm, enabling you to comfortably pick up items dropped on the floor, or placed out of reach, with no need to grip at all. It comes ready for use as either a right or left handed version (although it is possible to change the reacher from one to the other if desired).
Gareth tested out our new reacher when he was last in the office (in fact, he loved it so much, he even brought it along to our staff Christmas meal!). Check out his video below for a great demonstration of its capabilities.
The reacher is brand new to market and we are very excited to be one of the first companies worldwide to offer it for sale. This is by far the best solution we have ever seen for this frustrating problem and is available on our website – www.activehands.com – alongside a wide range of solutions for overcoming reduced hand function.
Oksana is the person behind Association Kondor – a website that aims to provide detailed information to assist disabled people in planning their travels. We spoke with her about her own disability, rehabilitation and how her new outlook has led her to create her website.
In 2013, after sustaining a rare kind of spinal cord injury resulting in tetraplegia, Oksana found herself facing a new world of disability; “My family and I found ourselves alone against the medical world; alone with our questioning and alone in the process of adapting to the constraints of everyday life.” Passionate about dancing, she struggled to adjust when doctors could provide few answers about her disability or rehabilitation. ‘I felt I could never be myself anymore if I had to stop my favourite hobby.”
After two years, Oksana began to look around for a new sport. Having tried several adapted sports, she still could not find one that really motivated her; until a friend suggested she joined her for a Crossfit session. “It was a revelation for me because I had never found a sport before which stimulated all my muscles like this.” After just a short period of training, she began to feel stronger and this translated into feeling better overall in her everyday life.
As a result of her disability, Oksana cannot close one hand. This began to limit her crossfit training and so she began to look around for something that could help. Whilst browsing instagram, she came across the account of AdapttoPerform; an athlete we have featured before who creates adapted workouts for people with disabilities.
Here she saw Active Hands gripping aids in action and after a year of searching, hoped she had found the thing to help.
“When I put Active Hands on for the first time, I realised that I could do everything, like carrying a weight of ten kilos with what I used to call my ‘useless hand’. And above all, I can do the same exercise with both my arms.”
In addition to her sport, Oksana is passionate about travelling and meeting new people. As she began to feel more confident in her rehabilitation, her mind turned again to travelling and she began to plan a trip with her sister. However, she struggled to find reliable information about travel for wheelchair users and the accessibility of destinations. After this first trip, she decided to create something to make the life of people with disabilities easier when travelling.
“Taking action became our creed and we decided to create the Association Kondor. It’s a website that gathers useful information to provide solutions to many of the troubles disabled people face when they travel. The association wishes to integrate disabled people fully into society, but allow them to have comfort and mobility in as many destinations as possible.”
As her project grows, Oksana is keen to work alongside other organisations to organise projects such as sports weeks that will help disabled people to connect and motivate each other. She remains determined to encourage others through her website and instagram account (iwheelfly) and explains, “sometimes it takes time to find our way, to find our sport and to find our motivation but if in the end you find your own passion, you will do whatever you want. Even if at first it is difficult to imagine yourself in a wheelchair, now you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see how strong and motivated you are. Your life doesn’t stop: you just have to reinvent it.”
An EIGHT-hour flight, plus waits and transfers either side sure sounds like a long way… but for Rob
and Clare, it sounds like their plans for the week!
After months of tough training, our director Rob is due to compete in the Dubai marathon on Friday. He’s won the race a whopping FOUR times in the past and, despite increased popularity meaning that there are a lot of higher category racers taking part, the Dubai marathon remains a firm favourite since it’s fast, flat and a lovely break from the English winter!
We know that in the aftermath of Christmas, in the season of New Year’s resolutions, you probably want to know how Rob trained for this marathon. Well, it certainly wasn’t easy. Rob finishes his track training (shorter distance) after the last of his summer races, which allows him to focus almost entirely on training for Dubai. Marathon training consists of lots more miles with extended efforts and interval training on the track, road and indoors on the rollers. It’s tough and often
cold training. When he’s training in the gym, Rob swears by the Active Hands gym pack deluxe – EVERYTHING gets used.
