Andy Ridge, 62, a married father of two from Sheffield who had a stroke on holiday three years ago, tells his story
The Stronger My Way hub is a great idea and really valuable. People tend to think strengthening and conditioning is something for rehabilitation, to get over a condition and once you’ve recovered you can stop exercising. The hub is about recovery and then keeping on getting better, for life.
‘I have always been fit and active and was doing a workout in the cruise ship’s gym when I felt very unstable and dizzy.
At first I thought I’d just overdone it, but after five more minutes on the exercise bike, I could feel my left arm going numb. I collapsed and ended up in the medical centre where I was diagnosed with a stroke.
‘I spent three days being pushed around on wheelchair, with no use of my left side, slurring my words, not being able to walk or eat properly. I remember lying on my bed in the ship thinking, “That’s the end of climbing, cycling and guitar playing”. It was real doom and gloom.
‘When I got back to the UK, the NHS was brilliant. But I was concerned that I wasn’t walking or doing anything properly – I’d seen relatives lose their strength and resilience and get worse and worse after something similar.
I still had very little strength in my left leg and arm, so my physio recommended a strength and conditioning class.
‘My wife, who had a knee replacement last April went with me to circuit training led by a physiotherapist once a week. It was a balanced, all-over body workout with weights and resistance exercises.
Over different weeks we did a variety of things, so that every part got exercised. I could feel the benefits straight away as it helped identify my weaknesses and work on them. I got better and stronger.
Though I was fit and strong before the stroke, I have even better all-over body strength and balance now. For me, exercise and strengthening and conditioning makes me feel better. It has really future proofed me. And my wife is back to full mobility - you can’t tell she ever had a knee problem.
‘I’d recommend strength and conditioning to anyone – just start doing it gently and stick with it. The dividends are huge. It’s made me appreciate the simple things I couldn’t do because of the stroke, like cutting the grass and doing housework. I’ll not take them for granted again. '