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Friday, 1 January 2016

Hills without help

Last week, when Neil and I went for a walk by the river, I remember thinking, "This is lovely. I wonder if I could manage this by myself." The path along the riverside is largely flat, without a camber and fairly smooth. However, the only way to get up there involves a ramp and there are two quite sizeable humps on the main path.

Well, this morning, I wanted some exercise and Neil was busy (still in bed, asleep), so I decided to give it a go... and that got me thinking about hills.

The first challenge was getting up the ramp to the riverside path. Fortunately, this challenge presents itself at the beginning of the walk, when my energy levels are at their highest. I know that I couldn't propel myself all the way up it. It's too steep and too long. I figured the best option for me was to walk very slowly, using my chair for balance and support. I can only do this if I don't have a bag over the back of my chair, as that makes it tip backwards. Anyway, I did a kind of shuffle step up to the top, stopping for a couple of rests on the way.

I've got pictures of the next hill.

You can see by where the path meets the wall, that this is a reasonable incline, but at least the ground is smooth. The biggest risk here is tipping over backwards. To counter that, I lean forward, making sure I keep my core muscles nice and tight and my back straight. Then, forget about speed or looking cool. I go nice and slowly, push by push, ensuring that I move my hands back to the start position quickly enough that I don't roll back between pushes. I might be a little mad but I also find it helpful to talk to myself and offer encouragement as I go. "Keep going... nearly there... you can do it!"

Going downhill is much easier and more fun but still needs a little forethought. Before launching myself into a glorious weeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I check that the surface doesn't have any hazards that might catch the front of my chair and hurtle me out. It's also wise to check that there are no people that you might run into. I actually stopped and waited at the top for a while to give the man with the little girl (now in the distance) some space. Then, off I went. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Finally, after my lovely walk/roll along the river path, I had to get back down the ramp into the park. I can walk up hills with some difficulty but down is pretty much impossible without help, so I rolled it. As you can see, this path is less smooth. Near the bottom, there are potholes that would be disastrous if hit at speed. So sadly, slow is the order of the day here. Also, I have to turn right at the bottom, which is a tight turn. Again, I don't want to tip, so this time I leaned back, right into the back of my chair (which is a really comfy position). Grip the push rims tightly and then release and grab over and over again, letting the chair slide in a controlled manner, down the hill. This is where gloves really are essential if you don't want friction burns!

So the basic ideas are:
  • check the surface before setting off (especially down hills)
  • lean forward when going uphill
  • lean back when going downhill
One final tip - if a total stranger offers you a push up the hill, just accept it and say "Thanks!"

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