Monday, January 27, 2014

Wheelchair Table Tennis

Other than a table, a net, a decent bat and a bucket load of balls (metaphorically and literally), for table tennis you will a sharp eye, skill and determination.

Unfortunately, these are skills that I am not gifted with but when I took part in a session with some serious table tennis players up in IWA's HQ, I learnt that you can perfect them with practice and will power.

The tables are low enough to fit a wheelchair and for someone standing, and out in IWA the classes were a mixed group of different ages and abilities. Every person learns their own way to play - depending on their abilities - but you will learn all of the correct ways to serve, to hit the ball and, most importantly, the rules of competitive table tennis.

In my group, there were people who compete internationally with table tennis and those who do it  as a very serious hobby. The IWA host beginner classes and you can then graduate on to the advanced classes and maybe even go pro with it.

With most sports, you thrive on the competitive edge to table tennis; either with your own personal best or the person on the far side of the table.

Physically, it builds up strength in your arms and your core. Mentally, it encourages you to think and react quickly and it gives you the eyesight of a hawk.

Most impressively, if a ball dropped to the floor (hey, it happens the best of us), they had an adapted badminton racquet that scoops up balls so you don't have to bend down. This is great for people with back problems and so on.

If you're interested in taking part in wheelchair table tennis, explains it more here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting Into JDIFF

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival
Across the city

The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (rolls off the tongue, donnit?) is a great opportunity to gorge on films from all over the world, as well as a number of Irish-made productions. Nigel and Paraic over at have handpicked 13 movies that you should check out if scrolling through the online programme is tiresome.

The venues for this movie bonanza are all properly accessible except for the Savoy. So have a read before you book your tickets.

Space for wheelchairs: Yes
Stairs: Wherever there are stairs, there is either a slope, a lift or a small wheelchair lift to take you there.
Wheelchair Bathroom: Yes. There are a number of wheelchair bathrooms.

Light House
Space for wheelchairs: Yes.
Stairs: There is a lift that brings you to every floor. 
Wheelchair Bathroom: Yes, they are a little tight but they are very much there.

Space for wheelchairs: Yes
Stairs: There is a lift that brings you to the screens upstairs. Everything else is on flat ground.
Wheelchair Bathroom: Yes. The bathroom beside the gift shop is particularly futuristic. Treat yourself and use this one. You will need to get a key for it from the bar. The other bathroom is kept unlocked.


The Savoy
To get into the Savoy, as a wheelchair user, you need to somehow get a member of staff's attention or ring in advance so that they can bring you through the side entrance. Their front door is just riddled with steps. Only one of their screens (Screen 1) is wheelchair accessible, the rest are up flights of stairs and there is no lift. Luckily, they use Screen 1 for the JDIFF screenings. They are showing No Limbs, No Limits here on February 15th which is so unbelievably ironic but do try and see it as it sounds like an incredible documentary.

Friday, January 17, 2014

IWA Gym, Clontarf

Blackheath Drive, Clontarf, Dublin 3

The Irish Wheelchair Association gym boasts 100% accessibility (obviously) but it is also open to non-IWA members. With equipment, classes and training, it is open to everyone which is a great message. There is no line drawn between able-bodied people or people with disabilities. A lot of the equipment is adjustable so that anyone can give it a go.

What has it got?

Changing rooms: The changing rooms are spacious and allow for a large number of wheelchair users. There are wheelchair bathrooms and showers galore. There is also a separate changing room for high dependency members who need that extra bit of room for an assistant. 

Equipment: A lot of the weight machines have moveable chairs so you can wheel your chair right into them. 

Doors: The doors are all wide and once open, there is a delay with them closing so that they don't hit off your chair and give you enough time to get through.

Ground: The floor has a lovely non-slip surface. 

Stairs: There is one flight of stairs up to the gym but there is also a lift. 

Bathrooms: Almost all of the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible with all of the proper bells and whistles. 

Spaciousness: Plenty. And then some.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are amazing here. They are aware of people's varying needs so if you're trying out the equipment for the first time, they will let you know what's good for you. Anything you need to know, they will have an answer for. 

