I’d lost contact with life
Michelle, aged 50, is delighted that Trafford Leisure’s Altrincham Leisure Centre has become part of her life, after many years of health setbacks. She says: “Coming here has massively improved my life; it’s been a real turning point for me.”
Four years ago Michelle was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a condition that significantly impacts on every aspect of her life. Fibromyalgia is an incurable illness that is characterised by chronic widespread pain, memory loss, sleep problems, and extreme tiredness. The symptoms have caused Michelle much distress. She has lived with permanent pain over the years, forcing her to give up work.
During a regular check-up for her asthma and blood pressure, her nurse started to talk to her about her condition and how gentle exercise could help. She also told Michelle about the physical activity referral scheme that Trafford Leisure organises. Michelle says: “I was interested immediately. I had considered exercise before but I was at a loss as to where to start. The referral process couldn’t have been easier. My GP filled in some paperwork that was sent to Trafford Leisure. Very quickly I had been phoned by Jenny Burton from Trafford Leisure who talked me through the referral process and welcomed me in for an appointment.”
Jenny Burton, Active Living Manager, says: “I was delighted to meet with Michelle and show her around the facilities. As with all of our referral customers, it’s critical that I understand their physical and mental limitations. It’s very much a two-way conversation. We want our customers to understand and enjoy the personalised programme that we design for them. We don’t want to put them off or overwhelm them before they have even started.”
Michelle really enjoyed coming to the gym and especially liked the gentle stretch and tone classes. She graduated from the eight-week programme and signed up for an Active Trafford pay as you go membership. It was Jenny who told her about Trafford Leisure’s health walk called ‘Stride’ that leaves Altrincham Leisure centre every Tuesday morning for an hour long walk. Michelle says: “Before my illness, I had always enjoyed walking. I’d never learned to drive and walked everywhere. This group sounded perfect and I now come along most weeks.”
Stride is made up of men and women of all ages, ability, shapes, and sizes. Everyone is welcome. There can often be up to 20 participants. They always end the walk with a cup of coffee. The health walk takes place in all weathers, come rain, shine or even snow! Michelle says: “It’s such a sociable way to exercise and I’m now walking further than I could before my illness. I really love it. When I had to stop working, I lost contact with people, in a way I’d become separated from life. It feels wonderful to have company again and to know that the other walkers are expecting me to come. The cafes’ must laugh when they see us arrive, as we have to move so many tables and chairs to accommodate our large friendly group.”
Stride was initially led by a member of staff, but it has been so successful that the group is now led by volunteers. Michelle, as a frequent participant, successfully completed a first aid course at George H Carnall leisure centre in September and is now one of the named first aiders for the group.
Michelle concludes: “I have no regrets whatsoever. Coming to the gym has given me a purpose again. The support of the friends I have made though Altrincham Leisure Centre, as well as the members of staff, has encouraged me to push through the pain and start to take positive steps forward.”