A blind man manages to keep up his love of sport and fitness by working out in the gym with his beloved guide dog – and the other gym-goers are big fans of the healthy pup.
Ian Morris, from Portsmouth, has always loved sport and being active. The 50-year-old worked in the pharmaceutical industry before his life took an unexpected turn.
Unknown to Ian, he had a genetic condition which meant he was losing his sight. Ian experienced a near-miss car crash in his early 20s and not long after that, he was diagnosed with having no useful vision. As a result, Ian stopped playing sport for ten years whilst adapting to his new lifestyle.
‘It was really tough being unable to exercise regularly,’ says Ian. ‘Sport and activity were such key parts of my life so when this stopped, I was unsure which direction my life was heading.’
Despite initially experiencing day-to-day struggles, Ian made sure sport and activity remained a regular part of his life after joining his local blind cricket team. His rediscovered confidence then inspired him to join Anytime Fitness in Cosham.
Now working as a senior strategic programme manager at Guide Dogs UK, Ian spends his time away from the office at the gym, and his helped by his golden retriever, Millsey.
‘Millsey is a huge hit at the gym,’ says Ian. ‘When he is in his harness and working everyone is very respectful not to distract him. He quite often chills out with the staff members too.
‘Lots of people come and make a fuss of him – it’s not unknown for me to be training on a piece of equipment and hear Millsey hollering a “hello” to one of his favourites.’
Ian truly believes that due to the incredible developments in technology and support, there has never been a better time to be blind.
‘Technology means my phone and PC talk, as well as there being so many helpful apps out there,’ explains Ian. ‘When it comes to mobility there are still only two mobility aids; the white cane or the guide dog. The former can be used and many people get about very well with one but, for me, the freedom of independence of working with Millsey means I am much more empowered to get out and about.
‘With GPS on my phone and Millsey in my left hand, there is virtually nowhere we can’t go.’
Ian knows that his positive mental attitude comes from his proactive approach to his physical health.
‘I’ve always perceived my mental wellbeing to be equally as important as my physical wellbeing,’ he says.
‘Anytime Fitness Cosham has welcomed me into their culture since day one and for this reason, my wellbeing has significantly benefited. They support my philosophy in life which is to have no fear when facing anything and everything.’
Ian says he spent several years in the ‘wilderness’ before the rise of the Paralympics and disability sport, but he wants to spread the message that disability should be no barrier to participation.
‘On the gym front, I keep promising the trainers that I might get around to doing some aerobic work too,’ says Ian. ‘When I’m ready, I know they will be there to help.’
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