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james o’driscoll

O’Driscoll lost his sight suddenly at the age of 26. Following a period of depression, he decided to turn his life around and is now a fi tness instructor at Virgin Active in London

What made you think of becoming a fi tness instructor?

One day I decided enough was enough! I was sitting indoors being unhappy – smoking, eating takeaways and drinking beer. I decided to quit smoking and drinking and bought a rowing machine with the money I saved, which I used every afternoon. That’s when I realised I could turn my life around. As I got more confi dent, my self-esteem grew and I joined a gym. One day my nephew, who I trained with, suggested that I should be an instructor as I was good at training him, not only on what exercises he needed to do but also with the right amount of patience and motivation to help him. I decided to look into it.

How did you go about qualifying as an instructor?

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. I was put in contact with Coachability, which funds sports and physical activity training projects in London. They were great – really behind me all the way.

Where did you get the motivation to train as an instructor?

Once I set my mind to something, I make sure I see it through – I guess my stubbornness pushes me through.

How hard was it for you to gain the qualifi cations?

First of all I had to prove I was capable of doing the course. However, once I’d had a visit from someone at CYQ, progress came much quicker. I had more people assessing me during my practical than the other students on the course did – but, having passed, I think it’s fair to say that I gave a perfect performance!

How long did it take to qualify?

Three weeks.

What’s your day-to-day role?

A bit of everything, from helping members with their technique to teaching fast classes like abs, keeping members motivated and making sure things are clean and tidy. It’s always varied, which I enjoy, and I’m now aiming to become a personal trainer.

Do you work alone or do you have somebody helping you?

I have an access worker who’s there to mirror my moves and who acts as my eyes. I’m constantly asking him questions to gain visual feedback, such as “are their backs straight?” or “are they using the correct grip?” My access worker isn’t paid by Virgin; they’re paid by a government programme called Access to Work.

What’s the number one weakness in the fi tness sector?

Some people can be narrow-minded and quick to stereotype others. My goal is to prove them wrong, not just about me but about disabled people in general. I have to say that, so far while working for Virgin, everyone has been very supportive and interested in my advice and progress.

O’Driscoll hopes to become a PT

april 2010 © cybertrek 2010

What’s your favourite motto?

Always live life as an exclamation, not an explanation!

See it. Experience IT.


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