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Carol Allen: It’s all about posture

When it comes to exercise, Carol Allen, who is 47, freely admits that though fitness and good health are important to her, “over the past five years it’s been a bit sporadic”.

After slipping and falling, Carol spent a year and a half on crutches “putting on the weight and not being able to exercise” until she could have reconstruction surgery, followed by physiotherapy.

Carol’s 85-year-old father, who has dementia and other health problems, moved in a year ago. Then her busy working life disappeared when she was made redundant after 20 years at Brent Council. She says: “I ended up having 10 weeks of CBT to cope with the transition from being very busy and defined by my work, to looking after someone asking for another cup of tea.”

Now a “full-time daughter and a part-time charity worker”, Carol has been keen to get back to regular exercise. A GP referral programme at the local gym was a bit disappointing, so she was pleased to go on the waiting list for personal training sessions with Don’t Tone Alone.

“Don’t Tone Alone – my goodness, the care we got. Sandra came every week and was so open to my suggestions it was fantastic.

“I needed something for me, but also something for my Dad. He’s an 85-year-old West Indian and he just doesn’t get exercise. If I say, let’s go for a walk, he says, ‘Where are we going?’ or ‘Why am I walking for exercise?’ He came here in the 1950s to work. You didn’t walk with your arms swinging, you just walked to work or drove your car. In the West Indies, you swam in the sea.

“But Sandra totally got him. She was very caring. My Dad and my husband joined in on a number of occasions.”

Carol is particularly grateful for the way the sessions “take you where you’re at – the whole programme works for the situation you’re in”.

She says: “It’s all about posture – lots of Pilates. You don’t have to get your heart rate racing to 95. It’s been about breathing and ways of lifting my Dad, lunges and stretching to build the key areas you need in your caring role. Sandra also completely understood that I can’t do high impact on my knees.”

The key for Carol is that the programme has been sustainable. “We’ve been able to use what we learned ever since. I use all the principles when I’m standing, sitting or bending down to do shoes – bending your knees, so you don’t strain your back. And I can remind Dad of them too.”