Jody Felker

Jody Felker

ACTIVE LIFE: Disability no barrier to workout sessions

NANAIMO – Specialty fitness class from parks and rec offers wheelchair-friendly equipment.

People with physical disabilities can get into shape thanks to the City of Nanaimo’s parks, recreation and environment department’s Specialty Fitness program.

Taking place at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre’s weight room, Speciality Fitness sees training regiments tailored to fit the needs of participants and it isn’t just for people with mobility issues. Others, including those with multiple sclerosis, can partake, according to Jody Felker, program instructor.

“The ones that can walk and transfer easily can use all the equipment and then some of the equipment has seats that swing out, so the wheelchairs can pull into them,” said Felker. “There’s the seated row, there’s a lat pull-down, the shoulder press and a chest press.”

Felker said people with multiple sclerosis need to keep moving and the more they do an exercise, the more the message from the brain gets to the muscle and gets it working again. Repetitions help their muscles, she said.

Betty Wilson, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, has been in Speciality Fitness for about three years and loves it.

“It wakens me up and it’s social and the doctor is wildly enthusiastic about me doing this,” said Wilson. “I had various falls and they had to get the people from the ambulance to come and lift me up, so they said, ‘Do something about your muscles,’ so I’m doing something.”

Since enrolling, Wilson said she feels a lot stronger and while she still suffers from fatigue, most of the time she finds her endurance has increased.

Thelma Reid, who has multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair bound, has been taking part in the program for 12 years and said she is like Popeye from the waist up.

“I’m really strong and it enables me to be as independent as I am, but I have to keep it up. So we come twice a week, like clockwork, and it’s done [a lot for me],” Reid said.

Fellowship is also one of the benefits, said the three.

“As Betty said, we’ve become a social group as well, and I think that’s good,” said Reid. “For me anyway, I have a super group of friends and they’re there for me.”

Classes run Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and cost $30 a class or $56 for 12 sessions. For more information, please call 250-756-5200.