Training with Disability: Tips from Paralympian Sarah Stewart

Fitness // admin // 2 December 2014

We get plenty of questions from our 12WBT members about adapting exercises to suit different levels of mobility. Our programs CAN be modified to suit anyone and we thought: who better to ask than an elite athlete and get THEIR tips?! So, we spoke with Sarah Stewart, three-time Paralympian with the Australian Gliders Wheelchair Basketball team about her training regime.

For those not familiar with Sarah’s story, she is truly a wonder woman! She’s represented Oz in over 200 games, and been awarded Silver in Athens 2004, Bronze in Beijing 2008, and Silver in London 2012. She also plays for the Sydney Uni Flames in the WNWBL, and the Sydney Uni Wheelkings.

Sarah’s Training Regime

We use hand cycles, cybex machines for lat pulldowns and bench presses, standard bench press benches, free weights, and medicine balls. We also set up pulley machines for rowing, tricep extensions, ab workouts… you name it!

Swimming: The Best Cardio Workout?

I find swimming fantastic. I make sure I’m pushing myself to swim further every time, and do faster laps every time. As I’m in my chair for basketball and obviously day-to-day, it’s a good change and a great way to really push my body.

Creating an Exercise Plan That Works

Thinking up alternatives to exercises suggested to me is one of my favourite ways to build my training plans. It’s only by playing around with ideas and exercises that you find out what you can do, what works for you, and what you like/don’t like.

Measuring Fitness

For cardio we do laps around the basketball court for 7 minutes, repeated 3 times with a 5 minute break in-between. You can do the same with any cardio exercise, by aiming to complete more or faster reps/laps each time you test yourself.

Our agility/turning is measured by timing our laps through an ‘obstacle course’ of cones. We also do shooting tests for percentages and times, and sprint tests for 5m, 10m and 20m distances measured on the court. We wear heart rate monitors to record our starting, average and maximum heart rate. The best test of all is really how well we can back up a basketball game with another basketball game the next day!

Top Exercise Tips

For me, exercise is a great way to try and keep as fit as possible and continually push myself. I set goals and try to achieve them, I always keep active, and I remember that exercise is simply a great way to meet fantastic people and have fun. It helps strengthen what abilities you do have, and ultimately makes getting around in the world easier.

A Typical Training Day

Training changes depending on what events we have coming up, but at the moment, a typical day is going to the gym for two hours in the morning, a one hour shooting session in the evening, an hour and a half of conditioning after that, and finishing off with 30 minutes of shooting.

Overcoming Obstacles

Learning that if you give yourself the best opportunities by training properly and hard, then when it comes to the crunch you, your team-mates and your coach can rely on you. Doing the right work at the right time gives you the self-confidence to be the best teammate you can be and the ability to support others.

December 3 – International Day of People with Disability

IDPwD is a day focused on increasing public awareness and understanding surrounding disabilities, as well as celebrating the achievements and contributions of people with disability.

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