But this year, Rob isn’t just going to Dubai to compete. There’s even more excitement for Active Hands – our marketing manager Clare is flying out to meet Rob after his marathon, and on Monday 29 January 2018 they’ll both head to Arab Health, the largest healthcare event in the Middle East.
Rob and Clare will be predominantly looking for new resellers, but they’re also checking out Arab Health to see if it’s somewhere Active Hands should exhibit in the future… exciting stuff!
Active Hands are delighted to be joining over 30 businesses from across the Midlands Engine as part of a trade delegation to Arab Health 2018. We’ll be at the Midlands Engine Stand, Hall 7 (H7A51) – if you’re around, come say hi!
It really is incredible to think that the gripping aids which Rob and his Mum designed to help him with day-to-day tasks have been so invaluable to so many people that here at Active Hands we can keep expanding our horizons.
Stay tuned for updates as Rob and Clare network and enjoy the Dubai sun! And let’s wish Rob good luck for a quick finish!
“Fiona has a feisty spirit and never lets anything stand in her way. She always tries her hardest and is determined to not let anything stop her.” Anne-Marie describes her 8 year old daughter with well-deserved pride and here at Active Hands we love reading about our customers’ inventiveness and determination.
Fiona is 8 years old and loves gymnastics, ballet and tap. She was born missing fingers on her right hand but has not allowed this to limit her ambitions. Fiona has been taking gymnastics classes for 5 years. Her “bouncy personality” and natural flexibility seemed a great fit with gymnastics training, with the bonus that it offered the chance to strengthen both sides of her body. This year she began to compete with the YMCA gymnastics team.
Keen to keep in touch with resources and support available for those with limb difference, Anne-Marie uses the Lucky Fin Project website and it was through a post from their founder, Molly Stapleman, that Anne-Marie discovered Active Hands’ Limb Difference gripping aid.
“I love love love the grip. It’s amazing. I really liked that the grip was created specifically for someone born with a limb difference. There is not much that Fiona can’t do, but there are times when she has to figure out her own way to do things. A perfect example of this is her routine on the gymnastics bar – she is finding her own way of doing her chin up pullover and cast back hip circle – and your grip is the perfect tool.”
Fiona continues to make great progress in gymnastics and her gripping aid has “made a big difference.” It is the first time she has been able to hang with the full weight of her body from any bar and so the gripping aid is enabling her to strengthen muscles that she couldn’t previously train due to her limb difference. Anne-Marie explains, “I have seen a big difference in her arm strength in just the few weeks we have been using it.”
Having got to grips with her limb difference aid in training, Fiona is excited to test it out in competition this weekend. She also has plans to use her gripping aid when kayaking and paddleboarding with her family: and we have a feeling that this determined young lady will go on to find many more adventurous uses for it!
Our specifically designed Limb Difference gripping aid only launched in September last year and so we were especially pleased to hear from Fiona and her mum that it is already making such a difference. If you have limb difference affecting your hands, check out our gripping aids and range of other products at activehands.com and see what you can achieve.
As a child, Daniel was a keen BMX rider and enjoyed the thrill of competing. His achievements came to an end after nerve damage left him unable to hold the handlebars. 30 years later, Daniel has rediscovered his passion, with the help of Active Hands, and is now fulfilling his childhood ambitions.
“Hello, my name is Daniel Steele. I’m 49 years old and I’m from Nashville. I’d like to share a story with you. In my youth, up until around 16 years old, I was a competitive, die hard, bicycle rider. In the discipline of BMX, I travelled the country attending BMX races and at one point, was ranked number 3 in the state of TN (more on that later). Around the age of 16 I sustained some nerve damage, severely limiting the use (grip) of my right hand. I was no longer able to compete in cycling.
Last year, after a chance encounter at the same BMX track that I raced on as a child, I ran into a pair of brothers that basically (off and on) never stopped racing. The conversation turned into “You should get back into the sport.” I explained my situation with my hand and was asked if I had ever looked into devices for people with disabilities? I said that I had not, but that I had even tried things like cutting up belts to attach my hand to the bicycle. Well, after some research, I stumbled across Active Hands and ordered the General Purpose gripping aid.
When my gripping aid arrived I took it to the track to try out. I cried the first time. I was able to do things that I have not been able to do, in over 30 years!
