Monday, January 2, 2012


When training for any sport as a blind athlete, there are a lot of extra logistics that you have to figure out in order to ensure you are training optimally. Yesterday I talked about my greatest need; having a guide. However, finding willing guides is not an easy task and so I have to get my workouts in at a gym. Even at the gym though, there are certain logistics I have to work out before I am able to train. Some of these include having a way to move from machine to machine, having my heart rate read to me, knowing how far I've run/cycled Etc.
My greatest concern, since I've started my practices entirely indoors, is how to run on a treadmill hands free. The only way I'm going to get even a little bit close to being competitive is to conduct my practices as close to real racing as possible and one part of that is using my arms when running. For the longest time I couldn't figure out how it would be possible. Being totally blind and also being deaf in one ear, my balance isn't so fantastic. I have a tendency to zig-zag and that probably isn't something I should be doing while on a moving machine. I know for sure that if I tried to run hands free on a treadmill without any kind of modifications I would most certainly go zinging across the gym floor. Definitely comical, but not helpful for training. I thought that perhaps I could tie a rope around my waist, tie the other end to the bar on the treadmill and the tension would keep me in place. A good thought, but it would be easy to zig-zag since the pull would only be coming from one direction. The trainer and I discussed it a bit, but he really had no idea either. He was willing to have a think on it, but neither of us were entirely sure how to make a contraption that  would keep me safe while giving me the opportunity to use my arms.
After joining Won With One, I found an article that interviewed one of its athletes and she spoke of how she had learned to run hands free on a treadmill. Knowing that it was possible made me very excited and I contacted her as soon as I got a hold of her email address. She told me that another athlete had advised her to wear a race belt with two criss-crossed strings running from the belt to the treadmill's bar. The two attachment points, one on the right and one on the left, worked to indicate the location of the bar and whether or not she was running straight. She said that sometimes the rigged up tether does not always work as the ends tied to the treadmill bar can migrate to the centre, changing the double reference point, but that it usually worked. She also said sometimes it could be a bit intimidating, only being held in place by two strings; sometimes she thinks they may break, but they haven't and she's able to utilize her arms.
I am so excited that someone thought this contraption up. I suppose I was on the right track with the belt around the waist and the rope going to the treadmill's bar, but having reference points on the left and right side of my waist improves my idea ten fold. Now, there are two more things I must work out before I will be able to utilize this tether/harness thing:
1. First I must buy a race belt and perhaps some rope or something string-like. Something that does not have any give; otherwise, I'll be wobbling all over the place.
2. I have to convince the people at the gym that it's safe. People in Scotland are incredibly hyper vigilant about "health and safety." So much so that it is a bit redundant and slightly insulting. With this in mind, I wonder if some weird health and safety thing will disallow me to use my home made harness. Maybe I can sign a contract that states I take full responsibility for myself if I go flying off the treadmill or get tangled or something ridiculous?
Either way, I figure I'll buy the materials first and build it so that I can demonstrate its use.
"It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission..."
That phrase doesn't exactly apply, but you get my gist. I've learned throughout my life that as a blind person, you do not ask for permission, you just do it and then deal with protests when they occur. Asking, more often than not, leads people to saying no based on ignorance and lack of understanding. If I am going to be a competitive triathlete, I am going to need to use my arms in practice and a home made body harness will be the only way I can do that; at least until I find a guide, which is a whole other story. :)
For now, I will be happy with the knowledge that a modification to running on a treadmill can be made to allow a blind athlete to  use his/her arms. And, I won't bother asking for permission either. :)

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