“I just felt it [the course] was something that I had to do,” she said. “It was really difficult to work out how to do things because obviously, I wasn't the same physically.” For the next 12 weeks, Wendy combined the three-day-a-week course with her usual three working days.
“I enjoyed the course, although it was a bit intimidating learning differently with a disability. The instructors were really supportive, giving extra time to subjects if needed. We worked together as a group to get each other through it, using our own strengths and weaknesses. It puts you on the right path to working in a gym with confidence.”
As part of the course, Wendy undertook a placement at Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury, near her Dudley home. During her time here she recalls that very quickly her days became full with one-to-one sessions. This continued to the point where she decided she had to devise a new way to make sure she could fit in time for all her clients. That’s when she started an inclusive, accessible, multi-skilled class which – having gone from strength to strength – has become a CIMSPA-recognised training programme called ‘FUNction Fitness’ and also given Wendy a new perspective on exercise.
"Because what I created on my placement was such a success, I didn’t want to let that go. There were so many people coming in and benefitting from the classes so I asked Portway if I could keep coming in on a volunteer basis – and I’ve been doing this ever since.
“I didn't know until I had my accident how difficult it was to find accessible exercise programmes, so it’s been a real eye-opener and has made me realise how many people want to do this type of exercise. I have a double-amputee, I have someone with MS who comes in a wheelchair and I have people with mental health issues – it really doesn't matter.
“It's about building support into long-term exercise and producing what is essentially the first mainstream inclusive class. I was a big gym person before but it's different because now going to the gym isn't about me, it's about other people and that is so much more fulfilling."