Parking: They have their own car park right outside with a large number of wheelchair parking spots

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? It didn't lose any because this place is the exemplary in its accessibility. The memberships fees vary for IWA members, students and senior citizens which is also great for the pocket. If, as a wheelchair user, you have never used a gym before, this is an amazing introduction. With the specialised staff, you will have your own personal workout sorted in no time. 

IWA Sport run a number of disability awareness and training courses for schools and individuals which is a huge eye-opener to the world of wheelchair sport and the boundaries it pushes. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wheelchair Boxing

Wheeling day in, day out is a workout in itself but if you want to burn calories, lose weight or tone yourself up, going the distance in your chair can be a bit boring. This is where the rough and tumble of boxing comes along to jazz things up a bit.

Boxing is a great sport for someone in a wheelchair because it uses your biggest strength: your arms.

As far as I know, there is no official body looking after wheelchair boxing in Ireland so what I'm doing now is a bit of a DIY job. I've had two sessions so far and I am seriously feeling it in my lower and upper arms as well as the core muscles in my stomach. It makes you work up a serious sweat and the satisfaction levels from boxing are almost immediate.

I contacted White Collar Boxing, who are based in the National Stadium Gym on the South Circular Road, and asked if they had any trainers who would be interested in teaching me the basics. They were extremely helpful and now, with my trainer Richie, we're figuring out what we can and can't do. As I have a spinal condition, my full movement would not be the best so we're discovering what works along the way.

For our sessions, he sits opposite me in a chair and holds up padded gloves for me to hit.  I've learnt the four basic punches so far (the jab, the hook, the cross and uppercut) and we're working on muscle use and defense. I'll be moving on to a bag shortly as my strength builds. However, I worry too much about my precious face to get into the ring with another person but we shall see...

The only downside is that your arms will feel the strain for a while but the longer you stick at it, the less of a problem this will be.

There are boxing clubs all over the country and, as I said, I can't seem to find an official body so your best bet with boxing is to contact your local club and see what you can come up with.

Boxing with the Wii sport is another great alternative and unlike tennis on the Wii - where you can win a game with a small flick of the wrist - you put your entire body into it. It's still a great workout even if you're doing it from your couch.

With the real life boxing, it's very early days for me yet but I'll definitely be holding onto boxing as a hobby.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Lombard

The Lombard
1 Lombard Street/44 Pearse Street, Dublin 2

I popped in here for lunch the other day and for the area I was in, it certainly did the job. It's a grand spot for a quick bite with all sorts of burgers and soups and paninis and general pub grub to choose from. I didn't have the opportunity to pint it up here but I'm sure it's a busy spot for the after work crowd.

What has it got?

Seating: There are many low tables with moveable chairs but there are also higher tables with stools which would not be suitable for a wheelchair user. 

Doors: The doors were easy enough to open and were wide. 

Ground: The floors are wooden and they seemed pretty slip-proof. 

Stairs: There are a couple of steps up to the bar area but we had table service. It may be a different story when it gets busier though. 

Bathrooms: They had a wheelchair bathroom on the lower level. However, it was tucked behind a table which meant I had to ask the people sitting there to move. When it is busy, it could be a bit of a hassle to get to but - silver lining - you didn't need to get a key for the door. 

Spaciousness: Other than the tight spot near the bathroom, there is plenty of room here as all of the tables are pushed to the sides. 

Helpfulness of Staff: We had table service during the lunch hours which was great. They seemed very helpful and easy going. 

Parking: There is a lot of on-street parking on Pearse St and opposite the Science Gallery (not during peak hours unfortunately). There are a couple of wheelchair parking spots in that area too. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Why did it lose points? The wheelchair bathroom is in an inconvenient area. If they cleared the space around it, it would be perfect. There are also a couple of steps up to the bar area which means that you have to rely on your friends or staff to order your drinks. Other than that, it is a decent pub to visit. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Oil Up Those Wheels...

Every January, we make false promises to ourselves about losing weight, being nicer, working harder, eating better and dancing more like Shakira. 

However, I am going to broadcast said promises by attempting to do a regular blog post on wheelchair fitness where I actually partake in sporting activities and review them. 

I will undertake walking (woo), swimming (hurrah), boxing (good GOD), basketball (eep), rugby (GAH), martial arts (lol) and general gym activities (don't look at me when I cry). 

If you have any recommendations of gyms, classes, organisations or walking routes, please let me know.  

Thank you.