After acquiring a Spinal Cord Injury at the age of 20, Mark saw the benefits of having a healthy active life more than ever before. Mostly from the point of view that it gave him , independence and a sense of normality.
A former paracyclist at Cycling Ireland, Mark believes only through physical activity, wellness and education can we fuel and magnify inclusion and social change through sport for people with disabilities. This in turn will transform their lives, their families and communities by making people more active and more connected in order to improve wellbeing.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active
All my life I have been physically active, from growing up in a rural village working on farms, the bogs and playing sport every spare moment we had. When I left school I started to train as a network technician with the ESB which was a physically demanding job that I enjoyed very much. After acquiring a Spinal Cord Injury at the age of 20 I saw the benefits of having a healthy active life, mostly from the point of view that it gave you independence and a sense of normality. With a SCI it is also very important to maintain a strong immune system to fight of the threat of UTI´s.
What activities/sport/exercise do you do?
I work every day in a bike shop café so the day to day duties involve maintain bikes, cleaning bikes and also bringing groups of customers on guided bike tours. Every day I am active while also continuing to play wheelchair sports and I also like going for walks in the countryside.
What are some good/positive experiences?
LIFE, getting out and about to share life with the ones you love.
Injuries from sport can keep you side-lined from time to time but this never stops me from taking part.
·If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
What does being physically active mean to you?
For me it means normality, its something I have always done and will continue to do throughout my life.
What do you take part in?
Handcycling, Wheelchair Handball, walks, gardening, travelling.
What do you enjoy about it?
I love fresh air and exercise, I also love being part of a team. Setting a goal, working towards it and learning about yourself as you encounter challenges.
If you met someone who had never taken part in anything before, what would you tell them, and why would you tell them they should start?
I think you have to get them active in the right environment to educate someone on the benefits. To fully experience anything you have to try it, fail……and try it again.
Tell me if you encountered any challenges in participating in sport or physical activity?
Equipment is the most important item when it comes to empowering people with mobility issues. When you cant access the correct equipment it will stop you from enjoying activities, it can cause isolation and effect the quality of life. As these are generally costly items I have had to take out loans to buy the equipment that I knew would help me have a normal active life.
What makes participating in sport/physical activity difficult?
Education, if the providers of any social activity are not mindful of the participants it can lead to difficulties in participation.
What could people do better?
Communicate- Educate- and accept that we all make mistake and are inconsiderate from time to time. Generally anyone involved in social activities is doing for the right reasons and often politics get in the way. It is important to have a thick skin and be courageous if you are pushing to get access to services.
To what extent are people with disabilities able to engage in physical activity and sports of their choice?
I can only speak from my own point of view. I have always had the support of my friends family and community enabling me to get access to almost any activity I wanted to. …….apart form the high jump obviously.
If you wanted to be more/begin to be active, what would help you?
Persistence and support from a pier.
What would make participating in sport/physical activity easier for you?
More free time, I have no complaints to be honest.
What more must be done to ensure constant progress towards everybody being active?
What is your wish list for sports and physical activity?
I don’t have a list, I am very happy with my current situation. I think I have answer this with most of the answers above but in summary. Educaction, communication and access to adaptive equipment.