Hi, I’m Aston Johnson and I am a fitness adviser with Cerebral Palsy at Kimberley Leisure Centre. I want to give you an insight into what it’s like being a disabled fitness adviser and how I got into the fitness industry.
I got into fitness at the age of seventeen, in all honesty because I needed to. I was overweight which can have a significant impact on a disabled persons mobility. If I carried on putting on weight it would lead to more difficulties with my mobility, potentially even being in a wheelchair.
With this in mind I joined the gym at the Kimberley Leisure centre in November 2016. I decided that even though I was old enough to go to the main gym, I would start out in the youth gym to try and find out what my limitations would be.
I had been going to the youth gym for four months and was beginning to find the equipment very easy to use. It felt like I couldn’t push myself any further until I moved to the main gym. One day when I was training one of the fitness advisors (Lawrence) saw this and offered to give me a few one to one sessions in the main gym to enable me to progress. A few weeks later I started training in the main gym and learnt what worked for me again, focusing on bettering myself and becoming fitter.
I was in college at the time studying Games Technology but I knew after two years of studying the subject that I didn’t really want a future in the games industry. I started to think about other careers I could potentially do and one of the first things that came to mind was gym instructing. As you can imagine I thought this would be almost impossible for someone with a disability to achieve.
I did some research and found a course called the ‘Instructabillity’ programme which is a Sports Lottery funded course setup by Aspire. They’re a spinal injury charity that train people with disabilities to become fitness advisers. My only problem was that I wouldn’t know if I would be selected for the course until November and I was supposed to start University in September. So I took a gamble and deferred my place at university and applied for the course. Luckily I was one of six people to be selected and just one of three people to qualify at the end of it.
After completing the course I was required to do a voluntary work placement at Harvey Hadden Sports Village for a minimum of three months. During this time I was given a mentor who had been working in the industry for over forty years. I learnt so much during the work placement that I actually stayed there for around seven months.
I always had a goal to work at Kimberley because it’s where I started training and where my journey began. I was offered a job as a relief fitness adviser and had no hesitation in taking this position. I know the centre and the people in it well so I’m very happy to be working there.
I wanted to share how my seemingly impossible dream became a reality and I’m now doing the job I once thought was far out of my reach. I do often get asked how I managed to get here so I hope these questions below might help anyone else with a disability interested in a career in fitness
How difficult is it for someone with a disability to get into the industry?
I was very lucky to be accepted onto the Instructability course as there is a difficult selection process to go through. In addition the course moves around the country so you only really have one opportunity to get in when the course is in your area. At the time I got onto the course it was only running in Nottingham and London.
Is it harder to get into fitness when you have a disability?
It depends on the person. Everyone is different and I believe that everyone has an entry point to fitness, and can work up from there. For me personally it wasn’t so bad as I have very good mental strength and was able to work my way up and keep myself motivated to improve.
If you‘d like to learn more about my journey or have any specific questions I can help you with do please get in contact with me at Kimberley Leisure Centre.