Ten top tips for staying healthy and active with sight loss
Thursday, 3 August 2017
Haseeb Ahmad is a passionate runner and athlete who recently broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest blind person to complete the Ironman triathlon. Check out his tips for staying active and motivated.
Hi, my name is Haseeb Ahmad and on 2 October 2016, I broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest blind Ironman. I believe keeping fit and healthy is important – particularly if you can’t see or have limited vision. The temptation might be not to bother, because the effort of getting out to a gym or finding someone to help you may be too much of a challenge. Yet, for me, as a totally blind person, keeping physically fit has increased my confidence, brought me into contact with so many wonderful people and made me a happier person.
Here are my tips to get you started. Hopefully you could run your first 5k or even a triathlon one day!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We sometimes feel that if we ask for help at a gym or a friend to support us that they may say no, or that we might be imposing ourselves on them. But, often you will find that people are more than happy to help, and will enjoy supporting you to do an activity. They themselves may benefit from helping you with the activity and feel happy that they have made a difference. Contact your local gym or join the Guide Running UK database, where you can connect with volunteer guide runners.
Find someone who can support you with your sporting activity and who also understands your needs. Your guide may be someone who does the activity with you, such as running or aerobics, or they may simply make sure you are safe. For example, while you're swimming, it's helpful to have someone stand at the end of the pool and tap you on the head with a float when you get to the end of a length.
Get a range of people (guides, friends or family) who can help you out. I have a number of guides and people who support me. For example, I have friends who go open water swimming with me. I have a swim tether which attaches around our legs just below the knee which means that I can follow my swim guide around a lake very easily. In the gym, I have a personal trainer who helps to motivate me as well as give me the correct exercises to do and ensures I do these safely.
Go for a sport or activity you are going to enjoy. There is nothing worse than being dragged along to something you dislike or find boring.
You don’t have to do anything extreme. Even going for a brisk walk for 20 minutes every other day can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing. Just get out there and enjoy the fresh air.
Join a club. There are plenty of running, walking or triathlon clubs around as well as for other sports including Goalball and golf. I normally search the internet to find these clubs and activities but, you may want to contact your local RNIB branch or visually impaired charity to help you out. You’ll be surprised that many local sports clubs will organise events and welcome someone with a disability with open arms. Make an enquiry and see what help they can offer you.
Start slowly and build up. It’s great to be enthusiastic about a sport or activity. However, if you throw yourself in the deep end too quickly, there is a danger of burn out or injury. Build things up slowly. It pays to be patient.
Have people around you that motivate you. There will be times when progress is slow, I found this with swimming where I reached a plateau and wasn’t making much headway. My coach tried other ways of keeping me focused, which included getting me into an endless pool. This is a pool that has a steady jet of water coming towards you which you swim against. It worked and I got the breakthrough I needed.
Get a coach or personal trainer. It really helps if you can afford it. If not, there is plenty of advice and support (as mentioned above) available online. I was lucky enough to be coached for free a few years ago by my swim teacher.
Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile tandem ride and then a 26.2 mile run (with small stops in between to change into your bike and running kit). I recently completed my second race on 23 July 2017 and unofficially broke my own World Record time - I used three different guides for each section of the triathlon.
If you want to read more about Haseeb's personal journey, you can order his book From Blind Man to Ironman, which tells the story of Haseeb going blind, the rollercoaster ride of getting through university, his career path and amazing journey of setting a world record. An eBook version will be made available on 28 August 2017.