Tuesday 28 March 2017
This week’s Personal Experience blog is written by Jan from Cheshire.
I’ve always enjoyed being active. In the past I was a member of a drama class with a local theatre group at the Mulberry Centre. I also used to love going on an adapted bike with my carer, which I was able to control and pedal by using my hands. Unfortunately since breaking my leg I have been in a wheelchair and have been unable to get back on the bike.
Although this setback has stopped me from cycling (for now), it hasn’t stopped me from being active. I currently take part in a dance class on a Tuesday morning which is led by Cheshire Dance, and I also do Taekwondo.
In the dance class we do a mixture of creative, fun and improvised movements. It’s great because I am given the opportunity to keep my legs moving – something I don’t normally give much thought to when I’m in my chair. I really enjoy dancing, moving to music and making friends at the same time.
One of my favourite reasons for going to Cheshire Dance is connecting with others in the group. I like working in small groups to create dances for creative tasks and then sharing our performances with the rest of the class. Working in close contact with other participants helps me to work in a tactile way. For example, one of my favourite tasks is moving in space and interactng with the group by making eye contact and connecting body parts with other dancers, and dancing with other members of the groups. I am particularly good at partner exercise where we mirror each other in contact.
The dance sessions also explore different sensory elements. Some weeks we explore rhythms and use different musical instruments. My favourite is the sensory drum as it sounds like the sea. We play with tipping movements, imagery and wave-like motion. Cheshire Dance uses lots of props to help with the sensory element and to assist with movement and engagement. I really enjoy playing with spikey balls, rolling them up my arms and reaching to the back of my neck.
I have performed in lots of difference dance projects for big audiences including the Moment When (2012), Stir in Chester (2009), and lots of performances in Cheshire. Next month I have been invited to perform at NOW Dance platform at the University of Chester. You can also check out this film that we made with Cheshire Dance. It was great fun to be part of and I really enjoy watching it back.
In contrast to Cheshire Dance, Taekwondo can be competitive. At the end of every session we work in twos and compete. Usually it’s who can hit the pads first that our trainer is holding up. We always do a best out of three.
Competition doesn’t always have to be in the form of a traditional sport. I am also part of a competitive bread making club which takes place on a Friday morning at the Wesley Church. We always compete about who has made the best bread, but usually it’s too close to call. Bread making can be tougher than you might think and we give it the full treatment: kneading, egg wash and decorating the bread with seeds. This works your upper body muscles as well as your fine motor skills.
Dancing and doing Taekwondo help me to relax but also help to keep my muscles going. I really like working hard and then relaxing after the sessions. Before the sessions I’m looking forward to it; during the sessions I’m enjoying it and I’m having fun; and after the sessions I usually think ‘I don’t want it to end’ but also ‘well done me!’
In spite of this, it’s not always easy for me to take part. Every now and then I do get frustrated, especially when I can’t manage or when I want to join in but I can’t for whatever reason. It can be discouraging when my hands get tired quite quickly but I don’t like giving up!
My advice to anyone would be to join in and always give it a try. Give it a go and see for yourself if you like it. That’s what I had to do.
I feel I am given choice and control over my personal budget and I’m lucky that I get to do most things I want to do. I’ve even managed to go to a three day conference in Blackpool using my personal budget. I would encourage anyone who has a personal budget, and who wants to use it to get active in a way that’s right for them, to speak up and make their voice heard.