Just for kicks (and possibly to fulfil childhood dreams), I decided to race BMX again; after being away from the sport for over 30 years and at 48 years old! Well, in my first year back at BMX (2016), I ended up ranked #3 in the state of TN! This year (2017), I have won 3 international races, finished 3rd and 5th at others AND finished #2 in the state of TN (even after missing three months with a broken collarbone)!
I have been given a second chance at BMX, partially due to Active Hands. What a great product, not just for what it allows one to do, but for the possible dreams it allows to be fulfilled.”
Daniel has rediscovered his love of BMX biking and, with a little support from Active Hands, is achieving beyond his expectations! His story is so encouraging; even activities that seem lost may well be achievable with the right support. If you have a hobby or passion that you have been missing, take a look at our range of products and see if 2018 can be the year you get back to doing what you love.
I first began talking to Tony in December of 2015; he had recently purchased some Active Hands gripping aids and was interested in picking my brains about my life with spinal cord injury, the abilities I had regained, and how I used my Active Hands aids in everyday life. Through our interactions and via social media, I have seen just how far Tony has come in the last two years and the ever-increasing number of exercises he is able to do using his Active Hands aids. When I contacted him recently to get some information with which to base this article on, I did so expecting a few lines about his life, his injury and his progress. What I got was an extremely open and honest account of life with a spinal injury, the emotional effects it can have on a person, and how the right attitude and outlook can make all the difference.
This is Tony’s story:
Originally from a small town in central Texas, Tony had always been passionate about keeping fit and active; with hobbies such as scuba diving, hiking, motorbike riding, and home remodelling. On top of all that, he was a martial artist of some 30 years who had left his full time job in order to follow his dream of owning and operating an Academy in his native state of Texas. At the time of his injury however, Tony had relocated to Seattle, WA, where he planned to open a new Academy once he had furthered his knowledge of Brazilian jujitsu! In the meantime, he was working for Lowe’s home improvement store and it was whilst at work one fateful day in 2015 that Tony’s life changed forever.
“You know it’s crazy that a lot of things in your life can happen to you and you can only remember about the time it happens. But when something that is as catastrophic as this happens you can remember the date and the time like it was yesterday.”
Tony was helping transport a 400lb gazebo, which had been stacked onto a utility dolly, to a truck for delivery. As he and his co-workers leaned the dolly back, the weight of the box took over, causing it to topple and strike Tony on the head. It only fell about a foot at the most before hitting him, however the weight of the box and force of the impact were enough to push his chin down with such severity that it broke his neck at C4 level.
Moments later, all he could feel were his head and shoulders on the floor and all he could move was his left arm. He knew the injury was bad, really bad, but he distinctly remembers managing to stay calm until the paramedics arrived and he was transported to Harborview Trauma Hospital.
“I just remember saying ouch and the next thing I knew the box and dolly were laying on top of me. I just collapsed like a ragdoll. The next thing I knew they were picking it up off of me telling me to crawl out from under it. I knew at that moment that I was paralyzed.”
The next thing he knew, he was waking up in ICU surrounded by tubes and monitors, unable to speak or move his hands, and at that moment he did begin to get worried and afraid. He spent three weeks under heavy sedation in ICU before moving to the rehab ward; however in the remaining seven weeks before discharge, most of his physiotherapy took place in bed, having developed a pressure sore whilst in ICU. Fortunately, throughout all this time and beyond, he was surrounded by his siblings and the fantastic set of friends he had made during his short time in Seattle, and Tony is the first to admit that without them “I don’t know what I would’ve done”.
Upon discharge, Tony was forced to move into a skilled nursing facility as there was no feasible way he could move back into his multilevel house. It was around this time that a realisation kicked in for Tony, that life as he knew it would never be the same…
“For the first time in my life I believe I truly felt lost. Not knowing what to do next. All my life I always felt in control, but now I didn’t feel like I had a handle on anything. Having to rely on other people for everything. Having the mind of an adult but the needs an infant. Believe me when I say that is the worst feeling I have ever had in my life.”
However, rather than let these feelings overwhelm him and cause him to fall into depression and self-pity, Tony instead decided to fight back, grab the bull by the horns and put all his effort into his daily physio and occupational therapy.
