Ciara McChrystal training on the gym floor of Templemore Sports Complex with GP Referral Scheme Co-ordinator Colleen Brown.
Commonwealth Games history will be made in Birmingham next year when Wheelchair Basketball is contested for the first time and, on the gym floor of Templemore Sports Complex, Derry girl Ciara McChrystal is quietly putting the hours in to stake her claim to be part of it.
Ciara is bidding to be part of the Northern Ireland ladies squad who have been formed to attempt to qualify for the tournament which will be played in a unique three against three format.
Four years ago the Queen's Psychology graduate, who is now studying for a Counselling and Therapeutic Communication Masters at UU Jordanstown, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Although she admits it was shocking news to receive, she was determined to make the best of the life changing news.
"My condition won't improve but there is work I can do to manage it and give myself the best quality of life," she explained.
"The lockdown restrictions made my situation more challenging, my treatment means I am considered high risk if I contracted Covid and not being able to use the gym meant I lost a lot of fitness.
"My strength was so low after lockdown that I couldn't even do a press-up but through the Steps to Health Programme with Derry City and Strabane District Council GP Referral Co-ordinator Colleen Brown I have made significant progress since I have come back.
Ciara is bidding to be part of the Northern Ireland ladies squad.
"She has tailored my training for the skills required to play the game such as strength exercises that will aid ball throwing."
The Steps to Health programme is an eight week course where candidates are guided through a tailored training regime to improve their overall wellbeing and fitness.
"Ciara is an ideal candidate for the programme, she is very enthusiastic and always wants to push herself to reach the next level," explained Colleen.
"In her initial consultation we discussed ways that she could improve her overall fitness and strength and improve her confidence.
"The programme is about being smart so that you can take the gradual, slow steps towards better health.
"Some clients have slower progress than others but the most important thing is that they are developing consistency and improving at a pace that is right for them."
Ciara intends to continue her gym work by herself when the programme ends and she had no hesitation in recommending it to others.
"I worked one on one with Colleen in the first four weeks and then I was able to do some of the sessions by myself to get confident in continuing my improvement when it ends," she continued.
"I've seen a significant change in my strength and overall fitness over the weeks of the programme, I think it's important to always take the positives from situations and to believe in yourself.
"I couldn't recommend the programme highly enough, no matter what your condition we all have a potential that we can fulfil and it's about giving yourself the best possible chance to do that.
"I have days when I get up and I don't want to leave the house but I get into the gym and get the workout done early and I feel good for the rest of the day.
"There are other days when I can't get off the sofa and I don't beat myself up about that, sometimes it's your body's way of telling you that you need a rest.
"My friends and family have noticed a change in my overall mood over the last 12 weeks and it has inspired many of my friends to get more active as well."
There are 5 wheelchair basketball clubs in Northern Ireland that provide opportunities to play both recreationally and competitively.
Ciara was keen to stress that able bodied people can also take part in the sport.
"I always thought the sport was exclusively for people who were wheelchair bound but anyone can get into a chair and play.
"It's a growing sport in Northern Ireland and a great, fast moving activity to get involved in so I'd encourage anyone interest to get involved through their local club."
For further information or to find a Wheelchair Basketball club please visit the Find a Disability Sports Club section of the DSNI website.
For further details on the services and programmes available at Derry City and Strabane District Council visit derrystrabane.com/leisure.
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