Amy Fitzgerald used to think sport was for other women. She thought her health condition meant she was not in that box.
This all changed in February when she met a trainer who helped her discover a whole other side to fitness.
Born without hands or feet Fitzgerald found years of experimenting with different sports or fitness classes left her deflated and feeling more isolated than ever. Six months into her new fitness journey however, even the virus restrictions can’t curtail her enthusiasm.
The Waterford woman says: “There is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be when I’m working out. The outside world doesn’t feature nor does my disability which is definitely why I love it as much as I do. At the gym I’m just me doing my thing.”
She found classes claiming to be aimed at people with disabilities were barely modified versions of sport for able-bodied people. As she can’t rely on her limbs for balance, she uses her core more and that needs to be recognised, she says.
“I had taken part in so many exercise classes that were always going to be ‘something different’ and I can honestly say nothing was ever different. I was always the person on the outside looking in or the person who managed one exercise, pretty badly, so spent the entire class doing that same exercise,” she says.
The trick was getting a handle on her anxiety and eliminating the feeling she didn’t belong in a gym. It’s something trainer Rachel Beckett worked on and Fitzgerald says this was key to her change in attitude.
Like everyone else she was out of the gym during the Lockdown but as soon as they reopened in July, she was back. And far from depressing her, the break motivated her to increase to twice a week slots for an hour each.
“My confidence is growing and that also helps with the anxiety. I have on many occasions spoken to Rachel when I feel anxious. And she is someone who not only understands but is always working with me to try to overcome it,” she says.
Fitzgerald’s new-found enthusiasm for fitness spills from every sentence. Obstacles turn to challenges as she moves forward, and she’s using her Instagram account to encourage others to lose the mind blocks against fitness.
For anyone following the 20×20 No Proving Just Moving campaign, Fitzgerald embodies that spirit.
“I believe we all have exactly the right amount of courage within us to achieve anything we want too in life. Sometimes you just have to dig deep to find it. If you get an opportunity to try something new just go for it. Believe in yourself and never ever give up. Leave this world with an empty tank and give life everything you have while you’re here,” she says.