Upon arriving at the facility, Tony was still very weak, only able to lift his right arm a few inches whilst slouched in his chair. During these early stages, his rehab mostly consisted of using ankle weights on his wrists and working on his tenodesis. However, as Tony began to regain strength and movement, he soon required heavier weights but was unable to physically grip dumb-bells and found it extremely frustrating having to get them bandaged to his hands every time. This is when, following some online research, he came across Active Hands; and after watching the gym workout video Tony knew these were what he needed to “push [his] strength to the next level”.
“I ordered them just as soon as I got through watching the video… I can’t thank Active Hands enough for making such a great product.”
After a year of building up his strength at the skilled nursing facility, Tony was discharged and moved into his own apartment; giving him a huge feeling of independence but at the same time filling him with nerves, as spending so long in hospitals and nursing facilities has a tendency to somewhat institutionalise a person, something I can certainly attest to! However, his initial nervousness soon turned to excitement and after a month of settling in, he began his outpatient therapy at a facility called Pushing Boundaries, a facility he still frequents to this day, getting put through his paces three times a week.
Pushing Boundaries has certainly lived up to its name in Tony’s case, as in conjunction with his Active Hands gripping aids, they have pushed him to his limits, enabling him to engage in every kind of arm-related exercise imaginable and helping him to regain a level of strength and movement that appeared lost initially. He uses his gripping aids every time he visits Pushing Boundaries and they’re showing no signs of wearing out. In fact, the facility loved his Active Hands aids so much that they purchased several pairs that they use with their clients every day!
“I put [the gripping aids] through a beating and I mean a beating because I also use them as boxing gloves. Not only do I use at the gym but at the house also holding a broom, vacuum cleaner. The summer is coming on, it will be exciting to see what I can use them for outside.”
Fast forward to the present day, and when he’s not working out at the gym, Tony can be found caring for the bonsai trees he has began to collect; his positive outlook and rugged determination to rebuild his life, showing no signs of abating. His sole focus remains his rehabilitation, and also wearing out his Active Hands equipment – good luck with that! His ever increasing strength, abilities and levels of independence have resulted in an overall increase in self-confidence. He now feels more at ease when using a manual wheelchair and has set himself the goal of eventually using it full time. Another future goal is to get back behind the wheel and start driving again, something I think every wheelchair user will agree is wholly liberating and opens up a whole world of new possibilities!
As far as dreams are concerned, Tony would love to get back in the water and scuba dive, as well as work out in the yard; both completely achievable. However, his main focus at present is spending more time on the mat, teaching martial arts from his chair; something he describes as more of a way of life than anything else.
“When a person has a strong sense of confidence there’s nothing that they can’t achieve.”
As far as advice he would give to others in a similar position, Tony states that after going through a life changing injury such as this, it is easy to fall into a shell; but that you must resist this temptation, seek out help and don’t try to take everything on alone. Despite doctors telling him that things got easier after the first year, Tony found that things got tougher; as the first year was so taken up with hospitals and recovery that he didn’t have time to really sit and process the full extent of what had happened and the long, hard journey that lay ahead. Tony knew he had two options: Either allow himself to sink into self-pity or get up and fight.
Tony’s martial arts background meant that he was used to having mentors, and so he took a similar approach with his spinal injury, seeking out people both locally as well as on social media and SCI forums. Meeting with and speaking to a wide variety of people who were either personally affected by spinal cord injury or professionally involved with it provided a huge boost to Tony, letting him know he was not alone in this and giving him advice, ideas, goals and a positive outlook for the future.
To me, Tony exemplifies the never give up, can do attitude. To come so far, both mentally and physically, in such a short time and after such a serious injury is a true credit to the human spirit. With his drive, determination and positivity, I have absolutely no doubt that Tony will not only get stronger and more able, but will continue to craft out a successful, fulfilling life for himself, and we here at Active Hands are proud to have been able to play a small part in this.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the five motivational sentences that Tony created and pinned to his wall, where he can see them every morning when he wakes up:
- I will begin every day with a positive thought.
- I will attack each day with tenacity.
- I will overcome all obstacles that lay before me.
- I am always moving forwards; mind, body and spirit.
- I will end each day reviewing my successes no matter how small.